Lancaster 26th of March 1782
I arrived last evening at this place. In obediance to your Excellencys Commands I Set Down this morning to Consider and Collect my own Ideas together on the subject of an Expedition into Canada.
The force of the Enemy in that Country, with Its probable means of Defence.
The manner in which an army may be Transported into Canada.
And The method of Subsisting your Troops with Provisions, are matters of Consideration.
In Speaking to the first of those General heads it is necessary not only to assertain the Regular force actually in armes in Canada; but to look forward to their Plans of Defence and Resources in Support of them and to endeavour as far as possible to assertain the Political Sentiments of a formidable Canadian militia, at present under the Present Government; as well as the Powerfull Savage Nations Dependant on Great Britain—I shall at present Suppose that four Thousand Men only; are in Armes in Canada, to Defend that Country from the Lower ends of Lakes, Ontario and Champlan to the Commereseas below Quebec. That the enemy can have little or no Dependance either on the Savages or Canadian militia, and consequently it would be prudent for them, on the approach of an army from this Country, evacuate all their out post and fortified Camps; retire and endeavor to Defend the Posts of Auswegatia, on the Lower end of Lake Ontario, St Johns on the Lower End of Lake Champlain, and Quebec on the River St Laurence. As the enemys occupying those three posts will of course obstruct the Free Water Communications into Canada. or at Least those by the Lakes, Ontario & Champlain—But those three posts being Situate on the three extreme parts of the well Inhabited Country, at the Distance of between two and three hundred miles from Ech other. All Communication may be Instantly cut off, and The people not only freed from a Tyrannical Government. But left at Liberty to persue their own Political Sentiments, be them what they may.
As it is a matter of Importance to know the real Sentiments of the Canadians on this Political Subject, as well as any and what part they would chuse to act in case of an excursion into their Country. I shall endeavour to trace such parts of their Conduct as evidently proves to me, their real wishes grounded on their true Interest. At an early period of this Contest they Turn’d out in arme’s in opposition to the British Government, under what is called the Quebec Bill, which was calculated not only to form an army of Canadian militia for the Defence of that Country, But to Join the Savages in waging war on the frontiers of these United States. The Canadians assisted Genl Montgomery in the Blockade of St John’s and Quebec, and under the Command of the Late Colonel Brown, they had not only a Capitail Share in the taking of the fortress of Chambly, but assisted in the Capture of Genl Prestcott; his Detachment & Fleet at the Seige of Quebec. Parishes met together Chose Delegates and Sent them to Genl Montgomery with offer’s of their Services in the Reduction of that Garrison, which offer’s wre Politely received tho the Services not accepted, Some Respectible Characters and many good men, have followed your armes out of Canada and in the course of these five years last past, I have by your Excellencys orders, and approbation, Sent Nine officers at Different times west Small parties of men as Spys for Intelligence from Canada. & many of those parties have been Repeatedly into Canada on the same Errand, not a man However has Deserted; been lost, or hurt in this Dangerous Service. on the Contrary they have been Secreted and fed by the Clergy, by the magistrates; and by the officers of militia, The wife has not endeavoured to persuade her Husband to leave our Service, nor has the Parent the Son; or the Sister or the Brother the Near Relation; on the Contrary they have all encouraged those unfortunate Canadian’s and indeavoured to Inspire them with the Necessary fortitude to be steady in the cause, Looking forward to that period wherin they might assist themselves in Shaking off the yoak of British Government—The Influence of Government at the Head of Ten Thousand well Deciplined Troops has not only been Displayed to accomplish those wished Plans; of Turning loos the Canadians on our Defenceles frontiers; But the force of British gold profusely Bestowed to carry them Into Execution, to no purpose. For there ware found very few Canadians Drawn into the field with General Burgoin, and those few ware Chiefly Impresed and Draged away against their wills, or otherwise Deluded and Deceived. Since Burgoins Defeat we find very few if any Canadians in arme’s in Support of the British Government, or against the Settlements of these united States. All reports from Canada agree in the attachment which the People of that Country Retain for our Cause. In short it is a most reasonable Supposition when we consider, That their Religion, their power and their property are all concerned in being Independt of Great Britain—The Clergy in particular hold their livings and Enjoy their Religious Ceremonies at the pleasure of the Crown. and they with the other Religious orders hold their Estates supposed to be near one Tenth part of the Country, at the will of the British Government; as may appear by the Quebec Bill—The pople have no part or share in forming the Laws, or Legislature, Consequently the whole power of Government remains with the Crown and its Creatures.
