George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 29 July 1776

From Major General Horatio Gates

Ticonderoga the 29th July 1776.


General Schuyler, who left us the 10th Instant, promised me to give Your Excellency a very particular Account of the State of the Northern Army; I conclude he has done it, but it might not have reach’d your Hands when the post left New York the 19th Instant; Your Excellency’s Letter of That date, is now before me. The Board of General Officers mentioned by your Excellency, were Assembled by Order of General Schuyler, who presided at it; They were Unanimous in Adopting his Sentiments, which were in my Opinion founded in Reason, & Good Sense. As to the Field Officers being All of a Contrary Opinion, whoever gave your Excellency that intelligence, was the Author of an Assertion Contrary to Fact; Two Field Officers did Object to it, but those whose Judgment & Experience entitles them to be the best Attended to, Acquiesced in the Opinion of the General Officers: Colonel St. Clair, and Colonel DeHaas in particular, Men whose long Service, and distinguish’d Characters, deservedly gives their Opinion a preference, Your Excellency’s Council could not See, nor did not know, the Circumstances of this Army, when they took upon them to Decide, that the General Officers here had Acted reprehensibly—My Letter to Your Excellency of the 16th Instant, too plainly describes the Deplorable State to which Death, Defeat, Desertion, and Disease had most Unhappily reduced the Northern Army. Your Excellency Speaks of Works to be Destroyed at Crown point, Time, and the bad Construction of those Works, had Compleatly affected that business, long before General Schuyler came with me to Crown Point, The Ramparts are Tumbled down, the Casemates are Fallen in, The Barracks burnt, & the whole so perfect a Ruin, that it would take Five Times the Number of Our Army, for Several Summers; to put it in Defencible Repair. Your Excellency also mentions the Troops expected to reinforce this Army; it would be to the last Degree improper to Order those Troops to Crown Point, or even hither, untill Obliged by the most pressing Emergency; As that would only be heaping One Hospital upon another; Those Troops, when they Arrive, are all Order’d to Halt at Skeensborough, every thing about this Army is infected with the Pestilence; The Cloaths, The Blanketts, The Air, & the Ground they Walk upon; to put this Evil from us, a General Hospital is Established at Fort George, where there are now between Two, & Three Thousand Sick, & where every Infected Person is immediately sent; but this Care and Caution has not yet effectually destroyed the Disease here, it is notwithstanding Continually breaking Out. General Schuyler Assures me he has wrote to the Eastern Governments, & Acquainted them with the precautions taken to purify The Army, and directed the Reinforcements Still Expected, to Halt at Skeensborough. General Arnold is just returned from thence, where he has been exerting his Utmost diligence, in forwarding the Vessels Constructing there. Our Little Fleet already Built, is equipping under his direction, with all the Industry his Activity, & good Example can inspire; As fast as they are Fitted, they are sent to Crown point, where the 6th Battalion of the Pensilvanins, Commanded by Lieut. Colonel Hartley, is posted. Three hundred Men and Officers have been Draughted from the Corps here, to Man the Vessels, One half Seamen, the Other to Act as Marines. As soon as all the Vessells, & Gondolas are equiped, General Arnold has Offer’d to go to Crown point, & take the Command of them; This is exceeding pleasing to me, as he has a perfect knowledge in Maritime Affairs, and is besides a most deserving, and Gallant Officer. The Command of the Water is of The last Importance, for should the Enemy ever get a Naval Force Superior to Ours upon the Lake, the Command thereof is theirs, let who will possess Crown point; As to their penetrating the Eastern Governments, they may Attempt that by Onion River, which emptys itself into Mississque Bay, Sixty Miles below Crown point; I must now take the Liberty, to Animadvert a little upon the Unprecedented behaviour of the Members of Your Council to their Compeers in this Department—They Sir, having every Ample Supply at Hand, make no allowance for the Misfortunes, & wants, of this Army; nor for the Delay & Difficulty that Attends the procuring every thing Necessary here. Had we a healthy Army, Four Times the Number of the Enemy; Our Magazines full, Our Artillery Compleat, Stores of every kind in profuse Abundance, with Vast & populous Towns, and Countrys close at Hand, to Supply Our Wants; Your Excellency would hear no Complaints from this Army; And the Members of Your Council, our Brethren and Compeers, would have as little reason then, as they have now, to Censure the Conduct of those, who are in Nothing inferior to themselves. I am, Sir, Your Most Obedient Humble Servant

