George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Philip Schuyler, 10 May 1779

From Philip Schuyler

Albany May 10th 1779.

Dear Sir

I had the Honor to receive your Excellency’s Favor of the 27th Ult. on the 7th Inst. Being informed that the party which was sent to Oswegatchie as mentioned in mine of the 29th Ult. was returned to Fort Schuyler and that Lieutenant McLallen was expected in Town I deferred an Answer until I should see him—He arrived Yesterday and I requested a Journal of his proceedings, which I enclose1—I have examined the prisoners; they assure me that no Troops have passed Oswegatchie this Spring to the Westward; that they have not heard of any coming from Canada; that an officer, whom they understood was an Aid to General Haldimand had gone to the Westward with Orders to the several Garrisons, but do not know what they were—They confirm McLallen’s Account of the Strength of the Garrisons of Oswegatchie and Buck Island; that the Enemy’s Vessels are at the latter place—A few Days ago an Inhabitant of this County who was made prisoner last Fall returned from Captivity; he was confined at Montreal and escaped from thence about the 22d of April—I have not yet seen him, but am informed he says no Troops had been sent from Canada; that Brandt had collected some Indians, and was soon to return to the Westward; that Sir John Johnson was also going there supposed to join his Regiment which is at Buck Island; that only McLean’s Emigrants were at Montreal; that he was informed by the Canadians many of the heavy Cannon were removed from St John’s to Sorrel—Another Man who escaped from Quebec was retaken and carried to St John’s and Chamblé from whence he escaped a second Time and came to General Clinton corroborates the Account of the Removal of the Cannon from St John’s.

I daily expect Louis from Canada, who will probably have obtained more particular Intelligence of the Enemy’s Intention2 and I doubt not if any Troops should move from Canada, but I shall have the earliest Notice of it from the person I have employed to send Intelligence. I shall not fail to maintain the Means of receiving Advice from that Country and transmit your Excellency without the least Delay any Information I may receive.

I shall this Day write to Colonel Van Schaick and Mr Deane to procure the best Account of the Rout to Oswegatchie by the Way of the Fish Kill; the State of its Navigation and the Nature of the Country. I have the Honor to be my dear Sir with perfect Respect & Esteem Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

Ph: Schuyler


1The enclosed “Journal of my Route to Swegatia,” by Lt. Thomas McClellan, reads: “April 18th 9, oClock left Fort Schuyler accompanied by Lieut. Hardenburgh One Serjeant one Corporal and thirty—Indians Consisting of Onidas & Tuscuraras & French Cocknawagas. this Day fell Sick the Corporal & we were Obliged to Leave him 9 Miles from the Garrison, This day we march’d 24 Miles.

“Apl 19. half past Seven March’d about ten Miles one of the Indians fell Sick Suppos’d to have the Small pox we sent two of the others with him to Fort Schuyler This Day we march’d 18 miles.

“Apl 20 At Seven oClock Decampt and Marched 4 Miles to the Head of the R⟨iv⟩er Scull where we immediately fell to work building Canoes.

“Apl 21 at 8 in the Morning Embarked and proceeded down the River. this day we Cross’d three Carrying places the first was about One Hundred Yards the 2d about one Mile the 3d about 150 Yards, here is great Falls of Fifty foot high, This day we went 40 Miles.

“Apl 22d half past six we Embark’d and Proceeded down the River about thirty Miles where we hid our Canoes and four days provisions Afterwhich we march’d a N: East Course about 12 miles This day Came forty two Miles.

“23rd At Six this morning we march’d Six miles to the Head of Swagatia River fell to making Canoes.

“24th We Embarked and proceeded down the River about For[t]y Miles having Cross’d five Carrying places In the Evening Cros’d Swegatia Lake, which the Indians call thirty miles.

“25th We Left our Canoes and proceeded on towards the Garrison which was about twelve Miles—I immediately sent out three Indians to reconnoitere the Garrison. In the Interval we discover’d an Indian Canoe coming up the River with two Indians, I Detatch’d a party after them, & Examined them in the following manner. 1st The State of the Garrison of Swegatia they Answered there was two Officers & thirty men and four pieces of Cannon. 2dly what News from Cannada, answerd us that they recd a Letter from the Commander in Chief at Quebec Informing them he could not send any Troops against the Rebels this Year but that He Intended to send a Large Army the next Year, so that they must act only on the defence at present. 3 In what State the Garrison of Bucks Island was, answer’d that the last week he had left that place and that they were a fortyfeing themselves, further said that Garrison Consisted of a few Regulars, and Sir John Johnstons Regt amounting to about two Hundred and that they had A Disorder amongst them which killd them very fast and was his reason and some to leave that place by this time the Indians that I sent to Reconoutre Return’d with three Brittish prisoners, I immediately Examined them, they told me near the same as the Indians did, I Moved with the party nearer to the Garrison and our Van took another prisoner who told the same Storey as the others, with this Addition, that they had this day sent a Scout to Fort Schuyler with Orders to take a prisoner, as the[y] wanted to know what the Rebels were a Doing in them parts.

