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Washington, George (1732-1799) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.09372 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: New Windsor, New York Type: Manuscript letter signed Date: 10 February 1781 Pagination: 2 p. ; 34.3 x 21.1 cm.

Summary of Content: General Washington writes a letter marked "private" to Knox, Chief of Artillery for the Continental Army. Recently consulted the Count de Rochambeau, a French General, and through France's aid, the Continental Army may be able to gain naval superiority in the war. Notes that the Continental Army should begin preparing for the siege of New York. Though applications have been made to the Court of France, it is not possible to ascertain if the French will agree to furnish the arms requested. Estimates the Continental force to be at 20,000 men. Requests that Knox plan for two attacks: against the works on York Island and Long Island (the latter probably to be conducted by the French).

Background Information: Signer of the U.S. Constitution.

Full Transcript:
To Brigadier General Knox
Commandant of Artillery
In the conference [struck: with] between the Count De Rochambeau and myself, it was agreed, that if by the aid of ...our allies, we can have a naval superiority, through the next campaign, and an army of thirty thousand men (or double the force of the enemy and its dependencies) early enough in the season to operate in that quarter, we ought to prefer it to every other object, as the most important and decisive; and applications have been made to the Court of France in this spirit, which it is to be hoped will produce the desired effect.
It is therefore incumbent upon us to make every necessary preparation on our part for the seige of New York - as far as our funds and means render practicable. Applications have been also made to The Court of France for a large supply of powder arms, heavy cannon, and several other essential articles in your department. But as we cannot ascertain the extent of the success, these applications will meet with, and as they only go to such articles as are less within the compass of our own internal means, we ought not to neglect any exertion in our power for procuring within ourselves those things of which we shall stand in need.
I give you this communication of what is in prospect, that you may take your measures accordingly, by making such estimates and demands and other arrangements as may appear to you best calculated to produce what we want. And you may rely upon all the assistance and support it will be [2] in my power to give.
In your calculations you will estimate the force on our side at about twenty thousand men; the remainder with a proper seige and field apparatus are to be supposed to be furnishd by our allies. You are well acquainted with New-York and its defences; and you can therefore judge of the means requisite for its reduction by a seige. The General idea of the plan of operations is this (if we are able to procure the force we count upon) to make two attacks one against the works on York Island, and the other against the works of Brooklyn on Long Island - The latter will probably be conducted by our allies. Ulterior operations must depend on circumstances.
If we should find ourselves unable to undertake this more capital expedition; and if we have means [struck: to] equal to it, we shall attempt as a secondary object the reduction of Charles Town. Savannah Penopscot & c. may successively come into contemplation. Your dispositions will have reference to these different objects; though indeed a preparation for the principal one will substantially comprehend every lesser.
These instructions would have been earlier given to you; but for the commotions in the army, which suspended my attention.
Given at Head Quarters
February 10th. 1781
Go: Washington
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People: Washington, George, 1732-1799
Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Rochambeau, Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de, 1725-1807

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: NavyFrancePresidentRevolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryContinental ArmyGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsWeaponry

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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