George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General John Morin Scott, 30 November 1776

From Brigadier General John Morin Scott

Camp at Haverstraw [N.Y.] Novr 30th 1776


By express last Ev’g from General Heath I received an Extract of a Letter from head Quarters to him dated 27th instant in which it is mentioned that your Excellency is assured of my Exertions to influence my Troops to continue in Service with General Heath 15 or twenty days longer1—You have doubtless, Sir, been apprized by that Gent. of the Reason of my coming hither. But least it should be otherwise, give me Leave to mention, that on Application to him, by Colonel Hay of this place a Gent. uncommonly spirited in the public Cause representing the exposed State of this part of the Country by reason of the Vicinity of the Enemy, and the great Number of Tories between this & the Enemies Army, he [Heath] tho’t proper to consult with his Brigadiers on the Subject, who advised him to throw a Body of Troops across the River.2 This measure being approved by him, he inquired what Troops should be sent upon which I offered my Service with my3 Brigade. On the 25th in the Ev’g I received my Orders for crossing “to cover the Stores on this Side of the River and to prevent the Advances of the Enemy into the passes of the Highlands should they attempt it.”4 Early in the Morning I moved, arrived here about the Middle of the day; and on Inquiry found Colonel Hays fears too well grounded. Therefore after making The necessary disposition of the Troops, and on considering that the few remaining days of Service would put it out of my power to answer the End for which I came, I immediately wrote a most pressing Letter to our Convention requesting them to conjure the Troops in the strongest Terms to continue one month longer in the Service, and to offer them a gratuity to induce them to do it,5 However before my Letter reached the Convention, they had taken up the Subject as You will see by No. 1 inclosed which came to hand next day. The Convention however on receipt of my Letter came to the Resolves No. 2.6 Upon Receipt of them I paraded the Brigade, formed them into a Circle; & from the Center published the two Sets of resolves & in the best and most animated manner I could, urged a Compliance with them. I then retird and left them to free Consultation; and on my return, desird the Officers, who chose to continue with me in the Service, to join me in the Center, at the same Time offering my Months pay to the Noncommissioned & privates as a further Encouragement to them to follow the Example of their Leaders. All the Commissioned Officers present except five Capts. & Subs. & two adjutants immediately joined me—This circumstance gave me flattering hopes—but, Alas Sir, I have been deceived; for upon ordering the Officers to bring me in returns of those who are willing to continue which they have done I am convinced that I cannot retain 30—However I shall immediately put the passage of the Letter above alluded to into Brigade Orders, hoping that your Excellency’s Application & the short Term you propose may have the desired Effect.

You will be waited upon, Sir, by some of my Officers with their Abstracts. I am sorry to inform, that the Detention of their pay has been made a great Handle by the Leaders of the Opposition. I therefore earnestly beseech your Excellency to dispatch the Warrants, as the men Will wait till the Officers return, and they are directed to ride Night & day—I take the Liberty to inclose the Abstracts for myself & Major Fish on which I beg your Excellency’s Warrant.7 I am Sir with the greatest respect Your Excellency’s most obedient Servt

Jno: Morin Scott


1See Robert Hanson Harrison to William Heath, 27 Nov., which is quoted in GW to Heath, 29 Nov., n.2.

2For Col. Ann Hawkes Hay’s letter to Heath of 25 Nov. on this subject, and the decision that Heath and his council of war made later that date to move Scott’s brigade to the west side of the Hudson River, see Heath to GW, 26 Nov., and note 5.

3On the manuscript Scott inadvertently wrote “by.”

4A copy of these orders is in MHi: Heath Papers.

5Scott wrote the president of the New York convention on 26 Nov.: “The sole design of this letter is most earnestly to request the interposition of Convention to prevent the disbanding of my brigade on Sunday next [1 Dec.]. I have sent an express to General Heath, with a request to send me two more regiments and a field piece or two. But what will that succour avail if the service is to last only till Sunday. I hope my request will not be imputed to interested motives, when I assure you of my desire to serve my country one month longer without pay. I flatter myself the officers will be ashamed to refuse their service. If our Convention would think proper to furnish me with a bounty for the men, I think I can hold them. You cannot think, sir, of what infinite consequence it will be to this part of the country. Without some proper support, if our troops below should not suceeed, the country below the mountains must submit to the enemy. If my views can be seconded by Convention, and General Heath should comply with my requisition, I flatter myself that with the militia of the county, numbers of whom I am sure will join me, if we countenance those by some suitable support, I may fall on the rear of the enemy with two thousand men. You may easily judge that if General Washington keeps them well employed in front, the expedient I propose may be successful; at least, if I can be strengthened, I am determined to risk it if I should fall in the attempt” (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:719).

6The New York committee of safety resolved on 25 Nov. that Scott’s brigade and Col. Johannes Snyder’s detachment of militia in the Hudson highlands “ought to continue in Service until the last day of December next on the same pay and rations which have been hitherto provided for them, unless from the Situation of the Enemy they can sooner be discharged with Safety.” The committee of safety then at some length exhorts both the officers and men to comply with that resolution (DLC:GW; see also ibid., 717). On 27 Nov., after reading Scott’s letter, the committee of safety resolved “that the sum of Fifteen hundred pounds be given as a Gratuity to the Non Commissioned Officers and privates . . . who at present Compose General Scotts Brigade and that General Scott and the Colonels of the New York Regiments in his Brigade are requested to dispose of the same in such a manner as they shall deem most equitable & advancive of the public Interest.” The committee of safety also thanks Scott “for his patriotic Offer” to serve another month without pay and his officers and men “for the spirit Alacrity and perseverance which they have Exercised in defence of their injured and invaded Country” (DLC:GW; see also ibid., 719–20).

7GW on 2 Dec. signed warrants to pay Col. William Malcom’s regiment for September, October, and November, and the next day he signed warrants to pay the other three regiments in Scott’s brigade, Maj. Nicholas Fish, and General Scott himself for those three months (Warrant Book No. 2, DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 18).

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