George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 13 July 1778

From Major General Horatio Gates

White plains 13th July 1778.


This morning early, I was honoured by the receipt of Your Excellency’s Letter of the 11th—dated from pyramus Church. In Obedience to Your Excellency’s Commands, to give my Opinion of the Disposition to be immediately made, of the Troops marching with Your Excellency, I presume to say, that I perfectly approve of Your Excellency’s keeping the Right Wing, & Second Line of the Grand Army, upon the West Side of Hudson’s River, from Haverstraw, towards Kings Ferry; One Brigade to Occupy the post on Stoney point, and that Opposite, on the East Side of the River; as I conceive the Left Wing under Major General Baron de Kalbe, will amount to Four Thousand Men, that, in Addition to the Troops now here, will, in my humble Opinion, be Sufficient to restrain the Enemy to narrow limits on this side the River, and Guard the whole front of the Highlands. The position at Haverstraw &c., with the remaining part of the Army, will Secure more Forage, provissions, &c., than can be provided by a Junction of the whole on this peninsula: The defences on the River, and the important post of West point, will also be better Secured by this Division of the Army.

There is no Forage, Grass excepted, to be had here; and that, must soon be procured near the Enemy’s Lines. I have ordered Lieut. Colonel Hay, Depy Quarter Master General, in Conjunction with General Glover, & Colonel La Radiere, (who for the present Commands at Ver plank’s point,) to make the best disposition, as well for the Use, as the Security of Our Boats & Water Craft, at, and above Kings Ferry. In those Hands, I have not the Smallest doubt but Your Excellency’s intentions will be fully executed.1

The [ ] Instant, I sent one of my Aids to Springfield, to see the Arms wanted for the Drafts brought forward; and to Order Colonel Armand’s Corps to March immediately to Fish Kill, from whence, with Your Excellency’s Approbation, I would post them Immediately at West point, where they may be kept in due Obedience, prevented from Deserting, and made to forward the Compleating that important Fortress: It is high time they were removed from Springfield.2

Inclosed are Dispatches just received from Albany, with my Answers to Brigr General Stark;3 I wish, in Confidence, to say every thing I know, and every thing I think, to Your Excellency, upon Affairs to the Northward, and Westward: when the Troops are fixed in their proper positions, I wish to wait upon Your Excellency, for a few Hours, at Your Head Quarters. I am, Sir, Your Excellency’s Most Obedt & Hume Servt

Horatio Gates

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

1Drafts of Gates’s orders of 13 July to Lt. Col. Udny Hay and Colonel La Radière are in NHi: Gates Papers. Gates directed Hay to “request General Glover, in my Name, to give you, and Col: La Radiere, every Assistance his Garrison can Afford in promoting a Service so Essentially necessary to be immediately performed.”

2When Gates wrote GW on 24 June, he asked about ordering the corps of foreign troops from Springfield, and GW’s reply of 28 June agreed that the corps should be moved.

3Gates enclosed copies of Brig. Gen. John Stark’s letters to him of 7 and 9 July 1778 and his reply to Stark of 13 July. He also included a copy of a return of Col. Ichabod Alden’s regiment, dated 4 July, that Stark had sent to him, and he probably enclosed a copy of Col. Peter Gansevoort’s letter to George Clinton, dated 6 July, and Gansevoort’s “Monthly Return of the State of the Garrison at Fort Schuyler,” dated 1 July (all items, DLC:GW). Stark’s 7 July letter gave his opinion that the men of Col. Timothy Bedel’s regiment “were never raisd for any Service but to stay at Home” and continued: “I have wrote to Coll Beedle to march the rest agreeable to your Orders which will find out the Truth of the Matter. I desire he may have no Orders to the contrary till he Arrives…. I think there is Necessity of a Pay Master at this Place. part of Coll Beedles Regiment are here and they want Money. the Militia (whose times are out) Complain it will cost them more to go down to you than their Pay will come to & if they cannot be payd when their Times are out it will discourage others to turn out so readily as these have done. by that means be a detriment to the Service, I would be very sorry they should have the least reason to complain.

“I have met with some Difficulty in getting down the Gun Boats. I applyd to the Quarter Master for Pilots & withal Asked Mr Van Vachten if a number of the Assistants were not Pilots. he told me they were and he would send them, when they heard it they complain’d that it was degrading their Important Rank to take Charge of Gun Boats and Employd others by which means four of the Boats are gone And two that are Ready is left for the above Reasons….

“We have had no Alarm lately but daily threatned.”

Stark’s 9 July letter reported that he had received a letter from Gansevoort, “who Informs me that he has got Intelligence that the Enemy are making preparations to Invest Fort Schuyler—in Consequence of which I have ordered Colonel Aldens Regiment to Reinforce him which leaves me without any troops but a few Militia and them without any Field Officers, would be glad of a few Continental Troops if not more than a Regiment it would be of Great service to us.” Stark added that he had not received some promised field pieces and requested that “they might be sent as soon as possible.”

Gates replied that the artillery “must be at Albany by this time” and promised that he would “immediately send a Deputy pay Master General to Albany, with 50,000 Dollars for the payment of The Troops, Continental, & Militia. … As to the Sending You more Continental Troops, that, is not in my power; but General Washington, who is just at Hand, has received Your last Letter, with the Inclosures; and will himself Determine upon that Subject.” Gates also wrote: “Should the Intelligence from Oswegathie, continue to Obtain Credit, and the Alarm from that Quarter increase, you will immediately Apply in my name to Hampshire, & Berkshire, for More Militia, and acquaint Colonel Ethan Allen, it is my request he immediately March with all the Militia he can without delay Collect, to Albany; it may not be amiss at the same time to intimate to the Council at Benington, that I desire their assistance, and Concurrence, in every measure you think indespensibly necessary for the public Service. Bedel’s Regiment has my Orders to be at Albany the first day of Next Month, where they are to receive pay, & Cloathing.”

Gansevoort’s letter to Clinton of 6 July (which Clinton had sent to Gates on 10 July) reported: “A few hours ago Lieut. Gerrit Staats returned in Company with Six Oneida Indians which I had sent to obtain Intelligence from the Enemy at Oswegatie. … the Indians … Obtained Intelligence that a considerable body of british Troops and Indians was advancing up the River in order to invest this Garrison; the Circumstance in conjuction with their Intelligence they say, corroberates from the number of Indian Women they seen returning from the enemy’s Encampment above Oswegatie and a report among them prevailing of an Attack being design’d against this Place, and coroberating likewise by a discharge of Artillery at the close of a Conference (as they understood) held with the Savages at the aforesaid Place. Prior to this Intelligence I have received Information from the Tuscarora Indians (a friendly Nation) that a certain Quantity of Provisions and military Stores have been forwarded to Caderaque intended for the like purpose from the above Intelligence which I have always found Authentic in the Indians I have no reason to dispute that their Designs are against this Place, the enclosed Returns will shew the State of this Garrison to which must refer for almost every Particular which is necessary for us to have, and do not Doubt but every needful Aid will be forwarded with all Dispatch: in reliance thereon and our own exertions to defend to the last extremity are the only Means we have with the favor of Heaven to save the grand Pass to the western World.

“The Indians imagine that they might have been at Oswego about three Days ago judging from the time the Warriors sent away their Women to Oswegatie from Bucks Island—if so it will afford us at least One Week to add to our preparations to give them a disagreable Wellcome and a surly Treat.”

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