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Letter from General Washington to General Schuyler



New York, July 17, 1776.

DEAR SIR: Yesterday evening I was favoured with yours of the 12th instant, with its several enclosures.

As to the propriety or impropriety of giving up Crown Point, and vacating that post, it is impossible for me to determine. My ignorance of the country, my unacquaintance with its situation, and a variety of circumstances, will not permit me to pronounce any certain opinion upon the subject, or to declare whether it might or could not be maintained against the enemy. I doubt not the measure was duly weighed by the General Officers in council, and seemed to them best calculated to secure the Colonies and prevent the enemy from penetrating into them. However, I cannot but observe, (though I do not mean to encourage in the smallest degree, or to give the least sanction to inferior officers to set up their opinions against the proceedings and councils of their superiors, knowing the dangerous tendency of such a practice,) that the reasons assigned by the officers in their remonstrance, appear to me forcible and of great weight: they coincide with my own ideas. I have ever understood Crown Point to be an important post, and, from its situation, of the utmost consequence to us, especially if we want to keep the superiority and mastery of the Lake. If it is abandoned by us, it is natural to suppose the enemy will possess it. If they do, and my judgment does not mislead me, any vessels or galleys we employ upon the Lake will certainly be in their rear, and it will not be in our power to bring them down to Ticonderoga, or the post opposite to it, or from thence to have the least communication with them, or the means of granting them succours or supplies of any kind. Perhaps it is intended to employ the galleys only on the communication between the two posts, that of Crown Point and the one now to be established. How far they would there answer our views, I cannot tell. As I said before, I have not a sufficient knowledge of the several posts, or the neighbouring country, to form an accurate judgment upon the matter, and of consequence do not design anything I have said by way of direction, trusting that whatever is best to advance the interest of the important struggle we are engaged in will be done.

I am extremely sorry to hear such unfavourable accounts of the condition of the Army. Sickness of itself is sufficiently bad; but when discord and disorder are added, greater misfortunes cannot befall it, except that of a defeat. While they prevail, there is but little hope of things succeeding well. I must entreat your attention to these matters, and your exertions to introduce more discipline, and to do away the unhappy pernicious distinctions and jealousies between the troops of different Governments. Enjoin this upon the officers, and let them inculcate, and press home to the soldiers, the necessity of order and harmony among those who are embarked in one common cause, and mutually contending for all that freemen hold dear. I am persuaded, if the officers will but exert themselves, that these animosities and disorders will in a great measure subside; and nothing being more essential to the service than that they should, I am hopeful nothing on their part will be wanting to effect it.

The scarcity of provisions which you mention surprises me much. I had hoped that an ample and competent supply for a considerable time was now in store; nor can I but believe the most lavish and extravagant waste has been made of it. Not longer than three or four days ago, and just after the two men-of-war and tenders passed by, as mentioned in my last, the situation of the northern Army, in respect to this article, occurred to my mind, and induced an inquiry of the Commissary about it, being certain the water communication with Albany would be entirely cut off; and I was happy to find from him, that the supplies he had forwarded would be fully sufficient for ten thousand men for four months. This I informed Congress of as a most fortunate event. To be told now that there is none, or next to none, is so contrary to what I expected, that I am filled with wonder and astonishment. I have informed the Commissary of it, who is equally surprised; and must request, as our navigation is so circumstanced, that you will direct those whose business it is, to use every possible means to provide such supplies as may be necessary; and that proper attention be paid to the expenditure, or it will be impossible ever to subsist that Army.

As to intrenching tools, I have from time to time forwarded all that can possibly be spared. I have directed the Quartermaster


to send such things contained in your list as can be had and may be transported by land. The greatest part it would be difficult to procure, and if they could be had, would be attended with immense trouble and expense to forward them; I must therefore entreat your utmost diligence and inquiry to get them; and not only them, but every necessary you want, wherever they may be had. The watercourse being now at an end, but few supplies can be expected from hence; and I make not the least doubt, if active proper persons are employed, in many instances you will be able to obtain such articles as you stand in need of. I am under the necessity of doing so here, and by much pains and industry have procured many necessaries. As for the articles wanted for the gondolas, I should suppose many of them may be purchased of the proprietors of craft about Albany, and of persons who have vessels there, by allowing them a good price. The communication by water being now stopped, they cannot employ them, and I presume may be prevailed on to part with most of their tackle for a good consideration.

I transmitted Congress a copy of your letter and of its several enclosures, and recommended to their particular attention the resolution No˙ 6, for raising six companies to guard the frontiers, and the high price of goods furnished the soldier, and that some measures might be taken thereon.

There is a resolve of Congress against officers holding double commissions, and of long standing. None are allowed it except Adjutants and Quartermasters; and they generally are also First or Second Lieutenants. In this Army there is no instance of double officers but in the cases I mention.

The carpenters from Philadelphia unfortunately had not time to get their tools, &c˙, on board a craft here before the men-of-war got up. They set out by land next day, and I suppose will be at Albany in the course of this week, as also two companies from Connecticut.

I have inquired of Mr˙ Hughes, and find that the six anchors and cables were on board Captain Peter Post' s vessel belonging to Esopus, who, upon the first appearance of the fleet coming above the Narrows, went off without taking the necessaries brought by Captain Donn. Mr˙ Hughes says Captain Donn, who bought you the lead, had orders to get them.

I have enclosed you a list of the naval articles the Quartermaster expects to obtain and send from hence, which will evince the necessity of your exertions to get the rest elsewhere. Many of the articles, I should suppose, may be made at Albany and within the neighbourhood of it.

I am in hopes that, in consequence of your application, the different Governments will take some steps for apprehending deserters. It is a growing evil, and I wish it may be remedied. From the Northern Army they have been extremely numerous, from report, and should most certainly be returned if they can be found. How far the mode suggested by you may answer, the event will show; but I am doubtful whether many will return of themselves.

I fancy a part of your letter was omitted to be sent. When you come to speak of deserters, what I learn on the subject begins a new sheet, and seems to suppose something preceding about them. After requesting Mr˙ Hughes to be spoken to about the anchors, &c˙, the next page begins, "unanimously agreed that I should write," &c.

You will perceive by the enclosed resolve, that Congress mean to raise the garrison for Presque Isle, &c˙, in the Counties of Westmoreland and Bedford, in Pennsylvania.

I am, &c˙,

To General Schuyler.

P˙ S˙ July 18, 10 o' clock A˙ M˙ — I this minute spoke to Mr˙ Trumbull again about provisions, and pressed his most vigorous exertions. I believe he is determined to leave nothing undone on his part, and has already sent off some persons upon the business, of which I suppose he will inform you or Mr˙ Livingston. G˙ W˙