The tribes of Savages settled within the well inhabited part of Canada are those of Lorett; St Frances; Caghnawaga; Conisadaga; and St Regist; which compos about five hundred fighting men; Those Savages as their Settlements would be exposed to the ravages of the Canadian Militia, would not turn their armes against them, or us. And the more Powerfull Nations are so far Extended in the back Country that they could not be called in time to the aid of our enemies. were they enclined to Serve. on the otherhand Savages will not consent to be shut up in forts or posts, It is contrary to their nature and notion of war. I must therefore Conclude that the British force Supposed to be about four thousand men are all that we Should have to encounter, whether in the three Capitail post mentioned; in the whole or in the field—and that the Canadian’s will be ready to assist us in what[ ] may be required of them. It is to be wished that the enemy would endeavour to Defend their out post and fortified Camps as in that case the whole may fall an easy Conquest the one after the other—Should the enemy Dispute the field. that would be a Circumstance Still more in our favour; as [that] the advantages naturally resulting there from are so obvious that renders any Comments from me Totally unnecessary.
The post of Chambliee, Island oise Isle aux noix Point au feu and Block house on long Island in Lake Champlain Together with the Navigation of that Lake are all Dependant on St John’s.
The fortified Camp at the mouth of Sorrel River contains in Summer an Army of observation properly Situated to reinforce St Jhons; auswegatia; to attack in the field; or retire to Quebec. The Block house on Yamasca River near [Delorms] Mills; is an advanced post from the Camp at Sorrel pointing to the land rout by which we must enter Canada; It was established as was supposed in order to prevent a Surprise. A Small post at the Ceders was errected to keep up a Communication to Auswetatia; Montreal has been Dismantled and is not in a Posture of Defence. Troops are Cantoned in many parts of the Country in order to prevent an Insurretion amongst the Inhabitants. All their fortified posts and Cantoonments St Johns, Auswegatia and Quebec only excepted; I take for granted would be Evacuated with out Burning a Single Cartridge of Powder, and the Country its Inhabitants and resources given up peaceably to us.
Having enlarged on the enemies Situation in Canada, there Strength and what may most probably be their mode of Defence; I Shall now endeavour to point out the Rout and method of Transporting an army, with New Jersey Baggage; Artillery, and ammunition, into [ ] The three water Communications, and which have hither to been Esteemed the only Practible Inletts into Canada are Strongly barred by the Navigation of the lakes, ontario Champlain; and the expense and Hazard of a fleet on the River St Laurence. as also the post of auswegotia St Johns, and Quebec which posts serves to Cover the enemies Shiping as well as to act in Conjunction in case of invasion. Nature However has provided; and the Industry of America explored; a much easier rout This renders all the enemies Forts, posts, Intrenched Camp Navigation, and the Whole Fleet of Great Britain useless in the Defence of Canada; unless they Command the field. In natural war’s it is generally esteemed prudent to Carry victory with your march and not to penetrate A Country further than you Subdue the Forts and posts in order to Secure a Safe Communication and provide for a Retreat. In civil wars However which ours most resemble this General rule I conceive will not hold good; for it is as Necessary that the Conquering Army Should rapidly penetrate a Country in order to give protection to your friends, as well as to prevent the enemy from Debauching the minds of those who maybe undetermined what part to act; Draining at the Same time, the Country of those Supplies which your own Army may require.
However Neither the one or the other of those rules will fully apply in the present case. for by the rout of Co’os, you may Carry your Army Directly into the heart of Canada; forty miles from St Johns or any post of Consequence, leaving your rear free and Communication open of Course. You will give Instant protection to the Country and prevent the enemy from forcing from the Inhabitants the necessary Supplies to Sustain a Siege.
