George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Alexander McDougall, 20 March 1779

From Major General Alexander McDougall

Head Quarters Pecks Kill [N.Y.] March 20th 1779


I was honored in due Season, with your Favors of the 9th 14th and 25th Ultimo; and the 6th 16th and 17th Instant. All that can be done, to defeat the Object of the Enemy, if he intends up this River will be done.

I have waited for a leisure Moment, to give particular Answers to all your Commands; as well as to report in Detail, the State of the Works, and every Department at these Posts—But the pressing Duties of the Post, have hitherto prevented me.

I have during three Campaigns, fully marked your Ideas of Service, and those, which relate to these Posts, and I think I perfectly understand them—And I am happy, that they generally agree with my own.

You may be assured, the Enemy have some important movement in Contemplation; but the Object is very uncertain. From the Comparison I made, in my own mind, of his Condition and our’s, the Object he must have in View, and those, which obviously are our Interest; I think the Grand Army, or the Ships at New London, is his present Object.1 But this does not slacken, our attention or Vigilance at these Posts.

I shall give you secret Intelligence, by one of your Expresses, which I detain for the purpose. The necessary Arrangments prevent my doing it this moment.2 I am with great Truth and Regard Your Excellency’s most Obedient and most humble Servant

Alexr McDougall

P.S. The State of flour, has obliged me to lessen the Ration of Flour, for obvious Reasons, which I hope will meet you⟨r⟩ approbation—But in Justice to thos⟨e⟩ Troops, the Corps to the Eastward of us should be on the same allowance.3

LS, DLC:GW; ADf, CSmH. McDougall noted on his draft manuscript: “dispatch’d ½ past 10 A.M.

1For the British threat against New London, Conn., see William Maxwell to GW, 10 March, and n.3 to that document, and 25 March, and n.2 to that document; GW to Israel Putnam, 27 March; Putnam to GW, 28 March and 1 April; and Samuel Holden Parsons to GW, 29 March.

2For McDougall’s engagement of Elijah Hunter to act as a double agent, see McDougall’s letters to GW of 21, 22, and 31 March; see also GW to McDougall, 25 and 28 March.

3To support his action and strengthen his request, McDougall apparently enclosed a circular letter, dated 19 March, 7:00 P.M., which reads: “As Appearances indicate an important movement of the Enemy which may be up this River in the Absence of the Grand-Army; Major General McDougall is constrained from the present state of Flour to reduce the Ration of Bread to One pound. Those on fatigue will get half a Jill of Rice where it can be had—One pound and an half of salt Beef, or the usual Ration of pork, or the present Ration of fresh Beef—And the Commissaries are hereby authorised to give three pints of salt for a Bushell of good potatoes, and half the quantity for a Bushell of Turnips, for the use of the Troops, to be delivered at any convenient place, at the Option of the Commanding Officer of the posts. The Vegetables to be distributed to the Troops in such manner as the Commanding Officer with the Advice of the Field Officers shall think proper. Provisions will not be issued to any Regiment, Corps or Detachment unless the Commanding Officer signs the Return. The utmost Exactness and frugality must be observed in the Issuing provisions” (DLC:GW).

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