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Letter from General Schuyler to General Washington: General Gates claims the command of the Northern Army; the Congress should explicitly declare if they so intended



Albany, July 1, 1776.

DEAR GENERAL: On Friday evening I received a line from General Sullivan, a copy whereof I have the honour to enclose. By the contents your Excellency will perceive that we have reasons to believe his next will announce his arrival at Crown Point.

Yesterday morning General Gates introduced a Mr˙ Avery to me, who applied to me for money to carry on the Commissary-General' s Department here. I asked if Mr˙ Livingston was superseded, and begged to see how he (Avery) was authorized to act here. He showed me a commission from Mr˙ Trumbull, the Commissary-General, with instructions annexed, appointing him Deputy Commissary in Canada, and the instructions were correspondent to such appointment. I told him his commission did not, by any means, supersede Mr˙ Livington' s, and until that was done, that I must consider Mr˙ Livingston as the Deputy Commissary-General here, and that all warrants for money to carry on that department here must be drawn in his favour, unless Mr˙ Trumbull himself was present. He assured me that it was Mr˙ Trumbull' s intentions that he (Avery) should have the sole management, and that Mr˙ Livingston was only to be considered as a contractor. I sent for Mr˙ Livingston, who produced a letter of the 25th instant from Mr˙ Trumbull directly contradictory to what Mr˙ Avery had asserted; upon which he declared that Mr˙ Trumbull had informed him that Congress had given him full power to make any arrangement he thought proper, and displace whom he pleased, and that it was his intention by giving him, (Avery) that commission to supersede Mr˙ Livingston. To which Mr˙ Livingston answered that although Mr˙ Trumbull had no power to remove him unless authorized so to do by Congress, as he held his commission immediately from that body; yet if Mr˙ Trumbull had expressed any such intention, that he would immediately resign, and he would put the question to Mr˙ Trumbull. I observed to Mr˙ Avery that nothing in his commission or the instructions annexed authorized him to say what he did; that Mr˙ Trumbull' s letter to Mr˙ Livingston flatly contradicted it; that if he remained with the Army, provided it was not in Canada, he


must be subordinate to Mr˙ Livingston, and obey his orders, which he chose not to do, and is now going down. I advised him to remain until the affair was determined, and candidly told him that I should try to keep Mr˙ Livingston in the employment if he chose it, because, admitting that their abilities and integrity were perfectly equal, Mr˙ Livingston' s conduct had met my approbation, and that his great family connexions in this County had enabled him to carry on the service when others could not have done it, of which I gave instances. General Gates was present, and acquiesced in the propriety of what I observed. I was, therefore, greatly surprised to be informed that he should tell Mr˙ Avery that he had nothing to say here, but that as soon as he came to the Army he would employ him. I say I was greatly surprised, because General Gates knew that that Army was no longer in Canada, and because I did not know that he then claimed a right to control my orders with respect to the Army, even if it should be at Crown Point, nor could I imagine he thought so, as your Excellency' s instructions to him gave, as I conceive, not the least colour for it. Your last letter to me holds up a contrary idea, and so does every resolution of Congress hitherto transmitted to me; but that General Gates conceived, and still does, that the Army is immediately under his command, I had a very few hours after the most convincing proof of, as your Excellency will observe from the enclosed paper, which I hastily drew up immediately after the discourse, and which I desired General Gates to read, that no misunderstanding might arise for want of recollecting what had been said, and which he acknowledges contains the substance of what passed between us.

By your Excellency' s instructions to General Gates, he is empowered to appoint a Quartermaster-General in Canada. I observed this morning that I believed it was founded on a supposition that Colonel Campbell was then about quitting Canada, for that I could not imagine that an officer being "ordered to Congress to settle his accounts" deprived him of his employments; that Colonel Campbell was originally appointed to this department, and that Canada now being made a separate one, and the command of it given to General Gates, he could, under the powers he had, appoint whom he pleased to act there, but that, unfortunately for us, the evacuation of that country by our troops had taken place, and that I must and should consider Colonel Campbell as the Deputy Quartermaster-General on this side of Canada.

