<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0059

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Patrick Henry

Dear Sir,

I have no doubt but that Mr. President inclosed you with his last
dispatches the printed account of General Washingtons success at
Trenton. The number of Hessian prisoners there made, do not fall much
short of 1100. Since that event we have had no regular account from the
army, but from a Committee of Congress at Philadelphia we have the
accounts brought into Philadelphia by a number of persons and believed
there, in substance as follows. The British forces stationed at
Brunswick, Trenton, and other places in New Jersey, hearing of the
success at Trenton, collected and marched towards that place to attack
our army, now strengthened by the junction of all its detachments and
by several corps of Militia. Gen. Washington ordered two Brigades to
advance on the Princeton road and interrupt the enemies march. About 3
miles from Trenton they met the enemy and being attacked by a much
superior force, were compelled to retreat, which they did slowly
keeping up a retreating engagement until they joined the main body
drawn up on the heigh grounds on this side a bridge that divides the
village of Trenton nearly in two parts. The enemy attempting to force
the bridge were received by Gen. Mifflin with the Philadelphia militia
and a number of Field pieces, who drove them back with great loss, and
some batteries being now opened on the heights commanding the enemies
part of the Town, they were soon obliged to quit it with loss. The
armies still continued posted opposite each other until midnight, when
Gen. Washington (having received certain intelligence that Gen. Howe
was on his march in person, with a large reinforcement to join his
army)having previously directed large fires to be made to deceive the
enemy, decampt, made a forct march that night to meet Gen. Howe, met
with him at a place called Quakers bridge, gave him battle and routed
his troops, taking from 6 to 800 prisoners. Pursuing the fugitives he
entered Princeton where a number of Officers, 6 or 7 field pieces, and
the 40th Regiment were taken. The British army that remained at Trenton
knew nothing of General Washingtons design until they heared the firing
next morning, and then, having possessed themselves of the heights for
some time, they retreated towards Brunswick along the Pennytown road, a
circuitous, western way, leaving the place of engagement on the right
hand a good distance. This extraordinary motion denotes panic, because
their direct rout to the scene of action was along the road to
Princetown, as thus1

The account goes on – That our Army was pursuing from Princeton to Brunswick,
where the enemy had large Stores kept. We know that Gen. Heath with
above 3000 men is about Hackingsack and Colo. Ford with 1500 Jersey
militia is before him in the way to Trenton. This is the posture we
understand things to be in, and we wait in hourly expectation of
receiving authentic intelligence of the total rout of the enemies army
in

Jersey and their disgraceful evacuation of that State. Thus we bid fair to
derive great advantage from what we once apprehended would injure us
extremely, the dispersion of our army. The enemy knowing we had no
army, and trusting to their Tory intelligence that no forces could be
collected, had divided their troops in such a manner as to expose them
to ruin from Militia only, or chiefly so; for excepting about 1500
Eastern troops, the same number of Virginians, about 200 of Smallwoods
Marylanders and a broken Pennsylvania regiment, the rest of Gen.
Washingtons army is Militia. Another valuable consequence will result
from this success, it will prove to our enemies that America, without
an army, is formidable in its militia. For sudden exertions, the
Militia certainly do well, but they cannot bear the continued
discipline of camps and campaigns. This certainty makes it of the last
importance that our regular Army should be assembled with all possible
dispatch, and such you will find to be the sense of Congress by their
requests to the several States for this purpose. Our wicked Enemy to
Freedom & all its friends, are actually preparing to try Gen. Lee
by a special Court Martial. For it seems, that in order to be aided by
a court martial that Gentlemans resignation of his commission was not
accepted. We have sent to remonstrate with Mr. Howe on this subject, to
demand Gen. Lees enlargement on his parole, and to assure that the same
infliction exactly that is applied to Gen. Lee, shall directly be
applied to 5 Hessian Field officers and Colo. Campbell their favorite
Engineer who shall be reserved for that special purpose. We have
offered 6 Hessian field Officers in exchange for Gen. Lee.

I heartily wish you the compliments of the season, and am with great esteem
dear Sir

your most affectionate and obedient servant,

Richard Henry Lee

[P.S.] Be pleased to let the scheme of lottery be published in our papers
that people may be prepared against the Tickets are sent.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Library of Virginia.

Printed in William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry,
Life, Correspondence and Speeches, 3 vols. (New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1891), 3:36 – 39. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 246 – 49. The copy in the Library of Virginia is mutilated, and missing words supplied from the copy printed in Henry.

1 At this point Lee drew a diagram of the Trenton-Brunswick area, showing
Washington’s line of march and the british army’s retreat. See Henry, Patrick Henry, Life, Correspondence and Speeches, 3:38.