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Instructions to Major General Philip Schuyler, 25 June 1775

Instructions to Major General Philip Schuyler

New York 25 June 1775.

Sir

You are to take upon you the Command of all the Forces destined for the New York Department; and see that the Orders of the Continental Congress are carried into Execution with as much precision and Exactness as possible.

For your better Government therein you are herewith furnished with a Copy of the Instructions given to me by that Honorable Body.1

Such parts thereof as fall within the Line of your Duty, you will please to pay particular Attention to.

Delay no Time in occupying the several posts recommended by the provincial Congress of this Colony, and putting them in a fit posture to answer the End designed—neither delay any Time in securing the Stores which are or ought to have been removed from this City by Order of the Continental Congress.2

Keep a watchful Eye upon Governor Tryon; and if you find him attempting directly or indirectly any Measures inimical to the common Cause use every Means in your power to frustrate his Designs—It is not in my power at this Time, to point out the Mode, by which this End is to be accomplished; but if forceable Measures are adjudged necessary respecting the person of the Governor, I should have no Difficulty in ordering of it, if the Continental Congress were not sitting: but as this is the Case and seizing of Governors quite a new Thing and of exceeding great Importance, I must refer you to that Body for Direction, in Case his Excellency the Governor should make any Move towards encreasing the Strength of the Tory party or in arming them against the Cause we are embarked in.3

In like Manner watch the Movements of the Indian agent (Colonel Guy Johnson) and prevent as far as you can the Effect of his Influence to our Pr⟨ej⟩udice with the Indians4—Obtain the best Information you can of the Temper and Disposition of these people; and also of the Canadians, that a proper Line may be mark’d out to conciliate their good Opinions and facilitate any future Operation.

The posts on Lake Champlain &c. you will please to have properly supplied with provision and ammunition, and this I am persuaded you will aim at doing upon the best Terms, to prevent our good and just Cause from sinking under a heavy Load of Expence.5

You will be pleased also to make regular Returns once a Month to me and to the Continental Congress (and oftner as Occurrences may require) of the Forces under your Command—Of your provisions, Stores &c. and give me the earliest Advises of every piece of Intelligence, which you shall judge of Importance to be speedily known.

Your own good Sense must govern in all Matters not particularly pointed out, as I do not wish to circumscribe you within too narrow Limits. I remain with great Regard Sir Your most obedt Servt

Go. Washington

LB, in John Lansing’s writing, NN: Schuyler Papers; LB, in Richard Varick’s writing, NHi: George and Martha Washington Papers; LB, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Both Lansing and Varick were secretaries for Schuyler.

Philip John Schuler (1733–1804), known almost universally as Philip Schuyler, first met GW in Philadelphia on 15 May 1775 when he arrived to attend the Second Continental Congress as one of New York’s delegates. During the following weeks, the two men served together on several committees concerned with military matters, and in that short time they apparently came to know and like one another. Both were wealthy and wellborn landowners, tall in stature and rather austere in manner. They shared interests in surveying, canals, gristmills, land speculation, and, most importantly, military affairs. Like GW, Schuyler gained valuable experience as a colonial officer in the French and Indian War. Serving on the New York frontier, he learned much about supplying and transporting large forces in wilderness areas, and that knowledge served him well during the Revolution. Schuyler commanded the New York department until August 1777, when, following the fall of Ticonderoga to the advancing British, he was relieved of his command. Schuyler resigned his commission in April 1779. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1777, 1779, and 1780. In 1780 he also assisted GW in reorganizing the army’s staff departments and developing a scheme of cooperation with the French forces.

1See GW’s instructions of 22 June 1775 from the Continental Congress.

