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Washington’s General Orders

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

George Washington

George Washington at Valley Forge

September 5. –General Washington, our great and illustrious commander, the prop and glory of this western world, issued this day at Wilmington, the   following orders, which cannot too much be admired on account of the virtuous and noble sentiments they contain: —

General Orders. –From every information of the enemy’s design, and from their movements, it is manifest that their aim is, if possible, to possess themselves of Philadelphia. This is with them a capital object; ’tis what they last year strove to effect, but were happily disappointed. They made a second attempt at the opening of this campaign; but after vast preparation and expense for that purpose, they abandoned their design and totally evacuated the Jerseys. They are now making their last effort. It seems they first intended to come up the Delaware, but from the measures taken against them in the river, judged the enterprise that way too hazardous. At length they have landed on the eastern shore of Maryland and advanced some little way into the country, but the general thinks they will again be disappointed in their views, should they push their design against Philadelphia, on this route. Their all is at stake. They will put the contest on the event of a single battle. If they are overthrown they are utterly undone–the war is at an end. Now, then, is the time for our strenuous exertions; one bold stroke will free the land from rapine, devastation, and burnings, and female innocence from brutal lust and violence. In every other quarter the American arms have been of late rapidly successful; great numbers of the enemy have fallen in battle, and still greater numbers have been taken prisoners. The militia to the northward have fought with a resolution that would have done honor to the oldest soldiers– they bravely fought and conquered, and glory attends them. Who can forbear to emulate their noble spirits? Who is there without ambition to share with them the applause of their countrymen and of all posterity, as the defenders of liberty, and preservers of peace and happiness to millions in the present and future generations?

Two years we have maintained the war and struggled with difficulties innumerable, but the prospect has since brightened and our affairs put on a better face. Now is the time to reap the fruits of all our toils and dangers; if we behave like men this third campaign will be our last. Ours is the main army. To us our countrymen look for protection; the eyes of all America and Europe are turned upon us, as on those by whom the event of war is to be determined; and the general assures his countrymen and fellow-soldiers, that he believes the critical, the important time is at hand, which demands their most spirited exertions in the field.

Here glory waits to crown the brave. Peace, freedom, and happiness will be the rewards of victory. Animated by motives like these, soldiers fighting in the cause of innocence, humanity, and justice, will never give way, but with undaunted resolution press on to conquest. And this the general assures himself is the part the American forces, now in arms, will act, and thus acting he will insure them success. 1

 

1 Pennsylvania Journal, September 10.

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