George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 14 July 1778

From Major General Horatio Gates

White plains 14th July 1778


The inclosed letter was this minute put into my Hands with a number more, and being a good deal interrupted with other Business at the time, I open’d it by mistake; for which I must entreat Your Excellency’s pardon.1 Colonel Sherburnes Report inclosed, will Satisfy You that The Troops will pass at Kings Ferry, without the Smallest insult from the Enemy.2 I hope my Letter to Your Excellency of Yesterday, in Answer of Your’s of the 11th, has been received—it went from hence Via Kings Ferry by Express. A Variety of Deserters who have lately come to this Camp from the Enemy; All agree; that the French Fleet are Off New York, that they have taken the Rose Man of War, & Sunk a Thirty Six Gun Frigate;3 and that all the Grenadiers, & Light Infantry, were ordered to rejoin their Corps.4 Lord Howe sailed six days ago, with five Sail of the Line, & Seven Frigates. The Compte D’Taing, who Commands the French Fleet, has the first Character of all the Marine Officers in France. The famous Monsieur Gerrard, who concluded the Treaty with Doctor Franklin, & Mr Dean, is on board the French Admiral, coming to Congress, as plenipotentiary from His most Christian Majesty.

I beg Colonel Hay may be sent back to this post, as the Service will Suffer exceedingly without him. I am, Sir, Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Hume Servt

Horatio Gates

LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NHi: Gates Papers. Gates probably enclosed with this Brig. Gen. John Stark’s letter to him of 10 July, his reply to Stark of 14 July, and a copy of James Deane’s letter to Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler of 4 July, which Gates had received from both Schuyler and Stark (all these documents are in DLC:GW; see also Gates to Schuyler, 14 July, NHi: Gates Papers). Deane wrote Schuyler that he was “very happy to have your permission to assure our Friends that effectual Measures are adopted for their Security—The six Nations seem determined upon a War with us—Forty Warriors of the Quiyoga Tribe set out last Week to attack the Frontiers of Pennsylvania, As I am informed by an oneida Indian who saw them march out of their Castle—He also informs that Ojageghte is making up another party with the same Design, and that one hundred prisoners and Scalps have already been brought into Quiyoga several of which he saw—I have also an Account which I believe may be depended upon that Mr [John] Butler has lately been joined by a considerable Body of Senecas and has marched from Kanakalo to Teyoga a place situated at the Confluence of the East and the West Branch of the Susquehannah, and that Joseph Brandt is returned to Onohoguage where he commands a party of Tories and Indians—He gives out that he is determined to attack the German Flatts—Nothing in particular transpires from the Onondagas since they turned back with the Belts, only that they have again summoned the other Tribes to a Meeting which I have not the least Expectation that they will comply with.

“The Manœuvre of sending the Belts back, I suspect was only invented to gain Time and keep the Commissioners in Suspence and so retard the Operation of any plan that might be formed to do ourselves Justice upon them for their infamous and repeated Violations of the most solemn Treaties—I am of opinion that Nothing but wholesome Severities will ever be able to recover the Friendship of the six Nations or prevent their harrassing our Frontiers. Experience has taught that they are a people not to be bound by the Faith of Treaties—Our Lenity they construe into Timidity, and our patience of their Insults into downright Cowardice. In short the only way to make them our Friends is to make them afraid to be otherwise.”

Stark’s letter to Gates of 10 July enclosed Deane’s letter and remarked that it would “inform You the necessity there is in giving the Enemy a Check to the Westward; if some method is not taken to Carry the war into their own Country, they will Unavoidably destroy all the Frontiers to the Westward.” Gates’s reply assured Stark that he had taken action on the money and clothing and that “all accounts, and reports, received from you, General Schuyler & the Indian Commissioners, &c., have been regularly transmitted to Congress, & lately to His Excellency General Washington; and every means in my power constantly Supply’d for the defence both of the Northern and Western Frontiers.” The letter also discussed the need for money and clothing for Stark’s troops.

1The enclosed letter has not been identified.

2Gates evidently enclosed a copy of the letter that Col. Henry Sherburne wrote him from Tarrytown, N.Y., on 13 July: “Just before Sun Set we hove up a Small Work to the Northward of the Town, With intent to remove the Two Gallies which lay within good Shot of the 18 Pounder—But Unfortunately upon the fourth Discharge (which hull’d one of them) the Cannon Split. … The Gallies and Small Sloop upon our Beginning the fire Came under sail and went nearer the Jersey Shore where they have Come to Anchor—The Ship which lays above a mile to the Southward of the Town gave us one Shot only but to no Effect—I did intend this night to have hove up a Work opposite the Ship with design to try the Howitzer but I understand she is order’d to the plains. … If I had three peices of heavy Cannon With Travelling Carriages this passage might be soon Cleared of our Troublesome Neighbours” (NHi: Gates Papers). The actual enclosure has not been found.

3This intelligence probably referred to the capture of the letter-of-marque ship Rose on 6 July off Chesapeake Bay (see Royal Gazette [New York], 25 July; New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury, 27 July) and to the sinking of the Lydia on 5 July (see Henry Laurens to GW, 10 July, and note 2 to that document).

4Gen. Henry Clinton’s general orders of 12 July had directed, “All Officers & Soldiers belonging to Regiments upon long Island, Staten Island, &c. are to Join their Corps Immediately,” and elements of the light infantry and grenadiers had “gone on board the fleet to act as Marines” (Brigade of Guards Orderly Book, DLC:GW; Gruber, Peebles’ American War description begins Ira D. Gruber, ed. John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776–1782. Mechanicsburg, Pa., 1998. description ends , 202).

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