George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Horatio Gates, 22 June 1775

From Brigadier General Horatio Gates

Travellers-Rest 22th June 1775

Dear General

Last night I was Honourd by the receipt of your Obliging Letter of 17th Instant,1 I shall Obey your Commands with all possible Expedition, & hope to be in philadelphia Thursday next, & wish earnestly to find you there.2 I must take the Liberty to entreat it of you, not to leave the Congress, until you are provided not only with all the Powers, but all the Means, their Power can bestow, if it is indispensibly necessary you should leave philadelphia before I get there, I hope to find with Colonel Harrison,3 your possitive, & particular Commands, in regard to any business you may leave unsettled behind you—the request for the Riffle Men was well received in this province, and in Maryland, Major Stevenson Commands one of the Companys from hence, & I believe Cap. Morgan the other. both excellent for the Service, Col. Creasup told me on Monday morning that his Son, had Eighty Riffle Men ready to March, those go for one of the Companys from Maryland.4 Immediately upon the Arrival of your Express, I dispatch’d your packets to your Brother, & Col: Stephen. if their Answers don’t come in half an hour, I will bring them with me.5

My Gratefull Thanks are most Respectfully due to the Congress, for the very Handsome manner in which they conferred their Commission.

I will not intrude more upon that Time, which is now so precious to you, only to assure you I will not lose a moment in paying you my personal attendance, with the greatest respect for your Charactor, & the sincerest attachment to your person, I am Dear General Your most Faithfull, & Obedient Humble Servant,

Horatio Gates


Horatio Gates (c.1728–1806), the newly appointed adjutant general of the Continental army, had known GW since the ill-fated Braddock expedition in 1755. An Englishman by birth, Gates entered the British army at an early age and served in America as a captain throughout most of the French and Indian War. In 1762 he was promoted to major, but during the postwar period he was frustrated in his attempts to gain further advancement. He sold his commission in 1769, and in 1772 he moved his family from England to America. The following year he bought a plantation in the lower Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. His home, Traveller’s Rest, stands near present-day Kearneysville, West Virginia. Gates visited at Mount Vernon 2–3 May 1775, just before GW left to attend the Continental Congress (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:325). Gates served as GW’s adjutant general until May 1776, when he was promoted to the rank of major general and was given a field command. He commanded the American forces in the Saratoga victory of 1777 but suffered a humiliating defeat at Camden, S.C., in 1780.

1Letter not found.

2Gates apparently did arrive in Philadelphia on Thursday, 29 June. See Hancock to GW, 28 June 1775, and Richard Henry Lee to GW, 29 June 1775, source note. Gates joined GW at Cambridge by 9 July.

3Benjamin Harrison (c.1726–1791) of Charles City County, Va., was a delegate to the Continental Congress.

4Hugh Stephenson (d. 1776) of Berkeley County, Va. (now W.Va.), the county in which Gates lived, raised one of the two Virginia rifle companies authorized by Congress. The other company was raised in neighboring Frederick County, Va., by Daniel Morgan (c.1735–1802), the hard-driving frontiersman who later distinguished himself at Quebec and Saratoga and in 1780 became a brigadier general in the Continental army. The two Maryland rifle companies were raised in Frederick County, Md., by Michael Cresap (1742–1775), youngest son of Thomas Cresap (c.1694–1790) of Oldtown, Md., and Thomas Price (1732–1795) of the town of Frederick. The officers for these companies were selected by their respective county committees of safety. GW had long been a friend of the Stephenson family and knew well both Cresaps, with whom he was currently disputing claims to western lands. See GW to Michael Cresap, 26 Sept. 1773, and GW to Thomas Cresap, 7 Feb. 1775. GW may have met Daniel Morgan as early as 1755 when Morgan served as a wagoner on the Braddock expedition or the following year when he was a member of John Ashby’s ranger company.

All four rifle companies were quickly raised. “Volunteers presented themselves from every direction,” one of Stephenson’s men remembered some years later; “none were received but young men of Character, and of sufficient property to Clothe themselves completely, find their own arms, and accoutrements, that is, an approved Rifle, handsome shot pouch, and powder-horn, blanket, knapsack, with such decent clothing as should be prescribed, but which was at first ordered to be only a Hunting shirt and pantaloons, fringed on every edge, and in various ways” (Danske Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown [Charlottesville, 1910], 79). More riflemen were recruited than were authorized by Congress. Morgan raised 96 officers and men, Stephenson 95, and Price 85. The final strength of Cresap’s company is not known. Difficulty in obtaining good rifles delayed the departure of the companies for several weeks. Morgan marched first, crossing the Potomac with his men on 15 July, and by a series of forced marches, he reached the American camp at Cambridge on 6 August. Stephenson’s and Price’s companies followed close behind Morgan. Stephenson arrived at Cambridge on 11 Aug., and Price about the same date. Cresap’s company was at Watertown, Mass., on 20 Aug. and apparently reached Cambridge soon afterwards.

5Gates must have meant to say that if the answers did come within half an hour, he would bring them with him. GW’s brother Samuel Washington (1734–1781) and Adam Stephen (c.1718–1791), who had been GW’s second in command in the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War, both lived in Berkeley County within a few miles of Traveller’s Rest. On this day Samuel Washington wrote to Gates from his house, Harewood: “Your favr I Recd last night after I was in Bed. I now inclose you two letters wch shall be much Obliged to you to take Charge of. would have waited on you my self, but am by Appointmt to meet some People on business this Evening[.] as my Brother has been Prevail’d on to take the Command of the Continental Army I am happy in your being with him in the Capacity you & he mentions. as your Greater Experience will Assist him in the Arduous business. God Grant you may both Return safe to yr families. Crowned with Laurels” (James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds., “The Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828” [Glen Rock, N.J., 1978, Microfilm]). No correspondence between GW and his brother Samuel or between GW and Adam Stephen has been found for this period.

Adam Stephen represented Berkeley County at the second Virginia convention in the spring of 1775 and was chairman of the Berkeley County committee of safety and commander of the county’s militia. Appointed a colonel in the Continental army in February 1776, Stephen was promoted to brigadier general in September 1776 and major general in February 1777, but he was dismissed from the service in November 1777 for bad behavior. Samuel Washington, troubled by poor health and financial difficulties, played no role in the political or military affairs of the Revolution outside of Berkeley County.

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