Horatio Gates

Postscript—Inclosed is a Letter, I received this Morning from the Director of the Hospital at Fort George; I must beg Your Excellency will give Doctor Morgan Your Directions, to relieve the pressing Wants which Doctor Stringer Complains of.1

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, in Gates’s writing, NHi: Gates Papers; copy, in Gates’s writing, enclosed in Gates to Hancock, 29 July 1776, DNA:PCC, item 154; copy, DNA:PCC, item 171.

1Dr. Samuel Stringer wrote to Gates from Fort George on 24 July: “My Daughter’s Illness occasioned my being absent from this Post a few Days, and on my Return yesterday evening, I found Majr [Walter] Stewart’s Letter of 18th, and also one from Col: [Jonathan] Trumbull [Jr.], of the same Date, requesting a Return of the Sick &c., who, I find, are greatly increased; insomuch that we are in the utmost Distress for both Assistants & Medicines; which Events I foresaw might happen, and took the timely Precaution of representing to General Schuyler, so early as the 25th of October last, and to General Washington, the 10th of May, together with my Want of Power; which (by Resolve of Congress, a Copy whereof is here inclosed) is limited in so positive Terms, as to render me incapable, either to relieve, or guard against them, by any other Method. Both my Letters the Generals have informed me were sent to Congress, notwithstanding which, the Matter rests as it did.

“At the same Time that I wrote to General Washington, I requested an Augmentation of the Hospital Surgeons and Mates, and sent a List for such a Supply of Medicines as I thought necessary for the Campaign; and from a Letter I received from Mr [Aquila] Giles, Apothecary General, before I departed, I expected the Medicines to be forwarded immediately; but to my great Mortification, (except a few that Doctr [Jonathan] Potts brought with him) none are arrived, not even a Quantity that the Doctr informed me were to come from Philadelphia, under the Care of Mr [James] McHenry—What we are to do under these shocking Circumstances, I know not—I say shocking, because nothing can appear more so than our present Situation. Men dying for Want of Assistance, that we are not empowered to give. Besides a Want of Surgeons, I am not furnished with Clerks, or Stewards, One Clerk that I took upon me to appoint with General Schuyler’s Concurrence, is not now capable of going through the different Parts of the Business he is obliged to take Charge of.

“As our Mens Lives are thus wasted, would it be improper, (as writing answers no End) that I should leave the Care of the Sick to Doctr Potts, and go to York myself, and see the Medicines forwith forwarded by Land, until they can be safely conveyed by Water, and from thence wait on Congress in Person, lay our Situation before them, and endeavour to have my Power enlarged, or at least get their Consent to provide the Number of Assistants that are requisite? If, Sir, you should approve of such a step I should be much oblidged to you for a Letter, inforcing the Necessity of the Application. . . . Doctr Potts informed me that there were Twenty Half Chests of Medicines already put up at York, to be sent off by the first Sloop, for Ten Battalions in this Department. I made at Albany the strictest Inquiry about them, and find they are not come. Whence such a Dilatoriness arises, I cannot account, but there certainly is a Remissness somewhere, that ought to be Removed, if possible.

“Just now Lieutt [Henry] Diffendorf arrives and acquaints us that a large Number of Sick are coming, in Addition to what we already have (about 2,000). In the Name of God, what shall we do with them all, my dear General?” (DLC:GW).

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