George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Alexander McDougall, 12 March 1777

From Brigadier General Alexander McDougall

Pecks Kill [N.Y.] March 12th 1777


I have been honored with the Receipt of your Favor, of the 6th Instant. The several Matters ordered therein will be strictly attended to, and diligently pursued.

Since my last, Colonel Livingston’s Regiment arrived here, after your Commands reached me; to assemble the troops of this State at Pecks Kill. I did not therefore send him down to the lower part of this County, as I intended. The Strength of his Corps is inclos’d.1 I have ordered all the Officers of the Corps not gone to Ticonderoga, and the Recruits to join their respective Regiments, that we may have a proper Return of their Strength. When this is done such Officers as are proper for the recruiting Service will be sent on it.

I have directed and pressed with every Motive, the Colonels of the Regiments, to have the men of each Company call’d over by their respective Rolls, in their Presence, before they make up the Returns, to prevent any Desertion, and to give no Furloughs till further Orders; and to draw the Bounty and Clothes for their Corps, to prevent any Pretext to desert.

Colonel Cortlandt’s Regiment is ordered to be here to Morrow: and what is of Ganservorts at Fish Kills, to relieve the Garrison at Fort-Constitution, whose time of Service is expired. I was induced to this, to keep up the Appearance of a Garrison there; the want of which would be a Demonstration to the Enemy of our weakness; and because they will be ready there in case of Necessity, to cross the River by the Time the other two Regiments have pass’d.

The former Consideration determined me to leave Colonel Dubois’s at Fort Montgomery; and as it will as soon join the Army, as if it marched from this Post. For as I have no other Troops to garrison those Forts, I could not think it justifyable in me, to evacuate them without an express Order, altho’ the Troops were ordered to assemble at this Post, without any Directions how, or by whom, the Forts should be garrisoned. Your Silence on this important matter, I ascrib’d to the great Hurry of Business, which is continually at Head Quarters. I could not imagine, that you intended those Forts should be abandoned, without mentioning it; but if I have unhappily missed your Intention, I beg to be advised of it.

It is high time the Gallies should be put into a Condition for Service; they may be useful in keeping the Enemies small Craft from stopping the Navigation, unless they should be covered by the Frigates. The marine Committee of Congress should equip, or some person should be authorized to do it. If any Person here, should be envested with Power, he should be instructed what Wages to give the Officers, and men, and provided with money to discharge the necessary Charge of fitting them.

General Sullivan has communicated to me, what you gave him in Charge. I sent for Mr Jay and communicated it to him; we were both of Opinion, that Draughts must immediately be made out of the Militia, to fill up the Regiments. He is gone to Convention, to endeavour to accomplish it. I think he will effect it.

Connecticut giving so large a Bounty, carries off a great Number of young men of our State on it’s Borders which retards our recruiting, and renders it impracticable to fill up our Regiments, in any other way, than that above mentioned.

Major Edmonstone came yestarday from New-York with the inclosed, in his way to Albany.2 As the negotiation with General Howe, or his Commissary of Prisoners originated from you, I should have thought it my Duty, to have sent him to Head Quarters or back again to New York, ’till he or the General should address you on the Subject Matter of his Business. But for Reasons too obvious to be mentioned, I shall permit him to pass to General Schuyler; and if I can, by water to Fish Kill, and not thro’ the Mountains. In the mean time, your Excellency’s Determination on General Howe’s Proposal may meet the Major at General Schuyler’s. I have the Honor to be, with great Truth & Regard, your Excellency’s very humble Servant

Alexr McDougall

P.S. The inclosed Letter to me from a Committee of convention who have been down in the lower part of the County of west Chester for time to Collect Foder demands attention; and such an answer, which I have not power to give.3


1The return of Col. Henry Beekman Livingston’s regiment has not been identified.

2McDougall enclosed a copy of William Howe’s letter to Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler, written at New York on 18 Feb. 1777, informing Schuyler that “Major Edmonstone has come to New York by a Passport . . . upon Parole to return, or send out an Officer of equal Rank; and either Majors Williams, Browne, or Wells are desired in Exchange. I have not the least Objection to send either of those Gentlemen to any Place you shall be pleas’d to appoint provided Major Edmonstone, who is the Bearer of this, is permitted to go to Canada, agreeable to his own Desire” (DLC:GW). For GW’s reaction to Howe’s proposal to permit Edmonstone to travel to Canada, see GW to McDougall, and GW to Schuyler, both 15 Mar. 1777.

3The enclosed letter from a committee of the New York convention to McDougall, written at Cromwells, N.Y., on 12 Mar. and signed by Nathaniel Sackett, reads: “Yours of the 9th Inst. we are honored with, and is now before us, in which you tell us that Colo. Livingston’s Regiment would be at your post that Evening, and at the same time Express your doubts of the propriety of Sending it to this Quarter; Arising from previous Orders you received from the General [GW] dated the 6th Inst. an Extract of which you was pleased to Inclose; and that you expected the Arrival of an Express on the Evening of the 10th Inst. by whom the General’s Approbation or Disapprobation of Colo. Livingston’s Regiment being posted in this part of the State, would be known; We could wish that the General could Consistantly Comply with our Requisitions, as we conceive the following Arguments must have great weight with him; first, as we have Already Collected a Magazine At Wrights Mills Consisting of at least 318182 weight of fresh Hay, 2630 Bushels of Wheat, 60 Bushels Rye, 166 Bushels of Oats 1283 Bushels Indian Corn, 18 Bushels of Salt 66 Bushels of Buckwheat Some Hides and other Stores, and a very Considerable Quantity more may be Secured if we Maintain our posts as low down as Eastchester and Across to Mr Wards, and from thence to the North River which may easily be done with 600 men—Is it not likely that the Enemy will make it an object either to destroy or use their Exertions to Monopolize the Magazines; and forage that is not already Collected? Add to this the Distresses it must involve our Friends in, in this Country; the Advantages it must give the Enemy to possess themselves of a County of so large an Extent, and perhaps the best Calculated for Graizing than any other, on the Continent—Secondly, if we could be supplied with the above Number of Men, it would be in our Power Continually to harrass the Enemy, and by that means draw off a part of their Attention to other parts; but on the Countrary if we should not have this Supply we Shudder at the Consequences; for we must inevitably loose the persons and properties of the people in this Country; enable the Enemy to take the field mu[ch] Sooner in the Spring than our own forces; it’s true we have Expected a Number of Volunteers from the Militia for some days, but they do not yet Appear and we have Ordered Colo. Thomas to draw out 4 or 5 Companies of his Regiment to Randevous at Wards this day; what Progress he has made, can’t yet learn; Friday is very near when Genl Wooster Division will be discharged and unless we should have a New Supply of Troops thrown in before that time, this whole Country will be Defended with only 80 or 90 men; exposed to an Attack from 4 or 500 open Enemies which are already in Possession of a small part of the County, and it’s Impossible to know the Number of our Internal Enemies. The Tories already Appear Insolent and there is not the lest doubt but the Enemy will have the earliest Intelligence of our Situation—These Arguments we are of Opinion are Cogent and Conclusive: and Submit the Expediency of Ordering Colo. Livingston with his Regiment Immediately to the lower parts of this County—shall be much Obliged to you, for an Immediate Answer” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries