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The American Revolution
Revolutionary War: The Turning Point, 1777-1778
Washington Assesses the Strategic Situation, July 25, 1777

In the following letter from Washington to the Continental Congress, Washington shows his grasp of the strategic situation in the summer of 1777. How does Washington describe that situation? What does Washington think the British will do next?

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The amazing advantage the Enemy derive from their Ships and the Command of the Water, keeps us in a State of constant perplexity and the most anxious conjecture. We are not yet informed of their destination, nor can any plausible conclusions be drawn respecting it; at least not such as appear satisfactory. What renders the matter still more difficult and confused, is their extreme inactivity and delay. For it is certain, they began to embark immediately after the evacuation of Amboy, and now remain between the Narrows and the Hook, or were there when I was last advised upon the Subject. I have two Active Officers with an escort now out, for the purpose of Intelligence and for reconnoitring their Situation from Fort Lee and along the River in that Neighbourhood. Things being thus circumstanced and various opinions, as to their real object, prevailing among us; Some supposing it to be Philadelphia, others the North River and others an Expedition more Easterly, I would submit it to Congress whether the Militia of the Neighbouring Counties should not be immediately called to the first or at Chester, [those from] the lower Counties at Wilmington. This measure appears to me highly expedient and no Objection can lie against it, of sufficient validity to prevent it, as a few days must certainly determine their real designs. Should they be against Philadelphia and they have favourable winds, their Voyage will be made in a Short time, when it may be too late to obtain their aid, and to arrange them properly for defence, supposing them to come in. I am the more induced to recommend this measure, as the Several objects we have to attend to, necessarily oblige this Army to continue at a considerable distance from that place, till their Intentions are better understood; and as they might by a sudden and rapid push, attempt to effect some material capital stroke, before we could get there, unless there is a respectable force to oppose them. For, tho' no great dependance can be put in a Militia acting alone, nor a vigorous Opposition expected from them, from the nature of things, to a disciplined, well appointed Army, yet their Operations may be greatly retarded by them, and may be checked till other Succours can arrive. The report of a force, especially if it is any way respectable, let it be of what sort it may, will have some influence on their conduct and may prevent Enterprizes that would otherwise be undertaken.

From the Intelligence received on Saturday Evening that a Number of the Enemy's Ships were standing up the North River, and in the course of that and the preceeding day, that Forty Sail were in the Sound going into Fairfield Harbour, I had not the least doubt in my mind, but Genl. Howe had in view a stroke against the Highlands and the Fortifications there and to co-operate with Genl Burgoyne. In consequence of these advices, I judged it expedient to move the Army the next Morning from our then Encampment towards those Posts. Lord Stirling's Division was ordered to take the Rout to Kings Ferry and to pass the River to Peekskill, and I proceeded myself with the remainder, which composed the main body by the Rout leading thro' the Clove towards New Windsor. We marched over a very difficult and rugged Road till Night, when we halted, the First Division having advanced about Eighteen Miles. In this situation we lay till yesterday Morning, when, from the information received before, respecting the Enemy's Fleet being at and near the Hook and no further accounts of the Ships in the Sound, a change in our Measures took place. Stephen and Lincoln's Divisions were ordered to proceed to Chester, there to wait further directions, as a place from whence they may move with more ease, either to Philadelphia or Hudsons River, being Seven Miles nearer the former and equally convenient to the Latter, and General Greene's Division to this Ground. By dividing and this arrangement, I am in hopes our movements will be more expeditious, wheresoever they may be necessary. I have &ca.
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