George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 2 September 1778

From Major General Horatio Gates

[White Plains] 2d Sept. 1778

Question the First.

Whether any, or what Operations can now be undertaken?


Want of certain intelligence of The Enemys motions, & designs; of their present Strength, and Numbers, at the posts, Stations, & Territorys, they possess; want of exact information of the State of the Army under Gen: Sullivan; want of Knowledge of what Magazine of Flour, is, or can be provided in the Eastern States; Obliges me to Confess myself, intirely at a Loss what to Determine upon the above Question; for without Sufficient light in These particulars, there is no Deciding upon so important a point.

Question the Second.

Shall the Army, or any part Thereof, move Eastward?

I apprehend this intirely depends upon the movements, & Detachments, The Enemy have made, or are about to make; These being known, and most of the Intelligence in My answer to the first Question Obtain’d, a possitive, & Determinate reply, might be given to the Second Question.

Third Question.

In case the Main Body of the Army moves Eastward, what Force is to be left for the Defence of this Country, & The passes in the Highlands?


Here again I am at a Loss for intelligence; and can only in General Answer; That an Equal Number of Continental Troops, to Those the Enemy leave in Garrison at Their posts upon, & near York Island; Staaten Island; & the West End of Long Island; should be left, for the purposes recited in the Third Question.

Fourth Question.

Can any Attempt be made upon New York?

It was Unanimously Decided by a very Full Council of War, held at Wrights Mills in July; that an Attempt upon New York, with the whole of Our Force was improper.1 Circumstances may be so altered, Since the holding that Council; as to make the Attempt immediately necessary; a Desperate Disease, must have a Desperate Remedy; The State of Our Currency; The State of Our Army; The Difficulty to recruit it next Campaign, & Furnish properly, every Sort of Magazine; may Oblige us to risque Our Fortunes upon the Events of This Summer; all which must be Submitted to The Wisdom of Congress, & Your Excellency.

Horatio Gates
Major General

ADS, DLC:GW; ADf, NHi: Gates Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. This is Gates’s reply to the questions posed by GW at a council of war on the evening of 1 September.

1See Council of War, 25 July. On the draft, Gates continued at this point with text that he later struck out: “if it is resolved to Detach a large Force Eastward, will the Troops proposed to be left to Secure this Country, and the passes of the Highlands, be Adequate to such an undertaking.”

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