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Letter from John Armstrong to Horatio Gates
Armstrong, John, 1717-1795
June 06, 1780
Volume 14, Pages 496-499

COL. JOHN ARMSTRONG TO MAJOR GENERAL GATES.


Philadelphia, 6th June, 1780.

Dear General:

I am now to answer, or rather acknowledge the receipt of, your favour of the 10th ultimo as being but a few days here. I shall rather give you a sketch of present appearances and things to be

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early apprehended, than at present time any formal answer to yours.

The French troops (expected to be about eight thousand, including Marines) are not yet arrived, tho' daily expected either into the Delaware Bay or at Rhode Island. Of the land forces, 5,000 is said to be the nearest mark; these, in conjunction with ours, augmented by militia to the number of 40,000 men, are thought of to form a blockade against N. G. This effort, if made, will try our finances and other resources (I mean provisions, storage, waggons, &c.) to the very bottom. The treasury is already empty or nearly, and of the Interest of money lent the publick, not one shilling can be had. Yet it is said yt. the foreign troops must be imployed when they come, and that to decline the Object mentioned above will set us in a bad point of light with our allies, &c. The Marquis Le Fayett, who is now in Camp, I find is very fond of it. This business, in my opinion, cannot be attempted till after harvest. This morning bro't us the depressive intelligence of the fall of Charlestown, by letters from Mr. Laurens, dated at Wilmington, which gives the surrender a greater appearance of truth than former accounts had done, yet not fully ascertained, but as good as granted on all hands. The expectation of the French troops, well known to Sir Henry Clinton, may favour the residue of our Southern possessions by recalling their force to New York. The demands of the Southern Gentlemen you may be sure are very urgent upon Congress for farther aid to that Country, and the Legislature of Virginia in a late address hath conjured us to that purpose. What may be proper to be done cannot so well be determined until the reinforcement arrive and the further movements of the Enemy to the South become evident. On perceiving that a motion would probably be made for sending you to the South, I moved your being sent for to this City, urging the propriety of every assistance in forming the arrangements of the Campaign, &c. From one quarter I was opposed with the immediate necessity of your taking the command of the Southern Militia, with the Maryland line, &c., for the defence of those States. This I thought proper to parry for the present with—the approach of Sir John Johnston, who is fortifying in that Country, and may have, or expect, a much greater force in his rear than the Six hundred at present appears—the indigested state of our affairs and

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the light we require from future events—that Baron DeKalb was gone forward, &c.—so that on the whole the debate produced for the present no more than the revival of a few past transactions, and the good opinions which naturally follow them. In the Idea of Consultation respecting the arrangements for the Campaign, it was alleged that, as the House had a Standing Committee with the Commander-in-Chief, that must suffice. From these hints you will naturally see that your call to the field may be set down as Certain, but the time when and the place where is uncertain; it may be in a fortnight, and yet may not be until the Fall. I confess I cou'd wish your presence here, and a visit to the Army might have its utility. On the other hand, the errand yt at this time would lead a man from his own house as a volunteer ought to be irresistible, the expence and scarcity of money being equally indiscriptible. Your intimate friends will, however, be much obliged by your sentiments on the business of the Campaign, and also on your own private wishes, which we know will be governed by the laws of reason and of Arms. As to Charlestown, I am now obliged to think we had better compose ourselves, and take our next steps; yet can I hardly be persuaded that Gen. Lincoln, unable to defend the place, will not attempt to get out more or less of the Continental troops either by land or by water. As to our finance, at once in the lowest and most delicate situation, it must wholly depend on the success of the Resolution of the 18th of March last, and therefore the concurrence of the States is of all things to be wished and endeavoured. Pennsylvania, although without money, has made a vigorous effort not only to raise troops for the Campaign but to provide a temporary supply in the Article of Meat for our army, lately starving, which is beside the Quota assigned her. It's true the troops are necessary to her immediate defence against the depredations of the Indians. Our merchants have I hear, agreed to give the new money a currency so far as in their way, and I hope all the States will concur in their several Laws to establish the resolution mentioned above. I hope you will have other letters by the Doctor, and am, Dear General.

With my best respects to your Lady and Major Gates,
Your very affectionate friend and humble serv't,
JOHN ARMSTRONG.

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I am better pleased with the simplicity and temperance of the Chevalier's table than I expected, except the innumerable Sweetmeats and desserts, of which there is a great redundance. Johnston I believe will be repelled by the York line of the army and some Militia of that State gone up for that purpose.