George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 24 May 1777

From Major General Horatio Gates

Albany 24th May 1777


Your Excellency’s Letter of the 15th Inst. from Morris Town is now before me. The Barracks at Ticonderoga, and Mount Independence, will not Contain more than One Thousand Officers and Men; the Hutts that were built last Campaign, might for ought I know, contain One Thousand more; but these being made of Earth, and flimsily put together, are mostly in Ruins. But Neither the Huts, or Barracks, are the proper Summer Stations for the Troops, as they are too remote, from the Redoubts, Lines, and Batteries; which must be defended by Troops properly encamped near them. There is not a Single Tent wanted for the Communication; General Schuyler has built Barracks Sufficient at all Those Posts, for the Troops passing, and Repassing, and Necessarily Stationed in them. I will not presume to draw upon Mr Hughes for any Tents, until Your Excellency acquaints me with the Number You think proper to Spare. Which Army will want Tents most, the Events of the Campaign will determine; but the Continent should be ransackd from Florida to Funda, rather than any Army should be unsupply’d.

Your Excellency says this Army will be Stationary; if by that, You mean they are to be fixed solely for the defence of a particular post, or posts, I should be Glad immediately to recieve Your Commands thereupon; having already received a Resolve of Congress upon that Subject. I wish to know if your Excellency’s Orders Correspond with their Resolve.1

The Intelligence that was sent to Congress, of the Enemy’s being near Ticonderoga, went from Genl Wayne long before I reached Albany, therefore it could not be owing to any Neglect of mine, that Your Excellency was not sooner Acquainted with the Cause of that Alarm. General Wayne carried Your Excellency the Returns of this Army: Your Orders in that respect, I shall continue to Obey.

I am glad to find it is Your Excellency’s Opinion, that Genl Carleton, and General Howe will Cooperate, it has invariably been mine; if they have Force enough to Attempt the Reduction of America, there is but One Route by which they can hope to Succeed; Your Excellency may therefore be Assured, I will constantly give You the Earliest information, of every extraordinary Occurrence this Way.

The Rains have been so Constant, and the Roads so bad, that with much difficulty, the Cannon have been removed from hence to Saratoga; but I hope by the latter End of this Week, they will get to the Lake. There is so great a Quantity of Ordnance Stores, and provisions yet to send from hence to Ticonderoga, that I am resolved not to leave Albany, before I see the Bulk of them before me. By the enclosed Letter from General paterson, I am Convinced if we are backward, that the Enemy are not very forward,2 And from this being my Sixth Campaign up these Rivers, I am also Convinced, the Enemy Cannot have their Main Force up the Lake, before the middle of July. I am Sir Your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servant

Horatio Gates

LS, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in Gates to Hancock, 24 May 1777, DNA:PCC, item 154; copy, DNA:PCC, item 171. The closing of the LS is in Gates’s handwriting.

1Congress on 29 April resolved “that it is not the wish of Congress that he retain possession of that part of Ticonderoga which lies on the west side of Lake Champlain, if, in his judgment, the great point of preventing the enemy from penetrating the country may be better obtained by applying his whole force to the strengthening and securing Fort Independence and the water defence of Lake George” (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 , 7:307; see also Hancock to GW, 29–30 April).

2Writing at Ticonderoga on 18 May, Brig. Gen. John Paterson in this letter conveys to Gates intelligence obtained from Philo Hurlbut, a recently captured member of a scouting party that had been sent from Montreal to obtain information about the Americans. “He seems to be an Artless Candid fellow,” Paterson says, “and informs us that the Enemy’s Naval Force on the Lake [Champlain], Consists in the following Vessels Vizt—The Riddeaux, The Inflexible of Twenty Guns; The Carlton and Maria of Sixteen Guns each; and the Washington Galley, and Lee Cutter, all in good Condition; with a Twenty Gun Ship on the Stocks, which he understood, would be finished by the End of the present Month. He could not ascertain the Garrisons of St John’s and Isle Aux Noix; but observed they must be inconsiderable, as the Troops were billeted throughout the whole Country. The Above Vessels, all lay at St Johns when he left that post [on 14 April]....

“He says that the Army were very Jealous of the Canadians, who he beleived were equally dissatisfied with their Situation, as they were Obliged to Work for little, or no pay; tho’ he understood they were paid for the provisions which were taken from them; He Acquaints us that very few of the Natives had as yet entered the Service, and that General Carleton had begun the Attempt of Recruiting just as he came away; He remarked that there was a great Cry for Cloathing, and that the Foreigners were the most Clamourous.

“It was the General talk that they intended Crossing the Lake this Summer; and report said, that they Expected a reinforcement from England. He mentions that General Carleton had given the Indians Strict Orders, to Scalp no Man; which disgusted the few who were in the Service, as they were very Anxious for leave to Murder, and plunder, every Whig which fell in their way; And Solicited a reward for Scalps; which was positively refused. He never heard any complaint for, or observed any Scarcity of Provissions; but thinks they have no great Store, as Beef and Wheat are both exceeding dear. It was reported that they had 7. or 8. Thousand Men in the Country” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries