<br /> Lee Letter: n338

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Benjamin Rush
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

My dear sir,

There is no Soil so dear to a Soldier as that which is marked with the
footsteps of a flying enemy. Every thing looks well. Our army increases
daily, and our troops are impatient to avenge the injuries done to the
state of New Jersey. The tories fly with the precipitation peculiar to
guilty fear to Genl. Howe. A detachment from our body yesterday took
four of them and kill’d one. Two of the former were officers in Howes
new militia establishment.

We suffer much from the want of intelligence which can only procured by
money that will pass in both camps. Howe owes the superiority &
regularity of his intelligence above ours not so much to the voluntary
information of the tories as to the influence of his gold. Pray send
two or three thousand pounds in hard money immediately to Gen
Washington. It will do you more service than 20 new regiments. Let not
this matter be debated, & posponed in the usual way for two or
three weeks. The salvation of America under God depends upon its being
done in an instant.

I beg leave for a moment to call off your Attention from the Affairs of the
public to inform you that I have heard from good Authority that my much
hond father in law who is now a prisoner with Gen Howe suffers many
indignities & hardships from the enemy from which not only his
rank, but his being a man ought to exempt him. I wish you would propose
to Congress to pass a resolution in his favor similar to that they have
passed in favor of Gen. Lee.2 They owe it to
their own honor as well as to a member of their body. I did not want
this intelligence to rouse my resentment against the enemy. But it has
encreased it. Every particle of my blood is electrified with
revenge – and if justice cannot be done to him in any other way, I
declare I will in defiance of the Authority of the congress, & the
power of the army drive the first rascally tory I meet with a hundred
miles bare footed thro the first deep Snow that falls in our country.

Two small brigades of New England troops have consented to serve a month
after the time of their enlistment expires. There is reason to believe
all the New England troops in their predicament will follow their
example.

We have just heard that the enemy are preparing to retreat from Princeton.

Advice. Gen Washington must be invested with dictatorial power for a few
months or we are undone. The vis inertia of the congress has almost
ruined this country. Yours,

B. Rush3

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, American Philosophical Society.

1 Crosswicks, N.J., a village southeast of Trenton where Gen. John
Cadwalader’s troops were quartered from December 29 through January
1.

2 For Congress’ response to this request, see the resolution of January 3,
1777, concerning the treatment of Richard Stockton. JCC, 7:12 – 13,
Stockton was the first delegate to Congress to have the misfortune of
falling into British hands, and he suffered uncustomarily harsh
treatment. Before obtaining his parole, he was apparently forced to
sign an oath of allegiance which later cast a shadow on his
reputation. For additional information on this subject, see John
Witherspoon to David Witherspoon, March 17, 1777, note 1.

3 The following day Rush also wrote a letter to his wife describing the
recent depredations of the Hessians. Parke-Bernet Galleries Catalog,
no. 2661 (March 6, 1968), item 76.