• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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My dear Sir,[1]                            York [Pennsylvania][2] 8th Octr. 1777

            I must make one general apology for the matter and manner of my letters, the want of time to discharge with propriety, an hundredth part of the business with which I am crowded. My eyes fail me fast, and I believe by understanding must soon follow this incessant toil. We have had another general engagement with the enemy at and near German Town. With ours, we attacked their Army. The plan was well concerted, and the execution was so bravely conducted, that a most brilliant victory was on the moment of being obtained, when accident alone removed it from us. The morning was so foggy, which with the state of the Air keeping down the Smoke of the Cannon & effectually prevented our people from knowing their success, occasioned delay, and gave the enemy time to sally and return to the charge which they did five several times. But this was not the worst, our right & left Columns mistook each other for enemies and apprehending a fresh reinforcement, gave way too soon to a last effort of the enemy, and quitted a glorious victory absolutely in their power. However, they retired in order, and had so severely handled the enemy that they dared not pursue, and our wounded with every thing valuable was brought off. Our Army is now upon the ground they left before the battle, in high spirits, and satisfied they can beat the enemy. I hope they will quickly have an opportunity, as the reinforcements from our Country have reached the Army since the engagement. Our loss is pretty well fixed to 700 killed, wounded and missing. That of the enemy not certainly known but surely very great, as you may judge by the following intelligence brot this evening by Gen. Greens Aid and which he says may be relied on. Gen. Agnew, Colonels Woolcot, Abercrombie, & Thos. Byrd (from Virga) with General De Heisters Son killed. Gen. Knephausen[3] wounded in the hand, and between 2 and 300 waggons loaded with wounded sent into Philadelphia. That Gen. Howe had sent about 2000 Hessians over Schuylkill (denoting a retreat) and that he refused to let the any of the inhabitants of Philadelphia go to see the field of battle. Gen Schuyler writes us the 29th of September, that if superior numbers, health, and spirits can give success, our army in the Northern department will have it this Campaign. For my part, I do not despair of success on this quarter also. Another such battle as the last, will totally unfit General Howe for pursuing further hostilities this Campaign and again possess us of Philadelphia.

            Suffer me now Sir to recommend to your interest the appointment of the French Artillerists mentioned in our public letter by this express. You may depend upon it that these are Masters of the Art they profess, and are people of character. They are part, and the better part of General (Loudrays) Corps, who were returning to France upon the death of that General, but prevailed on to remain until our Country could be consulted about employing them. The terms seem high, but the knowledge they possess, and we want, is to us above price. Some Gentlemen from other States have been applying to them, but on enquiry they like the accounts they have received of Virginia better than any other. Now that we have got from under the protection of G. Britain it is indispensably necessary that we understand well the use of Cannon and be strongly provided with them. Capt. Loyeaute whom we propose for Colonel of our Battallion of Artillery is realy a man of science, and not unacquainted with practise, and if he can prevail on the Veteran Sergeants to go with him, we shall gain a competency in that art so necessary, and which we are so unacquainted with.

            This enclosed is the Substance of the Account brought by General Greens Aid. Be so good as present my respects to Mr. Page,[4] and excuse me for not writing to him as I really have not time.

            I have a very good opinion of Colo. Carrington and would willingly serve him, but I much doubt whether the rasure of the Journal you propose can be obtained, but I will try.

I am very sincerely and affectionately yours,

                                                    Richard Henry Lee

Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 2, M2009.56, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 March 17


[1] This letter, addressed to Patrick Henry, appeared in James Curtis Ballagh, ed., The Letters of Richard Henry Lee (New York: Macmillan, 1911), Vol. 1, 325-327.

[2] The British captured Philadelphia on 1777 September 26. York served as the new capital of the United States until 1778 June 27.

[3] Wilhelm von Knyphausen (1716-1800), commander of the Hessian forces at the battle of Germantown.

[4] Mann Page (1749-1781), from Virginia, who served in the Continental Congress in 1777.

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