Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to William Knox

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.00721 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: White Plains, New York Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 31 August 1778 Pagination: 3 p. : address : docket ; 31 x 18.7 cm.

Summary of Content: Again chastises William for his "neglect in writing." Refers to the naval battle between the Comte D'Estaing and British General William Howe's fleet near Newport, Rhode Island. Observes that D'Estaing's departure for Boston will oblige American General John Sullivan to end his attack of Aquidneck Island. Comments that General Henry Clinton is on his way to reinforce the British at Rhode Island. Suggests that Lord John Byron, also sent to reinforce Howe, may give Howe's fleet superiority over Sullivan (Howe received no help from Byron, whose fleet had been damaged in a gale). Gives William instructions should Howe, Byron, and Clinton attempt to attack Boston, urging him to keep his conjectures secret. Some text loss on page three. In a post script, mentions his daughter and wife, both named Lucy.

Full Transcript: [draft]
Camp White plains 31st Augt 1778.
My dear Brother
I received no papers or Letters by the last post from you at which I somewhat wonder considering the many repeated ...hints which I have given you on the subject of neglect of writing.
We are in the greatest anxiety on account of the Newport expedition - The Counts going to Boston will ultimately oblige General Sullivan to leave the Island, and the longer that even - + is protracted the more tragical will it be. Sr Harry Clinton is about to sail or has sail'd with a Considerable reinforcement for Rhode Island, therefore if General Sullivan shall not have retreated before he arrives, the probability is too great that he will then not be able to effect it at least not in that compact and [2] safe manner which he may if he should take time by the forelock - You will please to keep this Letter private, if any circumstance very unfortunate should happen to Genl Sullivans troops, and admiral Byron arrive or such part of his Ships as to give Lord Howe the superiority on the Seas[.] I think it not unlikely that Boston may be attempted, by the British fleet and General Clinton marching by Land. Boston would not in this case be so much the object as the French fleet Which if they could destroy would be a most [capital] state in the Commencement of the War and perhaps give England the Ascendancy while it continues. You will observe this reasoning is founded on certain events happening viz the arrival of Bryon or part of his squadron and the destruction of the troops on Rhode Island - either not happening the cost [3] apprehended will in part be remov'd, but if Bryons fleet arrive you will past doubt have the french fleet blockaded in Boston harbor - Should the combind circumstances happen as I have supposd you will in time take care of the little property you have by having it remov'd & I should suppose Kingston as good a place as any part of the state. You see the reason of my urging you [to] keep these conjectures a secret. [I] always estimate an opinion by [text loss] and not by a combination of circumstances tending to produce the Event suppos'd or deduced from the reason and nature of things. Time will soon develope what is in its womb - and we shall be wise perhaps by the experience.
I am my dear Brother
Your Affectionate
[Little] Lucy is almost an angell but her Mama is unwell.
[address leaf]
Mr. William Knox
Genl Knox
31. Augt. 1778
White Plains
See More

People: Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Knox, William, 1756-1795
Howe, William Howe, Viscount, 1729-1814
Knox, Lucy Flucker, 1756-1824
Estaing, Charles Henri, comte d', 1729-1794
Sullivan, John, 1740-1795
Byron, John, 1723-1786
Clinton, Henry, Sir, 1730-1795
Knox, Lucy Flucker, 1776-1854

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: NavyFranceBattleRevolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryBattleGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyContinental ArmyChildren and Family

Sub Era: The War for Independence

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources