Primary tabs

General Schuyler to the President of Congress


[Read November 30, 1775.]

Ticonderoga, November 11, 1775.

SIR: I did myself the honour to address you on the 7th instant, since which I have received no advices from General Montgomery. I believe he left St˙ John' s on the 6th, with the whole Army, in order to attempt Montreal; and from what I have been able to learn from the prisoners, he has the greatest prospect of reaping fresh laurels.

Colonel Arnold was not arrived at the St˙ Lawrence on the 30th ultimo. I am apprehensive that he suffers much from the length of his march, unforeseen difficulties, and bad weather.

We have already had snow here, and I fear that the


earth in Canada is covered with it; a very trying situation for an Army so very deficient in clothing as ours is. I feel so much for them in their unhappy situation — destitute of every necessary to guard against the inclemency of the season — that I have ventured to desire General Montgomery to purchase clothing for all those who will remain in the service. When I gave this order, I had not forgot that you had conveyed me the resolution of Congress, "that they would endeavour to attend to the clothing of the troops;" but the necessity was so pressing that a delay might have proved fatal to us, and which, I hope, will be a sufficient excuse for my presumption.

Enclose you a return of the officers that were made prisoners at St˙ John' s; that of the men is mislaid, but I think they exceed four hundred, exclusive of the Canadians.

The Seventh and Twenty-Sixth are on their march to Connecticut. The Canadian officers wait the arrival of their baggage, and I propose sending them to Trenton. I am much at a loss what to do with the Canadian privates; they are almost naked, and beg hard to return to their families. I have wrote to General Montgomery on the subject. If they are to be kept, there will be a necessity of clothing them.

The officers of the Seventh and Twenty-Sixth applied to me for blankets and shoes for their men, who are almost barefooted. I have no such articles here; and if I had, I should not have thought myself justifiable in giving them, as we are in great want ourselves. They then asked money, and I have ventured to give Major Preston one hundred and seventy-two Pounds six Shillings, New-York currency; as much to Captain Kinnear, who commanded the Seventh; to Capt˙ Godwin, of the Artillery, forty Pounds; and to the officers with Maj˙ Stopford, about eighty Pounds. I thought it best they should supply themselves, especially as they consider themselves accountable to me for the money.

General Washington has honoured me with a letter of the 26th ultimo, which I received on the 5th instant; in a paragraph of which he says: "Dr˙ Franklin, Mr˙ Lynch, and Colonel Harrison, Delegates from the Congress, have been in the camp for several days, in order to settle the plan of continuing and supporting the Army. Their commission extended to your department; but, upon consideration, it appeared so difficult to form any rational plan, that nothing was done upon that head. If your time and health will admit, I should think it highly proper to turn your thoughts to this subject, and communicate the result to Congress as early as possible."

What little I can say upon this subject must be an extract of my letter in answer to General Washington' s, dated the 6th inst˙, in which I say: "I have long since signified to Congress the necessity of a delegation from them to this place; and in their last to me, of the 12th ult˙, they (unfortunately for me) say that it did not appear necessary then. I took the liberty to lament that they were not in sentiment with me on the subject, and to add that I thought it absolutely necessary that one should be sent; so that I hope soon to see some of the gentlemen here.

"A variety of regulations are necessary to be made in this quarter; a task to which I feel myself greatly inadequate, but which, if I had even judgment enough to arrange with propriety, the shattered condition of my constitution is such that matters so momentous as these should not be left to so precarious an event as that of my being able to support the fatigue; for General Montgomery, though endowed with shining abilities, will have his time so totally engrossed with other matters, that he will not be able to attend to these.

"Should success crown our endeavours at St˙ John' s, of which there seems to be little doubt, the entire reduction of Canada will, in all probability, be the consequence; an event which will open new scenes. An Army to be formed and properly disposed of in that quarter; provisions, ammunition, and every necessary to be procured for it; preparations to be made for the next campaign; proper places to be determined on, and fortifications to be erected to defend that Province against attacks that may be made on it in the ensuing year; small craft to be constructed here, that a re-enforcement may be speedily sent into Canada in case it should be found necessary to support what troops may be stationed there; galleys carrying heavy artillery, to prevent vessels of force from coming up the St˙ Lawrence;


a mode of government to be adopted, in a country where all will be anarchy and confusion without it; and probably a variety of other interesting regulations to take place, that do not just now occur to me."

In the above extract, Congress will perceive that I have treated matters pretty general. The account of the reduction of St˙ John' s is come to hand since, and our affairs wear so favourable an aspect in Canada, that if Colonel Arnold should penetrate to Quebeck, the whole country will, in all probability, be in our hands soon; an event that will doubtless be attended with the most salutary consequences to the Colonies, provided we can keep our ground in that Province the ensuing campaign. I shall therefore venture to descend a little more into particulars, and to give my opinion of what may be necessary in this quarter; but I assure you, Sir, that I do this with the greatest diffidence and deference to the better judgment of Congress.

