George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Alexander McDougall, 14 July 1779

From Major General Alexander McDougall

West point 14th July 1779


The Teams of General Nixons Brigade are all Sent off, at Some distance, for want of Forage, which will render it impracticable, to move the Brigade or Transport Provission to it. I have therefore directed him to Send out, a Field officers command of 150 men, with four days Provission, which will come up to the Idea your Excellency last mentioned to me, on that Subject.1 These can be releived, and the Party kept on the Ground, but if the whole move they must retire for Provision. The light Troops under Major Hull are about 350, and no other Field officer with it; the Command is large for one. Besides he is not acquainted, with the ground below Fort Montgomery. If the infantry of this Divission move down without Tents, will it not raise a Suspicion of the design? as General Wayne’s have theirs. And those Corps will not get down this evening, unless they go without Tents; and as they had to draw Provission. For these reasons, I submit it to your Excellency’s consideration, whether the design will not be better covered, by delaying the enterprise till the Troops from hence are Setled with their Tents.2 There are no boat Hooks. I have the Honor to be, Your Excellency’s Humble Servant

Alexr McDougall


1McDougall is referring to GW’s arrangements to threaten the British position at Verplanck Point, N.Y., in support of Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne’s pending attack on Stony Point. Col. Rufus Putnam, who talked with GW at New Windsor on this date, provided an account of these arrangements: “General Washington … informed me that he had relinquished the idea of a real attac on Vanplanks point at the same time it was to be made on Stoney point, but intended the attac on that point Should be only a faint, and for that purpos he had ordored Nixons Brigade to march that day to Continanntal village—he then instructed me to take as many men from that Brigade as I thought proper, & make my arrangements to be on the Ground ready to fire on the enemy at Vanplanks point the moment I found Wayne had attacked Stoney point. at the Same time the General informed me that no one k[n]ew of the intended attack but those who had the charge of its execution, that but one of his own family was let into the Secret—had not the Lest doubt, but the Brigade had Marched that afternoon but when I returned to the camp (after Sunset) I found them Still there. on enquiring the reason why they had not Marched, Nixon told me he had obtained leave from Genl McDougal to delay his march, & on enquiring what time he would march in the Morning he informed me he Should Send on a Guard of 50 men according to his engagement to Genl McDougal. I was excedingly perplexed to know how to act. on the whole I told him I was charged with executing a Special Service & requested him to increase the detachment to 100 men under the command of a Feld officer, & that they Should march very early in the Morning to continantal Village” (Buell, Putnam Memoirs, description begins Rowena Buell, ed. The Memoirs of Rufus Putnam and Certain Official Papers and Correspondence. Boston and New York, 1903. description ends 82; see also GW to Robert Howe, 16 July, and n.3 to that document).

2For GW’s disagreement with McDougall’s suggestion to postpone what became the successful American attack on Stony Point on the night of 15-16 July, see his letter to McDougall of this date.

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