George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Alexander McDougall, 15 April 1779

From Major General Alexander McDougall

Head Quarters pecks Kill [N.Y.] 15th April 1779.


I was honored with your favor, of the 5th Instant, at West-point. The Fachine Works there, had so little Slope, and were so decayed, that We were obliged to Errect them a new: There are a considerable part yet to be done. I have ordered Stone and Lime, to be got ready, for the principal Works. But this will be a Work of time. Such however is the State of the Works, that I am confident, the Enemy will not make his Attack on the West Side; If he thinks it an Object of Sufficient Importance, to cut of[f] the communication of the Eastern and Southern States; he will raise Batteries on Nelsons-point, opposite to the principal Work,1 from which if his Fire is Superior to ours, he will destroy the Eastermost Face and break the Chain. We must therefore be Superior in the Field, or in the Weight of Fire to the Enemy. The latter We cannot be with our present Stock of Cannon. Your Excellency, has not noticed that part of a former Letter of mine wherein I informed you, there were heavey Cannon in Boston, subject to your Order.2 The inlisting during the War, has gone on but Slowly, as I cou’d not furlough them, but lately have discovered a considerable inclination to inlist, but our Money is out. I wish for your Orders, on Subject of the inclosed Letter of Colo. putnam.3 By the Minutes of Council, on inlisting you will be informed, of the Additional precaution, I have taken to prevent Impositions on the Service.4 Colo. Kusciasco has been undisturbed, in his Line at West-point. Lieut. Colo. Gavion has been employed at Kings-Ferry. He will be able fully, to inform you of the Orders I gave him, for the Construction of the Works there, and their present State. He has leave of Absence, to get some of his Necessaries at the Cantonment of the Grand-Army. It wou’d be doing great injustice to this Stranger, did I not report his Merit to you. He is a Sober indefatigable Officer, of good Manners, free from petulance and an Acquisition to this Country. I beg he may be permitted to return, to this Post; I cannot well do without him. I am unable to keep any Field Artillery here, for want of Forage. Nor are We to expect any Grain for Horses; ’till the next Crop comes in. Of poors Brigade, those that have arrived here are 457 Rank and File; and but very thinly Officered as per Return. Their Artillery and heavy Baggage, I directed to be left at Reading ’till farther Orders. I have the Honor to be Your Excellency’s Most Obedient And Most Humble Servant

Alexr McDougall

LS, DLC:GW; ADf, NHi. A note on the draft indicates that the letter was sent “by Lieut Col. Gavion.”

1Nelson’s Point is on the opposite side of the Hudson River from West Point.

3The enclosed copy of a letter from Col. Rufus Putnam to McDougall, dated 30 March at Croton, N.Y., reads: “I beg leave to suggest it as my opinion that the service might be much promoted by sending a good Officer who has the least family Connections, with a Sergeant from each Regiment on the Recruiting service—the months of April & May of all other seasons in the Year is the time for Inlisting men in the Massachusetts State, many of the nine months men retired from the Service with a view of Engageing again, if the State should not be raising new Levies they will readily engage in the Continental service, and if New Levies are raising there is a great probability after gitting a hire from some person that is draughted, they will Immediately Inlist in the Regular Regiments.

“If your Honor will take the matter into Consideration and should think proper to adobt the measure I should be glad to be informed of it before I set out for home, that I may give such necessary Instructions to my own Officer as may be required—I also want to Know what Continental bounties will be paid to such as shall Inlist from the New Levies or Militia—And what the Officer will be allowed pr head for Inlisting, and what subsistance will be allowed for officer & Recruits, where they cannot draw provision” (DLC:GW).

4The enclosed copy of the minutes of a council of officers held at McDougall’s headquarters at Peekskill on 24 Feb., including Brig. Gen. John Paterson and colonels John Bailey and Rufus Putnam, reads: “The Honorable Major General McDougall laid before the Council, the General Orders published at Middle Brook of the Seventh, Ninth, and twelfth, of February Instant.

“The Council having maturely considerd the Said Orders, are Unanimously of Opinion that no Soldier be inlisted in the Service of the United States, for the term of during the War, who shall exceed the Age of Forty Years, but that Boys of good Groth & firm Constitutions be enlisted, althô they shall not be of the age of Sixteen: That no Deserter, or Foreigner who has not Served one Year in the Service of any one of the United-States, or is married or connected in some Family, friendly to the united States, & of an approved Character be inlisted: That no Officer shall receive Credit for any Bounty Money which he shall Charge for re-enlisting of any Soldier, now belonging to his Regiment, unless he shall produce a Certificate from One or more of the Surgeons & physicians belonging to the Brigade, That the Soldier is able:bodied, Free from Ulcers, & Ruptures, & of a firm Constitution: & further the Council are of Opinion, that One thousand Dollars will be Sufficient to be deposited with each Commanding Officer of a Regiment, as a larger Sum will only expose him to Risque & be a Burthen” (DLC:GW).

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