George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 28 August 1776

From Major General Horatio Gates

Tyconderoga August 28th 1776.


Yesterday I had the Honour to receive your Excellencies Letter of the 14 Instant which is all I have been favoured with since that of the 19th of July. I have at length the Satisfaction to send a pretty correct General Return of the Army in this Part of the Northern District of America; a Copy of my last Letter to General Schuyler, which is in the Packet, will explain the Return to your Excellency.1 I also enclose my Orders and Instructions to Lieutenant Whitcomb who went from hence the [ ] Instant upon a Scout towards St Johns Chamble &c. The Report of his last Scout, which General Sullivan sent him upon has already been sent to General Schuler, who has doubtless transmitted it to your Excellency.2 As the Small-Pox is now perfectly removed from the Army, I shall in consequence of the Intelligence received of the Motions of the Enemy immediately assemble my principal Strength to maintain this Important Pass, and hope General Waterbury, in a Week at farthest, will be able to come with the three Row-Gallies to Tyconderoga, and proceed the Instant they arrive and are fitted to join General Arnold upon the Lake. In the mean Time, we are exerting our utmost Industry to Fortify this Post, a Plan of which is Inclosed.3 The Weather of Late has been so uncommonly Wet and Stormy for the Season, that we are much retarded in our Works. As the Enemy feel alike the Inclemency of the Season, I hope we shall be prepared for them when they come. My Orders to Brigadier General Arnold your Excellency will find in the Packet;4 he read and entirely approved them before he left Tyconderoga. I hope they are the Sentiments of your Excellency and the most Honourable the Congress upon that Momentous Command.

As the Newhampshire, and Connecticut Militia have come without Tents much Time is Lost by those Regiments in covering themselves. It happens very Fortunately, that Mount Independence affords an Ample Supply of Materials for Huts,5 otherwise those Corps must soon have felt great distress—The Massachusetts Militia are arrived, well supplied with excellent Tents, and a Sufficiency of good Camp Utensils. This in our present Circumstances is a great Help to us; and does that Province much Honour.

Governour Trumbull acquaints me he has forwarded 1000 falling Axes and two Loads of Cloathing.6 His Excellency has, from the beginning of the Misfortunes of this Army, done every thing in his Power to reestablish it in Health and Power. Too much cannot be said in his Praise. Your Excellency must long ere this, have received from General Schuyler the Report of Major Biggelow, who returned with the Flag of Truce from Isle-Aux-Noix.7 As I constantly Report every extraordinary Occurrence to General Schuyler, I take it for granted there is no Delay with him in forwarding them to your Excellency and the Congress. I have ordered Commissary Avery to forward to Colonel Trumbull the Returns and Reports that are proper to be made in his Department and Doctor Morgan has, before this, shewn your Excellency my letter to him of the 22nd Instant.8

I am pleased at the Account General Schuyler gives me of 513 Thousand Dollars being arrived at Albany, from Philadelphia, it is much wanted both there, and here, as The Militia were promised their Mileage and Billetting-Money at Number Four but no Money was sent there to pay them. This neglect caused much murmuring amongst them, and was very near stopping their March from Thence. I wish good Care was taken not to make any Promises to Troops, but such as are punctually performed. I apprehend this Promise was made by the Legislature at Water-Town. I have the Honour to be Your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servant

Horatio Gates

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

1The enclosed return of 24 Aug. and the copy of Gates’s letter to Schuyler of 26–27 Aug. are in DLC:GW. The return shows that the five infantry brigades in the vicinity of Ticonderoga contained 490 commissioned officers, 63 staff officers, 691 noncommissioned officers, and 9,157 rank and file, of whom 4,899 rank and file were present and fit for duty. Capt. Stephen Badlam’s artillery corps had 142 officers and men, but only 48 of its 96 matrosses were present and fit for duty. The infantry detachments at Crown Point, Fort George, and Skenesboro had a total of 129 commissioned officers, 18 staff officers, 187 noncommissioned officers, and 2,134 rank and file, of whom 1,500 were present and fit for duty. “Notwithstanding the Number victualed, we want Men,” Gates says in his letter to Schuyler. “More than one half that Eat, do not act—The Sick, the Lame and Lazy, you well know, make an unreasonable Proportion in our Army.” Schuyler enclosed copies of this letter and return in his letter to GW of 31 August.

2A copy of Benjamin Whitcomb’s journal for his scouting trip to St. Jean between 14 July and 6 Aug. was enclosed in Gates’s letter to GW of 7 August. The copy of the instructions to Whitcomb of 19 Aug. that Gates enclosed with his letter of this date is in DLC:GW. Mindful that Whitcomb had ambushed and killed a British officer on his earlier trip, Gates forbade him “to fire upon, to kill, to wound, to scalp, or, in any way, to injure the Life or person of any one engag’d in the service of the Enemy, Except, in your own Defence. . . . ’Tis not by Sacrificing a few unhappy Victims, who may fall into our hands, that the important Controversy between G: Britain & this Country is to be settled.”

3Although the enclosed plan of Ticonderoga has not been identified, it probably was a version of the map of the fort and its dependencies that John Trumbull, the deputy adjutant general for the northern department, drew during this month. See Trumbull, Autobiography description begins Autobiography, Reminiscences and Letters of John Trumbull, from 1756 to 1841. New York, 1841. description ends , 33.

4The enclosed copy of these orders of 7 Aug. is in DLC:GW. Gates instructed Arnold to station his fleet at Split Rock or Isle aux Têtes (Ash Island) and not to go farther north. “The Preventing the Enemy’s Invasion of our Country,” Gates writes, “is the ultimate End of the important Command, with which you are now intrusted. It is a defensive War we are carrying on; therefore, no wanton Risque, or unnecessary Display of the Power of the Fleet, is, at any Time, to influence your Conduct.”

5Mount Independence was on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain across from the fort at Ticonderoga. Three of Gates’s brigades were camped on this hill, which was being cleared and fortified to protect the main fort.

6See Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., to Gates, 12 Aug., in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:925.

7For Maj. John Bigelow’s intelligence, see Schuyler to GW, 16 Aug., and note 1, and GW to Hancock, 20 Aug., and note 3.

8Gates sent Dr. John Morgan a copy of his letter to Egbert Benson of 22 Aug., in which Gates complains that Dr. Samuel Stringer, whom he had sent to New York on 29 July to procure medicines for the northern army, “is gone a preferment hunting to the Congress at Philadelphia, while the troops here are suffering inexpressible distress for want of medicines. I entreat, sir, you will instantly lay this letter before General Washington, and receive his commands for sending a supply of medicines to Doctor [Jonathan] Potts, at Lake George” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:1114).

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