George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Philip Schuyler, 16 May 1776

From Major General Philip Schuyler

Fort George [N.Y.] May 16th 1776
10 O’Clock A.M.

My dear General

This Moment Capt. Goforth arrived with sundry Letters and papers to me, Copies of all which I do myself the Honor to enclose to your Excellency.1

The Distress our army is in from their Variety of Wants is truly affecting and gives me the most poignant anxiety—Some of the inclosed papers observe that General Thompson’s Brigade carried only ten Days provision with them,2 but this is happily a Mistake, for they carried from three to five Barrels of pork in each Batteau with all the Flour that there was at the post, insomuch that Colonel Wynkoop had to send an Express Boat here for pork and Flour for his Garrison—On the 13th I sent off 120 Barrels of pork, with Orders to have it forwarded without Delay; Colonel Wynkoop writes me that 115 Barrels of it left Tyconderoga on the 14th and it will probably reach St John’s to Day.

Immediately on receiving the Intelligence of our Distress in Canada I flew to the Communication below; sent on part of Reed’s Regiment; the Front of which I met (on the 5th Day after their leaving Albany) 23 Miles below this: those I sent on, being picked Men arrived here the same Evening being the 14th and Yesterday they crossed this Lake with 109 Barrels of pork; 12 Barrels more are gone off this Morning and 170 Barrels with half the Remainder of Reid’s Regiment will move to Morrow, and the next Day I hope to send an equal Quantity, and after that about 50 Barrels a Day along with the Troops ordered to move on Saturday next from the several places where they were halted.3

When I met Colonel Reid’s Regiment, I had their heavy Baggage taken out of the Batteaus, and loaded them with pork, acquainting the Officers and Men with the Distress our people laboured under in Canada for want of provisions, but as I could not stay to see the Boats off, being obliged to push farther down the river, to the other places of Embarkation, no sooner was my Back turned when the Officers threw the provisions out of the Batteaus, and reloaded their Baggage: by which Means I have forty eight Barrels of pork less than I had ordered—At this Outrage and infamous Conduct I must however wink, least the Service should be still more retarded.

I hope a considerable Quantity of Pork is coming: if there is, 150 Barrels will be sent off daily from here after the 21st Instant.

I shall be quite out of Nails on Tuesday—I hope a Supply is on the way up.

Intrenching Tools of every Kind will be wanted, more powder, Lead and Cannon Ball, and Guns for the Vessels on Lake Champlain, Rigging, Sail Cloth and Sail Makers to be sent up.

I have received further proofs of the Hostile Intentions of Sir John Johnson and have sent Orders to have him apprehended and all the Highlanders to be removed, but as this is a Matter that might give Umbrage to the Indians, I have referred the Expediency of it to the Commissioners of Indian Affairs and the Committee of Albany, who if they approve will deliver the Orders, otherwise not.

I am obliged to be so continually on Horseback to see that every Thing is kept in Train, that I have little Time to write; I shall however not let a single Opportunity slip to advise your Excellency of every Information I receive, by which Means Congress will be informed of all.

The Misfortunes we experience would in all probability have been prevented had the Connecticut Troops not quitted Canada so early as they did last Year, or had it been possible for Congress to have complied with my repeated Solicitations to send in Troops.

Altho’ I believe we shall lose Canada, which will be attended with many disagreeable Consequences, yet I am not under the least apprehensions that they will be able to penetrate into this province. I am with every wish for your Excellency’s Health & Happiness—Dear Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

Ph: Schuyler

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

1Schuyler enclosed copies of John Thomas’s letters to the commissioners to Canada, 7 May, and to Benedict Arnold, 8 May; the minutes of Thomas’s councils of war at Quebec on 5 May and at Deschambault on 7 May; Arnold’s letter to Schuyler, 11 May; and commissioners Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Samuel Chase’s letters of 11 May to Schuyler and to Benjamin Franklin, all of which concern the retreat of Thomas’s army from Quebec and the critical shortage of provisions in Canada. Thomas and Arnold write that they are attempting to make a stand at Deschambault in the face of grave difficulties, while commissioners Carroll and Chase inform Franklin: “Our army’s remaining at Dechambeau will depend in great Measure on the Strength of the Enemy’s Land Forces and their activity and Diligence in following up the Blow they have already given our small and shattered army. . . . We are inclined to think a Retreat will be made first to St John’s and then to the Isle aux Noix” (DLC:GW).

William Goforth (1731–1807) became a captain in the 1st New York Regiment in June 1775 and served the ensuing campaign in Canada, where this spring he had briefly commanded a schooner at Quebec (see Israel Putnam to GW, 21 May 1776, n.2). The Continental Congress made him major of Col. Lewis Dubois’s New York regiment on 26 June 1776, but Goforth refused the appointment because it put him under two officers whom he deemed junior in rank (Goforth to the New York provincial congress, 6 July 1776, DNA:PCC, item 67).

2In their letter to Schuyler of 11 May from Montreal, commissioners Carroll and Chase write: “It is impossible to procure any pork in this Colony; there is none but what came over the Lakes. A Schooner sails this afternoon for De Chambeau with 350 Barrels of Flour, and about ten Barrels of pork which is the whole to be procured here. After the arrival of the Brigade under General Thompson, we compute there will be about 5000 Troops in Canada—We understand this Brigade brings only ten Days provisions with them. . . . We are unable to express our apprehensions of the Distress our army must soon be reduced to from the want of provisions and the Small pox. If further Reinforcements are sent without pork to victual the whole army, our Soldiers must perish or feed on each other. Even plunder the last Resource of strong Necessity will not relieve their wants” (DLC:GW).

3The following Saturday was 18 May.

Index Entries