George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General George Clinton, 1 May 1777

From Brigadier General George Clinton

Fort-Montgomery [N.Y.] 1st May 1777.

Dear Sir

Immediatly on the Receipt of your Excellency’s Letter of 23d Ultimo I ordered one third Part of the Militia of Orange County to guard the Passes of the Highlands on the West Side of Hudson’s River to co,operate with the Militia, under Genl Heard if the Enemy shoud make any Attempts in that Quarter; but I am unhappy to find by a Return I have just received from Lieutenant Colo. Cuyper (who commands the Detachment) that not more than 250 have yet arrived at the Post where they were to rendevouz1—I have again repeated my Orders to the Colonels of the Militia Regts & I woud fain hope they will exert themselves in Turning out their respective Quotas which if effected will ammount to about 500 Men & this will be all the Strenghth we shall be able to collect for that Service. The Garrisons of this and the other Fortresses in this Neighbourhood being already rather Weak considering their Importance and their defenceless Situation on the Land Side where we are now buisilly employed in erecting proper Works—My Brother as well as myself agree with your Excellency that it woud be prudent for one of us to be with the Troops destined to guard the Passes on the West Side of the River as it may have some Influence on the Militia tending to bring them out with greater chearfulness, and he proposes setting out in a Day or two to join them, by which Time I shall be able to confine my Attention more closely to this Post—As Captains Santford and Watkins have about 40 or 50 Men enlisted I have ordered them to join the Militia under Colo. Cuyper where they will not only be Serviceable as a Reinforcement but most likely to fill their Companies—Captains Black & Tom I have ordered to this Post who I immagine have about an equal Number of Men chiefly enlisted from the Militia called to reinforce this Garrison & here they will have a favourable Opportunity of filling their Companies2—This Step I hope will meet your Excellencys Approbation—If the Men which those Gentlemen have already enlisted were armed & cloathed they woud be usefull Soldiers & I believe it woud have great Influence on the Recruiting Service at least in filling of those Companies.

I inclose your Excellency the Report of the Court-Martial for the Tryal of Capt. Miller on the Charge alledged against him by Lieutenant Belknap And also that of another Court Martial convened for the Tryal of sundry Persons for Treasonable Practises agreable to a Resolve of the Convention of this State3—If the Convention approve of the Sentences I conclude I shall be right in ordering them to be carried into Execution—A Sudden & severe Example is extreamly much wanted to deter others from the like wicked Practices And as they are attrocious Offenders a better Opportunity cant be had—Indeed to the Daring Conduct of these Villians marching in a Body well Armed through the Country & firing on the Inhabitants I am well perswaded may be imputed in a great Measure the Unwillingness of the Militia to leave Home & shoud they Escape with Impunity or their Punishment long delayed much Evil woud arise.

Your Excellency I presume has already a more perfect Account of our Missfortunes at Danburry than I am able to give. The Bearer Capt. Lush Paymaster to Colo. DuBois’s Regimt whose Business is to procure some Cash which is much wanted for the Regiment will be able to inform your Excellency of any Particulars which I May have omitted respecting the above disafected Persons & their Connections with others as he acted as Judge Advocate.4 The Enemys Shipping still continue at Dobbs’s Ferry another small Topsail Vessel joined them Day before Yesterday soon after which they all come under Sail the Wind ahead, beat up the River about half a Mile & come too since which tho the Wind has been fair & high they have not moved—They appear to have but few Troops on Board who are buisilly employed in getting & taking on Board Fascines & Gabions. I am with the highest Esteem your Excellencys Most Obedt Humble Servt

Geo. Clinton

All the Accounts which we have been able to collect from different Parties of Torries lately apprehended in this State agree that the Enemy mean to pursue their Original Intention of joining their Southern & Northern Armies up this River & that they are to be aided by the Indians.

ALS, DLC:GW. The version of this letter that is printed in Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 1:691–93, apparently was taken from a draft that has not been found. It is dated erroneously 1 April 1777, and it varies somewhat in wording from the text of the ALS.

