George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 23 September 1778

From Major General Horatio Gates

Danbury [Conn.] 23d Sept: 1778


Inclosed is a Letter I received Yesterday by the Bearer Doctor Johnston, from General Stark1 —From intelligence from different places, corresponding with each Other, there is the Strongest reason to believe, that The Enemy meditate an Attack, both by Sea, & Land, upon Boston, and The French Fleet; indeed, they can now, have no Other Objects; in my Letter to Congress of the 3d June last, I earnestly press’d the Formation of a Magazine of Flour in The Eastern States;2 I hope every measure is taking for that purpose: if there is Bread enough, I have no doubt but the Enemy’s Designs will be Frustrated; a rumour prevails, that Fiffty Sail of The Enemy’s Ships appeared Off New London last Monday and Summon’d The Town;3 Your Excellency must by this Time know, if there is any Truth in this report—I have sent a proper party, with Artificers, to build The Bridge Your Excellency commanded to be Erected—Lt Col. Carleton very willingly undertook to superintend the Work.4

Inclosed are the Returns of The Five Brigades in this Camp.5 I am Sir Your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servant

Horatio Gates

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, NHi: Gates Papers.

1Brig. Gen. John Stark includes in the letter that he wrote to Gates on 15 Sept. from Albany the same intelligence regarding the threat posed by John Butler and Joseph Brant that he communicated in his letter to GW of the same date. In addition, Stark gives Gates recent intelligence that the British have “but Three Ships” on Lake Champlain, and he adds to his complaints about Deputy Quartermaster Gen. Morgan Lewis that Lewis “is Building an Extraordinary Large Store House, at this place, which is putting the Continent to an amazing Expence, to Little or no purpose, as I cannot see the most Distant prospect, of so Extravagant a Building, being Wanted in this Department, should be much oblidged to you, if you would let me know, whether it was by your order, or any other General Officers, or not” (DLC:GW).

The bearer was Robert Johnston (d. 1808), deputy director of hospitals in the northern department. Having served as surgeon of the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment from January 1776 to January 1777, Johnston subsequently became a hospital physician and surgeon in the northern department, and he acted for a short time as the department’s assistant deputy director of hospitals before being named its deputy director in February 1778. Johnston was appointed a hospital physician and surgeon for the southern army in May 1781, and in October 1781 he became deputy purveyor for the southern hospitals.

2Gates’s letter to the president of Congress, Henry Laurens, of 3 June 1778 is in DNA:PCC, item 154; see also Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 13:395–96.

3The previous Monday was 21 September. For false rumors of a British attack on New London, Conn., see also Ezekiel Cornell to Lafayette, 13 Sept., in Sullivan to GW, 15 Sept., n.2; Sullivan to GW, 17, 21 Sept.; and Charles Scott to GW, 27 Sept. (first letter).

4The bridge was built across the Housatonic River several miles east of Danbury (see Gates to GW, 27 Sept.).

5These returns have not been identified.

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