Washington, George, 1732-1799. The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources: Volume 4
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To JOSEPH REED Cambridge, February 1, 1776.

    My Dear Sir: I had wrote the letter herewith enclosed before your favor of the 21st came to hand. The account given of the behavior of the men under General Montgomery, is exactly consonant to the opinion I have formed of these people, and such as they will exhibit abundant proofs of, in similar cases whenever called upon. Place them behind a parapet, a breastwork, stone wall, or any thing that will afford them shelter, and, from their knowledge of a firelock, they will give a good account of their enemy; but I am as well convinced, as if I had seen it, that they will not march boldly up to a work, nor stand exposed in a plain; and yet, if we are furnished with the means, and the weather will afford us a passage, and we can get in men, (for these three things are necessary,) something must be attempted. 71 The men must be brought to face danger; they

[Note:Ford here notes Maj. Gen. Charles Lee's letter to Benjamin Rush (September 19): "I think then we might have attacked 'era long before this and with success, were our troops differently constituted; but the fatal persuasion has taken deep root in the minds of file Americans from the highest to the lowest order that they are no match for the Regulars, but when covered by a wall or breast work. This notion is still further strengthened by the endless works we are throwing up. In short unless we can remove the idea (and it must be done by degrees) no spirited action can be ventured on without the greatest risk." ]

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cannot always have an intrenchment or a stone wall as a safeguard or shield; and it is of essential importance, that the troops in Boston should be destroyed if possible before they can be reinforced or removed. This is clearly my opinion. Whether circumstances will admit of the trial, and, if tried, what will be the event, the all-wise Disposer of them alone can tell.

    The evils arising from short, or even any limited enlistment of the troops, are greater, and more extensively hurtful than any person (not an eye-witness to them) can form any idea of. It takes you two or three months to bring new men in any tolerable degree acquainted with their duty; it takes a longer time to bring a people of the temper and genius of these into such a subordinate way of thinking as is necessary for a soldier, before this is accomplished, the time approaches for their dismissal, and you are beginning to make interest for their continuance for another limited period; in the doing of which you are obliged to relax in your discipline, in order as it were to curry favour with them, by which means the latter part of your time is employed in undoing what the first was accomplishing, and instead of having men always ready to take advantage of circumstances, you must govern your movements by the circumstances of your enlistment. This is not all; by the time you have got men armed and equipped, the difficulty of doing which is beyond description, and with every new set you have the same trouble to encounter, without the means of doing it. -- in short, the disadvantages are so great and apparent to me, that I am convinced, uncertain as the continuance of the war is, that Congress had better determine to give a bounty of 20, 30, or even 40 Dollars to every man who will Inlist for the whole time, be it long or short. I intend to write my sentiments fully on this subject to Congress the first leisure time I have.


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    I am exceeding sorry to hear that Arnold's wound is in an unfavourable way; his letter to me of the 14th ulto. says nothing of this. I fancy Congress have given particular direction respecting General Prescott. I think they ought for more reasons than one. I am, &c.

    Be so good as to send the enclosed letter of Randolph's to the post-office. 72

[Note:From Reed's Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed. ]