Although the British had landed in the New York area in late June, Washington reported to Congress in mid-August that the "Enemy have made no movements of consequence:--They remain in the same state." Even so, Washington knew the British must soon attack because the summer season for military operations was rapidly vanishing. In the first document below, Washington informed Congress that the British had landed on Long Island. What is Washington's sense of their intentions? In the second document, Washington's General Orders for August 23, 1776, Washington orders his army to prepare for action. What preparations does Washington order his officers to make? In the last paragraph, how does Washington "encourage" his soldiers to do their duty?
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New York, August 23, 1776.
Sir: I beg leave to inform Congress that Yesterday Morning and in the course of the preceeding night, a considerable body of the Enemy, amounting by report to eight or nine thousand, and these all British, Landed from the Transport Ships mentioned in my last, at Gravesend Bay on Long Island, and have approached within three miles of our Lines, having marched across the Low, cleared Grounds, near the Woods at Flat Bush where they are halted, from my last Intelligence.
I have detached from hence, Six Battalions, as a reinforcement to our Troops there, which are all that I can spare at this Time, not knowing but the fleet may move up with the remainder of their Army and make an Attack here on the next flood Tide. If they do not, I shall send a further reinforcement should it be necessary, and have ordered five Battalions more to be in readiness for that purpose. I have no doubt but a little Time will produce some Important events. I hope they will be happy. The Reinforcement detached Yesterday went off in high Spirits and I have the pleasure to inform you that the whole of the Army that are effective and capable of duty, discover the same, and great chearfulness. . . .
Head Quarters, New York, August 23, 1776.
The Commissary General is directed to have five days Bread baked, and ready to be delivered: If the Commissary should apply to the commanding officers of regiments, for any Bakers, they are to furnish them without waiting for a special order.
The General was sorry yesterday to find, that when some troops were ordered to march, they had no provisions, notwithstanding the Orders that have been issued. The men must march, if the service requires it, and will suffer very much if not provided: The General therefore directs, all the Troops to have two days hard Bread, and Pork, ready by them; and desires the officers will go through the encampment, and quarters, to see that it be got and kept.
The General would be obliged to any officer, to recommend to him, a careful, sober person who understands taking care of Horses and waiting occasionally. Such person being a Soldier will have his pay continued, and receive additional wages of twenty Shillings pr Month--He must be neat in his person, and to be depended on for his honesty and sobriety.
The officers of the militia are informed, that twenty-four Rounds are allowed to a man, and two Flints; that the Captains of each Company should see that the Cartridges fit the bore of the gun; they then are to be put up in small Bundles; All the Cartridges except six; writing each mans name on his bundle, and keep them safely 'till the Alarm is given, then deliver to each man his bundle; the other six to be kept for common use. In drawing for ammunition, the commanding officers should, upon the regimental parade, examine the state of their regiments, and then draw for Cartridges, and Flints, agreeable to the above regulation. Capt. Tilton will assist them in their business, and, unless in case of alarm, they are desired not to draw for every small number of men, who may be coming in.
The Enemy have now landed on Long Island, and the hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are Freemen, fighting for the blessings of Liberty--that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men: Remember how your Courage and Spirit have been dispised, and traduced by your cruel invaders; though they have found by dear experience at Boston, Charlestown and other places, what a few brave men contending in their own land, and in the best of causes can do, against base hirelings and mercenaries--Be cool, but determined; do not fire at a distance, but wait for orders from your officers--It is the General's express orders that if any man attempt to skulk, lay down, or retreat without Orders he be instantly shot down as an example, he hopes no such Scoundrel will be found in this army; but on the contrary, every one for himself resolving to conquer, or die, and trusting to the smiles of heaven upon so just a cause, will behave with Bravery and Resolution: Those who are distinguished for their Gallantry, and good Conduct, may depend upon being honorably noticed, and suitably rewarded: And if this Army will but emulate, and imitate their brave Countrymen, in other parts of America, he has no doubt they will, by a glorious Victory, save their Country, and acquire to themselves immortal Honor.
View the original documents by clicking on the links above. The documents are from the George Washington Papers. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.