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The Papers of George Washington
Revolutionary War Series, Volume 17
15 September-31 October 1778
George Washington. Edited by Philander D. Chase
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Volume 17 of the Revolutionary War Series opens with Washington moving his army north from White Plains, New York, into new positions that ran from West Point to Danbury, Connecticut. His purpose in doing so was threefold: to protect his army, to protect the strategically important Hudson highlands, and to shore up the equally vital French fleet anchored at Boston. His new headquarters, located near Fredericksburg, New York, about seventy miles north of New York City, was one of the most obscure of the Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, Washington remained as busy with important tasks during the fall of 1778 as during any other period of the war. It was a time of delicate transition for the new Franco-American alliance and for British strategists yet unwilling to concede defeat. Both circumstances required Washington to exercise the sort of mental agility he had demonstrated during the first three years of the war. Equally pressing were the immediate problems of British raids--threatened and real--in New Jersey and New York and along the extensive American frontier and coastline. Within the Continental army, troubling breakdowns in discipline and morale demanded Washington’s close attention, as did the logistical and political difficulties of planning proper troop dispositions for the coming winter--the fourth straight winter that Washington would not see home.

Although Washington could not foresee in October 1778 that the British would soon try their hand at conquering the southern states and that the war would last another five years, he sensed that the British Ministry still had both the financial means and the political will to continue the struggle. Ever a realist, Washington recognized that American victory would not come cheaply in what had become a war of attrition as well as an international conflict involving North American, European, and Caribbean theaters. As he had done since 1775, Washington was once more adjusting his thoughts to meet new realities on the long road to American independence.

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