<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0184

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Committee of Secret Correspondence
Recipient: the Commissioners at Paris

Honble. Gentlemen

You will receive inclosed copies of our letters of the 21st and 30th
Decemr., and of the Resolves of Congress accompanying them. It concerns
us not less than we are sure it will you, that you should have heard so
seldom from us, but the vigilance of the British Cruisers has prevented
our most earnest solicitude for this purpose. The manner in which they
now conduct their business proves the necessity of the request made by
Congress for the loan or sale of a few Capital Ships. The entrance into
Delaware & Chesapeak being narrow, by placing one 40 or 50 Gun Ship
for the Protection of their Frigates, they stop both our Commerce &
our Correspondence. Formerly their Frigates protected their Tenders,
but now that we have Frigates, their larger Ships protect their
Frigates; and this winter has been so uncommonly favourable that they
have been able to keep the sea undisturbed by those severe gales of
wind so usual off this Coast in the winter season. If we had a few line
of Battle of Ships to aid our Frigates, the Commerce of North America
so beneficial to ourselves & so advantageous to France, would be
carried on maugre the opposition of Great Britain. As we have not
received any of those military Stores &

Cloathing promised by Mr. Deane, ue have much reason to fear they have
fallen into the Enemie’s Hands and will render a fresh supply quite
necessary. Except Mr. Deane’s favor of Septemr. 17th which is but just
now received, and that of October the 1st, we have not heard from him
since the summer, so that we have been as destitute of European, as we
fear you have been of true American
Intelligence.1 The inclosed papers will
furnish you with authentick accounts of our successes against the enemy
since the 24th of Decemr. They have paid severely for their visit of
parade through the Jerseys, and these events are an abundant proof of
British Folly in attempting to subdue North America by force of arms.
Although the short inlistments had dispersed our Army directly in the
face of an hostile force, and thereby induced a proud enemy to suppose
their work was done, yet they suddenly found themselves attacked on all
sides by a hardy active Militia, who have been constantly beating up
their quarters, captivating and destroying their Troops, so that in the
six or seven last weeks they have not lost much fewer than 3000 Men,
about 2000 of whom, with many Officers, are now our Prisoners. Instead
of remaining cantonned in the pleasant Villages of Jersey, as the
inclosed authentick copy of Mr. Howe’s order to Coll. de Donop (the
original of which fell into our hands by the Colonel’s flight from
Burdenton) will shew you, that General vainly expected would be the
case, they are now collected upon the Brunswick Heights, where they
suffer every kind of distress from want of Forage, Fuel, and other
necessaries, whilst Genl. Washington’s Army of Militia so environs
them, that they never shew their faces without their lines, but they
get beaten back with loss and disgrace. Being thus situated, we have
reason to hope, that this part of their Army (and which is the most
considerable part) will by the end of winter be reduced very low by
deaths, desertion, & captivity. Genl. Heath, with a body of Eastern
Troops, is making an impression on New York by King’s Bridge, which we
understand has obliged the Enemy to recal their Troops from Rhode
Island, for the defence of that City.

The regular Corps, that are to compose the new Army, are making up in the
several states as fast as possible; but Arms, Artillery, Tent Cloth,
& Cloathing will be greatly wanted. For these our reliance is on
the favor & friendship of his most Christian Majesty. If you are so
fortunate as to obtain them, the propriety of sending them in a strong
Ship of War must be very evident to you Gentn. when you know, our
Coasts are so covered with British Cruisers from 20 to 50 Guns, though
but few of the latter. We believe, they have not more than two Ships of
40, and two or three of 50 Guns in their whole Fleet on the North
American Station; and these are employed, one of them to cover a
Frigate or two at the Capes of each Bay, whilst the rest remain at New
York.

We beg leave to turn your attention to the inclosed propositions of
Congress, and we doubt not you will urge their success with that zeal
& careful assiduity, that objects so necessary to the liberty &
safety of your Country demand.

We are exceedingly anxious to hear from you, and remain with particular
sentiments of esteem & friendship, Honble Gentlemen,

Your most
obedt & huml Servts.

Benj HarrisonWm Hooper
Richard Henry LeeRobt Morris at Philada.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, American Philosophical Society. In a clerical hand and
signed by Harrison, Hooper, Lee, and Morris. A second copy of this
letter in the same clerical hand, but signed by Harrison, Lee, and
John Witherspoon, is at NjR

1 For further information on Silas Deane’s September 17 and October 1, 1776,
letters to the Committee of Secret Correspondence, see Robert Morris’
letters to Silas Deane, December 20, 1776, note 1, and to John Jay,
February 4, 1777, note 2. Robert Morris had sent a copy of Deane’s
September 17 letter in his January 28, 1777, letter to the committee.