Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to George Washington
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Offers his opinion as to "the position proper for Winter Quarters." Argues that winter quarters are "indispensably necessary" for Continental troops. Suggests that quarters be established at a distance from the British (who occupy Philadelphia). Writes, "Could a place be found about 30 miles distant from & North or NW of Philadelphia in which it was possible to quarter the troops I should prefer it to a greater distance, or different direction as by it we should be able to cover a greater extent of Country than by taking post at Wilmington ... " Hopes to establish winter quarters in such a position as to prevent the British from drawing supplies from the countryside. Suggests that Lancaster should be right of, and Reading left of, winter quarters. Notes that General [John] Muhlenberg also has a proposal for a winter location. In the hand of William Knox. Retained copy.
Artillery Park Decr. 1. 1777.
Your Excellency last evening refer'd to your General Officers the consideration of the position proper for Winter Quarters and order'd us to give our opinions respectively on that Subject.
I shall be concise in my opinion establishing the proposition that Winter Quarters are indispensably necessary for the Army in order to give it that rest and refreshment of which it stands much in need; to repair the Carriages of various kinds which are damag'd; to recruit the exhausted horses; to recruit and fill up the regiments; to reform the army in some essential particulars, in a word to put the army in all its branches on such a footing as to be able to take the field next Campaign with the greatest probability of Success.
The King of Prussia says "the first object in Winter Quarters is Tranquility" - it is very evident if we take our Winter Quarters so near the enemy as to be Subject to frequent alarms and constant hard duty, we shall have but a small part of the present army to oppose to our enemies. - Could a place be found about 30 miles distant from & North or N.W. of Philadelphia in which it was possible to quarter the troops I should prefer it to a greater distance, or different direction as by it we should be able to cover a greater extent of Country  Country than by taking post at Wilmington or retiring so far back as Lancaster & Reading
- Two Ideas present themselves in considering a place proper for Winter Quarters. The care and safety of the troops, and the covering the Country, thereby preventing the enemy's drawing supplies from it - I consider the first the greatest objects and all inferior ones should give place to them and therefore give my opinion that the troops should at the time appointed retire into Winter Quarters, the right of the Cantonment to be at Lancaster & the left at Reading, provided a sufficiency of houses and good cover can be procur'd there - an officer of reputation on whose veracity your Excellency could rely can easily ascertain this matter. parties of 500 or 600 to be kept out on command advanc'd 30. or 40. Miles under the command of active partizan officers who should be directed to be constantly moving about to prevent the enemy making any disposition to surprize them. Advantages may by these means be taken of any smaller detachments sent out by the enemy - indeed the Militia of the State may be kept considerably advanc'd, they being light troops will cover the Country & be but in little danger of being surpriz'd.
If the cover in the range from Lancaster to Reading should be found to be insufficient. - I should be for hutting the whole  whole army about 30. Miles distant from Phila. in some position which should have the Schuylkill about 10. or 12 miles on the right or left - the goodness of the position to determine this - General Muhlenburgh mention'd a position which comes within this description which perhaps on examination might be found to be proper
I have the honor to be with
the greatest respect
Most Obt. Hble. Servt.
An Opinion &c.
Decr. 1. 1777
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