George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Philip Schuyler, 27 April 1779

From Philip Schuyler

Albany April 27th 1779.

Dear Sir

Last Night Captain Graham, of Van Schaick’s, delivered me Dispatches from that Officer, advising me of the Success of the Troops of the united States under his Command on the Enterprize against Onondaga; for particulars, permit me to refer your Excellency to the inclosed papers.1

The Secrecy, Dispatch and propriety with which Colonel Van Schaick has executed his orders do him great Honor and your Excellency will percieve by his Letter that he is highly satisfied with the Conduct of the Officers and Troops that accompanied him on the Expedition.

General Clinton, who marched with the Troops mentioned in my last, finding none of the Enemy who were supposed to be in Tryon County has proceeded to Sacandaga on the West Branch of Hudson’s River, to erect a picket Fort in order to cover the Northern Frontier of that County.

I shall direct the prisoners Colonel Van Schaick has made to be secured in this place until your Excellency’s pleasure is known. I have the Honor to be with perfect Respect & Esteem Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servt

Ph: Schuyler

P.S. I have not communicated the above to Congress.

ALS, DLC:GW; ALS (duplicate), DLC:GW; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 169. The duplicate ALS, which Schuyler enclosed in his letter to GW of 12 May, lacks the postscript.

1The enclosures reported the successful conclusion of an expedition that Col. Goose Van Schaick’s 1st New York Regiment had undertaken against Onondaga Indians who had refused to ally themselves with the United States. For the origins of this expedition, a precursor to Maj. Gen. John Sullivan’s expedition against the Iroquois Confederacy that would take place in the summer of 1779, see James Clinton to GW, 8 April, and Schuyler to GW, 3 and 8 April.

The first enclosure was Van Schaick’s letter to Schuyler, dated 24 April at Fort Schuyler, N.Y.: “Agreeable to General Clintons Orders of the Seventh Inst. I marched from this place with a Detachment of Troops, Consisting [of] one Rifle Company, Commanded by Lieut. Eavans, one Company of the third [Fourth] Pensylvania Regt Commanded by Captain Gray, one Company of the late Colo. Aldens Regt, Commanded by Captain Lane one of the third New York Regt, by Captain Bleecker, one of the fourth by Captain Fowler, one of the fifth by Captain Johnson, with Captains Graham, Hicks, & Rensselaer Companies of my Regt, making in the whole 558 Men, including Officers, having Lieut. Colonel Willett, and Major Cochram of the third New York Regt for my Field Officers. The inclosed Minutes and Return of the Prisoners will inform you of my success in this Enterprise. I should not do Justice to the Officers & Soldiers I have had the Honor to Command on this Expedition, if I did not in the fullest terms assure you that they all behaved with a truly determined Spirit upon this Occasion, & went through the severity of a Labourious March with the greatest Chearfulness paying particular attention to their respective duties, and am under peculiar Obligations to Lieut. Colo. Willett, & Major Cochram for the Assistance I have received from them. The Prisoners will be sent to Albany as soon as the Boats are got over & the Troops are refresh’d” (DLC:GW; a copy in DLC:GW was enclosed in Schuyler’s letter to GW of 12 May).

