George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Philip Schuyler, 3 April 1779

From Major General Philip Schuyler

Albany April 3d 1779.

Dear Sir

Your Excellency’s Favor of the 25th Ult. I had the Honor to receive on the 31st.

Having entertained an Idea that it was intended to attack the Indians with the principal Force, from this Quarter, my Enquiries were not so pointed with Regard to the Navigation of that part of the Susquehanna below Tioga—I am happy to find it is so good, because the Reasons your Excellency adduces for prefering a penetration to the Senecas by that River rather than by the Mohawks are so weighty as to leave not a Doubt on my Mind of the propriety of carrying on the Operations by the Rout you mention in preference to the one I suggested. I fear however that the Force from this Quarter will not amount, if composed of the New York Corps only, to the Number you mention; unless other Troops are sent to relieve the posts they now occupy, as the Enemy’s Attention from the preparations in this Quarter and the Hints given will, in all probability, be pointed to Lake Champlain and expose the Northern Frontiers to their Ravages, if the small Force now there is called away or indeed if it is not augmented.

Inclose your Excellency a Letter and Sketch of Mr Deane’s relative to the upper Country—He has mistaken my Question as to the point of Debarkation, and answers as if I had asked where the Enemy from Canada coming to the Support of the Indians would debark.1

Your Excellency will percieve that the several Distances from Fort Schuyler to the Oneida, Tuscarora, Onandaga, Cayuga and Northern Seneca Villages are noted on the Sketch—The Distance from the German Flatts to Fort Schuyler is about thirty five Miles—It is not more from the former place to Oneida—The Roads from thence to Fort Schuyler and Oneida are much alike, thro’ a level Country, but rather deep until the latter End of Summer—In my Letter of the 2d January I gave a Description of the Country thro’ which the Road to Niagara runs, which I shall beg Leave to repeat, having received no Information since to induce me to believe it to be erroneous.2

“From Fort Schuyler to Onondaga about 50 Miles thro’ a good dry Country, not very thickly wooded from thence to Cayuga about 60 or 65 Miles[”] (Mr Deane makes this not more than 50 Miles—I have Reason to believe he is mistaken) “very mountainous and swampy with great Difficulty to be passed by a Man on Horseback, from thence to the most Easterly Seneca Village about thirty Miles—Three more Seneca Villages intervene before you reach their Capital, which is about seventy Miles from Cayuga3—Great part of the Distance is thro’ a level Country, interspersed with Hillocks, and altho’ in some places the Woods are very close, yet in general it is rather open and the Bottom firm and dry.”

Captain Bleeker, who commanded the party to attempt the Destruction of the Vessels on Ontario marched from Fort Schuyler, and the second Day opened his Orders to the Indians, who accompanied him—A Squaw they had in Company, returned, and soon after a Messenger was sent from Oneida who overtook and advised him not to proceed; as the Creeks were all open and that the Ice had left the Lake at Dear Island—he however entreated the Indians to proceed, but as they refused he was under the Necessity of returning. If what they alledged was true, which had some Countenance, from the exceeding Mildness of the Winter, I am not sorry they have returned.4

Inclose your Excellency Copy of a Letter and Return of the D. Commissary General of purchases in this Quarter—It confirms the Idea you have of the Scarcity of Flour in this State and adds to the Necessity of making the Movement against the Indians in the Manner you propose—I have long since called for this Return as I apprehended there would be a Deficiency in the Article of Flour, and that I might be enabled to advise your Excellency thereof, if so.5

General Clinton is to be with me to Day that we may consult and determine on the most proper Measures to carry into Execution the proposed Attempt on Onondaga—I have great Hopes of Success.6

I have not latterly heard any Thing more of the intended immediate Excursion of the Enemy on the Western Frontiers—I have however advised that two hundred of the Militia from the Southern part of this County should be called out. so as to be here about the Time the Troops march from Fort Schuyler that they may be at Hand in Case of any Disaster—Those in the Western part of this County and the County of Tryon to be in Readiness to march at a Moment’s Warning.

I have lately found amongst my papers a Map of Quebec and its Environs, on which are delineated the Approaches made by General Wolfe in 1759 and the Fortifications erected by the French to oppose him—If you are not possessed of such a Map I shall do myself the pleasure to transmit it to you.7

I have directed all the preparations in this Quarter, which had been entered into in Consequence of your Excellency’s former orders to be suspended and the Materials so disposed of that they may be ready when called for.

