George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 21 October 1776

From Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.

New Haven Octo. 21. 1776


I am now to acknowlege the receipt of your favour of the 15th Instant, inclosing the Copy of a Letter from Peter R. Livingston Esqr., which came to Hand at this place and was communicated to the General Assembly now sitting here;1 by their Desire I have sent Orders to Major Elisha Sheldon with the Troop of Horse under his Command, and two Companies of the first Regiment to march to Fish Kill in the State of New York, and there obey your Orders.

I have also, by like Desire, issued my proclamation requiring the Militia, and all able bodied effective Men in this State to arm, accouter and equip themselves, and be in readiness to march wherever the Exigencies of the State may require, and they shall be ordered. Considering the Services and Sufferings of our Militia the past Summer, the present Sickness that prevails among them since their return from the Army, and the Necessity of their Attention to Country Business to secure a sufficient Supply of provisions for the ensuing Year, it is judged, that this is all that we can do, consistent with prudence, at present.2 The Horse now ordered to march will probably amount to about two Hundred in the Whole.

You will find inclosed Copies of Letters from Generals Schuyler, Gates and Arnold, respecting the Transactions at the Northward,3 I am further advised, that after the Action of the 12th, which General Arnold describes, the Fleet under his Command began to fall down the Lake, but had not got far from Schuylers Island when a northerly Gale, favourable to the Enemy, pushed them up with our shattered Fleet, and obliged them to commence a second Engagement, which was continued with great Disadvantage on our Side tho with great Spirit and Bravery, for 5 Glasses, when the Superiour strength of the Enemy prevailed to the almost total ruin of our Fleet. General Arnold in the Congress Galley fought till he could stand no longer, run her ashore burnt her & escaped[.] General Waterbury fought the Washington till she was sinking under him, he was obliged to strike and was made a prisoner tho it seems he is returned to Ticonderoga, probably on his parole, and is expected here soon, Colo. Wigglesworth in the Trumbull is got to Ty— and is the only Gally saved,4 one Galley not compleated is safe, our Strength on the Water now remaining is one Sloop, 12 Guns, Two Schooners, 8 Guns each[,] Two Galleys & one Gondola, what it was before these rencounters the inclosed Copy of a return will shew5—The Enemies Strength appears larger than at first, it is as follows

1 Ship 18 Guns 12 pounders
1 Schooner 14 6 do
1 do 12 do do
1 Redeaux 6 24 }
12 12 all Brass
4, 8 Inch Howitzers
28 Gondolas, 1 Gun each, 12, 18, & 24 Ibders, 1 8[-]Inch Howitzer.6 our people are all retired to Ticonderoga, where it is their Design, it is said, to force the Enemy to make an attack on our Works at the French Lines, by the Crown point road, by obliging them to Land below our Army; that they will lay our two remaining Galleys in the Channel, where their Fire will cooperate with the Jersey Redoubt and the Battery on mount Independance, by this means they Hope to prevent their passing higher up than our advanced posts.7 I hope for a more full and particular Account from Genl Waterbury who is expected here soon.

Colo. Richmond with his Regiment, consisting of 400 men, with 54 Whale Boats arrived some days since at New London,8 I have ordered him and Lieut. Colo. Livingston with their Men, the Whale Boats and 1200 Tons of small Craft to come to me at this place without Delay. they are designed for the Long Island Expedition with Colo. McIntosh at Fairfield, they may be hourly expected. I could wish General Clinton, Brigadier General of the militia in the State of New York might be sent to take upon him the Conduct of this Expedition, if he can be spared, and also to be informed whether your Excellency would think proper to give any different Orders respecting it. I am, Sir with the greatest Respect your obedient humble Servant

Jonth; Trumbull

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, Ct: Trumbull Papers.

At the end of the ALS, Robert Hanson Harrison wrote the following note: “22d Octr 1776 Wrote Govr Trumbull to Order the Troops intended for Fish Kills, to come by the Rear of our Army at or near White plains, to take Orders. That Genl Clinton can’t be spared & advisg the long Island expedition to be given over if the Troops are not one the very point of embarking & that they should be moved this Way as they may be of meterial service in flankg the Enemy & the Situati[o]n of our Affairs callg for every assistance.” A letter-book copy of that letter, which Harrison wrote by GW’s direction in reply to Trumbull’s letter of this date and an unfound letter from Trumbull of 19 Oct., is in Ct: Trumbull Papers.