Three thousand men, I conceive, would not be too many to remain in Canada this winter: one of these at Quebeck, another at Montreal, five hundred at Trois Rivieres, as being the principal places in that country; the remaining five hundred at Chambly and St˙ John' s. But the season is so far advanced that necessity will oblige Congress to be content with such numbers, out of the Army now there, as can be prevailed upon to stay. But why so large a body of troops, when nothing is to be dreaded this winter? It will confirm the Canadians of the opinion they begin to entertain of the strength of the Colonies; an opinion which should be carefully cultivated, that they may act with vigour and spirit, next year, against the attacks which will, in all probability, take place early in the spring, as the regular troops, which will then be in America, can be easily conveyed to Quebeck. And they ought also to be on the spot, in order to repair the fortifications, (which, I am informed, want it much,) as soon as the winter gives way.

The command in Canada should be given to a prudent and active officer, and one that has talents to conciliate the affections of that people. None more equal to the task than the gentleman who now commands the Army there, if he will remain.

But as three thousand men may not be sufficient, even with the aid of the Canadians, on whom it may be prudent not to place too much dependance, to resist a vigorous attack, a number of batteaus should be constructed here, in addition to those we have, sufficient to convey a large body of men into Canada, whenever it may be found necessary. I believe one hundred will be sufficient. Every thing should be prepared this winter for building these batteaus. A quantity of provisions and stores should be carried to Fort George.

The proper places for erecting batteries on the St˙ Lawrence, above Quebeck, should be determined on, and such craft constructed as will prevent armed vessels from coming up, should the garrison of Quebeck be unable to resist the force that may be brought against it.

Every military department, in this quarter, should be put on a proper footing (and widely different from what it is at present) at once, to save expense, and that the service may be carried on with that order, the want of which, in this campaign, the country will feel in the extra expense, and your commanders have experienced with pain; nor will their successors have fewer difficulties to encounter, unless such regulations are adopted as have a tendency to promote good order, subordination, discipline, and economy; for the bulk of mankind, whatever their principles may be, forget to act up to them when it is most necessary that they should not deviate from them. A mode of doing this, I dare not presume to attempt, standing already too much in need of the pardon of Congress for what I have said.

The oxen which I had purchased, in the beginning of the campaign, are nearly worn out for want of proper sustenance, as the bay which I had cut, together with that of the inhabitants in this vicinity, has been carried off by the excessive floods we have had here. I shall therefore dispose of them to the best advantage I can, and others must be bought, in the spring, for it is too expensive to have hired carriages on the carrying place.

Forage is an article that distresses me much; at any rate it cannot be got nearer than Saratoga, and I fear not even there, unless I can fall upon some method of getting the farmers to send their cattle down the country. This


will be expensive; but if any works are to go on, as I think there will, we must have it.

I am building ten sleds, to be employed at the saw-mills in drawing oak timber for the bottoms and garboard streaks of batteaus, or in conveying the cannon from hence to Canada or Hudson' s River, or in drawing fire-wood for the garrisons. The season is so far advanced that I could not wait for the sanction of Congress, and have therefore sent to Canada for twenty horses, which are much cheaper there than with us.

At each of the lower ferries on Hudson' s River, above Albany, there are two boats; the two uppermost have only one, and they are small and worn out, so that the detention of the provisions and baggage causes not only a very considerable expense, but retards the service. This evil might be guarded against by building four good scows, like those on Schuylkill, and have them managed by soldiers picked for that purpose; and I believe the expense will hardly exceed that of the ferriage we now pay. Should Congress approve of building these, they will please to order two shipwrights up, who know the construction, the soonest possible, that the timber may be procured, and the boats, if possible, built in the winter.

I had ordered six carriages, for field-pieces, to be constructed at Albany; but they could not be got ready in time for the service I intended them for. I will cause them to be finished.

Dr˙ Stringer has wrote me a letter, copy of which I enclose. His observations appear to me just.

Conscious that Congress must have a variety of important matters which claim their attention, I am loth to trouble them with complaints; but Mr˙ Phelps' s conduct has been so extraordinary that I beg leave to lay before Congress copy of two letters I have written on the occasion to the Committee of Albany , together with copy of one to him . Copies of the various others alluded to, and copies of the accounts, I have not thought it necessary to trouble you with. The money he received from the Deputy Paymaster-General, or so much as remained in his hands, I have ordered him to pay to Mr˙ Livingston, as I durst no longer confide in him. In perusing these letters you will perceive an overcharge in the account, of seven hundred and ninety-three pounds, seventeen shillings, and eleven pence half-penny; and in another, one of four hundred and five pounds, five shillings, and seven pence, being the difference between one thousand six hundred and thirty-eight pounds, fifteen shillings, and eight pence, and one thousand two hundred and thirty three pounds, ten shillings, and one penny. The perquisites of office, by contract, when the publick is not charged more than what it would have paid to others, I have taken no notice of, because they are fair.

I am, Sir, with the most cordial sentiments of esteem and respect, your most obedient humble servant,


To the Honourable John Hancock, Esq˙, &c˙, &,c.