“I immediately Consulted the Indians and prest them as much as I could to withdraw from the Garrison, and make an Attack by Surprize, but all to no Effect, the[y] kept a running round which soon alarmed the Garrison, and a party Sally’d out I immediately drew our party up in a Line—Lieut. Hardenbergh on their Left, leaving Serjeant Hunter and one man to take Care of the prisoners about forty Yards in Our Rear—As soon as they Came within Twenty Yards of us we gave them a Volley, and Advanced up to them they immediately Retreated and left two dead on the Field. we pursued them within forty Yards of the Garrison, and receivd a Warm fire from their Artillery & Musquetry as Obliged us to Retreat, however we had not a man kill’d or wounded, I immediately march’d Seven Miles from the Garrison and then Encampt. This Evening One of the french Cauganawagoes acquainted me that he had a Letter written in the french Language to the Cannadians Dated the 10 of December 1778, And that If I thought proper He wou’d now Carry it to Montreal, And that he woud also be able to see what movements the Enemy were Making, He also agreed to leave his son as an Hostage till he shoud Return, I immediately Collected what provision Could be Spar’d, and sent him of[f] with the following Instructions. 1st That he shoud go to Caughanawaga and there here from his friends what the Enemy were a doing in Cannada—2ndly—That If he thought it safe he might go to Montreal, and Return by the way of St Johns taking particular Notice of the Strength of the Enemy and of their Fleet.

“26 Crosd Swegatia Lake, and come into the mouth of Swegatia River, where we Encamp’d that Night.

“27 We Embark’d Our Canoes and proceeded up the River about 20 miles, where we left our Cannoes and march’d within 6 Miles of Scull River, This day all our provisions was Exhausted.

“28 Marched to Scull River where to our Surprize, We found that some Enemy Indians had been there and Robbed us of all our provisions Here we were famishing with the Hunger having nothing to Eat and three Days long March before us to the Garrison of Fort Schuyler.

“29 Reach’d Scull River where we Encamp’d for that, almost famished with Hunger.

“30 at Six oClock we proceeded on our march and met 2 Oneidas hunting, who Acquaintted us of the Success of Our Arms against the Onedagoe Indians This gave great Dissatisfaction to the Warriors this day we march’d thirty five miles.

“May 1st This day we proceeded on our march & Reached the Garrison of Fort Schuyler about 2oClock. This day march’d Sixteen Miles.”

The last two pages of the manuscript provide an alternate account of 18–25 April: “18th Marched thro open Woods in a very Level Country & crossd the Mowhawk River twice.

“19th We Cross’d several Very high hills & after crossing which we had much the same Marching as the day before.

“20 We march’d thro a pine Swamp about four miles wherein we struck Scull River.

“21st proceeded Down Scull River which is about 40 Yards Wide & Crossed three Carrying places.

“22d We found the River grow Wider at the bottom where we left our Canoes it is near half a Mile Wide the Land on both sides of the River is very high and on Open Country, Leaving our Canoes we march’d twelve Miles.

“23 This day we march’d to the head of Swegatia River. Cross’d a pine ridge about Eight Miles.

“24 Crossd five Carrying places and Saw nothing but drownded Lands till we reached the Lake, This night we Crossd the Lake which is about thirty Miles Long, and in some places four or five miles broad.

“25 Marched thro an Open Country mostly on a foot path” (DLC:GW).

GW prepared an extract of this journal in his own hand for use in a larger intelligence-gathering effort about Maj. Gen. John Sullivan’s route to the frontier; see Questions and Answers Regarding a Proposed Expedition Against the Six Nations, March–April 1779; for another version, with an account of intelligence gleaned from the Indian prisoners, see 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 , 4:804–6.

McClellan, who had served as a second lieutenant in Col. John Nicholson’s Continental Regiment before being appointed first lieutenant of the 3d New York Regiment in November 1776, was cashiered later in 1779 for slandering his fellow officers, and subsequently joined the enemy.

2Schuyler wrote to GW on 7 July with a report on the information he received from the Caughnawaga chief Colonel Louis (DLC:GW).

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