George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 7 August 1776

From Major General Horatio Gates

Tyonderoga 7th Augt 1776


Inclosed I have the Honour to Transmit to Your Excellency, a General Return of the Troops immediately under my Command.1 it is as perfect as the Circumstances will Admit, but the Numbers at the General Hospital at Lake George, & upon both Communications, where Correctness is not attended to, with that Diligence required by good Discipline, obliges me to send it somewhat imperfect to Your Excellency—The very great Desertion from this Army has, I believe, been principally Occasion’d by the Dread of the Small pox; but many have also been induced to Desert, by the Vast Bounty Given for Substitutes in the Militia. Fifty Dollars a Man have in many Instances been given to Men who Inlist’d in the Militia from New-hampshire. This aggravates, & disgusts, the Continental Regiments so much, that I am apprehensive it will be extreamly difficult to retain them for another Campaign. This, as it well deserves the attention of Your Excellency, & the Congress, will, I dare say, be duly regarded—In the packet Your Excellency will find the Examination of Four French Captains of Colonel Livingston’s Canadian Regiment. The Two latter differ materially from the Two Former. my Secretary who is an Old France Gentn, and perfectly Skill’d in the Language, interpreted the Facts contain’d in it. upon the same sheet is the Examination of Lieutenant Whitcomb of Colonel Burrells Connecticut Regiment, which corresponds in some Degree, with the information of Captain Mesnard & his Associate.2

Your Excellency will also find inclosed a Copy of my Letter of Yesterday, to the president of The Honble The Continental Congress3—General Schuyler will doubtless, by the same conveyance send His Report of what has been doing upon the Mohock River, & of the State of the Troops there, & upon the Communication, from the Great Oneida carrying place to Albany.

Last night General Waterbury sent the inclosed report from Skeensborough, I believe Your Excelly will think with me how Justly Captain Weatherbee deserves to be punished—These Men get an Enormous Bounty from their Countrymen, are Highly paid by the Continent, & then rather than March where they are commanded, they get inoculated, by which, a Month of the short Time they are engaged for, Elapses, & perhaps the Health of the whole Army is Endang⟨ered.⟩ I have sent a State of this Scandalous affair to Governour Trumbull, & Major Hawley. They, I think, will find some Method to punish the Delinquents; to bring them here, in Our Circumstances, would be Ruin.4

Colonel Stark, in the Name of The Field Officers, of this Army, deliver’d me Yesterday, the inclosed paper. I think it beyond me to Determine upon it, & shall wait Your Excellencys Commands thereupon; the Campaign in Canada has been beyond a Doubt exceedingly severe; the Retreat from thence Distressfull, and attended with a Variety of Calamitous circumstances; I am sure it is the Wish of your Excellency & the Congress, to reward the Deserving Officer. some small soulagement to these Troops would not be misplaced, to Soften the Rigours they have endured.5

Major peirce, being extreamly Ill of a Fever, leaves me, & my Secretary, more writing to do, than we can possibly Accomplish. The Congress, Your Excellency, General Schuyler, with all the Necessary Business of this Army, causes more writing than Two Hands can well perform. with my most respectfull Compliments to Your Excellency I am Sir Your most Obedient Humble Servant

Horatio Gates


1This return has not been identified.

2Gates enclosed a summary of intelligence obtained from captains Jean Baptiste Allin (Allen, Allain) and Augustin Loiseau (Loizeau, Loseau) of Col. James Livingston’s 1st Canadian Regiment, dated 6 Aug.; a report of the examination of Capt. Anthony Mesnard, also of Livingston’s regiment, dated 7 Aug.; and “A Journal of a Scout from Crown point to St John’s Chamblly, &c. &c.—by Lieut. Benjamin Whitcomb & 4 Men” between 14 July and 6 August. These documents are in DLC:GW.

Allin and Loiseau, who left their homes in Canada about 6 July and arrived at Ticonderoga on 4 Aug., told Gates: “The Enemy did not fortify any of the Places we abandoned; but they have cut a new Road, or repaired the old, from Ile-aux-Noix to Chambli. They had 2,000 Germans at Ile-aux-Noix, under General [Simon] Fraser, the like Number at St John’s, under Governor Carleton, and likewise at Montreal, under the Command of a General, whose name the Canadian Officers did not Know; but we suppose it was Burgoyne. No more than 250 Men were left at Quebec. No English National Regiment had arrived; but it was reported that 4,000 English Troops, who were intended as a Part of that Army, had perished at Sea, or fallen into the Hands of the American Privateers; which gave inexpressible Uneasiness to Governor Carleton. The English Fleet brought over from Europe, Timber &c. for no more than 50 Boats, which they attempted to transport by Land, from the Mouth of the River Sorrel to St John’s, but the Carriages employed on that Service, having been ruined, Carleton employed Canadians in building others at St John’s, on the Plan of our Batteaux. That Governor has, very luckily for us, rendered himself odious to the Tory Canadians themselves, by exacting 50 Head of Cattle from every Parish; for the Payment of which, his Commissaries, or other Agents, gave to the Owners, Notes payable to the Bearer. He exhibited to his Army a Diversion, which may cost his Master very dear, as it awoke the Sensibility of the Canadians, without the least Necessity. The Militia Officers who had served under the Congress were forced to burn their Commissions to the very minutest Particle; an Operation which, as it was expected by the Beholders, singed the Fingers of such of the Criminals, who were not very dexterous in disappointing that most humane General. The Officers who have accepted Commissions in the Corps, raised under the Sanction of the Congress, underwent the same Punishment; but, immediately after this farcical Execution, were confined on Board Men of War, to be carried to the West-Indies; and his Excellency confiscated the Effects of all the Canadians, who followed our Army, or who remain concealed in the Country. The Indians have refused to fight against the United States.

