Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: John Page
17th Aug. 1777.
My dear Sir,
Were it not for the very disgraceful evacuation of Ticonderoga and the loss
of our Stores there, we should have little but good to relate of this
Campaign as far as it has gone. The Generals Schuyler and St. Clair are
ordered down to Head Quarters, where an enquiry will be instituted, and
the public fully acquainted with the whole of that business. Gen. Gates
is reappointed to the command of the Northern Army and by this time has
joined it. The Militia is turning out to join that army, and now that
they have the General they love and can confide in, I hope our affairs
in that quarter will soon wear a better countenance. Already Gen.
Hackerman of the N. York Militia has beaten a part of the enemies
forcesand slain 50 Indians.1 Gen. Howes
fleet was seen off the Eastern Shore of Maryland on the 7th instant,
stearing southward, but it is somewhat doubtful whether his troops are
on board now or not, and if they are, it is. surely the strangest
Manœuvre that was ever before put in practice - For, is it not
wonderful, that whilst Burgoyne is pushing into the Country on one
quarter, Howe should quit it on another? Time will explain this, at
present, inexplicable movement. In the meantime Gen. Washingtons forces
are so placed as to be ready to meet Mr. Howes visitation if it happens
any where but on the two extremes of the United States. Our information
from Europe does not promise us immediate war, but we are sure of very
substantial aid from thence, whilst the powerful Armaments quickly
preparing by France and Spain denote approaching war and certainly will
check the British violence against <us> by the necessity it creates of
watching their powerful and dangerous Neighbors. The spirit of France
rises with the increase of its Fleet, since we learn that when the
British Ambassador lately told the Ministry that if N. America
continued to be supplied from France, that the Peace could not long
continue-He was answered "Nous ne desiron pas la guérre, et nous ne le
craignon pas."2 Dr. Lee is returned from
Spain, and set out in May for the Court of Prussia. Gen. Lee is removed
on board the Centurion, but we are not certain whether the ship remains
at York or is gone with the Fleet. We hear that a Speech of Lord
Chathams in the house of Lords lately has come to N. York, but they
will not publish it, in which his Lordship advises them to make peace
with America immediately on Any terms, assuring them they have no more
chance to conquer this Country with the force they have or can get,
than he to conquer Britain with his Crutch, and that the longer they
contend the more certain will be their ruin and
disgrace.3 The good old Man, instead of
being dead as was reported, is, it seems, recovered to better health
and revived powers.
Pray my dear Sir urge on our Works near the Falls of James River, we want
heavy cannon extremely - And it would be greatly to our advantage if
Copper and Calamine could be found in quantity sufficient to furnish us
with Brass. My compliment to Mrs. Page.
Farewell dear Sir Affectionately yours.
Honourable John Page esquire at Williamsburg in Virginia.
P.S. If Government was now and then to stimulate the Managers of the Salt
Works, might we not hope for a supply of that necessary. I fear Howe is
gone to Charles Town in South Carolina. If so, against such a Land and
Sea force no effectual resistance can be made - curse on his Canvas
Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 - 1778, pp. 315 - 17. Printed also in Smith, Letters of Delegates, 7:443. Ballagh took his transcription form "a printed text in a New York Collectorâ€™s Catalogue from an A.L.S. by Lee, presented by Dr. J. F. Jameson," and Smith took his transcription from Ballagh.
1 Brig. Gen. Nicholas Herkimer of the New York militia had been mortally
wounded at Oriskany on 6 August while attempting to relieve Fort
Schuyler (Dictionary of American Biography).
2 This information was contained in a 12 March letter from the commissioners
at Paris, one of several letters from the commissioners that Congress
had received earlier in August and was still considering. See William
Williamsâ€™ second letter to Jonathan Trumbull of 2 August 1777.
3 For Chathamâ€™s remarks on 30 May introducing his motion to stop hostilities
in America, see The Parliamentary History of England, from the
Earliest Period to the Year 1803, 36 vols. (London: T. C. Hansard,
1806 - 20), 19:316 - 20.