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Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01213 Author/Creator: Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810) Place Written: Yorktown, Virginia Type: Manuscript letter Date: 8 October 1781 Pagination: 4 p. ; docket

Summary of Content: Gives recommendations for arranging the artillery for the siege of Yorktown. Discusses the establishment of the first parallel for the investment and fears a delay in operations. Speculates that one in four shots from the Continental Army will hit the British works. Explains how operations in the field can differ from academic assessments because of the great variety in ordnance quality. Argues that the Continental Army should not expect anything from the current batteries except cover while they build the second parallel, and urges Knox to establish them with that purpose in mind. Cautions against wasting time "in vain expectations." Signed with initial only.

Full Transcript: [draft]
Our first parallel is nearly finished, [struck: &] the batteries are establishing in it and to my surprise and sorrow I perceive an idea prevailing, where I think it ought ...never to have existed, that the enemy are [materially] to be annoyed by our fire from them - I am clearly of opinion if we have any kind of expectation founded hereon and our works are postponed from the delusive hope we shall find our selves delayed in our operations and disappointed at last. -
At the distance our batteries must be, to be covered by the present parallel you may not expect one shot in four will take place or that one in that number will even hit the works and shells will be much less certain. -
In schools they may not be when every circumstance remains nearly the same - In the field you may not [2] expect the same exactness, where the different quality of the powder changed by the different state of the air, the different state of the platforms - The different degrees of heat in the morters - The different fires of the shells not all cast in the same mould - The different weight of those cast in the same mould from different metals - The difference of those cast in the same mould from the different state of their surfaces and the different state of the powder more or less compressed in the chamber are among the evils which in the field it will be difficult to guard against and which will serve in some measure to show how little we may expect from ye effect of shells thrown at the distance our batteries are now establishing. -
I think for that we have nothing rationally to expect from our present batteries but [struck: the] [inserted: a] cover while we are erecting others in our next parallel - so that [3] these I think ought rather to have that for their object and so be constructed as best answer this purpose -
After the first batteries are compleated I hope no time will be lost between that and our opening our second parallel - but time is precious it must not be wasted in vain expectations - besides if the second parallel is soon commenced every body will see the purpose of the first and none will be disappointed in want of success from our [struck: first] [inserted: present] line of batteries.
I hope you will urge this line of conduct on his Excellency - you can do it with propriety as it is much in your way for the world will judge of the ability of the artillery men from the success or want of it and not consider whether the battery are properly placed [4] or not. -
I would mention these things my self was it not so fully with you and the Engineer, to whom the Genl justly looks for advice, to do it they are the persons responsible
8 Octr 1781

From Genl Lincoln 8 Octr
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People: Lincoln, Benjamin, 1733-1810
Knox, Henry, 1750-1806

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Battle of YorktownRevolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryContinental ArmyArtilleryBattleGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyAmmunition

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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