“Great Numbers of the Germans desert daily, and are very Zealously secreted by the Inhabitants. Seventy Brunswickers made off together, four of whom are at Mr Metcalf’s, about Twenty Miles this Side of St John’s. Their Officers were so afraid of Bush Fight, and Ambushes, that they durst not head any Party, to pursue the Runaways; but then, the common Soldiers being checked by the same Fears, Deserters were but few to what they might have been, could our Fleet have cruised on the Lake, and afforded them Protection.

“Between the 22nd, and 24th Ulto Carleton and the other Generals abandoned all their Posts on this Side of the River Sorrel, St John’s excepted, with the same Precipitation that we did. They carried with them their Artillery and Provisions, without paying the Inhabitants for the last Article. It was reported, that this unexpected Motion was occasioned by the Arrival, and mysterious Manœuvres of a Fleet at Quebec, supposed to consist of French Ships, which, now and then, puzzled the Garrison, by hoisting different Flags, and firing at Tenders sent from the Town, to know who were those Guests. Two Hundred Men have been left at Ile-au-Noix, to send early Intelligence of our Operations; and, if we return to Canada, which all the Inhabitants seem to wish most devoutly, that Garrison will immediately proceed down the River” (DLC:GW).

Mesnard, who accompanied Allin and Loiseau part of the way to Ticonderoga but did not arrive there until 6 Aug., confirms “what the others said, relatively to the Commissions burnt by the Militia, and other Officers employed by Congress; but he denies the Confiscation of any Estate belonging to those who have retreated with our Army. He says there was a secret Report of a Fleet being down the River; but could not learn any of the Motions mentioned by L’Oiseau and Allain. He affirms there were about 4,000 Men at Chambli, St John’s, and on the Sorrel, all English; and that, about 2,000, and no more Germans, were at Montreal and La Prairie: That one Deserter, and no more, of these Germans, was at Mr Metcalf’s,” and he said “that Sixty (not Seventy) of his Comrades, had deserted together, on the same Day. Mesnard reports likewise, that Governor Carleton transported his Artillery, to, and from Ile-aux-Noix, Chambli, and St John’s, but does not Know the Reason of that Manœuvre. His Report is nearly the same as theirs, respecting the Enemy’s Batteaus” (DLC:GW).

The French captains apparently traveled from the vicinity of Chambly to Ticonderoga by way of Newbury, Vt., where they were examined by that town’s committee of safety. Allin and Loiseau, Mesnard alleges, gave the committee false intelligence. “They had the Advantage of him,” Mesnard informs Gates, “as Allain, who is an Acadian, and speaks good English, could tell the Committee what he pleased to tell them.” Gates or his secretary then notes in the report “that when Allain was examined in the Presence of General Gates, he pretended he could hardly speak English, and therefore, was questioned in French only, by the General’s Secretary” (DLC:GW; see also Jacob and James Bayley to Gates, 29 July, and Samuel Metcalf to Jacob Bayley, 21 July, both in DLC:GW).

Allin, who was omitted from Livingston’s regiment when it was reorganized in November 1776, was reinstated as a captain in the regiment the following spring and was cashiered in the fall of 1778 for purchasing a goose that he knew had been stolen (see the proceedings of Allin’s court-martial, 18 Nov. 1778, and John Welles’s certificate about Allin, 29 Mar. 1779, in DNA:PCC, item 147, and 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 , 14:584). Loiseau was cashiered in January 1779 for being drunk and fighting in front of soldiers (see Sullivan’s orders concerning Loiseau, 5 Jan. 1779, in DNA:PCC, item 147, and 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 , 14:709–10, 20:721–22).

