George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Goose Van Schaick, 3 August 1779

To Colonel Goose Van Schaick

Head Quarters West Point Aug. 3d 1779


I am favoured with your letter of the 29th of July, transmitting the disagreeable acct of the capture of Lt Scudder and his party1—This shews the necessity of redoubled vigilance where we have ⟨to⟩ do with an enemy so rapid and desultory in their movements—The intelligence contained in Col. Van Dykes letter2 is so dissimilar to the general current of our intelligence from Canada, that I cannot easily credit it; and am inclined to think the present appearances are rather calculated to operate as a diversion to General Sullivan. We ought not however to despise the information or neglect any precautions to ascertain the reality of the movements, to which it relates, and guard against their success. I would therefore have you to take every measure in your power for these purposes; and if you receive any intelligence that you can depend upon of the approach of any body of the enemy by Oswego, you will be pleased to give General Sullivan the most direct advice of it. But in doing this great circumspection will be necessary, lest a false alarm should have an unfavourable influence upon the expedition.

You will give me the earliest intelligence of every interesting occurrence which comes to your knowlege.

In case Fort Schuyler should be threatened with a serious operation, you will as you mention immediately repair to it. I am with esteem Sir Your most Obedt ser.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1This letter has not been found. Garrisoned at Fort Schuyler (Fort Stanwix, N.Y.) with Van Schaick’s 1st New York regiment, Lt. William Scudder and his command of thirty soldiers had been ordered out on the morning of 23 July to guard a party from the garrison who were cutting hay in a meadow about a half mile from the fort. Soon after taking up their positions, Scudder’s guard was surprised by a party of Indians who had lain in ambush in the woods. All of Scudder’s guard were captured along with some of the fatigue party. A relief party from the fort under the command of Maj. John Graham failed to retake the captives. Scudder was held captive in Canada until 1782. For Scudder’s account of his capture, see Scudder Journal, description begins The Journal of William Scudder, an Officer in the Late New-York Line, Who was taken Captive by the Indians at Fort Stanwix, On the 23d of July, 1779, and was holden a Prisoner in Canada until October, 1782, and then sent to New-York and admitted on Parole: With A small Sketch of his Life . . .. [New York?], 1794. description ends 35–37.

2Van Schaick had apparently enclosed this letter, which has not been identified, in his letter to GW of 29 July.

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