The Revolutionary War Series
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During the busy and challenging months of June and July-the period covered in Volume 21 of the Revolutionary War Series-George Washington remained the fulcrum for Continental Army activities. Through his exertions and leadership, the troops under his direct supervision quickly broke their winter encampment at Middlebrook, New Jersey, for positions in the New York Highlands to check a British thrust up the Hudson River that threatened West Point. He then promptly began planning an operation to reduce the British garrison at Stony Point, New York. Those efforts came to fruition with the successful surprise night attack of Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne’s light infantry in the early morning hours of 16 July. The victory boosted Patriot morale, calmed Connecticut residents recently subjected to British raids, and eased the subsequent disappointment of having to abandon Stony Point as too difficult to hold when a movement to capture the British post across the Hudson at Verplanck Point resulted in a hasty retreat. After departing Stony Point, Washington established his headquarters at West Point and concentrated his considerable administrative talents on completing a system of fortifications at that strategic location. He envisioned defenses impervious to assault from land or water but manned with fewer troops.
Washington craved information and intelligence. Subordinate officers regularly apprised him about their situations while requesting orders or reporting developments. They relied heavily on Washington for guidance and encouragement, probably exasperating the commanding general at times for their inability to demonstrate independent initiative or exercise proper discretion when given latitude. Particularly vexing were the supply and coordination problems that delayed Maj. Gen. John Sullivan’s expedition against the Indians of the Six Nations and Loyalists along the Pennsylvania-New York frontier. Untimely or vague spy reports also troubled Washington. He welcomed the transition in the Culper spy ring from Abraham Woodhull to Robert Townsend because the new man potentially would reinvigorate the vital flow of intelligence about the British in New York City and on Long Island. Washington also showed great interest in the employment of invisible ink, the concealment of spy identities, and the discovery of new informants.
Washington’s reach extended very far, but he could not control or know everything. His attempts to march Brig. Gen. John Glover’s brigade from Rhode Island to the Highlands and then maneuver in Connecticut to counter the British raids suffered complications from that general’s absence. Washington apparently did not realize that Glover, then a widower for about a year, had dallied at Providence to court eligible women. That tidbit surfaced in correspondence between Glover and Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates, the former’s immediate superior and an officer who continued his pattern of irksome communications with Washington. Responding to the opinion of Gates that there existed a “glorious opportunity of making an attack upon New York,” Washington wrote reprovingly on 11 June “that you must either greatly overrate our force or undervalue that of the enemy.” Washington’s ability to retain his composure and think clearly while under pressure or amid confusion remained exemplary. He exhibited on a daily basis his importance to the revolutionary cause.
The correspondence volumes of The Papers of George Washinton, 1748-99, published in five series, include not only Washington's own letters and other papers but also all letters written to him. The ten-volume Colonial Series (1748-75) focuses on Washington's military service during the French and Indian War and his political and business activities before the Revolution. The massive Revolutionary War Series (1775-83) presents in documents and annotations the myriad military and political matters with which Washington dealt during the long war. The papers for his years at Mount Vernon after leaving the army and before becoming president have been published as the six-volume Confederation Series (1784-88). The remaining years of Washington's life are covered in the Presidential Series (1788-97), which includes the papers of his two presidential administrations, and the four-volume Retirement Series (1797-99), which includes his correspondence after his final return to Mount Vernon.
William M. Ferraro, ed., The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series volume 21, 1 June – 31 July 1779. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2012.