George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Edward Hand, 15 January 1779

From Brigadier General Edward Hand

Minisink [N.Y.]1 15th Jany 1779


Since my letter to your Excellency of the 10th2 I recd the Inclosed intelligence from the Susquehanna it justifies your Excellys doubts of the Success of an Attempt on Chemung at this Season3—tho I have reason to think from Intelligence from an Other quarter, as much to be depended on, that the Strength of Chemung is greatly exagerated. the Strong parties that infested our frontiers—the last Summer & Fall did not Properly belong to that place—and are now generally return’d to their different Castles.

You will please to Observe that Col. Zebn Butler desires my directions as to preparing Boats at Wyoming—I have inform’d him that I would Consult your Excelly on the Expediency of the measure, & let him know your Pleasure—I have Also Shewn him that as my direction of the Troops on the Susquehanna depended soley on their Co-operating with those on this Station—I could not interfere with any dispositions made for the Immediate defence of that Country,4 indeed my unacquaintance with its Situation puts it out of my Power to do it with judgement were I even Authorised to Attempt it—Inclosed I send your Excy the Proceeding of the Genl Court Martial Orderd for the Trial of Lieutenant Cotoosky—or Rather Kokowski, of Count Pulaskis Legion—in the morning of the 11th that Gentn waited on me & tender’d his Commission which I did not think Proper to Accept of—he the next night deserted & has not been Since heard of—Probably he expects to reatch your Excy before you hear of his late Behaviour, & by that means be Allowed to resign without disgrace.5 By this Opertunity I send the Adjt Genl a return of the Troops under my Command6—I am sir with much respect Your Excys Most Obedt & Most Hble Servt

Edwd Hand


1Hand’s headquarters at Minisink in Orange County, N.Y., was about eight miles southeast of present-day Port Jervis. For locations of his camps, see Hand to GW, 29 March.

2This letter has not been found.

3Hand enclosed a copy of the letter written to him by Capt. Benjamin Stoddert on 7 Jan. from Sunbury, Pa., and an extract copied from the letter written to him by Col. Zebulon Butler on 10 Jan. from Westmoreland, Pa. (both DLC:GW).

Stoddert, who commanded Col. Thomas Hartley’s Additional Continental Regiment in his absence, reported: “The Strength of Coll Hartley’s Regt Exclusive of a Small Detachment at Wyoming, is about 140 Rank and file, at present they Garrison three Different Posts, which I apprehend might be nearly Evacuated in case of an Expedition against Chemung—out of these 140 we Should be obliged to leave 40 or 50 behind for want of proper Cloathing, and to keep up some Appearance in the Garrison, the remaining 90 or 100 can be collected at Wyoming at any time after Six Days Notice. They are not well provided with Blankets, in other respects they are Rather better of[f] for Cloathing than the Generality of our Army.

“Coll Butler will Inform you of the Quantity of Forage, Ammunition and provisions, to be procured at Wyoming—this place can give no Assistance in the first Article—Snow Shoes I dare say would be Extremely Servicable—none can be furnished here—nor can this place afford any Pack Horses or Saddles—having but few Troops in this quarter, a Winter Expedition was never thought of, which is the reason of our being so poorly provided for One.

“I have had an Opportunity of knowing the Distance from Wyoming to Chemung, which is near, or quite 100 Miles—the Country Intirely bare of Provisions and Forage—the road as bad as you can Conceive, and will not admit of any kind of Carriages, Pack Horses are the only conveniency which could be made use of for taking provisions along—quere whether they Could carry a Sufficient quantity besides Forage for their own Subsistence—if Wyoming can afford Forage which I am affraid it cannot do.

