<br /> Lee Letter: n364

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Landon Carter

My dear Sir,1

As it is always with pleasure that I obey your commands, so it is perfectly
agreable to me to make use of the opportunity offered by Mr. Butler of
furnishing you with the present state of our affairs as well as I am
able. Gen. Howe has thrown us all into the field of conjecture by his
late embarkation, and various have been the opinions touching his
destination. At present however, Many reasons concur to induce belief
that he is gone to Charles Town in South Carolina, where unhappily for
that place & for the Union in general, he may succeed. They are
strong towards the sea, but all their fortifications are weak on the
land side, and may be attacked with success in reverse. In fact, it
does not seem likely that they can resist the great Land & Sea
force that Mr. Howe has with him. It is not absolutely certain that he
is gone to Charles Town, and therefore Gen. Washingtons army is obliged
to remain inactive, a mere army of observation. This, added to a
variety of other causes, gives Burgoyne an opportunity of figuring away
in the North, and he uses the opportunity as might be expected from the
abandoned servant of an abandoned Master. First he prevails with the
people to remain with their Stocks on their plantations and [gives]
protections to quiet their fears, immediately follow bands of Indians,
some Canadians & Regulars, who scalp and murder all before them,
neither age, sex, nor political character makes any difference. Men,
women, children, whig, Tory, and Protectiontaker, all promiscuously
feel the keen scalping knife and the murdering Tomahawk. This Burgoyne
is a true Type of the Court he comes from; Howe & Carleton have
some humanity. Very soon I hope his career will be stopt. Schuyler
& St. Clair are ordered down to Head Quarters that an enquiry may
be had into the loss of Ticonderoga &c. Gen. Gates by this time has
joined the Northern Army as Commander of it Gates is able, and he is
beloved in the Eastern Countries. The Men will now turn out. Morgans
Corps, with some other Troops are sent up to check and chastise the
inhuman Butchers of bloody Burgoyne. An affair has lately happened in
that Quarter on the Mohock river that gives spirits to the people. Near
Fort Stanwix a body of the enemy intending to beseige that place, were
attackt by a party of Tryon County Militia under command of a General
Hackerman. The General was wounded but bravely kept the ground &
encouraged his men, several valuable gentlemen of that County were
slain, but their enemies were totally defeated with great loss both of
officers, men, & baggage. In the meantime the Commander of the Fort
sallied out and did considerable execution upon 200 Regulars who made
head against him. He brought off some artillery from the enemy, and a
good deal of baggage.

I went the other day to see the Army, the main body of which is about 20
miles from this City. 2000 men are at Coryells ferry & Sullivan
with 2000 more is placed at Morris Town. Old Putnam with 5000 occupies
the heights of Peeks Kill on Hudsons river. This disposition was taken,
to be in readiness to turn northward, or to defend this place, as Gen.
Howes visit might render necessary. I think the Army is a gallant one,
well disciplined, clothed, armed (for they have all bayonets now) and
sound in every respect – The Soldiers in good health and spirits, and
every thing looks tout en Militaire. Among other curiosities there, I
saw the young Marquis de la Fayette, a Nobleman of the first fortune
and family in France, the favorite of Court and Country. He left behind
him a most beautiful young wife, and all the soft enjoyments that such
a situation, with an immense fortune in a polished Country can furnish
to fight in American wilderness for American Liberty! After this can
there be a Tory in the World? He has rank of Major General in the
Continental Army & fights without pay. He is thirsty for glory but
the Commissioners at Paris wish the General may restrain the arder of
youth and not suffer his exposure but on some signal occasion. He is
sensible, polite, and good natured. How this example ought to gall the
worthless Nobility & Gentry of England, who meanly creap into the
Tyrants service to destroy that liberty which a generous Frenchman
quits every delight to defend thro every difficulty! Our intelligence
from France is late in May, and tho we are not to expect immediate war
in Europe, yet we shall assuredly receive substantial aid from thence.
Both France & Spain are powerfully and rapidly arming, whilst the
necessary attention to security agst such powerful neighbors, obliges
England to incur great expences and prevents her efforts against us.
The better opinion is, that the peace of Europe cannot continue a year.
With their Fleet, the French spirit rises, for we yearn that when Lord
Stormont lately said to the Minister of France “The peace cannot long
continue, if America continues to draw supplies from France,” he was
answered “Nous ne desiron pas la guerre, et nous ne le craignon pas.”
The truth is, that both France & Spain are most heartily our
friends and will give us every substantial aid, but directly going into
the war, for which they are not yet ready. Dr. Price told a Gentleman
in London the other day, that the Custom House books began to shew
great deficiencies in point of duties, and a Ministerial Man said that
nothing but the interposition of Providence could save G. Britain from
destruction. But the Tyrant relies we hear, upon the desperate efforts
that Howe and Cornwallis must make to redeem their “Bankrupt Honor.”
The Court of London, for purposes very obvious, encourages every kind
of amusement and dissipation thro out England. By royal Authority
Theatres are licenced in the formerly busy Manufacturing Towns of
Birmingham, Sheffield &c &c.

Lord Chatham is not dead, as was reported, but lives with better health
than usual. He has been figuring lately in the House of Lords, where he
advised an immediate peace with America, on any terms; assuring his
Hearers, they had no more chance to conquer this Continent with the
Forces they had, or could get, than he would have to conquer England
with his Crutch. He said they might create distress along the Sea Cost,
and seize the Towns there, but the longer they carried on the war the
greater would be their disgrace, and the more certain their ruin. Good
old Man. If Kings will be suffered in the World, why is it not insisted
on that they shall attend to Wise and good counsellors!

I hope our friend Parker will soon be about salt making, and I further hope
you will find time to assist him in the art of seperating and preparing
the Purging Salt.

I have trespassed sufficiently on your time, and the little liesure that
business allows me, begging therefore <my love> to Doctor Steptoe I
bid you heartily farewell,

Richard Henry Lee

[P.S.] Poor Manly is certainly taken, and there is too much reason to fear
the Fox is also retaken. They are yet much too powerful for us on the
Sea. Manlys Frigate was very little superior in force to the Fox, but
he made her strike. He could not immediately fight a 44 gun ship.
Remember me to all friends.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

1 Landon Carter was probably the recipient of this letter, since Richard
Parker and Dr. George Steptoe (mentioned near the close of this
letter) were mutual friends of Lee’s and Carter’s, and Carter (like
Parker) was actively involved in manufacturing salt. See Landon
Carter, The Diary of Colonel Landon Carter of Sabine Hall, 1752 – 1778,
ed. Jack P. Greene, 2 vols. (Charlottesville: University Press of
Virginia, 1965), 2:1098, 1105, 1111, 1128.