Library of Congress

Teachers

The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Timeline
Timeline Home Page
home
The American Revolution
Revolutionary War: Northern Front, 1775-1777
Washington Watches Howe, February 1777

From his army's winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey, Washington watched Howe's army closely, expecting that they would begin some sort of offense. In the following letter from Washington to his brother John A. Washington, what does Washington say he expects Howe to do? Why? What problems does Washington relate to his brother?

View the original document from the George Washington Papers. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


Morristown, February 24, 1777.

Dear Brother: Your Letter of the 24th. Ulto. from Mount Vernon came duly to hand, and I thank you for the visit to Mrs. Washington. I do not recollect the date of my last to you, but nothing of any great Importance has occur'd of late. I believe there soon will, as Genl. Howe has withdrawn great part of the Troops from Rhode Island in order to strengthen those of this State for I should think, (considering the Situation of our Army) some Offensive operation. If he does not, there can be no Impropriety, I conceive, [in] pronouncing him a Man of no enterprize, as circumstances never will, I hope, favour him so much as at present. But, as this is too delicate a Subject for a Letter, liable to miscarriage, I willhod my tongue. Whether his designs are against the Militia I at present Command; another attempt against Phila., or, which I cannot believe, to make his own defences more Secure, time only can tell, and a little of it, I believe, will do it.

Our Scouts, and the Enemy's Foraging Parties, have frequent skirmishes; in which they always sustain the greatest loss in killed and Wounded, owing to our Superior skill in Fire arms; these, and frequent Desertions, tho' not of any great magnitude, serves to waste their Army, but this is counterbalanc'd by a set of Parracides, who have engaged in their Service, and Inlist all our Country men they can seduce.

Your remark "that you cannot depend upon the Reports of our strength" is most litterally true. It is morally impossible that any body at a distance, should know it with precision and certainty; because, while it depends upon Militia, who are here today, and gone tomorrow; whose ways, like the ways of Providence are, almost, inscrutable; and when it is our Interest, however much our characters may suffer by it, to make small numbers appear large, it is impossible you should; for in order to deceive the Enemy effectually, we must not communicate our weakness to any body.

It behooves every friend, in every State, to hasten the Recruiting Service. It behooves them to forward the Levies on by Companies, or otherwise, as [soon] as possible, and believe me, it behooves every friend to the American Cause to exert his utmost endeavours to apprehend Deserters. Desertion is a growing evil; it is become a kind of business, under the present bounty, to Desert one Corps to Enlist in another. In a word, if vigorous measures to apprehend, and rigorous in punishing are not pursued the cause will be exceedingly injured.

If we can once get the New Army cornpleat and the Congress will take care to have it properly supplied, I think we may, thereafter, bid Defiance to great Britain, and her foreign Auxiliaries.
top of page


View the original document from the George Washington Papers. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.