George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 20 November 1778

To Henry Laurens

Head Quarters Fredericksburg [N.Y.] 20th Novr 1778


Mr Wheelock will have the honor of presenting this letter to your Excellency. He waits on Congress upon the affairs of a regiment, under the command of Colonel Bedel, which it seems was raised in the Coos Country—or at least has been kept up since March last, upon the recommendation of the Marquis Fayette, when at Albany. This Corps according to the inclosed state by Mr Wheelock, who is the Lieut. Colo. to which I beg leave to refer Congress—and according to other information I have received, was at first assembled under the direction of Major Genl Gates about this time twelve months for the purpose of a sudden enterprize against St Johns & the Enemy’s armed Vessels lying there—and was engaged till the last of March. I cannot undertake to say in what manner or how usefully this regiment has been employed or to what extent in point of Men, but Mr Wheelock says, it has been of great service. And the object of his present journey is to obtain the direction of Congress for their being paid—when proper rolls are produced—and their determination whether it is to be disbanded now—or continued till April next, the period for which the Men are said to have engaged, though the Marquis’s recommendation extended only to the end of the present Campaign. The Regt may or may not be necessary in future—Much will depend on the system of conduct the Enemy pursue the next Campaign and on our own operations. I would observe under its present engagement, its services were to be local—or at least confined to a certain Quarter. If it should be deemed expedient to reinlist it, if practicable it should be done on the general scale of acting whereever it may be requisite—though perhaps it may not be possible to accomplish it; and in such case it will also be material for the Public to have a more perfect knowledge of its arrangements than what I apprehend it has hitherto had. I have the honor to be with great respect Your Excellencys most Obet Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW signed the cover of the LS. Congress read this letter on 27 Nov. (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 12:1166).

This letter covered a copy of a memorandum of this date by Lt. Col. John Wheelock. The original memorandum, dated at “Pauldings Prescint,” N.Y., and titled “The Principles on which Colonel Bedel’s Regiment was raised; and Reasons for continuing the same,” reads: “As the Country of Co’os is the most extream frontier towards Canada, the Inhabitants, early in the spring, were generally apprehensive of great danger in that quarter; considering the vigorous efforts of the Enemy the last year on the west of the Green Mountains; and that they could probably have a more easy access to the principle of the New England settlements in this channel, than in any other. The Marquis la Feyatte, who commanded at Albany in March, influenced by motives of this kind, gave written orders to Colonel Bedel, (who before had received Orders from General Gates to raise a Regiment for a winter expedition) to engage the same men & others to the amount of, 500, during the Campaign; that the said men should serve, for the defense of those frontiers, as scouting parties or otherwise, agreeable to future command; and that they should be intitled to pay, and every advantage accrueing to Continental soldiers.

“Pursuent to these Orders, and the desire of the Committees of a considerable number of towns in that country, about, 400, men were inlisted in three or four weeks after the said Orders were issued, to continue in service twelve months from the first day of last April—Since which time a Detachment of the Regiment was on duty at Albany a considerable part of the summer: some parties scoured the woods by Onion River to the Post at Rutland: a Company was stationed for some time at Royaltown: Spies have been repeatedly sent into Canada, who returned with useful intelligence from the enemy: scouts have been continually maintained in every part of those frontiers: a number now imployed in clearing a road from Co’os towards Canada; and others assisting in guarding & collecting stores at that post—Upon the whole, I am of Opinion, that the Regiment has done as much duty & of the fotiaguing kind, as could be reasonably expected; though not more than between 60, & 70, men have received any part of their pay; and, in general, very destitute of cloathing.

“The militia, before the Regiment was raised, were much interrupted & detained from their business; but have generally since been free & easy, the farmer having improved, the late season, by far more land, than ever in a year from the first settlement of the Country.

“Had the Regiment not existed, those frontiers, by appearance, would, before this time, have felt the fatal effects of the enemy; as they gained intelligence, that upwards of three hundred Canadian Regulars & Tories did in August penetrate to within one day’s march of the settlements; but returned, being likely a’nnoy’d.

“The Inhabitants, where the Regiment is raised, besides those men, have commonly engaged their full proportion of Continental Troops: & such is their attachment to the cause of the United States, that I do not recollect one person really convicted of Toryism in the whole County of Grafton.

“The Settlements on the Grants are mostly scattered: but yet, those only, adjacent to Connecticutt River, can muster near three thousand warriors. Should the Regiment not remain, fears & apprehensions would likely inspire the people—nothing to prevent the ravages of the enemy in a winter campaign, should their policy lead them to the measure; especially, as in August they received the recruits of a 1,000, Hessians, & their Troops being chiefly stationed at St Johns, & the quarters adjacent—On the other hand, should there be an expedition into Canada, this Regiment, being conveniently on the most direct passage, might be of real advantage: nor do I think, that there would be difficulty in recruiting the men for another Campaign, should there be occasion” (DLC:GW). For Congress’s response, see Laurens to GW, 28 November.

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