George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General John Sullivan, 5–6 June 1776

From Brigadier General John Sullivan

Sorrell [Canada] June 5th[–6] 1776.

Dear General

I have the pleasure to Inform you that I Arriv’d here at a very Critical Moment with my Brigade. Genl Thompson was Left with but very few men to Defend this Important post. The Troops being Scatter’d about in a most Shocking manner. I had Issued Orders for all the well men to follow me as upon Departure of Genl Worster & the Death of General Thomas the Command Devolved on me:1 having given those Orders I proceeded with the Troops I brought with me to Join General Thompson, who was in the greatest Distress as Genl Carltons Fleet had pass’d the Sorrell2 & was Coming up the River with a fair wind, as was Reported on all Quarters, a Retreat Seem’d in all parts to be agreed on, & the heavy Baggage & most of the Artillery was Remov’d to St Johns & Chamblee. This Caused the French men to Curse our Cowardice & Lament their Folly in favouring a Cause which we had so poorly Defended, but upon my Coming with a Large Force ordering all the Troops to follow & the Cannons to be Return’d, I found Joy in every Countenance Except some very few Tories. it Really was very affecting to See the Banks of the Sorrell Lined with men Women & Children Leaping & Clapping their hands for Joy to See me Arrive. it gave no Less Joy to Genl Thompson who Seem’d to be Wholly forsaken & Left to fight against unequal Force or Retreat before them. upon my Arrival I was Surpriz’d to hear that Notwithstanding all we have read about the Sorrell our People had not thrown up as much Work as I Could do with a Hundred men in Two days & that Extremely ill done. there was three Cannon & three only mounted in all the Works. I Sat all the men at Work & have this Day almost Inclosed the Encampment and Compleated a Battery on the North Side of the river with 3 Can[no]n. General Thompson Says & I believe with great Truth that more Work was done here this day than has been in Canada Since the Surrender of St Johns.

June the 6th 1776 This Morning Two Expresses Arrived from three Rivers which were Sent to Observe the Motions of the Enemy, one of them was a Friendly Canadian who Lived at Three Rivers & pass’d among the fleet, the Other one of our own Officers. They agree that the Number of vessels are as follows one Ship one Brigg & Eight Sloops & Schooners, They both Say that the Troops there amount to no more than Three Hundred who are Intrenching themselves at the Three Rivers. I have Detached General Thompson with about Two Thousand of our best Troops to Attack them. a Copy of his Orders are Inclosed which hope will be Approved by your Excellency3—Our Affairs here have taken a Strange turn Since our Arrival. The Canadians are Flocking by Hundreds to take a part with us. I am giving them Commissions Agreeable to the Inclosed Form, which I hope will not be thought an unnecessary Assumption of Power.4 I really find most of them Exceeding friendly. I have Sent out for Carts Teams &c. They have come in with the greatest Chearfulness & what gives Still greater Evidence of their Friendship is that they have Voluntarily Offer’d to Supply us with what Wheat flour &c. we want & ask nothing in return but Certificates. they begin to Complain against their Priests & wish them to be Secured. I Shall however Touch this String with great Tenderness at prest as I know their Sacerdotal Influence. I really find by the present Behaviour of the Canadians that the Only reason of their Disaffection was because our Exertions were so feeble that they doubted much of our Success & even of our Ability to protect them. but the face of our Affairs seem now to be Changed & in the Midst of our pleasing Prospects an Express arrives from Genl Schuyler with Sixteen Hundred & Sixty two pounds one Shilling & three pence Pensylvania Currency in Specie, with the Spirited Resolves of Congress. This gave new Life to our Canadian Friends & added Spirit to our Troops. I was Extremely happy to find that I have Anticipated the Wishes of Congress—& had thro’ every Embarrasment Pressed downward toward the Important posts they wished. for, it was my fixed Determination to gain Post at Dischambeau which I mean to Fortify so as to make it inaccessable, This Commands the Channel, Secures the Country Destroys the Communication & Affords a Safe Retreat, if we are Oblidg’d to make one. Genl Thompson was Embarking for that Purpose when the Resolves Arrived. The Ships are now above that place but if General Thompson Succeeds at three Rivers, I will Soon Remove the Ships below Richlieu falls & after that Approach Toward Quebeck as fast as Possible & according to the present appearance of Affairs may Exceed in Number the Hannoverians &c. which we are threatned with. I have no Doubt of the General Attachment of the Canadians, though I Suppose some unprincipled Wretches among them will Always appear against us, but a vast Majority will be for us & perhaps as many according to their Numbers are Really in our favour as in Some other Colonies upon the Continent, many of them are with General Thompson in this Expedition & great numbers are here Ready Equipped waiting my Orders! I may Venture to Assure you & the Congress that I can in a few days Reduce the Army to order & with the Assistance of a Kind Providence put a new face to our Affairs here, which a few days Since Seem’d almost impossible. General Thompson & the Baron De Woodkle have done every thing in their Power to Assist me—Genl Arnold has not Join’d me being as you may see by his Letter which I Inclose you much Engaged at Montreal upon Affairs of Importance.5 This post at Lachine which he Mentions I can by no means Consent to Afford such a Large Body of men to Defend against a Petty Number of Savages Little Less than a Mobb. I have therefore order’d a Small Fortification to be thrown up by Colo. De haas party Consisting of about Nine Hundred men & made Inaccessable at Least to Savages & Garrison’d it with Two Hundred men the rest to Return to me as all our Opperations ought to be Down the River where if we are Successful the Insurrection there will Die of Course—I have Order’d a months Provision to be Lodged there Lest an Excuse of Surrendering for want of Provisions before we can Relieve it, Should take place as at the Cedars. I Dont think it a post of any Great Importance or Indeed any in our Rear, Except St Johns & Chamblee which will ever Secure a Retreat, & to these I will pay Particular Attention. I hope Dr General to give you in a few Days Some Agreeable Intelligence. mean while I remain with the Most Profound Respect your Excellenceys most Obedient Servant

