West Point Sept 1st 1779
I have receiv’d your letter of this date requesting me to give you in writing the Instructions which you verbally receiv’d from me on the subject of Powless Hook when you were last at Head Quarters – and particularly concerning the immediate evacuation of the post after the reduction and concerning the retreat. when you were last at Head Quarters the Enterprize against Powless Hook was in contemplation but not finally determined as there were some points of information still to be more fully obtained. I gave you then in general my ideas of the manner in which it should be conducted, whenever attempted, and desired you to use your best indeavors to procure information in such matters as appeared not to be sufficiently well understood and mentioned the precautions that should be taken to cover the design and secure the party which might be employed in its approach. But with respect to the point to which your request more particularly extends, to with the evacuation of the post & concerning the retreat.
My principal fear from the moment I conceived a design against the post was on account of the difficulty of the retreat, founded on its relative situation to that of the Enemy on York Island. This induced me to direct that in case the Enterprize should be found ilegible on farther inquiries and determined on that no time should be lost in case it succeeded by attempting to bring off Cannon Stores or any other articles, as a few minutes delay might expose the party at least to imminent risk; and also, that if the post could not be carried in an instant by suprize – the attempt must be relinquish’d.
My objects were to suprize it, to bring the Garrison off immediately and to affect a secure retreat.
I am sir
Your most obt Servt
Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 6, M2009.058. A version of this letter appears in The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series 22: 1 August – 21 October 1779, pp. 329-330. The version in The Washington Papers differs from this one.
Transcribed by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 June 1