George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 15 October 1778

From George Clinton

Pokeepsie [N.Y.] 15th October 1778

Dr Sir,

I am unhappy in being again obliged to trouble your Excellency with the further disagreable Intelligence from our Western Frontier contained in the inclosed Copies of Letters which I have just now received from Colo. Cantine and Colo. Thusten.1

I find it impossible to secure the Frontier Settlements against the Depredations of the Enemy by the utmost Exertions I am able to make with the Militia and I am lead to fear that unless some effectual Check can be given to their Operations, exclusive of the Distresses which they bring on Individuals (who more immediately suffer by them) they will sensibly affect the Public as the last Settlements they have destroyed usually afforded greater Supplies of Grain than any other of equal Extent in the State.

I have hitherto entertained some Hopes that Colo. Butler’s and Alden’s Regiments joined by the Militia who were ordred into service on the Frontiers and posted adjacent to the Places at which they are stationed would have been employed in some offensive Operations against the Enemy at Anaquaga. This Place is a considerable Indian Settlement not far distant from our Frontier Settlements nor (for light Troops) difficult of access and is the principal Place of Rendesvouz for the Enemy and I am persuaded unless it can be destroyed and the Enemy thereby obliged to retire farther back into the Country that no Force however formidable will be able to protect the Inhabitants against their Ravages besides the Enemy by occupying that Post will soon acquire a very considerable Accession in Strength & Numbers. Many of the Militia of Ulster and Orange Counties are desirous of joining in an Expedition against that Post and if they could obtain the Assistance of one Continental Regiment only with a proper Officer to take the Command I am induced to believe the Measure would be attended with Success and the most salutary Consequence.

I inclose your Excellency a Copy of a Letter I lately received from Colo. Cantine on the Subject of giving the Distance and Route to Anaquaga.2 I have only to add that if your Excellency should approve of an Expedition against that Place I will exert myself in rendering every Assistance in my Power towards executing it and as the Season is quickly advancing the sooner it is entered upon the more practicable it will be. I am Sir with great Regard & Respect your Excellencys most obedt servt

Geo: Clinton

LS, DLC:GW. The version of this letter that is printed in Hastings and Holden, 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 , 4:163–64, apparently was taken from a draft that has not been found. It varies somewhat in wording from the text of the LS in several places, but not enough to significantly alter its meaning.

1These enclosures, both of which concern the recent Indian and Loyalist raid on the frontier settlement of Peenpack, N.Y., are in DLC:GW. The copy of Lt. Col. Benjamin Tusten’s letter to Clinton of 14 Oct. from Goshen, N.Y., which differs in some details from the one that Tusten wrote to GW on that date about the raid, reads: “The Day before yesterday I got a Fall by which my left Shoulder was intirely dislocated and therefore am unable to leave Home but thought it my Duty to inform your Excellency that yesterday about 10 OClock A:M: the Indians and Tories who were viewed from an advantageous Heighth & judged to be 500 in Number attacked Peinpach burnt the Houses killed & captivated Numbers and we have much Reason to fear have carried our Forts especially that at Capt. Dewitts as they had that Morning sent out a large Scout which reduced their Numbers.

“Our Militia are gone with tolerable Spirit but as Woodhulls & Heathhorn’s Regiments are in the Jerseys we shall be but weak therefore if your Excellency can obtain a Party of the standing Forces it will no Doubt be esteemed an essential Service which I chearfully submit to yourself and his Excellency General Washington to whom I write by the same Express that brings this. . . . P:S: Since I wrote the above I am informed the Enemy have destroyed Part of Minisink.”

The copy of the letter that Col. John Cantine (1735–1808) of the 3d Ulster County Regiment of militia wrote to Clinton at 8 a.m. on 14 Oct. from Wawarsing, N.Y., reads: “I this Moment received Intelligence that a Number of the Enemy came yesterday at Eleven O:Clock at Peinpach—they have burnt the Barns & Barracks of that Place they made an Attack upon the Fort at Jacob Dewits which had about 25 Men in it who with Ease maintained it—The Enemy have burnt as far as Martines Decker’s where there is another Stockade Fort with near the same Number of Men from Dewitts to Decker’s about 10 Miles—the Express had no farther particulars.” Cantine, who had been commissioned a major in the 3d Ulster County Regiment in October 1775, had become its colonel in February 1778. He was involved in scouting and defensive operations on the New York frontier throughout the war, and in the spring of 1779 GW sought information about that area from Cantine (see GW to Philip Van Cortlandt, 13 April 1779, DLC:GW, and GW to George Clinton, 3 May 1779, PHi: Dreer Collection).

2In this letter of 2 Oct., written at Hunk (Honk Hill) in Ulster County, N.Y., John Cantine responded to Clinton’s letter to him of 29 Sept. requesting information about the route from Rochester in Ulster County to Oquaga, an Iroquois village on the East Branch of the Susquehanna River at the site of present-day Windsor, New York. “I have made it my Business,” Cantine wrote, “to get the best Information I could—From the House of Widaw Cole lately burnt by the Enemy at Lackawack to Papackton [Pepacton] on the Delaware is 35 Miles but two Creeks to cross of any Importance[.] The Road passable with Pack Horses only except a few Miles—Then down the Papacton Creek (first [East] Branch of Delaware) five Miles along a considerable good Road—Then along an Indian Foot Path across the two [East and West] Branches of the Delaware which is seldom too deep to wade 30 or 31 Miles being the Distance from Papacton So that the whole Distance from Rochester to Anaquago is Seventy & odd Miles—The Road can be used with Pack Horses only to carry Supplies of which many may be had here on having them apprized & paid for if losst—The Number of Continental Troops adequate for an Expedition agt the Enemy at that Place must depend on their Number of which as there are various Accounts it is difficult for me to determine with any Degree of Certainty—Some are that Brandts Party consists of between 6 & 700 chosen Wariors others make them 1000 tho I dont believe they exceed the former Number—My Regiment at this Place consists of 300 fit Men for this Service and many other of the Inhabitants woud chearfully turn out as Vollunteers for this Service Tho they woud not wish to go on Such an Expedition with a Force inferior to the Enemy. . . . [P.S.] Colo. [Levi] Pawling who is well acquainted with the Country & has had good Opportunities of acquiring Intelligence does not believe the Enemy under Brandt to exceed 500 Men chiefly Tories” (DLC:GW).

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