“From the Idea I have of Chemung and the adjacent Country they can raise in a few Days notice, four or five Hundred or more Fighting Indians and Some Tories, Chemung is a powerful Indian Town, and there are Several other Towns of Inferior Strength, within 30, 40 and 50 Miles—If not withstanding all these Difficulties, a Successful Expedition could be carried into the Indian Country at this Season, it would be much more Destructive in its consequences to the Indians than in Warmer Weather—it would be Death to them to be Drove from their Towns at present, and I immagine they are a less formidable Enemy now, than in Summer, when every Bush affords them a Sculking place—and these are the Sentiments of all the Intelligent People I have been able to Consult.

“I observe your Troops Consist of Horse and Foot—the Horse I fancy would be of little Use in a Country so Woody and so Mountaneous, even if the Difficulty of Forage could be got over.

“I shall hold our Men in readiness to attend your Orders—and Shall be happy to contribute all in my power to the Success of any thing you think proper to Undertake—One of the Independent Companies mentioned by Genl Washington is lately Discharged.”

The extract from Butler’s letter reads in part: “The Distance from this place to Chemong is about 100 Miles, the Road Impossible to pass any Other way in the Summer Season than by Pack Horses or Boats, and I think it not possible to pass Either way at this Season, with any Sufficient quantity of Provision for an Army Sufficient to go against Such an Enemy as we Probably Shall meet with. The Ice in the River is Such that we cannot pass by Water, and the Creeks are numerous and Uncertain passing at this Season. The depth of the Snow is Usually from 15 Inches to 2 Feet Deep[.] Snow Shoes will be Necessary, and can be had here if men can be procured to Make them, as the Commy has a Number of Raw hides….

“The Express I send you I have Ordered to return to me as Soon as possible after you Dismiss him—If you Should think best I will be preparing for Boats—Desire your Directions.”

4For Hand’s authority over the troops on the Susquehanna River, see GW to Hand, 20 Nov. 1778.

5The enclosed proceedings of Lt. Stanislaw Kotkowski’s court-martial, which was held at Minisink on 11–12 Jan., state that the court unanimously found the Polish officer guilty of “Riotus and Mutinus Behavior at the House of Daniel Westfall in Minisink the 9th January 1779” and sentenced “him to be Casher’d and Renderd incapable of ever Holding a Commision in the service of the United states, and that he Make good all the Damage Mr Westfall sustaind by his Ill Conduct.”

Westfall, who was Kotkowski’s landlord, testified at the trial that “on the Evening of the 9 Inst. Lt Cotoosky Rode to his House and Orderd the Door Open; and Rode all Through the House with his sword Drawn, swearing and Cursing Knocking the Chairs and Other things Down, Cald him [Westfall] and Orderd him Down [into the] Cellar, and said something to a Number of soldiers in Launguage he did not Understand Upon which they Imediately Followed him down Cellar, he [Westfall] then Made his Escape out of the House … the Men Broke his Cellar Lock and stole some Provisions and a Number of Other things.”

Westfall was supported by the testimony of four members of Pulaski’s Legion: Capt. Joseph-Pierre-Charles, baron de Frey, Adjutant Seidelin, and two soldiers. Frey and Seidelin, to whom Westfall and his crying wife had gone for help after escaping from the rioters, said that they went to the house and confronted Kotkowski. When Kotkowski tried to justify his bad behavior by saying that Westfall was “a Rascal,” Frey “told him that he was not in Poland.” Kotkowski then drew his sword and tried to attack Frey. Disarmed by Frey and Seidelen and unable to find a rifle, Kotkowski punched Frey in the face before a guard arrived to confine him (DLC:GW).

Enclosed with the proceedings was the brief covering letter that the court-martial president, Col. Oliver Spencer, wrote to Hand on 13 Jan., saying that “as we had gone through the principle part of the Busissness before Lt Colooski made his Escape, [we] concluded to finish it. especially, as he could Say Nothing in his defence, but that he remembered nothing of the Transaction for⟨wh⟩ich he was arrested” (DLC:GW). For GW’s views on this matter, see his letter to Hand of 7 February.

6This return has not been identified.

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