The rout to Canada by Co’os is Short and easey; from Boston to Co’os is about 140 miles. from Exeter to Co’os 120: from Springfield to Co’os 170; all good roads and Settled Country; from Co’os to St Johns is 90 miles but if you Direct the rout to St Dinnes on the Sorrel River, it will make a Difference of about 30 miles further through the woods, and in that case fall in to the very Heart of the Country 40 miles below St John’s. From Albany to Bennington is 37 miles from Bennington to Manchester 26 miles, from Manchester to Charleston 48 miles, from Charleston to Co’os 70 miles, which makes 181 miles from Albany to Co’os by that Rout, and a bad mountain to Cross—which mountain and a Considerable Distance may be Saved by marching from Albany through Bennington, Manchester, to Otter Creek and then proceed a North East course untill that falls into the main road or sout from Co’os to Canada, which rout I Should recommend for any troops that march’d from Albany Saratoga Bennington or any other place on the west side of the green woods, or mountains. No kind of Difficulty will be found in marching an Army and Transporting the Necessary light Baggage with a field Artillery into heart of Canada. Heavy Batteries & Cannon, morters Shott & Shells would cut up the roads through a New Country insomuch that it would greatly retard your march and thereby give the enemy an opportunity to supply their garrisons with fuel &ca &ca to hold out a Siege. Therefore what appears the most Eligible to me is to march light and rapid Shut up the enemy in there post, and thereby give the Candians an opportunity to unite form a system of government and hold themselves in readiness to assist with armes when required; which I am fully Persuaded they will most Cherfully accept of and grant you every support that may be necessary.
The Transportation of light Baggage and flower may be carried Cheafly on pack horses; five hundred of which, and one hundred ox teams; may be Collected on Connecticut River from Wallpool or Charleston upwards. That country laying exposed to the savages of the enemy in Canada, would exert themselves in promoting an expedition into that Country—The inhabitance in that quarter are fully Sensible that a union with Canada Would Enhance the value of their Estates at least fifty per Cent. The States of Massachusetts and New Hampshire are much alarmed and fear the loss of the fisherys; and even the Province of main on the Close of the war; those opulent States would of course give their utmost support as the union of Canada might the better Establish us in our Claim to a part of the fishery and the whole of the Province of main; In short I am persuaded; that if your Excellency should move that way on such [ ] Expedition, you would almost receive the antient Spirit of Patriotism, of my Countrymen at Cambridge—in the year 1775—Consequently there would not be any want of Horses, and Teams, to transport your artillery Baggage or provisions—the road may be repaired and extended in to Canada with one thousand men in fourteen Days—having opened forty miles of this road and repaired Twenty more, I trust your Excellency will give full Credit to this observation.
I am apprized of a Plausible Idea entertained by Some who profess military skill, and experience in war viz. That Canada from its Situation lying on a Large Navigable River, is hardly to be Subdivided and Impossible to be retained without a Navel force. In answer to which I must observe that in the year 1759 General Woolfe found very little assistance from a formidable Navy; he landed his Troops on the 27th of June and from that time to the 13th of September following many attempts ware made by the navy to little or no effect, an Incessant Cannonade and a most innumerable quantity of Shott Shells and Carcases, ware thrown against the works and into the Town; & notwithstanding the burning of the better part of the Town; yet that had very little effect on the beseiged; However in four Days after Genl Woolf had beat Montcalm in the field; and Compleatly invested the Town; the fortress Surrendered—as to the navel force Commanding the River and of course the Country is a most enormous Sea; for a simple Battery on an Island in the falls of Richlieu forty miles above Quebec; would prevent all the navy of Great Britain from penetrating that pass; and would most effectually cover near seven Eights of the Country. I speek with Confidence having the opinion of the best Generals; and ablest Engineers that ever Saw that Country to Support my own from all which I must conclude that a navel force is Totally unnecessary for the Reduction of Canada further than the Transportation of Heavy artillery and ordinance Stores by water; Should they be wanted more Especially after opening a free Communication with these united States and lastly.
