George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Philip Schuyler, 24 May 1776

From Major General Philip Schuyler

Fort George [N.Y.] May 24th 1776

Dear Sir

On the 22d I was honored with your Excellency’s Favor of the 17th Instant, and the same Evening the Nails and Lead arrived here, 31 Boxes of the latter I gave in Charge to Colonel Wynd, who left this, with his Regiment Yesterday Morning. the Remainder is gone with General Sullivan who sailed hence with Irwin’s and Wayn’s at 8 this Morning. Dayton’s is not returned from Tryon County, nor have I heard what is doing there—I have Batteaux sufficient to move him, but shall construct fifty more to be employed on Lake George and Lake Champlain in transporting provisions &c. for the Army.

Inclose your Excellency an Estimate of the Men necessary to be employed in transporting and guarding the provisions between Albany and Canada, but if Flour can be procured there, nearly one half of the Number of Men mentioned for the Batteau Service may be dispensed with, when a considerable Stock is laid in, but even then I shall not have Numbers sufficient with Van Schaick’s and Wynkoop’s to clear Wood Creek cut the Roads, repair Tyconderoga, and do the Variety of Work necessary in this Quarter, I must therefore beg for a Reinforcement.1

Two Mohawk Indians came on the 21st to the Landing at the North End of Lake George and after enquiring what News, and where the commanding officer at Tyconderoga kept they said they were going to see him, but they soon took another Rout to the Westward—We suppose these to be some of the Indians who went with Sir John Johnson, we have small scouting parties out, but if we should discover them we are unable to send after them, as we have so few Men here.

Mr McNeil, who left St John’s on Friday last informs me that the 8th Regiment, and a Number of Indians were coming down the St Lawrence, and that a Reinforcement was ordered to Colonel Bedel, who is at the Cedars, and that Warner’s Green Mountain Boys were also to go up there.2

As Tyconderoga is to be repaired an Engineir will be wanted, and none is to be procured here.

Having not received a Line from Mr Price to advise me of what Flour can be procured in Canada, I have thought it expedient, least the Army should suffer, to order up a Quantity: about three hundred Barrels are gone on since the 13th Instant & 1191 of pork, 115 of which reached St John’s on the 17th in the Morning and I believe about a like Quantity arrived there on each of the four succeeding Days, so that all my Fears of the army’s Starving are vanished.

I have this afternoon experienced a very severe Fit of the ague—I was in Hopes it had taken its Farewell for this Season—I shall vigorously attack it with the Bark, and hope to eradicate it by that Means.

If such a Number of British and foreign Troops are destined for Canada as is said, more of our’s will be wanted there, & very soon too. I am most respectfully Dr Sir Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

Ph: Schuyler

LS, DLC:GW; LB, NN: Schuyler Papers.

1Schuyler’s estimate, which includes a detailed account of the route from Albany to St. Johns, the number and types of boats used, and the time required to move provisions from point to point, states that he needs 500 men for the boats (including an allowance of 66 men “for sick lame & lazy”), 568 guards and garrison troops at various places, and 232 men “for opening Wood Creek & repairing Roads,” a total of 1,300 men. Of that required force, he says, he has 828 men: 425 in Col. Goose Van Schaick’s regiment, about three hundred in Col. Cornelius D. Wynkoop’s regiment, and 100 “Hired Batteaumen.” Schuyler notes at the end of the estimate: “If no Flour is to be sent it will reduce the Number of Men to be employed in Batteaus to about 250—If therefore about 250 Men were sent to these posts it would suffice” (DLC:GW).

2The previous Friday was 17 May. Hector McNeill (1728–1785), an experienced Boston ship captain who had commanded a vessel on Gen. Robert Monckton’s expedition to Nova Scotia in 1755, was living in Quebec and trading with Boston and the West Indies when the Revolutionary War began. Although Gen. Guy Carleton’s proclamation requiring all residents to take up arms for the king forced McNeill to leave Quebec in November 1775, he remained outside the city near the headquarters of the American army until it retreated on 6 May 1776. “The blame of provisions not going to Quebec,” he testified before the Continental Congress on 2 July 1776, “lay on this side the lakes. He never saw any embezzlement of provisions. At the time of the retreat he does not think there was a barrel of pork between lake George and Quebec for the army. . . . If the troops had had provisions they might have stopped at Dechambeau, and maintained themselves till reinforcements would have reached them. But he thinks those troops would not have staid there whose time was out the 15th. April. He thinks 1000. men might have been kept there, which would have done. . . . Genl. Thomas staid there with 500 men, after the retreat, till want of provisions forced him to leave it. The deponent then came out of the country. He met no provisions going down till he came to point au fer, the 18th. May. 5. battea loads. flour was sent by some of our friends to Dechambaud before the army left it” (Boyd, Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 1:434–36). Appointed a captain in the Continental navy on 15 June 1776, McNeill took command of the new frigate Boston and in 1777 participated in the capture of three British warships off the New England coast. His behavior in another engagement, however, brought on a court-martial, and in June 1778 he was dismissed or suspended from the service. Failing in his efforts to be reinstated, McNeill commanded privateers during the last years of the war.

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