Benjamin Whitcomb (1737–1828), a resident of Westmoreland, N.H., who joined Col. Timothy Bedel’s regiment as a second lieutenant in January 1776 and became a first lieutenant in May 1776, says in his journal that at St. Jean on 22 July he “counted 30 Battoes in the Water all finished, 9 on the Stocks; there was also 6 Saws Employd by hand to Saw Boards, all appearing to Work With great Life & Activity.” Whitcomb estimates “there was at St John of Regulars between 2 & 3000” (DLC:GW). Promoted to captain in October 1776, Whitcomb apparently commanded a small independent corps of rangers on the northern frontier until November 1777, when he became major of a new regiment that Bedel raised for a proposed expedition against Canada (see Gates to Hancock, 30 Sept.—3 Oct. 1776, DNA:PCC, item 154, and Gates to Bedel, 15 Nov. 1777, in Hammond, Rolls of Soldiers description begins Isaac W. Hammond, ed. Rolls of the Soldiers in the Revolutionary War, 1775, to May 1777. . . [vol. 1]; Rolls of the Soldiers in the Revolutionary War, May, 1777, to 1780 . . . [vol. 2]; Rolls and Documents relating to Soldiers in the Revolutionary War . . . [vols. 3-4]. New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers, vols. 14–17. Concord and Manchester, N.H., 1885–89. description ends , 17:150–52). Retaining the rank of major, Whitcomb again took command of an independent ranger corps in November 1778 (see Whitcomb to Henry Laurens, 11 Nov. 1778, DNA:PCC, item 41). His corps was disbanded on 1 Jan. 1781 on orders of Congress, and he retired on half-pay (see GW to Whitcomb, 1 Jan., 12 Mar. 1781, DLC:GW).

3“Inclosed,” Gates writes Hancock in this letter, “you will find a List of the Fleet upon this Lake; I mean what is actually equiped, and sailed for Crown-Point. I hope it will soon be powerfully increased. Four Row Gallies and as many Gondolas will, I am assured, be added to it, in a Fortnight. Cannon, Rigging, and Powder are, as Things stand, more likely to be in Request, than the Vessels to be armed; but General Schuyler wrote long since to New-York, to demand what was wanted; and sent a particular Account of the Whole. Perhaps, it is so busy a Time there, it prevents our Affairs being attended to. Messieurs [Jacob] Cuyler and Gansewort [Leonard Gansevoort] have been here some Days, deputed by the Congress of the State of New-York, to examine our real Circumstances, and know our Wants. They are fully informed of both; and, no Doubt, what that Congress cannot supply, your’s will be loudly called upon to furnish. . . . In a Week, our Fleet will, I am told, be in a Condition to make Sail down the Lake: General Arnold proposes to post them so, as to command some narrow Pass; opening into a broad Part of the Lake, either near the Split Rock, or Ile-au-Mottes; but of this you will, in Time, be particularly informed. . . . Our Fleet flourishes amazingly; and by Letters, this Moment received from General Schuyler, I find we shall be very speedily supplied with every Thing, demanded for the Rigging, Arming, and fitting of the Whole, for Action” (DLC:GW; see also Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:795–97).

4The enclosed extract from Gen. David Waterbury’s letter to Gates of 6 Aug. reads: “You desir’d to know, of me, the Names of those who had been Inoculated, they are as follows: Vizt Col: Joshua Wyngate [Wingate], Chaplain: [Nathaniel] Porter, & Doctor [Samuel] Wigglesworth. the above Gentlemen were inoculated at Number four [Charlestown, N.H.] last saturday Sinnight [27 July]; Capt. Wetherby’s Company, were Inoculated at Number four, & as I am Inform’d, were to march for this Place, directly after coming out of the Hospital, last Saturday [3 Aug.]—The Names of the three Field Officers from Massachusetts, that were inoculated I am not able to give you.” This extract is followed by a note that reads: “The Col: from Massatts is [Benjamin Ruggles] Woodbridge who serv’d at Cambridge, with so much Credit, the last Campaign, Genl Waterbury has sent Orders to Capt: Wetherbee, not to march on any account ’till he has particular Orders” (DLC:GW).

Samuel Wetherbee (1745–1819), who previously had been first lieutenant of the 1st Charlestown Militia Company, in June 1776 became a captain in Col. Isaac Wyman’s New Hampshire regiment, which was raised to reinforce the Continental army in the northern department. About twenty-five men who had enlisted or intended to enlist in Wetherbee’s company were inoculated for smallpox at Charlestown by Dr. Phineas Stevens before he learned of the general orders forbidding the inoculation of any marching troops. The Charlestown committee of safety wrote Gates on 26 Aug. that Dr. Stevens had refused to inoculate Wingate and his officers and that, other than Wetherbee’s men, only five persons with the reinforcements had been inoculated. “We will take all possible care,” the committee members assured Gates, “that no other of the troops shall be inoculated here, and that all, whether officers or others, now under inoculation here, shall be perfectly cleansed before they march to join the Army at Ticonderoga” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:1170–71; see also Gates to Joseph Hawley, 10 Aug., ibid., 901; Gates to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 11 Aug., ibid., 899–900; Gates to Rev. Bulkley Olcutt, 19 Aug., ibid., 1073; and Phineas Stevens to Gates, 26 Aug., ibid., 1171–72).

5Col. John Stark wrote Gates on 5 Aug.: “The Field officers in the Continental Army at this place have met with Mr Commissary Jancey [James Yancey] to consult with him upon the value of the Rations due to the officers whilst in the Northern Army, and upon an exact and careful Calculation made by the Commissary it was found that the Ration could not be purchased at this place under one Shilling lawful Money of New England per Day which Sum they hope your Honor will order them to be paid by the Commissary for each Ration due to them” (DNA:PCC, item 153). GW referred this matter to Schuyler in his letter to Schuyler of 21 Aug. (see also Schuyler to GW, 26 Aug.).

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