<br /> Lee Letter: n65

Washington and Lee University

Sender: George Washington
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

Dear Sir:

Your favour of the 6th instant, did not get to my hands till the
18th, it found me at our posts in the highlands, on my circuit to this
place, and at a time when I had neither leisure nor opportunity to
write to you. I am so thoroughly impressed with the necessity of
re-enlisting the army, that you may depend upon it, nothing in my power
to effect it shall be left unessayed. Instructions and money are in the
hands of every brigade for this purpose; and I have directed weekly
returns to be made of the progress. An advance in silver dollars, of
part of the bounty money, might facilitate the business of recruiting;
but I conceive that it would be attended with every pernicious
consequences; not from the cause you speak of, to wit, discontenting
the other soldiers but another source, namely, opening the eyes of the
whole and setting them to reasoning upon the difference between specie
and paper. At present, they know that every comfort and necessary of
life is insufferably dear, but do not inquire much after the causes;
and having no specie among them, to fix the comparison, do not
attribute it to the depreciation of the paper money; but let them have
ocular proof, that they can purchase as much with one silver, as with
four or five paper dollars, and have forestallers, and the disaffected
at work among them, in purchasing up the specie, while the latter class
of people are painting in lively colours the difference, and using at
the same time every art in their power to poison the minds, and sow the
seeds of discontent, and then judge of the event, at any rate I think
the experiment would be dangerous, and ought not to be tried, but as
the dernier resort, lest by obviating one evil, a greater be involved.
The designs of the enemy, to me, are mysterious, indeed totally
incomprehensible, that they are preparing for some grand manoeuvre does
not admit of a doubt; but whether it is for an operation on the North
River, against the French squadron at Boston (by a junction of their
land and sea forces,) or a total or partial evacuation of the United
States, is not easy to discover. I believe, myself, that they are
waiting orders; which, probably, will arrive in the August packet, to
determine their plan; and in the mean while are preparing to remove
wholly, or in part, as they shall be directed; but as their motives are
equivocal, and will apply to either of the above cases, I have
strengthened the posts in the highlands, and thrown the army into such
a position as to reinforce them readily, at the same time that we are
advanced to the eastward, and can move on in different columns, by
different routs, if the operations of the enemy should call us to that
quarter.

I am, etc.

P.S. I think it likely that Mr. Custis,1 (and
Colonel Bassett)2 may be in Philadelphia, at
the time this letter may come to your hands; if so, I will thank you
for causing to be delivered to him, a letter herewith addressed to your
care.3

Notes:

1 John Parke Custis.

2 Col. Burwell Bassett.

3 The text is from the Memoir of the Life of Richard Henry
Lee and His Correspondence
(Philadelphia: 1825), vol. 2, p. 23.