<br /> Lee Letter: n371

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Patrick Henry

My dear Sir,

I must make one general apology for the matter and manner of my letters-the
want of time to discharge with propriety, an hundredth part of the
business with which I am crowded. My eyes fail me fast, and I believe
my understanding must soon follow this incessant toil. We have had
another general engagement with the enemy at and near German Town. With
ours, we attacked their Army. The plan was well concerted, and the
execution was so bravely conducted, that a most brilliant victory was
on the moment of being obtained, when accident alone removed it from
us. The morning was so foggy, which with the state of the Air keeping
down the Smoke of the Cannon &c effectually prevented our people
from knowing their success, occasioned delay, and gave the enemy time
to rally and return to the charge which they did five several times.
But this was not the worst. Our right & left Columns mistook each
other for enemies and apprehending a fresh reenforcement gave way too
soon to a last effort of the enemy, and quitted a glorious victory
absolutely in their power. However, they retired in order, and had so
severely handled the enemy that they dared not pursue, and our wounded
with every thing valuable was brought off. Our Army is now upon the
ground they left before the battle, in the high spirits, and satisfied
they can beat the enemy. I hope they will quickly have an opportunity,
as the reinforcements from our Country have reached the Army since the
engagement. Our loss is pretty well fixed to 700 killed, wounded and
missing. That of the enemy not certainly known, but surely very great,
as you may judge by the following intelligence brot this evening by
Gen. Greens Aid and which he says may be relied on – Gen. Agnew, Colonels
Woolcot, Abercrombie & Tho. Byrd (from Virga) with General De
Heisters Son killed, Gen. Kniphausen wounded in the hand, and between 2
and 300 waggons loaded with wounded sent into Philadelphia. That Gen.
Howe had sent about 2000 Hessians over Schuylkill (denoting a retreat)
and that he refused to let any of the Inhabitants of Philadelphia to go
to see the field of battle.1 Gen Schuyler
writes us the 29th [i.e. 27th] of September, that if superior numbers,
health, and spirits can give success, our army in the Northern
department will have it this Campaign. For my part I do not despair of
success on this quarter also. Another such battle as the last, will
totally unfit Gen Howe for pursuing further hostilities this Campaign
and again possess us of Philadelphia.

Suffer me now Sir to recommend to your interest the appointment of the
French Artillerists mentioned in our public letter by this
express.2 You may depend upon it that these
are Masters of the Art they profess, and are people of character. They
are part, and the better part of General Coudrays Corps, who were
returning to France upon the death of that General, but prevailed on to
remain until our Country could be consulted about employing them. The
terms seem high, but the knowledge they possess, and we want, is to us
above price. Some Gentlemen from other States have been applying to
them, but on inquiry they like the accounts they have received of
Virginia better than any other. Now that we have got from under the
protection of G. Britain it is indispensably necessary that we
understand well the use of Cannon and be strongly provided with them.
Capt Loyeaute, whom we propose for Colonel of our Battallion of
Artillery is realy a man of science, and not unacquainted with
practise, and if he can prevail on the Veteran Sergeants to go with
him,3 we shall gain a competency in that art
so necessary, and which we are so unacquainted with.

The inclosed is the Substance of the Account brot by Gen. Greens Aid. Be so good as present my respects to Mr Page, and excuse me for not writing to him as I realy have not time.

I have a very good opinion of Colo. Carrington and would willingly serve him, but I much doubt whether the rasure of the Journal you propose can be obtained, but I will try.4

I am very sincerely and affectionately yours,

Richard Henry Lee

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Robert E. Lee Memorial Association, Stratford Hall, Stratford, Virginia. Printed in William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry, 3:100. Printed also in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 325 – 27.

1 A similar account of the battle of Germantown is in the Franklin Papers,
PPAmP, and is headed “Williamsburg, October 17th, 1777. Extract of a
Letter from a Member of Congress dated York Town October the 10th,
1777.” It was probably extracted from Lee’s October 10 letter to John
Page, which although not found was acknowledged by Page in a 17 October
letter to Lee thanking him for his letter of the 10th and the
account of the Germantown attack. Lee Papers, University of Virginia Archives.

2 The Virginia delegates’ 10 October letter to Governor Henry has not been
found, but Anne Philippe Dieudonne de Loyaute’s detailed
“Propositions” for managing an artillery corps and a copy of the
Virginia delegates’ proposal to Loyaute which were enclosed in that
letter are in the Continental Congress Papers, Library of Virginia. The Virginia
delegates and Richard Henry Lee in particular continued to urge Henry
to secure an appointment for Loyaute as commander of Virginia’s
artillery regiment, apparently unaware that Washington had already
recommended Col. Thomas Marshall for that position. After
considerable negotiation Loyaute was commissioned inspector general
of Virginia artillery on 27 January 1778, but he resigned the
position on 20 May 1778 after the Virginia Assembly ruled that his
appointment did not entitle him to a command and he realized he would
be merely training Virginia troops. See Lee to Henry, 28 October and
24 November 1777; Virginia Delegates to Henry, 27 November 1777;
Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 9:301 – 3; and Journals of the
Council of the State of Virginia,
ed. H. R. McIlwaine, 3 vols.
(Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1931 – 52), 2:76, 135. For Henry’s
accounts of his efforts in Loyaute’s behalf, see his letters to Lee
of 10 November and 18 December 1777, and 28 May 1778, in Henry,
Patrick Henry, 3:115 – 16, 133 – 35, 174.

3 On 14 October the Virginia delegates wrote to George Pyncheon of
Springfield and John Bradford of Boston introducing “the Bearer whom
we have employed to prevail, if he can, with eight Sergeants
belonging to the late Gen. Coudrays corps of Artillery, to return,
and enter into the service of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” and
requesting Pyncheon and Bradford to assist him in procuring wagons
and carriages for the return of the sergeants and their baggage.
Lee’s copy of this letter is printed under the date “October 16” in
Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, 1:331 – 32. The success of this mission was
reported in Lee’s 7 January 1778 letter to Governor Henry from
Chantilly, in which he explained that five sergeants and three other
officers were on their way to Williamsburg and urged Henry to utilize
their knowledge of artillery. Henry, Patrick Henry, 3:140 – 42.

4 Edward Carrington had requested that Governor Henry not select officers for
the new state artillery corps from the First Continental artillery
regiment. Henry had discussed Carrington’s behavior, which he
considered to be disrespectful of civil authority, in his 6 August
letter to the Virginia delegates. The matter was considered in
Congress on 19 August and resolutions were adopted which, among other
things, required Carrington to apologize to Henry or face dismissal.
In his 12 September letter to Lee, Henry acknowledged that Carrington
had already made “every concession that was proper” and requested
that Congress “erase the Resolution respecting him, that nothing to
his prejudice may appear hereafter.” On 23 May 1778 Congress
confirmed their favorable opinion of Carrington and agreed that the
resolution of 19 August should not be published in the printed
journals. See JCC, 8:655 – 56, 11:527 – 29; and Henry, Patrick Henry,
3:86 – 88, 94 – 95.