George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Clinton, 16 May 1781

Albany May 16th 1781


This morning I received a number of Letters from Fort Schuyler and Saratoga, the former containing the disagreeable Account of the Loss of the Barracks by Fire—the latter anouncing the appearance of the Enemy on the Frontier. My Letters to Cols. Courtlandt & Cochran, copies of which I enclose, will inform your Excellency of the Measures I have taken on this Occasion, and while I hope they may meet your approbation, I would intreat your further Directions in my present critical Situation. I have written to the Governor and requested him to wait on you, and as he is intimately acquainted with every Circumstance in this Department, he will be able to give you any farther Information you may desire, and thereby enable your Excellency to adopt such Measures as may appear most proper.

Amunition is much wanted, I would intreat that a Supply may be sent on without loss of time. Provision is very scarce and our Expectations [very] slender—I have sent Mr Gamble to the Eastward to procure Beef if possible, and if this Department can furnish Flours, I am determined not to want. I have the honor to be Your Excellency’s most obedient

James Clinton

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


12 May 1781

At a Council of officers in Garrison at Fort schuyler held on Saturday the 12th of May one thousand Seven hundred and Eighty one to inspect and examine the works of said Garrison.

Officers Present

of the 2nd New York Regiment Leiut. Cole. Cochran Commandr.

Capt: Hamtramck


Leiut. Hovenburgh


Ensign Woodruff


of the Artillery

Capt: Moodie

Leiut. Brewster

Report 1stly that after having personally Examined the Fortification of this Garrison do find more than two thirds of the works broken down Occasioned by the late heavy rains, and assure that the remaining will be in the same condition in a few days.

2d that the only remaining strength is the outside Piquets on the Glacis.

3d that an attempt to repair the works cannot be made with the small number of men now in Garrison, being Obliged to begin at the foundation and thereby open the remaining part of the works which would prove very dangerous in Case of attack as no less than five or six hundred men under the direction of an Engineer, with a sufficient number of artificers, Waggons, Tools &c. would repair it in the course of the Summer. Sign’d by order of the Council

Robert Cochran Lt Colol


Fort Schuyler May 13 1781


Since I wrote you last, the Spring rains have almost ruined the Works of this Garrison. Anxious to do every thing in my powers, and to justify myself, I called the Officers in Garrison together in Council to advise what was best to be done, the Results of which I enclose you. I have put the Garrison on half Allowance of Beef and added to each ration one Quarter of a pound of flour. The Genl will doubtless conceive that it is much harder for Men to be cut short of their Allowance at this post than almost any Post on the Continent, as there is nothing to be got but what they draw from the public Store. I am &c.

Robt Cochran


Fort schuyler May 14th 1781 3 oClock P.M.

Dear sir

I am sorry to inform you that this day between the Hours of eleven and Twelve this Garrison took fire and Consumed every Barrack notwithstanding every exertion was made to extinguish the flames—I still remain in possession of the Works and have saved the Magazine with a Small part of the provisions, tho’ as the risque of our lives in my next shall give you every Particular. I am &c.

Robert Cochran


Saratoga Tuesday evening 15 May 1781 10 oClock

Dear Sir

Colo. Louis is just now arrived here with two other Indians he has been hunting on the west side of the North branch of Hudsons River with seven other Indians one whereof was a Caughnawaga who left them on sunday morning on Monday morning having heard some firing he and his party marched to discover who fired—after a few miles march they were fired upon by a party of the Enemy and lost one man an Onida who is either killed or made prisoner—Some of his party are gone to Schonectady—he does not know either the strength of the Enemy or what rout they intend to pursue; he fell in with them on the road Sir John Johnston came last year to Johnstown about 38 Miles from this place, believes they are a large [   ] by their firing and transactions and that they will very speedily attack some place either on this or the Mohawk River, I think assistance should be sent both ways and Scouts dispatched without delay from sch[o]nectady—Colo. Van Dyck has already sent a party out towards Palmer Town—no Provisions are yet arrived here. I am &c.

Ph: Schuyler


Albany May 16. 1781

Dear Sir

I this moment received the disagreeable intelligence that the Barracks at Fort Schuyler were unfortunately consumed by fire on the 14th Inst. between 11 & 12 oClock in the forenoon and that the works &c. were almost ruined by the late heavy rains—as I am at a loss how to act in this case untill I receive his Excellencys Directions—I think it best that the Mortar & Cannon and Military Stores should be left at Fort Herkermer as it will be easy to have these transported either up or down the River as occasion my require.

You will proceed with the provisions to the Garrison and afford them every assistance in your power which time and Circumstances will admit—after which you will return with the Boat leaving the different Corps their respective Stations where they will rest untill farther orders.

If the Levies should be ordered by [Colo.] Willett to take post on the Mohawk River then Van Deburgh’s Company will man the Boats and bring them to schonectady as Another Escort must go up in a short time. You will be very cautious on your [   ] as by a Letter just received from Genl Schuyler I find there is a Body of Enemy out.

James Clinton


Albany May 16th 1781


I have just now recieved your favor of the 13 & 14th Insts. with the disagreeable intelligances contained therein—I cannot find words to express my surprise at the unexpected accident or how a fire should break out in the middle of noon day in a Garrison where the Troops Could not possibly be absent after a most violent and incessant rain of several days and be permited to do so much damage—I am sorry to say that the several circumstances which accompanied this melancholy affair affords plausible ground for suspicion that it was not the Effect of mere accident. I hope when it comes to be examined in a Clear point of view such light may be thrown upon it as will remove the suspicion for which there appears too much reasons.

I have written to his Excellency on the subject and requested his farther orders which I expect in a few days in the mean time I would request that you keep possession of the works, and endeavour to shelter the Troops in the best manner possible, that you collect all the Nails Hinges &c. &c. of the ruins and Suffer nothing to be lost that is in your power to save—Colo. Cortlandt has my orders to afford you all the assistance in his power which time and circumstances will admit.

James Clinton

P.S. It is best that you send all the Women & Children.

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