1The document enclosed with GW’s letter to Trumbull of 15 Oct. was a copy of Robert R. Livingston’s letter to GW of 12 October. Peter Robert Livingston, a second cousin of Robert R. Livingston, at this time was president of the New York convention and chairman of the state committee of safety. The Connecticut general assembly met at New Haven from 10 Oct. to 7 November.

2For Trumbull’s proclamation of this date, see Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 2:1171. Harrison says in his reply to Trumbull of 22 Oct. that GW “is sensible of the past exertions of your State, and is confident that nothing on their part will be wanting to advance the Public Cause. The Proclamation you have issued he thinks a judicious step, and that many salutary consequences may result from it. He hopes an implicit regard will be paid to it, & that every effective man will prepare himself in the best manner that circumstances will admit of, to serve as exigencies may require” (Ct: Trumbull Papers).

3Trumbull apparently enclosed a copy of Arnold’s letter to Gates of 12 Oct. concerning the American defeat on the previous day at Valcour Island, of which GW already had received a copy from Richard Varick on 17 Oct. (see Varick to GW, 14 Oct., and GW to Hancock, 18 October). Gates had sent Trumbull a copy of Arnold’s letter under a brief covering letter of 13 Oct., and Trumbull may have included a copy of Gates’s covering letter among the enclosures that he sent to GW on this day (see Gates to Trumbull and Schuyler, 13 Oct., and Trumbull to Gates, 17 Oct., in Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers”). Trumbull’s enclosures otherwise have not been identified.

4Arnold describes the naval action of 13 Oct. and his escape to Ticonderoga in his letter to Schuyler of 15 Oct., a copy of which GW received from Schuyler by 20 Oct. (see Schuyler to GW, 16 Oct. [second letter], n.1, and Harrison to Hancock, 20 October). Arnold’s second in command, Brig. Gen. David Waterbury, and the crew of the galley Washington were paroled by Gen. Guy Carleton soon after their capture, and they reached Ticonderoga on the evening of 14 October. Edward Wigglesworth (1741–1826), a merchant and shipmaster from Newburyport, Mass., who was third in command under Arnold, was elected to the Massachusetts General Court in the spring of 1776, and on 11 July that body appointed him colonel of a regiment of militia levies raised to reinforce the army in Canada. Wigglesworth arrived at Ticonderoga by 5 Sept. when Gates named him commander of the armed schooner Royal Savage in Arnold’s fleet (see Gates to Arnold, that date, in Naval Documents, 6:708). Heavy damage sustained by that vessel during the Battle of Valcour Island on 11 Oct. obliged Wigglesworth to abandon it and move to the galley Trumbull. After returning to Ticonderoga on 13 Oct., Wigglesworth resumed his duties as colonel of his regiment until it was disbanded in late November. He became colonel of the 13th Massachusetts Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777 and resigned his commission in March 1779 in a dispute over rank (see Wigglesworth to GW, 4 Jan. 1779, PHi: Gratz Collection; 11 Feb. 1779, DNA:PCC, item 78; and GW to Wigglesworth, 26 Feb., 11, 19 Mar. 1779, DLC:GW). In June 1779 Wigglesworth took command of the Massachusetts privateer Friendship. GW appointed Wigglesworth collector of customs for Newburyport in 1792, and he held that office until 1795 (see Wigglesworth to GW, 25 May 1792, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

5Although the copy of the return that Trumbull enclosed with this letter has not been identified, it probably was identical to Richard Varick’s copy of the undated “List of armed Vessels in Lake Champlain” that is with the documents for 12 Oct. in DLC:GW, ser. 4. The uncompleted galley was the Gates (see “A List of the Rebel Fleet on Lake Champlain,” c.13 Oct. 1776, in Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 6:1344).

6For a more detailed list of the British naval force on Lake Champlain at this time, see ibid., 1343–44. A radeau is a square-ended sailing vessel that was used frequently during the Revolutionary War to defend harbors.

7The remains of the field fortifications that French troops had constructed in 1758 during their successful defense of Ticonderoga against a numerically superior British and American force lay about three-fourths of a mile west of the main fort. The Jersey redoubt was on the shore of Lake Champlain a short distance north of the French lines (see Map of Ticonderoga, Mount Independence and the Adjacent Country, [Philadelphia, 1778], in Nebenzahl and Higginbotham, Atlas of the American Revolution description begins Kenneth Nebenzahl and Don Higginbotham. Atlas of the American Revolution. Chicago, 1974. description ends , 96–97).

8Col. William Richmond’s regiment arrived at New London from Rhode Island on 14 Oct. (see Connecticut Gazette and Universal Intelligencer [New London], 18 October).

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