George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 27 December 1778

From Major General Horatio Gates

Boston 27th December 1778.


I laid the Letter containing Your Excellency’s Requisition for the Cannon of The Somerset Ship of War, to be sent to the North River, before the Council of this State; and received the Answer inclosed.1 All the lower Deck Guns, twenty Six in Number, with Nineteen of those of the Upper Deck, with their Carriages, are brought from Cape Cod to Castle Island, where they now remain.

Captain Traversie lately brought the inclosed intelligence to me from Canada; I have dispatched him back again, with the Letter from Monsr Holker, One from the Marquis de la Fayette, and a parcel of The Compte Destaing’s Declarations; he says he will return the latter End of February, & bring every information Your Excellency can expect to receive by Him;2 The pay Master here having no Money, I borrowed One Hundred Silver Dollars, upon my own Account, for Traversie, to bear his Expences in Canada. The Marquis also presented Him with about Ten Guineas in Gold.

A great Number of Officers, and Soldiers, are dailey arriving at Boston, from the several Divisions of the Grand Army, who have Furloughs; they all demand Rations from this Magazine; is it Your Excellency’s pleasure they should be Supplied?

I have no Letter from Your Excellency, since that of the 24th of November; nor any thing more material to impart, than what you will find in the packet.3 I am, Sir, Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servt

Horatio Gates

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, NHi: Gates Papers. GW replied to Gates on 14 February.

1See GW to Gates, 24 November. The enclosed letter to Gates from Jeremiah Powell, president of the Massachusetts council, dated 3 Dec. in the “Council Chamber,” reads: “The extract of his Excellency’s Genl Washington’s Letter which you was pleased Yesterday to lay before the Board respecting the heavy Cannon taken out of the Sommerset, has been duly considered; And the Board have unanimously determined that, it is not advisable to deliver them up to be disposed off agreeable to the wishes of Genl Washington, as held forth in the extract aforesaid.

“The Council think as the United American States, have entered into an Alliance with his Most Christian Majasty, it is indespensible Necessary for the said States to take especial care to have some Port fortified in such manner as to render it a safe port for any Squardron, his Most Christian Majesty shall see fit to send into these Northern Regions, to repair to, in case of any disaster, without their being put to the disagreeable Necessity of erecting works themselves & furnishing the same with Ordnance from their own Ships; as was lately the case with his Excellency the Count D’Estaing, when in this Port—And in the opinion of this Board there is no Port within any of the United States equal to the port of Boston—From this Consideration and others that might be mentioned the Council are induced to believe that, the Honorable Congress will shortly take measures for the fortifying this Harbour, in such manner, as to make it a secure port.

“Should that be the case, all the Cannon taken out of the Sommerset, would be wanted in this place & many more.

“The above reasons the Council think will be sufficient to justify their noncomplyance with his Excellency’s desires” (DLC:GW).

2The enclosed intelligence from Capt. Joseph Traversie has not been identified; for the other letters and documents referred to by Gates, see Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 2:211–15.

3The packet included a letter from Col. Timothy Bedel to Gates, dated 20 Dec. at Haverhill, N.H.: “By this Opportunity I look upon it my Duty to Acquaint your Honour of our present Situation I have here under my Care, 1000 Barrels of Beef, 600 Hides, 30 Barrels of Tallow and as much Forage as amounts to Twenty Thousand Dollars belonging to the States, and are deposited at sundry Places which Obliges me to keep several Guards, and as our Situation is so near the Enemy I think it necessary to have the Guards & Scouts fixt in the best manner. We are at present in avery bad Situation, the Men Naked, and they were raised for One Year from the first of April last, but never had any Money or Cloathing, and always ready for Duty, they have constantly Scouted to Canada and other Places, as necessity required, also Cut the Road to Misisque River, I have never had any Ammunition except what I bought myself and have never received One Shilling for that purpose, and my Money is all exhausted, I having informed your Honour of our Situation, must beg leave to give my Opinion, I think it necessary that those People who Guard & Scout shod be fix’t with Blankets and Cloaths as this is avery Cold Climate, If your Honour will furnish me with Necessaries Vizt Blankets, Cloathing, Kettles, and Ammunition, I will be answerable for the Stores to the States, if myself and Men are not Overpowered by Force—I have here about 30 Fighting Indians and double the Number of Women and Children all Naked and daily coming in, coud they be supplied with Blankets and Indian Stockings they wod be avery good Guard to this Quarter, but at present they are not fit for Service being so long from Canada but are willing cod they have Cloaths I send Your Honour a Copy of a Letter from the Convention of the New Hampshire Grants, and we have also information from different Parts of the Enemies design to destroy the Stores in this Quarter, and I am of Opinion that unless some Measures are taken that it will be the Case but refer myself to Your Honour for Advice. . . . P.S. Whatever your Honour pleases to send Capt. Ladd the Bearer will give his Receipt for and wh<mutilated> Answer.” Gates appended and signed this note to GW at the bottom of Bedel’s letter: “I have Just now received this Letter from Col. Bedel having nothing in Store here that he requires I must refer it to Your Excellency” (DLC:GW).

Also enclosed was the following letter from Peter Olcott, Elisha Payne, and Beza Woodward, committee members of a convention at Cornish, N.H., to Brig. Gen. Jacob Bayley and Bedel, dated 10 Dec. at Cornish: “At request of sundry Members of the Convention held at Cornish this Week, we are to Suggest to you a strong Apprehension in the minds of People in general in these parts that the Public Stores collected at Co’os, are an Object of the Enemies attention, and that they or designing Men will soon use endeavours to destroy them, which we conceive they can easily Effect unless they are strongly Guarded—We therefore Earnestly request in Behalf of the Towns in these Parts, that proper Orders may be Given for the Collection of Colo: Bedels Regt at Co’os forthwith to defend them, A Delay in the matter we Apprehend dangerous” (DLC:GW).

Bayley, “acting by Direction from his Excelency Genal Washington,” wrote to Bedel from Newbury, Vt., on 31 Dec: “Where as orders were given about the 1st of the Present month that the Commisary of Issues Should apply to the acting Quertermaster General for this Department for Every assistance—Relateing the Storage of Beaf &c. which has been Neglected, therefore the acting Quartermaster is directed Immidiately to Erect a Building Near the Magazine at Haver hill to Contain one thousand Berrils the Body maybe Built with logs and also to Clear the Court House in Haverhill fit to Receive Store &c. and also to Put the Court House in Newbury in Such repair as the Issuing Commisary thinks Sufficient” (PHi: Dreer Collection).

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