Jno. Sullivan

P.S. I Shall Soon Obtain proper Returns of our Scatter’d Army, & will forward them with Return of Stores &c. after which you may Expect them Weekly. I have for your Diversion Enclosed you one which is Similar to what the Other Colonels must make if call’d upon.6

I also Inclose your Excellencey a Letter from Colo. Dugan I have appointed a Court of Enquiry to Enquire into the Accusation against him. I am Informed by General Thompson Mr Bonfield & others that the Accusation is false—& that he is an Exceeding useful man—he has at my request Since he wrote the above Letter Raised & armed upward of 200 men for us7 I have the honor to be yr Excellenceys most obedt Servant

Jno. Sullivan

As I have not time to write the Congress beg yr Excellencey to forward them a Copy of This. Yr H. S.


LS, DLC:GW; LB, MHi: Sullivan Papers; copy, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 16 June 1776, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DLC: Hancock Papers; copy, NN: Schuyler Papers. In the LS the second paragraph of the first postscript and the second postscript are in Sullivan’s writing.

1Gen. John Thomas died on 2 June.

2Sullivan apparently meant to say that Carleton’s fleet had passed the Richelieu Rapids on the St. Lawrence near Deschambault rather than the mouth of the Sorel (Richelieu) River at the town of Sorel. See William Thompson to GW, 2 June 1776.

3Sullivan’s instructions to Thompson, which are dated 6 June, direct him to march to Trois Rivières with Irvine’s, Wayne’s, and St. Clair’s regiments. “Unless you find the Number of the Enemy at Three Rivers to be Such as would render an Attack upon them Hazardous,” Sullivan told Thompson, “you are to Cross the River at the most Convenient place you can & attack them, you will pay particular attention to the preservation of your Batteaus, Keeping them at a Convenient Distance above the Shipping which Lays at or near the Three Rivers. I would by no means advise to an Attack if the prospect of Success is not much in your favour, as a Defeat of your party at this time might prove the Total Loss of this Country” (DLC:GW).

4The enclosure is an unsigned copy of Sullivan’s commission to Francis Guillot of 6 June 1776, appointing him captain of an independent company of French Canadians (DLC:GW).

5Arnold wrote Sullivan from Montreal on 5 June: “I intended seting of[f] this day for Sorell, but have ben much hindered by takeing the goods in Town, every possible Obsticle has ben thrown in my way, however I shall secure many Articles much wanted by the Army, yesterday Colonel De Haas, with his Detachment Set of[f] for Sorell, last night & this morning I have received Intelligence of Four or five hundred Savages & Canadians being on the Island with Intention of Attacking our Post at La Chine, & as the Garrison is so weak we can spare few men from it, I have thought Proper to order Colonel De Haas to return, I think it Absolutely Necessary some effectual methods should be taken with the Savages imediately, or we shall be Obliged to keep up a large Force here. I shall be continualy harased with them, This affair will prevent my Joining you at Sorell as soon as I could wish. . . . I believe the enemy below will Not advance very Sudenly, I make no doubt you will have time to prepare for them, & that we shall be reinforced in time to Secure this part of the Country” (DLC:GW). Lachine is on the south side of Ile de Montréal.

6Sullivan enclosed a return of Col. Charles Burrall’s Connecticut regiment, but GW did not receive it with this letter. See Sullivan to GW, 8–12, 25 June, and GW to Sullivan, 16 June 1776.

7Jeremiah Duggan, a Canadian merchant who had actively assisted the American forces during the previous fall and winter, was rewarded for his efforts on 28 Mar. 1776 when the Continental Congress made him a major and authorized him to raise a corps of 300 rangers in Canada (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:238–39). Duggan encountered great difficulties in enlisting men for that corps, however, and he became embittered after quarreling with his countrymen Moses Hazen and Edward Antill. “I think,” Duggan wrote Sullivan in the enclosed letter of 5 June, “I cannot consistant with my Character as a man of honor take upon me any Commission to raise Men untill that unjust aspersion on my Character by Col. Hazen is clear’d up. I apply’d to his honor Genl Thompson for a Court of Inquiry to inspect into my Conduct & notwithstanding the Genls order I could not get him [Hazen] to attend the said Court to make good his accusation against me” (DLC:GW). Although Duggan rendered little service after receiving his commission, his wife succeeded in 1777 in obtaining the pay due him as a Continental major (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 8:728, 9:826).

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