George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Clinton, 23 May 1780

Head Quarters Morris Town 23d-24 May 1780.

Dear Sir

I am exceedingly sorry to learn, by your favr of the 19th, the distressed situation of your frontier, more especially at a time, when our attention will in all probability be called, in a great measure, to the operations upon the Coast. My confidential letter of the 18th will explain my meaning. By that you will perceive the impossibility, under present appearances and circumstances, of sparing any further frce from the Continental Army to act in conjunction with the Militia. I imagine it will be scarcely deemed prudent to withdraw Colo. Van Schaick Regt from Fort Schuyler, except matters take an unexpected turn in that quarter, altho’ the addition of so respectable a Corps would be very essential, should the measures for which we are preparing be carried into execution—From the State of our Magazines here, and from your representation of the situation of matters above, I do not see how troops would be subsisted supposing they could be spared. We are now upon half allowance of Meat and every now and then the troops are intirely without. Whether the emergency of the occasion, and the flattering prospect of putting an end to the War by one vigorous effort, will induce the states to throw in extraordinary aids and Supplies, I cannot tell; but if such effects are not produced, or some means can be fallen upon to procure Money to enable the Commissaries and Quarter Masters to provide in the common mode, I do not know what may be the consequences—I have thought that as the peace of the whole Northers Frontier in a great measure depends upon checking the most dangerous Body of the enemy, which will act upon the Mohack River, it might not be amiss for the Legislature of your State to call upon that of Massachusetts for an aid of Men from their Western Counties—They will shortly be informed of the necessity of assembling our whole Continental force to a point, and will therefore perhaps more readily come into the measure.

I am happy in knowing that your Excellency will attribute my refusal of your request to the true cause—inability—It is certainly to be lamented that we cannot oppose a sufficient force to every point upon which we are attacked, but that not being the case, prudence and policy both dictate the expediency of directing our efforts against the source from whence all our difficulties springs. I have the Honor &c.

Go: Washington.

24th May.

Since writing the foregoing I have been favd with your Excellency’s letter of the 21st. I at the same time recd a letter from Colo. Van Schaick, in which he mentions the critical situation of Fort Schuyler for want of provision, there not being more as he informs me than one months supply in the Garrison by the last Return—This is a matter of so much importance that every measure ought to be fallen upon to give Relief. Genl Schuyler informs me of a parcel of Corn in the possession of Colo. Lewis. I shall direct Colo. Van Schaick to endeavour to get it thrown into the Fort. As to Salt Meat, which is the only kind which is proper I know not from whence it is to come. We have so totally exhausted the Continental Stock, that the Commy Genl has been obliged to borrow three hundred Barrels from private Gentlemen in Philada to endeavour to support the Army untill Grass Cattle can be brought from New England—The Garrison at West point are, if possible, in a worse situation than we are here—I am confident that Your Excellency and the Legislature will, considering the importance of Fort Schuyler, and the inability to afford any present relief from the Continental Magazines, take every possible step to throw in a supply. I shall not draw down Van Schaick Regt untill we see further into the State of matters to the Westward.

I am infinitely obliged by your ready promise to concur with any requisitions which may be made to your state, should our expected cooperation be carried into execution—A Committee of Congress appointed for the purpose of calling upon the States for what supplies may be deemed necessary upon such an occasion are now in Camp; You may therefore expect to hear from them upon the subject in a few days. I have the honor &c.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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