<br /> Lee Letter: n322

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Robert Carter

Dear Sir,

I have been the less solicitous about writing to you and my other
Westmoreland friends as I know you get the Packet from hence weekly
which brings you the news of this place the day that every post quits
it. We have hitherto seen the mighty land and sea force of our enemies
capable of effecting very little indeed of that great business which
brought it here. Three Islands, their only acquisition yet, being a
very inconsiderable part of this large Northern Continent. As for
Canada, it was the small pox, not their arms, that procured them it.
And the whole is but a miserable compensation for 12 millions the
expence of the Campaign and 2 millions more of value in prizes made by
our Cruizers. Should they be obliged to close the Campaign thus, they
will fall under the contempt of all Europe, after the extravagant boast
they have made of reducing the whole Continent this summer. Various
have been the manouvres of the two armies, and many smart skirmishes
have ensued in which we have beaten them five out of six. Gen Lee
writes me that “Mr. Howe has but two moves left, and I expect we shall
checkmate him in both.” By an Express just arrived from Gen. Washington
we are informed that Gen. Howe having vainly strived to outflank him,
did on Thursday night last decamp with his whole army and pricipitately
retreated during the night towards the North river & Kingsbridge as
if returning to the City of New York.1
Various are the conjectures concerning this Manoeuvre. Some think he is
going into Winter quarters, some that he intends Southward, and some
that his destination is for this City. Few are of the first opinion,
more of the second, and most of the last. The reasons already suggested
in this letter make it not probable that after such potent efforts they
shd. go to Sleep having done so little. Nor does there appear object
great enough (unless it be Charles Town) to the Southward for such a
force. However we ought to be laying up Magazines of provisions and
getting our people in the best readiness. This City & Province are
great objects. No government here at present, many Tories, and too much
languor. The enemy know this, However, they will not get here easily.
To come by water will puzzle them amazingly, and if thro the Jersies,
we have 5 or 6000 men there already and Gen. Washington’s Army will
follow on their rear. What will be the issue of this movement of the
enemy a few days will discover. At present, it is evidently disgraceful
to them. They were pursued by parties of our men but they had got too
far, except some Waggons and a few strollers that were taken. We have
taken every proper measure to secure the French Court in our interest,
and I shall think it among the strangest events that have happened if
occurrences cast not up soon in Europe that will lighten our burthen.
We have had a fair trial of skill between our rifle men and the Hessian
Chassuers in which we fairly beat them. Numbers were equal, the
Hessians had 10 or 12 killed and some made prisoners, the rest fled.
The price of every thing has risen so here that we can scarcely live.
Wood 40s a Chord, Beef lld per lb & Hay £10 a Ton. Mrs. Lee
presents her compliments to Mrs. Carter in which I beg to join.

I am dear Sir affectionately, yours,

Richard Henry Lee

P.S. I have sent you the best Map of the Seat of War that is published
here.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Signers of the Declaration Collection, Lilly Library,
Indiana University. Addressed: “Honorable Robert Carter esquire, in
Westmorland County, Virginia. Favored by – (Mr. Coulston) Mr.
Brockenbrough.”

1 According to Washington’s November 6 letter to Hancock – which was read on
November 11 and is in PCC, item 152, 3:213 – 15, and Washington,
Writings (Fitzpatrick), 6:248 – 50 – this maneuver by General Howe
occurred on Monday evening and Tuesday, November 4 – 5.