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George Washington Letter, "Contrivance for conveying Intelligence," March 15, 1777

NYHS_MSMcDougall_001

NYHS_MSMcDougall_001

Other, NYHS_MSMcDougall_001
 
Document Description
Letter from George Washington about a "Contrivance for conveying Intelligence," March 15, 1777.
 
Transcription
Morris Town March 15th, 1777
Dear Sir,
                Since writing the Letter herewith, I received a Copy of a Letter from General Howe, transmitted me by General McDougal in which he very modestly makes a Proposition for Major Edminton’s being permitted to go to Canada.
                Your own Reflections will immediately convince You of the Impropriety of Complying with, & Confirm what I before Suggested, that the whole has been a Contrivance for conveying Intelligence, & the scheme of going to Canada is evidently to be the bearer of some instructions to General Carleton. I must therefore desire that a positive Denial may be given to the proposal.    
                                                                                                                                I am Sir Your Most Humble Serv[ant]
                                                                                                                                G Washington
 
 
Questions
What was General Howe’s suggested contrivance?
Why would Washington advise against General Howe’s recommendation? 
Does the letter suggest a polite conversation among gentlemen?  Locate the vocabulary words that support this view.
What does Washington mean by the following statement? : “The whole has been a Contrivance for conveying Intelligence, & the scheme of going to Canada is evidently to be the bearer of some instructions to General Carleton.”
 
Historical Challenges
Divide students into small groups of 4.  Each group will analyze the letter from General George Washington for content.  Each group should pick a side to debate the differences of battle strategies.  George Washington vs. General Howe
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
ELA: Develop a secret code. Write a letter in the code.
 

Historical Context
Secret communications and spy networks were a very important part of the process of intelligence-gathering during the Revolutionary War. Coded letters and spies often conveyed information that was pivotal to the outcomes of individual battles and the whole war itself. These documents show some of the ways in which officers were able to gather and communicate information secretly, as well as prevent the enemy from communicating intelligence.
George Washington used a network of spies, known as the Culper Gang, to spy on the British Army in New York City. The Culpers used a very complicated scheme involving many people to relay information from behind British lines in New York City to Washington in New Windsor, New York. Washington’s letter of June 27, 1779 in this set was intercepted by the British. Because of this, the Culper Gang began communicating in code in later letters.
After the Patriot defeat at Battle of Germantown (1777), a fox terrier that belonged to Loyalist General William Howe appeared at Washington's encampment.  Washington, under flag of truce, sent back the dog and what resulted was a polite exchange of notes between the two men.
 
 
Essential Question
Does this Washington letter predate coded spy letters?  How do you know? 
 
Check for Understanding
Divide students into small groups of 4.  Each group will analyze the letter from General George Washington for content.  Each group should pick a side to debate the differences of battle strategies.  George Washington vs. General Howe