On the 18th Ult. Congress passed the following Resolution.

“That the president be directed to acquaint Major General Schuyler that the Situation of the Army renders it inconvenient to accept his Resignation and therefore Congress cannot comply with his Request.” Some of my Friends in philadelphia think that as I was deprived of my Command in the Army before Congress knew what Crime to charge me with, and as they continued to keep me out of the Army during the active part of one and the whole of another Campaign the Resolution ought to have been so worded as to afford me some Reparation for the Injury—I am perfectly in Sentiment with them and have therefore entreated Congress to reconsider the Resolution—I take the Liberty to mention this to your Excellency as an Apology for not immediately joining the Army, and to entreat that I may not be called on for the present as a few Weeks will probably determine whether I am still to have the Honor of serving under you, or of retiring to private Life.8 I have the Honor to be Dear Sir with every Sentiment of Affection Esteem & Respect Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant.

Ph: Schuyler

LS, DLC:GW; copy (extract), enclosed in GW to John Jay, 15 Aug. 1779, DNA:PCC, item 166; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 169. The LS is docketed in part: “Unnecessary,” presumably to indicate that no answer was required. Both extracts consist of the first sentence of the second paragraph of the letter and all of paragraphs four, five, and seven. GW replied to this letter on 19 April (DLC:GW).

1This sketch map has not been identified, but the enclosed copy of James Deane’s letter to Schuyler of 17 March, written at Fort Schuyler, N.Y., is in DLC:GW. It reads: “Your Favor of the 9h Inst. found me at Oneida on the 14th[.] I have, agreeable to your Desire procured and enclosed you a Chart of the Country of the six Nations, according to the best Information I have been able to collect from some friendly Oneidas—On which, beginning at Fort Schuyler I have marked the supposed Distances from the several Castles—It is impossible to ascertain with any considerable Degree of precision the exact Number of fighting Men which each Castle contains as the Inhabitants so frequently move from one Village to another—The Number of Warriors in each particular Tribe by the Information I have been able to obtain is as follows

Senecas by their own Account 400
Mohawks 40
Onondagas 50
Quiyogas [Cayugas] 150
Tuscaroras 100
Oneidas & Onohogwage 40
Mahikanders [Mohegans], Delewares,
Mingoes—Nantikokes & other Dependants of the 6 Nations

“That part of the Onondagas & Tuscaroras supposed to be friendly are not included in the above Account—According to which the hostile Tribes will be able to raise one thousand and eighty fighting Men, which they may easily collect in less than twenty Days upon Notice of an Invasion—They are not however like to be able to keep in a Body for any considerable Time as they are already distressed for provision—a pair of silver Arm Bands having been for some Time the common price for one peck of Corn—Whatever Supplies are sent them must come from Niagara or some other post upon Ontario—If from Niagara the place of Debarkation will most likely be Ierondequat where Stores were the last Summer landed for them—Accounts from Niagara as to the probability of their being able to supply their Allies with provision from that post are so various and contradictory that Nothing certain can be determined: but all agree that there is a large Magazine of all Kinds of Stores at Buck Island—Should the Indians be supplied from thence the place of Debarkation will likely be Oswego, whence they may convey their provision by Water to Quiyoga [Cayuga] and almost to Kanadesege [Canadasaga]—I have made particular Enquiry tho’ to no purpose for the Situation of Chemung, as the Oneidas know no place of that Name—There is a Cluster of small Villages upon a River which empties itself into the East Branch of the Susquehanna called Chenunga [Chenango], situated about twenty Miles due West from Onohagwage [Oquaga] but now almost entirely deserted by the Inhabitants as well as Shagnott [Chugnutts] who are moved to Kanakalo, where the six Nations keep a Guard consisting of forty Men, who are employed as scouting parties and are regularly relieved by others—They also keep a party at Anwego [Owego] for the same purpose.

“Am sorry that I have it not in my power to give your Honor a more particular Account of the Distances of the several places upon the Susquehanna as well as on other parts of the Chart—Those that I have ventured to mark I will not presume to say are quite exact.

