George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 5 October 1777

From Major General Horatio Gates

Head Quarters, Camp Behmus’s Heights [N.Y.]
October 5th 1777.


Since the Action of the 19th Instant, the Enemy have kept the Ground they Occupied the Morning of that Day; And fortified their Camp. The Advanced Centrys of my piquets, are posted within Shot, And Opposite the Enemy’s; neither side have given Ground an Inch. In this Situation, Your Excellency would not wish me to part with the Corps the Army of General Burgoyne are most Afraid of. From the best Intelligence he has not more than Three weeks provision in Store; it will take him at least Eight Days, to get back to Ticonderoga; so that, in a fortnight at farthest, he must decide, whether he will Rashly risque, at infinite Disadvantage, to Force my Camp, or Retreat to his Den. In either Case, I must have the fairest prospect to be Able to reinforce Your Excellency, in a more considerable Manner than by a Single Regiment. I am sorry to Repeat to Your Excellency, the Distress I have Suffered for Want of a proper supply of Musket Cartridges from Springfield, or the Materials to make them; The Inclosed from the Commissary of Ordnance Stores at Albany, will convince Your Excellency of the Truth of this Assertion.1 My Anxiety also upon Account of provisions, has been inexpressible; A greater Error has not been Committed this War, than the Changing the Commissaries in the Middle of the Campaign. You, Sir, must have Your Grievances, I therefore will not enhance them by enlarging upon mine. I am Sir Your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servant

Horatio Gates


1Gates enclosed a copy of Philip Van Rensselaer’s letter to him of 1 Oct. from Albany, in which the commissary complains “that Messrs [Ezekiel] Cheevers and [David] Mason of Springfield, do not comply with the Returns I sent, which was for Lead, Ca[r]tridge Paper, and all the fixed Ammunition; I wrote several times, and that it was your Excellency’s positive Orders, to forward the Stores to this Place immediately; not a line have I received from either of the Gentlemen, and only about 1000 lbs. of Lead, some Flints[,] a little fixed Ammunition, and not any Ca[r]tridge Paper at all—I have been under the Necessity, to purchase all the writing paper in this place, for Ca[r]tridge Paper—with the Weights and Lead taken out of the Houses, in and about this City, and have kept the Labaratory going—I mean to go to Schenectady and apply to that Committee to assist me in doing the same. . . . I could wish that some good Person was sent, to Boston, when a Quantity may be had and forwarded to this place” (DLC:GW).

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