<br /> Lee Letter: n49

Washington and Lee University

Sender: George Washington
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

Dear Sir:

Your letter of the 2d ultimo, from Chantilly, enclosing
Lieutenant Colonel Frazer’s orders for the management of the grenadiers
and light infantry in an action, and upon a march, came to my hands in
the course of last month, and merits my thanks, as it may be of use to
such corps, one of which (consisting of light infantry) we are now
forming. The enemy are governed by no principles that ought to actuate
honest men; no wonder then, that forgery should be amongst their other
crimes. I have seen a letter published in a handbill at New York, and
extracts of it republished in the Philadelphia paper, said to be from
me to Mrs. Washington, not one word of which did I ever write; those
contained in the pamphlet you speak of, are, I presume, equally
genuine, and perhaps written by the same
author.1 I should be glad however to see and
examine the texture of them, if a favourable opportunity to send them
should present.2

Lord Cornwallis has certainly embarked for England, but with what view is
not so easy to determine: he was eye witness a few days before his
departure, to a scene not a little disgraceful to the pride of British
valour, in their manœuvre to Chesnut hill, and precipitate return,
after boasting their intentions of driving us beyond the
mountains.3

I am very glad to find that the Assembly of Virginia, have taken matters up
so spiritedly; but wish, instead of attempting to raise so many
volunteers, they had resolved at all adventures to complete their
regiments by drafting. If all the states would do this, and fall upon
ways and means to supply their troops with comfortable clothing upon
moderate terms, and Congress would make the commissions of officers of
some value to them, every thing would probably go well, making at the
same time some reform in the different departments of the army; nothing
standing in greater need of it than the quartermasters and
commissaries, as no army ever suffered more by their neglect; the
consequences of this neglect are much to be dreaded.

I am,
etc.4

Notes:

1 The handbill had been printed by Rivington and issued in advance of the
pamphlet which has come to be known as the Spurious
Letters of Washington
. William Carmichael states that these
letters were composed in London by a group of American expatriates,
who managed to obtain a few shillings by such work. Washington
himself thought that “Jack” Randolph, the last royal attorney general
of Virginia, was the author. The letters were originally published by
J. Bew in London. Rivington reprinted the pamphlet in New York.

2 Lee had written “The arts of the enemies of America are endless, but all
wicked as they are various. Among other tricks, they have forged a
pamphlet of Fetters, entitled ‘Letters from General Washington to
Several of his Friends, in 1776.’ The design of the forger is
evident, and no doubt it gained him a good beefsteak from his
masters. I would send you this pamphlet, if it were not too bulky for
the post, as it might serve to amuse your leisure hours during the
inaction of winter.”

3 The British movements, Dec. 4 – 8, 1777.

4 This letter and also Lee’s letter to Washington are taken from
Memoir of the Life of Richard Henry Lee and His
Correspondence
.