“I have dispatched two parties at different Times and on various pretences to the hostile Tribes of the six Nations agreeable to the Instructions I received when I left Albany—As soon as I hear from them shall do myself the pleasure to transmit you the Account they may bring.”

2Schuyler’s letter to GW of 2 Jan. has not been found.

3Schuyler’s description places the Seneca capital at Geneseo, N.Y., then also known as Big Tree.

4For GW’s approval of this plan to attack British shipping on Lake Ontario, apparently proposed by Schuyler in his letter to GW of 2 Jan., which has not been found, see GW to Schuyler, 25 January. The commander of the aborted venture probably was Capt. Leonard Bleecker (Bleeker; 1755–1844), who had served as a lieutenant in the 1st New York Regiment from June 1775 to November 1776, when he became a captain in the 3d New York Regiment. He subsequently served as brigade major under Brig. Gen. James Clinton (19 June to 22 August 1779) and Major General Lafayette (May to October 1781), leaving the army as a brevet major in November 1783. For Bleecker’s brief remarks on his military service in an unsuccessful appeal for appointment to a government office, see his letter to GW of 4 June 1789 in Papers, Presidential Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series. 17 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1987—. description ends , 2:442–44. Deer Island, present-day Carleton Island, N.Y., is located in the St. Lawrence River about three miles northeast of Lake Ontario.

5The enclosures are copies of a letter that Jacob Cuyler, deputy commissary general of purchases at Albany, had written to Schuyler on 27 March; a “Return of Wheat and Flour in the different Districts in the Northern Department in present possession of the A[ssistant] Commissaries of procuring till the next Crop is gathered in,” dated Albany, 25 March; and an “Abstract of Rations issued in the Northern Department, in the Month of Feby 1779,” all in DLC:GW.

Cuyler says in his letter to Schuyler: “For the Want of Information from my Assistants, and some Letters I expected from the Eastward I have not been able till now to give you an Answer to your Request of the 11th Inst. tho’ not so perfect as I could wish, but the best I can procure is the inclosed Return. You will please to observe that I have not taken Notice of the salted provisions, as this lays chiefly in the Eastern States, excepting what is on the Roads towards the North River, which Quantity will be very considerable, but how much of it will arrive at Albany by the 10th of May depends entirely on the Roads which are at present excessive bad—...

“I have also enclosed you an Account of the Rations issued in this Department for the Month of February—Major [Samuel] Gray D.C.G. Issues may furnish you with an Account of what was in the Magazines, posts & Garrisons the last Day of February.

“You will give me Leave Sir, as the Return is not so perfect as I could wish and made in a great Measure from Opinion of the purchasers, to make some Observations in my Letter—The Troops in the High Lands and its Vicinities depend entirely on Orange and Ulster for the Article of Bread—I am not sure how many are victualed: but I am certain that they and those Troops on the Frontiers of the two Counties will consume all they can spare and perhaps want more—Dutchess will have to send her Flour to the Eastward at least a very great part thereof—What the County of Albany can spare is not equal to what the Demands are from the Eastward—I have now an Order from the Commissary General of purchases [Jeremiah Wadsworth] for five hundred Barrels Flour to be forwarded to Springfield immediately and this is not the only Application from that Quarter—It is needless to particularize to you, who is so well acquainted with the Circumstances & Situation of this State—The Article of Bread is so alarming that I fear the Consequences—Every Exertion shall be used to collect all we can: but the prospects are by no Means equal to our Wants.”

6For the planning of an attack on Onondaga from Fort Schuyler that occurred between 19 and 25 April, and its aftermath, see Schuyler to GW, 8, 24, and 27 April, and James Clinton to GW, 8 and 29 April, all in DLC:GW.

7For GW’s interest in this map of Quebec and environs, which has not been identified, see GW to Schuyler, 19 April (DLC:GW).

8Congress, which had adopted the resolution that Schuyler quotes in this letter after failing to pass a resolution to accept his resignation with reluctance, finally agreed on 19 April to allow him to resign his commission (see 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 , 13:332–35, 473; see also Schuyler to GW, 29 April, DLC:GW, and James Duane to Schuyler, 1 May, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 12:413–14). Schuyler had written John Jay on 2 April requesting congressional reconsideration of his resignation (see DNA:PCC, item 153; see also Schuyler to GW, 27 Dec. 1778, and GW to Schuyler, 18 Jan. 1779).

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