George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel William Butler, 31 August 1778

From Lieutenant Colonel William Butler

Schohara [N.Y.]
Augt 31st 1778

May it please your Excellency

Your letter of the 13th Instant I received Yesterday, my most Grateful Acknowledgment is due your Excellency for the good Opinion you are pleased to mention of me & it shall ever be my Study to Merit the Honor your Excellency has done me.1

Matters is Quiet here at present—Since my last2 I have had three Scouts out consisting of about 150 Men they continued out six days & have been on the Heads of Susquehannah & Delaware—They met with none of the Enemy during their excursions except a few Tories two of whom they took & Captn Posey left them in the Care of three of the Militia while he pursued further, upon their Attempting to escape, the Guard Fired on them & Shot one, the other escaped.3

In my last I Acquainted your Excellency of my parties having drove off the Cattle that were within limits of the Frequent excursions of the Enemy, which I at the same time Acquainted General Stark with, who directed them to be sold for the use of the Captors4—I shou’d not However have Sold them ’till your Excellencys pleasure had been known, But the Scarcity of Pasture Obliges it to be done—I have permitted none to be Sold But those Belonging to persons who are or have been in Arms against us, the rest I have ordered to be given up, & some part even to the Wives of those now with the Enemy such as Milk Cattle.

My Reason for troubling your Excellency on thi⟨s⟩ Occasion is that it is my Opinion that Genl Stark & so⟨me⟩ persons in Power in this State is not at a good Understanding—I shall therefore have regular Accounts of the Sales Kept, & the Money Accruing detain’d until your Excellencys pleasure shall be known.5

Inclosed I send your Excellency some intelligence I received a few days ago by a Spy.6

In my last I mentioned to your Excellency of my having proposed to Genl Stark a plan for Acting Offensively against the Enemy, But his Sentiments & mine in some particulars do not agree, I shall however in a few days go to Albany & Consult the Genl personally on that Subject & will inform your Excellency of the result.

The Officer sent to Camp for Cloathing is returned But had the Misfortune (having part of the Articles mentioned in his Order to receive at Fish Kilns) Not to meet with the Clothier at that place who on his Arrival there was gone to Camp—Shoes the most Material Article he has brought none, The Rifle Choir [Corps] on joining me were almost Barefoot & are now scarce able to do duty for want of Shoes, the Case is very little better with my own Regement, As my sole dependance are in these two Choirs I take the liberty to Beg your Excellency woud Order a supply. I remain with respect Yr Excellency Hble Servt

Wm Butler


1Butler was apparently referring to GW’s letter to him of 24 Aug., which replied to Butler’s letter to GW of 13 August.

2Butler was referring to his letter to GW of 13 August.

3The shooting of Harmonus Dumond in this incident became a matter of controversy and investigation in New York. For more on the scouting expedition and the shooting, see Thomas Posey to GW, 23 Sept., and the affidavits of John Barrow, 5 Sept.; Catherine Vanwaggoner, 15 Sept.; Alexander Harper, 16 Sept.; Gabriel Long, 16 Sept.; Posey, 16 Sept.; and Alexander Ramsey, 16 Sept., enclosed with Butler’s letter to GW of 27 Sept. (all DLC:GW). See also John Cantine to George Clinton, 4 Sept.; Butler to Clinton, 27 Sept., with enclosed depositions; Posey to Clinton, 23 Sept.; and Clinton to Posey, 5 Oct. (Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 3:728–30, 4:103–11, 139–41).

4See John Stark to Butler, 16 Aug. (Stark, Memoir of John Stark description begins Caleb Stark. Memoir and Official Correspondence of Gen. John Stark, with Notices of Several Other Officers of the Revolution . . .. 1860. Reprint. Boston, 1972. description ends , 185–86).

5On this date the Albany commissioners of sequestration wrote Butler to “make Demand of all Cattle &c., … excepting such as have been taken from the Enemy which they where Actually Driving of” (Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 3:706). Butler consulted with the committee and agreed to retain the money from the sale until GW and Governor Clinton had been consulted (Butler to Clinton, 31 Aug., ibid., 3:710–11). Clinton replied that he lacked authority to resolve the dispute (Clinton to Myndert Roseboom and Flores Bancker, and to Butler, both 8 Sept., ibid., 4:11–12). GW replied in a letter to Butler of 11 September.

6The enclosure was a copy of sworn testimony, dated 29 Aug., from John McKenzie, who stated “that on the 17th Instant he set out for Unandilla & Arrived there the 19th where he Continued until the 24th, while he was there he discoursed with a Number of his Acquaintance who had Joined the Enemy, who told him that their Numbers at Achquaga & Unandilla is about 4 or 500 White Men, & there was different Accounts concerning the Number of Indians at those places some thought 500 others 600 & others fewer.

“The Deponent was also told that [John] Butler is at Chamong with 1100 Indians—that Brandt Commands at Achquaga & that their Intentions is not to Attack the Frontiers unless the British Troops make an excursion out of York—Bread very scarce” (DLC:GW).

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