<br /> Lee Letter: n332

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Benjamin Rush
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

My dear sir,

An officer (German by birth) who has served in Russia & Hanover several
campaigns called upon me a few hours ago, and after producing
certificates &c that he now holds a captains commission under the
Empress of Russia gave me the following information in confidence. He
says that he is personally acquainted with many of the Hessian Officers
& privates now in How’s Army – that as they serve for pay only, he
thinks the bounty, pay & cloathing offered by Congress so much
above what they now enjoy that if they were properly tendered to them
they would serve us with more chearfulness than the king of Britain. He
offers to go in person into How’s army at the risk of his life, and is
sanguine eno’ to think he could immediately bring off 200 recruits with
him. He demands continental money only to pay the bounties. If he
fails, he will return the money. He very justly objected to taking gold
or silver as it might be useful to them in How’s camp. I submit these
hints to your consideration. I am bound to inform you that the Captain
(who from his certificates is a Baron) appears very modest, and
possesses the manners & address of a gentleman. He added in the
course of our conversation that we had many warm friends in Russia,
& that a majority of the nation expressed a dislike at the tho’ts
of being employed to fight against us. He thinks there is no
probability of any troops being procured from that quarter next Summer.
If you think the above scheme practicable, please to mention it in
congress. I am at a loss what to advise in the affair. At any rate
communicate your opinion or the determination of congress to Mr. Philip
Boehm in Philada. who will communicate it to the Baron. If he is
encouraged he will wait upon Congress & receive his instructions
from them.1

We are much blamed by the whigs and ridiculed by the tories for leaving
Philada so suddenly. All the back counties of Philada are in Motion.
Several hundreds of the miltia join Gen Washington
daily.2 Mr Galloway & three of the Allen
family have received absolution at Trenton. Gen Putnam sent a guard to
apprehend Mr Dick – n yesterday; you will soon hear of the cause of
it.3 He has escaped. I refer you to Mr Saml
Purviance for particulars. I have a thousand things to say to you.
Vigor, firmness & decisive measures are more necessary than ever.
Dispute less & do more in congress or we are undone. Compts to your
brother & the worthy members of the weekly club. I am on my way to
Bristol, being summoned to attend the Philada Militia for a few
weeks.4 Yours sincerely,

Benja Rush

P.S. I need not suggest to you the necessity of Secrecy if the Baron’s
Scheme is adopted.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, American Philosophical Society.

1 There is no record indicating that Congress responded to this offer.

2 The three following sentences were omitted from previously published
versions of this letter. Lee’s grandson deleted them when he
published his grandfather’s correspondence in 1825, and Peter Force
subsequently reprinted the younger Lee’s text. See Richard H. Lee,
Memoir of the Life of Richard Henry Lee …, 2 vols.
(Philadelphia: H. C. Carey and I. Lea, 1825), 2:159 – 60; and Am.
Archives, 5th ser. 3:1308.

3 Rush somewhat clarified this reference to the threatened arrest of John
Dickinson in a letter to Lee the next day when he explained that Gen.
Israel Putnam had threatened to confine persons who refused to accept
Continental money in payment of debt. Dickinson had come under
suspicion because his letter of December 14 to his brother, Gen.
Philemon Dickinson, advising against receiving Continental paper
money, had been intercepted by the Pennsylvania Council of Safety and
made public. For the letter and Dickinson’s personal explanation of
the episode, see Charles J. Stille, The Life and Times of John
Dickinson, 1732 – 1808 (1891; reprint ed., New York: Burt Franklin,
1969), pp. 400 – 406. See also Am. Archives, 5th ser. 3:1254 – 55; and
Rush to Richard Henry Lee, December 21, 1776.

4 After the adjournment of Congress on December 12, Rush had arranged for his
family’s safety with a relative in Maryland and volunteered to serve
with Gen. John Cadwalader’s brigade of Philadelphia Associators in
the defense of the city. He subsequently tended the troops engaged in
the Trenton-Princeton campaign until mid-January and did not go to
Baltimore until January 23 or 24.

During the interval Rush wrote several letters to Lee – at least six between
January 6 and 15 in addition to this letter and those of December 21,
25, and 30 printed below – sending intelligence and giving advice on
what must be done to preserve America from ruin. See Rush, Letters
(Butterfield), 1:124 – 30; and PMHB, 78 (January 1954): 15 – 18.

Years later Rush described his activities during this period at
considerable length in his autobiography. See Benjamin Rush, The
Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, ed. George W. Corner (Princeton:
Published for the American Philosophical Society by Princeton
University Press, 1948), pp. 124 – 30.