[REVOLUTIONARY WAR]. Duane, James (1733-1797), New York Delegate to Continental Congress. Autograph letter signed ("Jas. Duane") to Governor George Clinton (1739-1812), York Town, [Pennsylvania], 8 October 1777. 2 pp, 4to, light spotting, first leaf neatly inlaid.
DUANE REPORTS ON THE BATTLE OF GERMANTOWN.
An excellent letter in which Duane, a leading New York attorney and member of the Continental Congress, relays Washington's description of the crucial battle at Germantown, after having read Washington's October 5 dispatch to the Congress reporting the clash: "Victory seemed at first to be promised to General Washington as a reward for the spirited attack which was judiciously planned & pushed with great Gallantry," Duane writes. "On every side the Enemy gave way. But a heavy Fog which totally obstructed all Communication Among our different divisions and indeed destroyed all distinction between Friends and Foes, seemingly in the midst of Conquest, put an end to all these sanguine expectations by a sudden retreat of our Troops." Amid the fog, the left and right flanks of the American attack mistook each other for British reinforcements, and the patriots fled in confusion. The enemy "did not pursue," Duane continues, "but permitted General Washington to retire with his Cannon and wounded, at Leisure, venturing only after some hesitation, to fire a few long shots from some pieces of Cannon."
The Americans lost about 150 dead, some 500 wounded and 400 prisoners. Total British casualties were over 500, with a dozen or so captured. Washington did not realize the imbalance in casualties at the time, but Duane reports that "the General infers from the Engagement that it will make his troops familiar with danger, and more ready to attack as well as more determined and hardy in action. In other Respects he observes that the situation is just the same as before the Battle, the Loss of men excepted: which is supposed to be fully compensated by the great Havock made among the Enemy." Duane shares Washington's upbeat estimate of the combat, and tells Clinton that "Tho' this last Battle cannot be called a fortunate Event it gives no Discouragement. The State of Pennsylvania however remains weak, feeble and inactive & contributes little to the common Defense. The Dissention concerning their frame of Government seems to have shaken all publick Virtue to the foundation. This between ourselves."