If Congress intended that General Gates should command the Northern Army, wherever it may be, as he assures me they did, it ought to have been signified to me, and I should then have immediately resigned the command to him; but until such intention is properly conveyed to me I never can. I must, therefore, entreat your Excellency to lay this letter before Congress, that they may clearly and explicitly signify their intentions, to avert the dangers and evils that may arise from a disputed command; for after what General Gates has said, the line must be clearly drawn, as I shall until then stand upon punctilios with General Gates that I would otherwise with pleasure waive; but that the service may not be retarded, nor suffer the least from a difference of opinion between General Gates and me, I have determined to remain here, although I had, before this affair came to light, mentioned to him my intentions of going up with him.

As both General Gates and myself mean to be candid, and wish to have the matter settled without any of that chicane which would disgrace us as officers and men, we have agreed to speak plain, and to show each other what we have written to you upon the occasion, and he has accordingly read the whole of what t have above said.

Since writing the above, General Gates has shown me the resolutions of Congress of the 17th instant, which confirm me in the opinion I have entertained, that he was only to command the Army in Canada, and that I had no control upon him when there.

Your Excellency may be assured of my best exertions to prevent the enemy from penetrating into these Colonies. General Gates is in sentiment with me on the mode — that of increasing our naval strength and fortifying some advantageous spot on the east side of Lake Champlain, either opposite to Ticonderoga or between that and Crown Point.

Part of the Militia from this Colony is marched up; none of the others are yet moved. Their tardiness will greatly distress us, as we have much, very much, to do, and few men to do it with.


The cannon sent by Colonel Knox arrived yesterday; and although the Indians have deferred the treaty to the middle of this month, yet I have thought it advisable to take post at Fort Stanwix, and all the stores are moving from here to-day, and will, I hope, leave Schenectady on Wednesday morning. The Commissioners of Indian Affairs have prepared a message to the Six Nations, giving the reasons why we take post at Fort Stanwix. This will, however, not be sent until everything is so far advanced that there may be no danger in communicating to them my intentions.

Should the enemy advance, and we be under the necessity of calling forth the Militia nearest to us, we shall be at a loss for ball and buckshot. I wish, therefore, to have twenty-five rounds apiece for ten thousand men sent up the soonest possible, if it can anywhere be procured, with a proportionate quantity of cartridge-paper, and two tons of oakum.

If any cutlasses, stinkpots, and hand-grenades can be got, I beg they may also be sent for the use of our armed vessels.

One hundred thousand of the dollars brought up by General Gates are ordered to the Army; better than half of the other are already expended, nor will any be left in two or three days.

Mr˙ Duane informed me, and gave me leave to make use of his name, that the five hundred thousand voted by Congress the 22d of May for this department, were actually charged, and he fears that they may have met with some accident on the way up.

I have ordered the silver to be kept in chests, except about three thousand pounds, which we borrowed here, and must now be repaid.

Four o' clock, P˙ M˙ — I am this moment favoured with your Excellency' s letter of the 27th ultimo, enclosing copy of a resolution of Congress of the 24th. I have immediately an opportunity of forwarding copies thereof to Governour Trumbull and Mr˙ Edwards; the latter has already received one month' s advance wages for the Stockbridge Company, and which, I suppose, is by this time paid to them, as he informed me that they were to be here on Wednesday or Thursday next. I am afraid it will give great umbrage if they are immediately discharged; but as the order is positive, I dare not presume to defer complying with it. I shall, however, request Mr˙ Edwards to do it in a manner that will give the least offence.

I wish Colonel Francis and Colonel Wolcott were immediately ordered up to attend the conference at the German Flats on the 15th instant, as I propose going to Crown Point to-morrow, having, upon further consultation with General Gates and General Arnold since writing the foregoing, determined upon it; and this journey may detain me so long as to prevent my attendance, in which case there will be only two Commissioners present.

I am, dear General, most respectfully, your obedient humble servant,


To His Excellency General Washington.