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From George Washington to Brigadier General James Clinton, 30 May 1780

To Brigadier General James Clinton

Head qrs [Morristown] May 30 1780


I informed You yesterday morning,1 that I had received certain advices that a body of the Enemy from Canada, computed at about Five Hundred under Sir John Johnson had penetrated into the State of New York, by way of the Mohawk river, as far as Johns Town, and seemed as if they were about to take post there,2 and that there were other accounts received through prisoners who had escaped from Canada, that a larger force than this was assembling at Montreal about the last of April, intended as it was said, to make an expedition against Fort Schuyler.3 How far this last information is true is a matter we cannot ascertain; but it is of infinite importance that the communication with that post should be opened, and a quantity of provision thrown into the Garrison as early as possible for the support of the Troops. At present it is cut off, or at least it was when I received my advices, by the position the Enemy had taken at Johns Town.

You will therefore proceed with your Brigade, which is already in motion, with all the expedition You can, consistent with the health of the Men, to King’s ferry by the best & most direct route, where You will embark the Troops in Boats directed to be prepared for the purpose and go to New Windsor. At this place it is expected that there will be Sloops provided by the State, according to a requisition which has been made, for transporting the Troops to Albany, where they cannot arrive too soon.4 After You arrive at Albany, your future conduct must be governed by your own discretion—the information You receive with respect to the Enemy above—and the exigency of the service; but You are to remember however, that it is of the greatest importance to open the communication with the Garrison at Fort Schuyler and to throw into their relief a quantity of provision both flour & Salt meat, and this You will endeavour to effect by every practicable means. I wish if possible that it may be supplied at least with a Hundred Barrels of flour and with the same quantity of Salt meat.5 A Greater quantity of both will be still better, if it can be procured. You will correspond and advise with His Excellency Governor Clinton upon the occasion, and with respect to all the measures it may be necessary for You to pursue, whom I expect you will meet, either at Kingston or Albany. You will also inform me from time to time of your proceedings. and of every occurrence you may deem material.6

With respect to provision for your Troops—I do not know how You will procure it. Their supplies will depend entirely upon your occasional arrangements and the aid of the State. You will look forward to these and of course endeavour to do the best You can to obtain them. I wish You on your march even to the North River, to take every reasonable precaution to prevent your being intercepted by the Enemy, who may possibly attempt it, by sending a Detachment from New York; and in case you move from Albany, either against the Enemy should they remain, or to cover the provisions which may be sent to Fort Schuyler—You will use every possible means, or the Detachment which may be sent for the purpose, to guard against a surprize or being cut off.

You will take every pains to prevent desertions—and will always have your Troops in readiness to rejoin the Army on the shortest notice.7

From the situation of the 5th Regiment lately commanded by Colo. Debois with respect to Field Officers—Lt Colo. Willet will take the command of it, till further Orders.8 I am Dr sir with great regard Yr Most Obedt st

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, NNPM; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The draft and Varick transcript are dated 29 May.

1No letter from GW to Clinton on 28 or 29 May has been found.

2For Lt. Col. John Johnson’s recent raids on the New York frontier, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 27–28 May, and n.4 to that document; see also George Clinton to GW, 19 and 21 May.

3For these reports, see Goose Van Schaick to GW, 19 May, and n.1 to that document.

4For orders related to the movement of James Clinton’s brigade, see GW to Robert Howe, 28 May, and n.2 to that document, and to George Clinton, 28 May, and n.2 to that document.

In a letter docketed 28 May, GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton wrote Brig. Gen. Henry Knox from headquarters: “The General requests you to furnish two Grasshoppers and a company of Artillery to be attached to the New York Brigade which marches tomorrow morning towards Albany—Be pleased to have them ready at all events to march with the Brigade” (DLC: Hamilton-McLane Family Papers).

5GW had issued directives to have 100 barrels of flour sent from Morristown to Albany for the use of Fort Schuyler (see GW to George Clinton, 25 May, and n.2 to that document).

6See James Clinton to GW, 10 June (see also James Clinton to George Clinton, same date, in Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 5:805).

7For GW’s desire that Clinton’s brigade move to West Point if the frontier threat abated, see his letter to Clinton of 10 June.

8Lewis Duboys had resigned as colonel in December 1779. Lt. Col. Marinus Willett became lieutenant colonel commandant of the 5th New York Regiment on 1 July 1780 (see O’Callaghan and Fernow, N.Y. Documents description begins E. B. O’Callaghan and Berthold Fernow, eds. Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New-York. 15 vols. Albany, 1853–87. description ends , 15:220, 257).

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