Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to George Washington
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 #: GLC02437.00886 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: New Windsor, New York Type: Autograph letter Date: 13 February 1781 Pagination: 7 p. : docket ; 32.2 x 20.1 cm.
Knox's analysis and recommendations to Washington on the military situation for the next campaign, in terms of artillery and ammunitions supply and other military stores. Knox's working draft. Closing and signature are in the hand of Samuel Shaw.
New Windsor 13 Feby 1781.
I have received [struck: your Excellencys] [inserted: the] communication of your [inserted: Excellencys] intentions the [struck: ensuing] [inserted: next] campaign with instructions to me to use every caution in our power to procure those articles which we shall want in a capital operation against New York or [struck: the lesser [disents] which you mention to be] [inserted: against] Charlestown Savannah Pennobscot &c in case of an inability to undertake the siege of the first and principal object
I shall with peculiar pleasure exert myself [struck: to do every thing] to the utmost of my power [struck: in attending to matters] with the materials within my reach to prepare for events, [struck: in the successful of termination of in] [inserted and struck: with] the progress of which I would [struck: be] combine the pleasing part of the duty of my particular profession with [struck: the general good of the cause as which] [inserted: an attempt to render essential service]  [struck: to the general cause to serve] [inserted: to my] country -
But Your Excellency well knows our presents [sic] supplies of [struck: ordnance & stores for an arduous operation] [inserted: & reserves] of ordnance & stores are totally inadequate to the demands of an arduous operation - I have straind every nerve I [struck: have possessd of] [inserted: possess] public and private to obtain an ample supply of shot & shells [struck: articles] which are made in our own country to uncommon perfection but in vain contracts which have been made for those articles upon the [struck: inst] prospect of our instant exigence, have been suspended [inserted: or annihilated], as soon as that [inserted: particular] prospect [struck: was subdued] [inserted: subsided.], And tho we have by these transitory exertions [struck: have] obtaind a considerable quantity of those articles yet the [deficincy] [sic] is still great. [struck: The Contracts a cause] the greater part of the contracts which were made [struck: last year] [in campaign] were arrested by an order from the  board of War just as the furnaces began to work to the great detriment and even utter vain of some of the owners -
[struck: Powder] Powder is an article of which we are so [struck: to] deficent [sic] that when a reasonable quantity [strikeout] [inserted: shall be appropriated] for the use of the important posts in the highlands (which [struck: ought to have a certain quantity] [inserted: ought to be well to furnish] under all circumstances) [strikeout] [inserted: There will] [litterally] none [struck: will] remain
Besides the want of Cannon proper for a siege, shot, shells and powder the Laboratories upon which we must [inserted: almost entirely] depend for the preparation of all our fix'd stores are from the best information [struck: I can able to receive] [inserted: procure], in fact a wretched condition for want of money [inserted: & [strikeout] material & workman] that they are incapable of affording the least assistance. That at Springfield is either entirely stopd or on the point of being so -  I [struck: write these things [inserted: matters] to your Excellency to show] [inserted: It is my opinion] that unless [struck: new measures & those vigorous] new & vigorous measures are adopted for [struck: the proceeding all kinds of matters] [inserted: to provide of every thing] in the ordnance department that it will be in vain [struck: to send] [inserted: to] place any dependance on it in its present wretched, [struck: misserable] [inserted: &] [plalsied] [sic] state - I may make estimates it is true and prefer them to the board of War as I have done; in times past - & probably they will react with the same fate of being unattended to or disputed untill the moment of making proper provisions [struck: be past] shall be past.
It may be said that by making [inserted: & presenting] [struck: proper] estimates [inserted: in due fashion] [struck: and presenting them to the boa] I shall exonerate myself from any blame. That may be just but experience proves that not  for want of means or [inserted: from] some other causes they have been but little attendd to. - [inserted and struck in left margin: a very large proportion of the shot and shells I hear all those in Jersey have been obtaind [strikeout] by acts of supererrogation - ] I freely confess I much dislike to be placed in a situation where I shall have the appearanc [sic] of responsibility [inserted and struck: for measures] which from my office I must have, [struck: without having the least controll or check] for the actions or [struck: conduct] [inserted: measures] of persons who perhaps are amenable to nobdy and who of consequence conduct [struck: their] business in a manner that may be most agreeable to their [struck: ease] own ideas -
[struck: I will as soon as possible make us an estimate on the principles given by your Excellency, and to be which if you approve [inserted: it] I should your directions to whom I shall] address [struck: it] myself in order to [inserted: attempt] procure the articles it may contain.
I thought [struck: the] [inserted: it] proper to state the [strikeout] above facts that your [inserted: Excellency] may know what degree of dependence  [inserted: can be placed] on the ordinary modes of supply. I exceedingly fear they will fail us, [struck: but] possibly [struck: something] [strikeout] some assistance might be obtaind by an application to the [inserted: respective] states. [struck: respectively but and this measure] [inserted: will] the [struck: presiding] [strikeout] [inserted: of] [inserted: strikeout] principle which state has adopted that it is best to take care of its own safety is to be] But it will be difficult to procure much by such an application because the states have but very small stocks of their own, and because it will interfere with [inserted: a] principle which [inserted: each] state has imbibed so strongly as to become fix'd habit that [struck: they will] [inserted: it is] bound in the first place to provide for [struck: their] [inserted: its] own defence. If the [struck: quantities] ordnance [also] stores should arrive [inserted: safely from France] which your Excellency mentions [struck: has] [inserted: have] been sent for we should I think be able to procure [inserted: in these states] whatever else may be wanted, provided [inserted: means are given] great exertions and industry are used  by the persons whose business it may be to provide them
I will as soon as possible make out an estimate on the principles given by Your Excellency, which if you approve it I shall take your directions to whom I shall address myself in order to attempt to procure the articles it may contain.
I have the honor to be
with the greatest respect
Your Excellency's most
His Exy. Gen. Washington
13 Feby 1781
The copyright law of the United States (title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.