George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 16 July 1776

From Major General Horatio Gates

Ticonderoga July 16th 1776.


Inclosed is a Copy of the Letter with which I have charged Mr Lewis to the president of The Honourable The Continental Congress;1 it is too disagreeable a Tale to dwell on, I shall not therefore enlarge upon it; I beg the Favour Mr Lewis may have your Orders not to Delay in New York, but proceed immediately to Philadelphia.

General Sullivan has probably by this Time seen your Excellency, he will no doubt make a Faithful representation of the wretched State of this Army; General Schuyler Assures me he has already done it; Since the beginning of May, the Losses sustain’d by the Enemy, Death & Desertion, amounts to more than Five Thousand Men, and to this must be added, three Thousand that are now Sick. Our Accounts from the Enemy are lame, and imperfect; this seems not to be doubted, that they have a large Camp at St Johns, & are labouring to get a Naval Force upon the Lake. I shall do all in my power to procure the best Intelligence of their Motions. Heaven Grant your Excellency a prosperous Campaign, such a One as will make Ample amends for the Losses of The Northern Army. My Affectionate Compliments wait upon The Gentlemen of Your Family, and particularly to my Old Friend & Acquaintance Brigadier General Mercer. I am Your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servant

Horatio Gates

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NHi: Gates Papers.

1In his letter to Hancock of this date, Gates writes: “Upon my Arrival at Albany the 27th Ulto General Schuyler assumed the Command of The Army in this Department, alledging that the Resolves of Congress, and General Washington’s Instructions to me, were Confined to Canada. As this was not to be denied, I Submitted; and went with General Schuyler, and General Arnold, to Crown-point, where we found the wretched remains of what was once a very respectable Body of Troops. That pestilential disease, the Small pox, had taken so deep a root, that the Camp had more the Appearance of a General Hospital, than an Army form’d to Oppose the Invasion of a Successful & enterprizing Enemy. A Council of General Officers was immediately held, wherein it was determined Unanimously to retire, & take post on the Strong Ground opposite to the East point of Ticonderoga; to Endeavour by every means in Our Power, to maintain the Naval Superiority of Lake Champlain, without which, it is not possible, in our present Circumstances to hold any Ground upon this side the Carrying places leading into that Lake. In Consequence of these resolves, I came immediately with General Schuyler to Ticonderoga. We had the Ground for the new Encampment thoroughly examined, and Commanded the Troops, as they Arrived from Crown point, to prepare to Clear the Ground for their taking post according to the Resolution of the Council of War. The next thing was to examine our Naval Force upon the Lake. The Vessels, which should have been Constantly Arm’d, as Vessels of War, have hitherto been Solely employ’d as Floating Waggons. Of course, there was a Necessity of immediately sending them from Crown Point hither to be Arm’d. Carriages for their Cannon were even to be made here, out of wood taken from the Stump. This is so far effected, that a Schooner, mounting Ten Four, & Six Pounders, will be ready to Sail to morrow; the rest must wait to be fitted; and as the possession of every thing here depends upon keeping the Command of the Water, I shall do every thing our Scanty means will afford to forward the Work. As all the Field Cannon, with their Atraile, was lost in Canada, it takes a great deal of Time to Fix Our Artillery, Carriages being to be made from Wood Cut here: and so must Our Platforms for the Works we have to Erect.

“The Gondolas General Schuyler has Order’d to be built, as he had no Model to direct him, are in nothing but in name like those at Philadelphia; the Rigging and Artillery are all to be Fix’d here, and when done, they seem to be Vessels very unweildy to move, and very indifferent for the purpose intended. Two are Finished, & Two more will be Finish’d this Week; if the Enemy gives us time to do all this, it will be well, if not, this wretched Army will probably be yet more unfortunate. I am exerting all my powers, to prevent the pestilence getting to Skeensborough, for Should the Militia order’d there, be infected, we shall be distress’d beyond Example. . . . Mr Morgan Lewis who presents you this Letter, I brought with me from New York, and intended, Conformable to the Resolves of Congress, and General Washington’s Instructions, to have Appointed him my Deputy Quarter Master General, but General Schuyler says those Resolves and Instructions relate only to Canada; A Son of Governour Trumbull’s, who remains with me, I intended for Deputy Adjutant General, is in the Same predicament” (DLC:GW).

Morgan Lewis (1754–1844), who previously had served as major of the 2d Regiment of the New York City militia, was appointed deputy quartermaster general of the northern department by Congress on 12 Sept. 1776, the same date that the delegates named John Trumbull deputy adjutant general of the department (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 , 5:753). Given the rank of colonel by Congress, Lewis remained deputy quartermaster of the northern department until the end of the war, when he resumed the legal studies that he had suspended in 1775. Lewis served as governor of New York from 1804 to 1807, and in the War of 1812 he was a major general.

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