2Among the defensive measures that the Continental Congress recommended to the inhabitants of New York on 15 May 1775 was the removal of military stores from New York City (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 2:52). In a letter of the next day to the city’s committee of one hundred, the New York delegates cautioned that military stores belonging to the crown were not intended to be included (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 1:353), and on 8 June the New York provincial congress forbade the removal of stores from the royal depot at Turtle Bay (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:35). A band of radical patriots nevertheless raided the Turtle Bay depot on 20 July and sent the stores to the Continental army. The posts to which GW refers were apparently two that the New York provincial congress was thinking of building in the Hudson highlands. Drawing on a report of a committee on which both Schuyler and GW served, the Continental Congress recommended on 25 May that the highlands be fortified in order to prevent hostile warships from going up the Hudson and that a post be built at King’s Bridge at the northern tip of Manhattan Island to protect New York City’s land communication with the rest of the colony (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 2:52, 57, 59–60). A committee of the New York provincial congress on 13 July presented a plan for erecting posts on opposite sides of the Hudson near West Point, but another committee on 7 July rejected the King’s Bridge site as being too vulnerable to attack and insufficient in itself to safeguard the city’s land communication against a superior enemy force (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:31, 40–41). The highlands posts were not finally approved by the provincial congress until 18 August. See Schuyler to GW, 1 July 1775, n.6.

3When Isaac Sears of New York revealed to Schuyler on 3 July a plan to seize Tryon that night and send him to Hartford, Schuyler denounced it “as rash and unjustifiable, and what the Congress would not countenance.” Sears, a radical Whig who had recently returned to New York from a visit to the Continental Congress, responded that “many of the Delegates had mentioned it to him as a proper Measure, and [he] did not yield till Schuyler informed him, that he had written orders from General Washington on the Subject” (Smith, Historical Memoirs description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs . . . of William Smith, Historian of the Province of New York. 2 vols. New York, 1956–58. description ends , 1:232). Many Patriots feared that Tryon, a colonel in the British army, was preparing some military action, but the governor remained quiet throughout the summer and early fall. After the Continental Congress recommended on 6 Oct. that the revolutionary authorities in each colony arrest anyone “whose going at large may, in their opinion, endanger the safety of the colony, or the liberties of America,” Tryon moved to the safety of a British ship in New York Harbor (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 3:280). Later in the war he commanded troops in raids on the Connecticut coast and the Hudson River.

4Guy Johnson (c.1740–1788) succeeded his father-in-law, Sir William Johnson, as superintendent of Indian affairs in the northern department after the latter’s death in July 1774. GW undoubtedly had heard the reports circulating in Philadelphia that Guy Johnson was urging the northern Indians to take up the hatchet against the rebelling colonists. The reports were true. At his house, Guy Park, on the Mohawk River near Amsterdam, N.Y., Johnson was acting on secret orders from Gen. Thomas Gage to do all in his power to attach the Indians to the royal cause. Threatened with retaliation from local revolutionary committees, Johnson marched west at the end of May with a mixed force of whites and Indians to Lake Ontario. There he “assembled 1458 Indians and adjusted matters with them in such a manner that they agreed to defend the communication [on the lake] and assist His Majesty’s troops in their operations.” At the beginning of July, Johnson moved to Montreal, where on 17 July he “convened a second body of the northern confederates to the amount of 1700 and upwards who entered into the same engagements” (Guy Johnson to the Earl of Dartmouth, 12 Oct. 1775, in K. G. Davies, ed., Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783 description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 21 vols. [Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81], 11:142–44). Johnson did not resign his superintendency until 1782.

5New England forces commanded by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold seized the fort at Ticonderoga on 10 May 1775, and two days later the small British garrison at Crown Point surrendered to some of the New Englanders. Upon learning of the fall of Ticonderoga, the Continental Congress on 18 May cautiously ordered that the fort be abandoned and all cannon and stores moved to the south end of Lake George. The order provoked protests in New England and northern New York, and on 31 May Congress directed the governor of Connecticut to reinforce both Ticonderoga and Crown Point and instructed the New York provincial congress to supply the two posts “with provisions and other necessary stores, and to take effectual care that a sufficient number of Batteaus be immediately provided for the lakes” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 2:55–56, 73–74).

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