<br /> Lee Letter: n309

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Francis Lightfoot Lee
Recipient: Landon Carter

My dear Col.

I acknowledge myself greatly indebted to your goodness, for which, tho’ I
despair of ever making full returns, yet I shall endeavour to show my
gratitude by such partial payments, as my time & abilities will
admit of.

I cannot think the apprehensions of our Council, without foundation; for
whether the Enemy is successful or not at N. York, there is reason to
believe they will make some attempt upon some of the southern states
and we know that our people, upon the least removal of danger, are too
apt to relapse into supineness & inattention. We find from
experience that regulars only can effectually be opposed to the British
troops; therefore we are collecting our regular batallions to resist
the efforts of the Enemy at N. York and if any sudden attack shou’d be
made upon any state, we must depend upon the Militia to impede their
progress, untill they can be opposed by some regular troops.

The Militia is not only ineffectual, but beyond measure expensive. Such a
number of regulars will therefore be raised for the next campaign, that
we shall not have recourse to the militia, but upon extraordinary
occasions. Six new Regiments will be raised in Virginia.

You have no doubt, before this, been inform’d that our Generals upon
finding Long Island not tenable, have quitted it, after a smart
engagement between a party of between 2 & 3000 of our men, &
the greater part of the Enemy’s Army in which tho we were outgeneral’d,
yet the troops behaved so exceedingly well, that Howe has been very
cautious in all his movements since. All of which indicate his
intention of geting upon the back of our Army, & with their shiping
on the front & each side cut off all communication with the
Country, in which case we must either fight to a disadvantage or
surrender for want of provisions. Our Genl. is taking measures to
prevent this; for which purpose the City of N. York, must be evacuated;
which is by no means tenable, if the Enemy chuse to direct their
efforts agst. it. As the Court of G.B. has ever accompanied Violence
with deception, Ld Howe their agent since his arrival, has constantly
endeavour’d to make the people believe that he has great powers &
earnestly wish’d for peace; & at length carried the matter so far
as to desire a conference with some members of Congress in their
private capacities. The Congress to show they were not averse to peace,
sent a Comtee. of their body to confer with him. They had the honor of
three hours conversation with his LdShip & return’d here last
Fryday. He acknowledged he had no power to suspend the operations of
war, or to offer any terms; but said he had waited two months in
England to prevail with the Ministry to empower him to converse &
confer with Gentn. of influence in America, that he was sure of the
good intentions of the King & the Ministry; & if we woud return
to our allegiance, they wou’d revise the late instructions to Govrs.
& the Acts of Parliament, & if there was any thing in them that
appear’d unreasonable to them, he did not doubt but they wou’d make
them easy. The whole affair will soon be publish’d by Congress, which I
will send to my friends in Richmond & I shall be glad of Your
remarks. All well at Ticonderogo.

Every advice from all parts of the French dominions give us hopes of a
speedy rupture with G.B. That event will make us somewhat easy. My best
respects to the Ladies & my friend Mr.

Believe me, my dear Col. yr. afft. & oblig’d friend,

Francis Lightfoot Lee


Receiver’s copy, Virginia Historical Society.

1 On the basis of notes Carter made on the verso of this letter, it would
appear that Lee also wrote him another letter on the 17th which has
not survived. Carter was apparently attempting to establish the exact
date of the battle at Harlem Heights, N.Y., by analyzing conflicting
accounts he had received. The pertinent section of his notes reads as
follows: “Colo. F. Lees 2 letters 15 & 17. As NY is 100 miles
from Philadelphia he could not hear of it nor mention it. His letter
17. says day before Yesterday a firing heard at NY. It might be some
commencing manoeuvere for the enemys landing their men.” This
reference by Lee to “firing heard at NY” was repeated in his letter
of the 17th to Thomas Jefferson and undoubtedly referred to the
British bombardment and landing at Kip’s Bay, N.Y., on the 15th.