George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Philip Schuyler, 13 May 1776

From Major General Philip Schuyler

Fort George [N.Y.] Monday May 13th 1776
6 O’Clock P.M.

Dear Sir

This Moment Colonel Weisenfelts and Mr Mercer arrived here with the Melancholly Intelligence contained in the inclosed Copies of Letters1 from the Honorable the Commissioners of Congress in Canada and General Arnold. I must of Necessity comply with their Request of halting the Troops, otherwise those in Canada under their present Circumstances must starve.2

This Event will cause such an alteration in the arrangement I have made, that I must haste to the Communication below not daring to confide so important a Measure as the bringing on the provisions from Albany to any person.

Be assured my dear General that I shall do every Thing in my power to prevent the Disaster a Scarcity of provisions would occasion in Canada. I am Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

Ph: Schuyler

Mr Mercer is a Merchant from Quebec he will soon be with Your Excey & give you a minute detail.

Pray order up Lead & provisions of the meat kind.

LS, DLC:GW; LB, NN: Schuyler Papers.

1Schuyler’s secretary originally wrote “Copy of a Letter” and failed to strike out the “a” when he changed to the plural form to accommodate the addition of Arnold’s letter.

2In their letters of 10 May from Montreal, the commissioners to Canada and Arnold informed Schuyler that on 6 May the American army at Quebec had been forced to retreat in great haste by newly arrived British reinforcements. “Our army,” the commissioners wrote, “are now on their way to the Mouth of the Sorrel, where they propose to make a Stand. . . . From the present appearance of Things it is very probable we shall be under the Necessity of abandoning Canada at least all except that part which lies on the Sorrel. We may certainly keep possession of St John’s till the Enemy can bring up against that post a superior Force & an artillery to beseige it. A further Reinforcement will only increase our Distress—an immediate Supply of provisions from over the Lakes is absolutely necessary for the preservation of the Troops already in this province. As we shall be obliged to evacuate all this Country except that part of it already mentioned No provisions can be drawn from Canada—The Subsistance therefore of our army will entirely depend on the Supplies it can receive & that immediately from Ticonderoga” (DLC:GW). Arnold urged that the army repossess Deschambault if possible. “Without that post is secured,” he wrote, “I am of opinion it will not be practicable if advisable to keep possession of this part of the Country, as our Resources of provisions will in a great Measure be cut off and with half the Number of Men necessary to defend this part of the Country we can make a Stand at Isle aux Noix & effectually secure that pass and our own Colonies” (DLC:GW).

Frederick Weissenfels (c.1728–1806), a native German who served as an officer in the British army during the French and Indian War, settled in Dutchess County, N.Y., in 1763. Commissioned a captain in the 1st New York Regiment in June 1775, he became lieutenant colonel of the 3d New York Regiment on 8 Mar. 1776 and transferred to the 2d New York Regiment in November 1776. GW, who had a good opinion of Weissenfels’s abilities as an officer, named him lieutenant colonel commandant of the 4th New York Regiment in April 1779 (see GW to William Duer, 3 Feb. 1777, DLC:GW, and GW to James Clinton, 19 April 1779, NN: Gansevoort—Lansing Collection). When that regiment was disbanded on 1 Jan. 1781, Weissenfels left the Continental army and subsequently served as a lieutenant colonel of the New York levies raised for frontier defense.

John Dyer Mercier, a Quebec merchant who had become a close friend of Benedict Arnold before the war, was arrested by the town’s authorities in October 1775 for his activities in support of the Patriot cause, but he was subsequently released from his imprisonment aboard a sloop of war. The Continental Congress appointed Mercier a commissioner of accounts in May 1779 and two months later named him a commissioner of claims. Mercier became one of the auditors in the Treasury Department in 1782 and served until those offices were abolished in 1787.

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