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.