GREENE, NATHANIEL, General, Continental Army. Autograph letter signed ("N. Greene") to General James Mitchell Varnum (1748-1789) in Peekskill, N.Y.; "Camp at the Cross Roads," 14 August 1777. 3 pages, folio, 324 x 195mm (12 x 7.5/8 in.), page 4 with address panel in Greene's hand, long endorsement by Varnum and GREENE'S FREE FRANK signature.
GREENE'S VIEW OF THE MILITARY CRISIS FACING THE AMERICANS
A vivid descriptive letter on the crucial military situation including Burgoyne's offensive and the Howe's impending attack on Philadelphia. Varnum is "much mistaken," Greene writes, "respecting the destiniation of Sir William" [Howe], "so strange and unaccountable that it exceeds all conjecture. General [John] Burgoyne's rapid march into the country [from Quebec, south along the Lake Champlain corridor] is strong proof that he expects to be supported from some other quarter. This leads me to conclude that General Howe's designs are ultimately against New England...I am glad to hear you are so well prepared to defend the [Hudson] Highlands. I fear the obstructions in the River [the Hudson River chain, erected at West Point] will scarcely prove sufficient to check the Enemie's [sic] progress..." Concerning General Schuyler, recently dismissed by Congress for failing to defend Fort Ticonderoga, Greene comments that "if he has lost the confidence of the people his talents will be useless. The Congress...have appointed Major General [Hortaio] Gates to the command. I hope he will succeed better." Burgoyne's thrust to the South is alarming, and, Greene notes, "I think it an object of the first importance to give a check to Burgoyne"; the Hudson River is critical to the American cause. While Philadelphia "the American Diana," must "be preserved at all events," it is "an object of far less importance than the North River. Our position in the Jerseys [Middle Brook] was calculated to cover the North River & Philadelphia...but the cry was so great for the Salvation of Philadelphia that the General [Washington] was prevailed upon to leaver Coryell's ferry contrary to his judgement and march down to the City...We are now withing twenty miles of the City..." Meanwhile, Howe's ships, which had sailed mysteriously from New York in late July, have reportedly been sighted off the Delaware Coast.
Major battles were indeed imminent: Howe and his army finally landed at the head of the Chesapeake, marched on Philedelphia and fought full-scale actions against Washington's armies at Paoli (21 September), Brandywine (22 September) and Germantown (4 October) before Washington finally left Philadelphia to the redcoats. Fortunately, though, Burgoyne's offensive had been severely checked by the Continentals at Bennington (16 August) and a month later, soundly beaten at Saratoga.