George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Alexander McDougall, 4 February 1779

From Major General Alexander McDougall

Head Qurs Pecks-Kill [N.Y.] Feby 4th 1779


My last address to your Excellency was of the 25th Ultimo by the Stated express’s. I have not been favored with any of yours Since the 16th of december. The works at Kings-Ferry, will be ready for the Cannon and Compleat to receive the Troops, long before those can now be transported from the Eastward. west Point can very ill, Spare any heavy for the Ferry.1 Col. woods regt having finished Barracks for a regiment to the right of the Village is dismissed. Col. Baileys from Fish Kill is in motion to Quarter there.2 Col. Putnam marches to morrow for the mouth of Croton to begin the Bridge, Nixons will follow in a day or two to Support him.3 Gratons will move at the Same time, to the South of Crompond; as it can be Subsisted from Mills in the neighbourhood.4 These Corps leave their bagage in their cantonment, with their invalids, to be ready to chastise the Tories lately imbodied in nyork, Should they make the threatned excursion, They will get many comfortable necessaries from the Setled Country, which they were deprived of in the Mountains. The frequent changing of the Command of these Posts, and Especially that of west Point give the Enemy an opportunity to Send their Spies there undiscovered. To prevent this for the future I have given Mr Buchanan the appointment inclosed, which I transmit for your approbation; If it meets your excellency’s, I beg it may [be] Signified at the foot of it, and returned to me. I shall instruct him to let no man land out of any boat, without express leave from the Commandant of the Post.5 The Spirit of desertion Still continues in the Enemies Troops, thirty Seven have come out to my advanced Posts in January. The importance of this is lessen by the loss of twelve men of an advanced Guard from the Principal one on the right, taken by an equal number of the Enemies new raised Horse without the disc[h]arge of a musket, except what was done by one of General Burgoynes men, whom they cut almost to Pices & left behind. The Guard was well posted, but the Centry did not do his duty.6 All South of Saw Pitts is still Tophet. our Brethren there have a more lucrative Service of it, than if they advanced. The perplexities of the Post, is increased by the new-arangement not taking place in the Bay line.7 I have had no orders on the Subject. Col. poors regiment of Militia is not dismised, as they have not performed a reasonable duty assigned them.8 I have the Honor to be Your Excellency’s most obt and most Humble Servant.

ADf, CSmH.

1GW had instructed McDougall to build redoubts that could accommodate forty men with officers on each side of the Hudson River at King’s Ferry (see GW to McDougall, 24 Nov. 1778; see also McDougall to GW, 9 and 10 Dec. 1778).

2McDougall is referring to the Continental Village located about three miles north of Peekskill. For McDougall’s plans to dismiss Col. Ezra Wood’s Massachusetts militia regiment on 1 Feb., see his letter to GW of 25 January. Col. John Bailey commanded the 2d Massachusetts Regiment.

3For McDougall’s plans to build a bridge over the Croton River near its mouth, see his letter to GW of 10 Dec. 1778. Col. Rufus Putnam commanded the 5th Massachusetts Regiment, and Col. Thomas Nixon commanded the 6th Massachusetts Regiment.

4Crom Pond was about seven miles east of Peekskill. Col. John Greaton commanded the 3d Massachusetts Regiment.

5This enclosure has not been identified, but John Buchanan says in his petition to Congress of 13 Dec. 1782 that on 3 Feb. 1779 McDougall appointed him superintendent of boats at West Point (DNA:PCC, item 42).

6This unidentified engagement probably involved troops recruited by the British in late December 1778 and January 1779 “as CHASSEURS or DRAGOONS, for two years, or during the Rebellion, in a Corps commanded by Lieut. Col. EMMERICH” (see advertisements in Royal Gazette [New York], 26 Dec. 1778 and 27 Jan. 1779). McDougall gave the strength of Lt. Col. Andreas Emmerich’s “New Levy” as thirty men in an “Estimate of the Enemy’s Strength and Position in New York and its Dependencies collected and collated from the Examination of the most sensible Deserters, British, Hessian and new Levies & sensible Friends of America taken by M. General McDougall at his Quarters at sundry Times till 16th Day of Febry 1779” (NHi: Alexander McDougall Papers). The soldier referred to as one of British general John Burgoyne’s men apparently joined the American forces after the surrender of Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga in October 1777.

7For the arrangement of the Massachusetts line, see GW to McDougall, 9 and 25 Feb. (see also 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 , 12:1160).

8Col. Thomas Poor’s Massachusetts militia regiment had been employed constructing works at King’s Ferry (see McDougall to GW, 25 Jan.).

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