1For Clinton’s recent orders regarding the Orange County militia, see his letter to Col. Jesse Woodhull of 25 April, ibid., 732–33, and his instructions to Col. John Hathorn of 26 April, ibid., 737–38. Gilbert Cooper (Cuyper; 1741–1815), who had served during the previous summer and fall as lieutenant colonel of Col. Isaac Nicoll’s regiment of Orange County militia levies, at this time was lieutenant colonel of Hathorn’s Orange County militia regiment. Cooper’s return of the detachment of Hathorn’s regiment at Ramapo, N.J., on 18 April shows that it consisted of 22 commissioned officers, 3 staff officers, 42 noncommissioned officers, and 225 privates present and fit for duty (ibid., 720). On 26 April Cooper wrote Clinton from Sydman’s Bridge on the Ramapo River that he had under his command 259 men “including Sergeants & Corporals, and some of these without arms. Of this 259, 96 are posted at Niack . . . so that I have here but 163. This is so short of the force you intended and so inadiquate to defend the pass against the force mentioned by the Genl. that I humbly suggest an immediate augmentation” (ibid., 740–41). Cooper served as a lieutenant colonel of militia until the end of the war, and from 1779 to 1780 he commanded a detachment of Hathorn’s regiment that was called to active duty for frontier defense.

2John Sandford, John Watkyn Watkins, James Black, and Nathaniel Tom recently had been appointed captains in Col. William Malcom’s Additional Continental Regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Cooper says in his letter to Clinton of 26 April from Sydman’s Bridge that “Capts. Watkins and Sandford are now recruiting here; if you will order them to rendevouze their recruits at this post and furnish them with arms, they will be a reinforcement of near sixty men, ’till a further arrives” (ibid.). Returns made on 13 May at Ramapo show that Watkins’s company contained 24 officers and men, of whom 12 privates were on furlough, and Sandford’s company had 38 officers and men, of whom 15 privates were on command or had not come in and 2 privates were on furlough (ibid., 816).

3For the proceedings of the court-martial that on 30 April tried twelve men on charges of treason against the state of New York and sentenced ten of them to death, see ibid., 749–62. The report of the court-martial that tried Capt. Alexander Miller of the Orange County militia for misbehavior has not been identified. Lt. William Belknap’s written complaint against Miller of 7 April was forwarded to Clinton on 10 April by GW’s aide-de-camp John Fitzgerald. GW, Fitzgerald wrote Clinton in a covering letter, “wishes you would have those people brought before you, & if you find Miller guilty of the Charge, you may punish him in a most exemplary manner” (ibid., 707).

William Belknap (1751–1831), who had become a second lieutenant in Col. John Nicolson’s New York regiment on 15 April 1776 and in Col. James Livingston’s Additional Continental Regiment on 18 Dec. 1776, says in his complaint, which is addressed to GW, that on his way from Albany to GW’s headquarters, he was roughed up by some militia guards and called “a damn’d Tory Boger.” When Belknap showed the guards a letter addressed to GW that he was carrying, they took him to their officer, Capt. Alexander Miller, who opened the letter over Belknap’s protest. Miller read all of Belknap’s papers before releasing him the next day and failed to return one letter and $4 (ibid., 708–9). For the efforts to convene a court-martial to try Miller, see George Clinton to Jesse Woodhull, 13 April, ibid., 712–13; Woodhull to George Clinton, 14 April, ibid., 713–14; and James Clinton to George Clinton, 22 April, ibid., 728. Belknap remained a second lieutenant in Livingston’s regiment until he retired from the army on 1 Jan. 1781.

4Stephen Lush (d. 1825), a 1770 graduate of King’s College, served on the Albany committee of correspondence from July 1776 to April 1777, and from August to December 1776 he was captain of a company raised to guard stores in Albany. Lush apparently became paymaster of Col. Lewis Duboys’s 5th New York Regiment sometime earlier this year. In June 1777 Clinton named Lush his brigade major, and when Clinton became governor of New York in July, Lush began serving as his secretary. Lush was captured at Fort Montgomery on 6 Oct. 1777, and although he was soon released on parole, he was not exchanged until October 1778, when he resumed his duties as Clinton’s secretary. Lush was a member of the New York general assembly from 1792 to 1793 and from 1802 to 1806, and he served in the state senate from 1800 to 1802.

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