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.


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.