Van Schaick’s “Minutes & proceedings of the Onondaga Expedition,” dated at Fort Schuyler, N.Y., on 24 April, read: “Early on Monday morning the 19th Inst. I Marched from Fort Schuyler with a Detachment of Troops, Consisting of 558 Men including Officers & after puting eight days Provision into 29 Batteaux which had been conveyed over the Carrying place in the Night, & leaving a sufficient Number of Soldiers to Assist the Batteaumen to get the Boats down Wood Creek, with five Officers to hurry them on: the remainder of Troops Marched to the Old Scow place twenty two Miles by Land, but much more by Water, The Troops arrived at 3: OClock A:M: but the Boats did not all arrive untill 10: OClock, having been much obstructed by Trees which had fallen across the Creek As soon as the Boats arrived the whole of the Troops embarked, & upon entering the Oneida Lake was much impeded by a cold head Wind. Made one Halt in the Night for the Rearmost Boats to come up, & proceeded to Pissers Bay where we arrived at 8 OClock in the morning of the 20th Inst. to wait again for the coming up of all the Boats, When we continued with as much expedition as possible to the Onondago Landing opposite to old Fort Brewington & arrived there at 3: OClock A:M: from whence after leaving the Boats with a proper Guard, we Marched eight or nine Miles on our way to the Onondaga Settlements, & lay on our Arms all Night without Fire, not being able to continue our March in the Dark (the Night cold). Very early on the 21st proceeded on to the Salt Lake Forded an arm of that Lake two hundred yards over & four feet deep a considerable part of the way, pushed on to the Onondaga Creek where Captain Graham with his Company of Light Infantry took an Onondaga Warior prisoner, which was the first Indian we had discovered, Ordered Captain Graham to endeavour to surround the first Onondaga Settlements which were about two Miles off, & hastning on the Troops by Companies as fast as they crossed the Creek upon a Log (the Creek not being Fordable) I soon Arrived with the whole of the Detachment at the principle Castle; but was before apprized of their having discovered our advanc’d parties while they were taking some prisoners; upon which I ordered different Routs to be taken by several different Detachments, in order to surround as many of their Settlements as possible at the same time; which extend eight Miles in length with some scattered Habitations laying back of the Castles, & on the opposite side of the Creek, but notwithstanding we entered their first settlement in the most secret manner and quite undiscovered by them; they soon received the Alarm throughout the whole, & fled to the Woods, but without being able to carry off any thing with them, we took Thirty three Indians, & one white Man Prisoner & killed twelve Indians; the whole of their settlements Consisting of about fifty houses, with a large quantity of Corn & Beans were burnt: a number of fine Horses & every other kind of Stock we found were killed. about one hundred Guns, some of which were Rifles was among the plunder, the whole of which after the men had loaded themselves with as much as they could Carry was distroyed with a Considerable Quant[it]y of Amunition; One swivel taken at the Council House had the Trunions broke off, and was otherways damaged, in fine the distruction of all their settlements was compleat. After which we began our March back recrossed the Creek & Forded the Arm of the Lake along side of which we encamped on very good Ground, having been once interrupted on our return by a small party of Indians who fired at us from the opposite side of the Creek, but were soon beat off, by Lieut. Eavans’s Riflemen, with the loss of one killed on the part of the Enemy, & none on our own. (Fair weather all this day).

“22nd Marched down to the Landing found the Batteaux in good order, reimbarked & Rowed to the seven Mile Island where we Encamped. Fair Weather.

“23rd Crossed the Lake & landed two Miles up Wood Creek at two OClock, left two Companies to Guard and Assist the Batteaumen in geting up the Boats. Marched eight Miles, & Encamped along side of Fish-Creek. Fair Weather.

“Saturday 24th small showers of Rain on our March to the Fort, where we arrived at twelve OClock having been out five days and a half, the whole distance of going & returning being one hundred & Eighty Miles, not having lost a single Man” (DLC:GW; a copy in DLC:GW was enclosed in Schuyler’s letter to GW of 12 May).

Also enclosed was “A Return of Prisoners taken, & the number of Kill’d in the Onondaga Castle on the 21st of April 1779,” listing “2 Sechems[,] 6 Wariors[,] 12 Women[,] 13 Children[, and] 1 White Man,” along with “12 kill’d—chiefly Wariors” (DLC:GW; a copy in DLC:GW was enclosed in Schuyler’s letter to GW of 12 May). For further accounts of this expedition, see Journals of the Sullivan Expedition description begins Frederick Cook, ed., and George S. Conover, comp. Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779 With Records of Centennial Celebrations. Auburn, N.Y., 1887. description ends , 192–93; Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:702–4.

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