The supplying an Army necessary to accomplish this business with provisions on the rout and in Canada is a matter that ought to be Seriously attended to; Beef may be had at any time in any quantity; and in any part of the New England States; Either for Cash or on the Credit of the Public—Flower is not to be had at this Season of the year to the East ward of North River; nor until the New Crops came in; which in my opinion will be Time enough to enter on an Expedition; for the following Reasons viz. first In the latter end of Augt the woods are dry; the Roads good; the Rivers and brooks low; the Country people will have their Harvest in; and will of Course be more at leisure to assist you in finishing the roads Transporting of provisions &ca &ca: at that Season of the year, you may; with a little precautions most undoubtedly have a plenty of flower at Co’os from the New Crops; and the Same reasons will opperate when you reach Canada; the Harvest in that Country being a little later that at Coos; Similar Circumstances often produce a like effects—The People of Connecticutt river take the advantage of the winter road to Transport their flower to market; and the Navigation of the river St Laurence being Shut up for almost Seven months of the year; The merchants purchass up the Wheat that the Country can Spare in the Winter and Export it early in the Summer; Consequently no dependance can be had on flower; from the last years Crops either from Coos or in Canada. If you march an army into Canada in the latter end of August or the first of September; It will then be Too late for the enemy to alarm the ministry of Great Britain in time to Obtain any relief that year from Europe. If the enemy send a Reinforcement from New York—or Halifax, It would be like the robing of Peter to pay Paul, which they would make but little by. You will know the force that you will have to oppose, and of course provide accordingly.
Upon the whole I Should Recommend the marching an Army of not more than Seven Thousand men in the whole including Two hundred Dragoons about 1500 militia from the Grants who will [lum] out voluntarily; a Company of Carpenters; and a light field artillery—and to march in time to be in Canada on the first of September; a part of the army to march by Co’os and a Part by Bennington Manchester Otter Creek and Join the Co’os Division on the Rout near Canada Extend the road Directly to Delorms Mills on Yamasca River; and from thence march to St Dinnes on the Sorrel River; Take Possession of the Country, give your friends protection at once and the Forts and posts will fall of Course. But if you should find a heavy Train of artillery Necessary and that the autumn roads will admit of the Transportation, It may be ordered on without much loss of time—five hundred Continental Troops, and about an equal Number of militia I Should propose to be about fourteen Days in advance of the main Body in order to Repair the roads that are already opened and Extend the remainder Towards Canada. The Troops except those employed on the road may carry from Co’os and Bennington a Sufficient quantity of bread to last them into Canada, Beef will carry it Self, I am not under the least apprehensions of the Want of flower in Canada at the Season of the year proposed—but on the Contrary we Should Soon find an ample Supply even on Credit, Should it be Necessary Considerable quantities of Beef and pork might be Collected in Canada tho not Sufficient to support an army of Seven thousand men—Forage of the best kind is generally plenty in Canada and the Country abounds in Draft Horses, and Such Carriages as may answer our purposes for Transportation—It is Possible we might meet with Some Difficulty and a little Delay in Crossing the river St Laurence for the want of boats, But a few Carpenters with the Necessary materials, and Canadian assistance would Soon run up Such a Manner of boats, as would Cross the Troops; at all events the river St Laurence is Impassable on the Ice in Decemr or the first of January; and in the interim We Should possess the better part of the Country good Quarter’s and a Plenty of provisions—unless the enemy Should Distroy Some of the best mills in which case, and that of a Dry Season we might meet with a Temporary want of flower on our first arrival in the Country.
Some of the French Troops ought to be employed on this Service, which would the more fully convince the Ignorant Canadian’s, of the Alliance between France and America; and the perfect unanimity Subsisting between the Two nation’s.
Thus Sir, I have ventured my opinion on a Plan of an Expedition into Canada. Tho Incorrect, yet I hope it will convey to your Excellency my Idea’s of the matter; established not on Coos information; But on facts which have Chiefly fallen under the Compass of my own General knowledge; If my thoughts thereon Should be found usefull; I Shall be Happy; whether or not; It will remain in oblivion being fully convinced, that it is Duty in me to preserve the most inviolable Secrecy; in Such matters—It is a Plan that I am willing to live or Die by; Should this or any other be adopted for an Expedition into Canada I wish the most Difficult and Dangerous part may fall to my Share; ever willing to Serve in any Capacity Whatever [Wherr] I may be the most usefull; on an Expedition Which I have So much at Heart; and which promises so many advantages to these united States.
As the Soldiers Duty at this place is very Severe, and large Detachments are Sent from the Regiment to york and reading It would be prejuditial to the troops to Remain long in this Dismembred Situation; The officer’s are in hopes that a Compitent Share only; of that Disagreable Duty of guarding Disarmed men fall to them; I myself Should be Happy ware it my lot to be removed to a more active Scene I have the Honr to be with great Truth and Sincerity Your Excellencys most obediant and most Devoted Humle Servant
N.B. It is Supposed that Canada Contains about Thirty Thousand fighting men Compactly Settled.
DLC: Papers of George Washington.