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War Correspondence

Letters between George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette

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From George Washington to Marquis de Lafayette, April 6, 1781

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Head Quarters, New Windsor, April 6, 1781.

My dear Marquis: Since my letter to you of yesterday, I have attentively considered of what vast importance it will be to reinforce Genl. Greene as speedily as possible, more especially as there can be little doubt but the detachment under Genl. Phillips, if not part of that now under the command of Genl. Arnold, will ultimately join, or, in some degree, cooperate with Lord Cornwallis. I have communicated to the General Officers, at present with the Army, my sentiments on the subject, and they are unanimously of opinion that the detachment under your command should proceed and join the southern Army. Your being already three hundred Miles advanced, which is nearly half way, is the reason which operates against any which can be offered in favr. of marching that detachment back and forming another; a plan which I once had in my own mind, as it was hastily formed and neither Officers or Men might have imagined they were to leave their Corps for so great a length of time, but, as matters are circumstanced, private inconveniencies must give way to the public good, and you will therefore immediately, upon the receipt of this, turn the detachment to the southward, inform General Greene that you are upon your march to join him, and take his direction as to your route when you begin to approach him; previous to that, you will be guided by your own judgment, and by the Roads on which you will be most likely to find subsistence for the troops and Horses. It will be well to advise Governor Jefferson of your intended march thro' the State of Virginia, or perhaps it might answer a good purpose were you to go forward to Richmond yourself, after putting the troops in motion and having made some necessary arrangements for their progress.

You will now take the light Artillery, and smallest Mortars with their Stores and the Musket Cartridges with you. [But let these follow under a proper escort rather than impede the March of the detachment which ought to move as expeditiously as possible without injury to them.]

The heavy Artillery and Stores you will leave at some proper and safe place, if it cannot be conveniently transported to Christeen River, from whence it will be easily got to Philada. You may leave it to the option of Lieut. Colo. Stevens to proceed or not as he may think proper. His family are in peculiar circumstances and he left them in the expectation of being absent but a short time. Should there be other officers under similar circumstances you may make them the same offers and they shall be relieved.

I will now mention to you, in confidence, the reason which operated with me more than almost any other in favor of recalling your detachment and forming another. It was the uneasiness occasioned among the Field Officers of those Regiments, which furnished the Men, upon the appointment of Colo. Jemat and Major Galvan to commands in the Corps. They presented a memorial to me upon the subject, and I gave them the true reason, which was, that the Regiments in their lines were so extremely thin of Field Officers of their own, that necessity, if nothing else, dictated the measure. I have heard nothing of the discontent lately, but should I find it revive again, upon its being known that the Corps is to continue together, I shall be obliged, for peace sake, to relieve those two Gentlemen by Officers properly belonging to the lines from which the Regiments are formed. You will therefore prepare them for such an event and tell them candidly the reasons [founded principally upon their having] already had their tour in the Infantry. Should they be relieved, they will probably incline to continue with the southern Army. There is as much or more probability of their finding employ there than with us, as we shall, from all appearances, remain inactive. I am etc. (See note below.)

Note: The draft is in the writing of Tench Tilghman. The words in brackets are in the writing of Washington. On April 6 Washington wrote a brief note to the officer commanding the detachment marching to and Greene: "Should the Marquis de la Fayette not be with the detachment, you will halt wherever this may meet you and wait 'till you hear further from him." This draft is in the Washington Papers.

From the Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

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