ANOTHER PROPERTYWASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("G:o Washington"), as Commander in Chief, to General James M. Varnum (1748-1789), a circular letter, Head Quarters, 26 October 1777. 1 page, folio, chipped along right edge catching one letter and small portion of final "n" in signature, tape reinforcements on verso.
WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("G:o Washington"), as Commander in Chief, to General James M. Varnum (1748-1789), a circular letter, Head Quarters, 26 October 1777. 1 page, folio, chipped along right edge catching one letter and small portion of final "n" in signature, tape reinforcements on verso. IS IT "PRUDENT IN OUR PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES AND STRENGTH TO ATTEMPT BY A GENERAL ATTACK, TO DISLODGE THE ENEMY?" A letter on the crucial war council during which Washington selected Valley Forge for his winter encampment. With the dispiriting Philadelphia campaign drawing to a close, Washington summons his general officers. "You will very shortly be called to a Council of War, when your Sentiments on the following Questions will be asked? Whether it will be prudent in our present Circumstances and Strength to attempt by a general Attack, to dislodge the Enemy; and if it is, and we unsuccessful, where to retreat to? If such an Attack should not be thought eligible, what general Disposition of the Army had best take place, till the Weather forces us from the Field? Where, and in what manner, supposing the Enemy to keep possession of Philadelphia, had the Continental Troops best be canton'd, after they can no longer keep the Field? What measures can be adopted to cover the Country near the City, and prevent the Enemy drawing Supplies therefrom, during the Winter?...Will it be consistent with propriety and good policy to allow Soldiers the Reward offered to others for apprehending Deserters? The Commissaries complaining of the number, and disproportion of the Rations which are issued to the Troops and at the sametime of the advanced price of all kinds of Spirits, owing to the Imposition of the Sutlers upon the Soldiery what regulation, or remedy can be applied to rectify the one, and prevent the other?" When the war council met on 29 October, they decided not to mount a general attack to reclaim the capital. That was not surprising, given the weak state of Washington's force. The nearly 12,000 men under his command in May 1777 had dwindled down to just 6,000 by August when Howe embarrassed Washington with his easy capture of Philadelphia. Congress fled to Lancaster and then York, where they stayed until the spring of 1778. Meanwhile, Washington suffered defeats at Brandywine and Germantown in September and early October. By 26 October the Continentals considered it a moral victory that the Army survived at all. Reinforcements arrived in the form of militias and Continentals from New York and Virginia, bringing effective levels up to 11,000. But the other items on this agenda-supplies, cantonment, desertions, winter-are the ominous keynotes for the looming ordeal at Valley Forge. Published in Fitzpatrick 9:441-442.