George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Philip Schuyler, 16 June 1777

From Major General Philip Schuyler

Fort Edward [N.Y.] June 16h 1777

Dear Sir

I did myself the Honor to address you from Saratoga on the 14th Instant—On the next Day Amsbury and Adams (mentioned in General St Clair’s Letter Copy whereof I transmitted Congress by Letter under Cover to your Excellency)1 arrived at Saratoga—What passed between us, and what Information he gave is noted in the paper No. 1—No. 2 is the Letter which was inclosed between the two Bottoms of the Canteen.2

If the Information which Amsbury gives is to be relied upon as I think it is we shall soon be attacked at Tyonderoga and altho’ I think the Force now there may be sufficient to hold that important post yet I have no Troops to oppose either Sir John Johnson, if he should penetrate to the Mohawk River, or any to prevent the Communication between this and Fort George from being cut off nor have I force, if these should not be attempted by the Enemy, to march to the Relief of Tyonderoga—In this Situation I am under the Necessity of applying to your Excellency for a Reinforcement.

From the Time I left Albany to my Return to that place, Nothing, compatively speaking, has been done towards throwing into Tyonderoga a Stock of provisions of the Meat Kind and of the little that is left there, I fear to learn that a very considerable part is damaged and what is equally bad, if not worse, is that we have very little Hopes of a Supply of fresh Meat—A Week or two may remedy the latter, but it may then be too late to convey a Quantity to Tyonderoga. If therefore any salted pork or Beef can be spared from Peek’s Kill or elsewhere, I wish it may be ordered up without the least Delay.

Should your Excellency order me a Reinforcement, permit me to suggest that if there are no Vessels at peeks or Fish Kill to transport the Troops to Albany, that it may be proper, by Express to direct the commanding Officer at Albany to send down from thence a sufficient Number of Sloops.

Such is the Inattention in this Department that no less than a thousand Barrels of Flour are now lying at this post, and only five Waggons employed to carry it to Fort George, the Distance fifteen Miles.

Permit me to beg that your Excellency will communicate the Contents of this Dispatch to Congress, as I cannot find Time to do myself the Honor to write to them.

I shall (consulting with the General officers at Tyonderoga) try to send an Answer to Mr Levius’s Letter, as from General Sullivan—In which I shall leave him to suppose (what I do not by any Means believe) that General Sullivan has entered into his Views3—Your Excellency will please to mention my Intention to General Sullivan, and to assure him that my only View is to serve the public. I am Dear Sir most sincerely Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

Ph: Schuyler

LS, DLC:GW; LB, NN: Schuyler Papers; copy, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 20 June 1777, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

1Schuyler is referring to his letter to Hancock of 14 June 1777, enclosed in Schuyler’s letter to GW of the same date, and to Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair’s letter to Schuyler of 13 June 1777 from Ticonderoga, which contains a report on the state of the army at Ticonderoga and a summary of the intelligence gathered from the interrogation of two prisoners captured near the Onion River, discussed in note 2. For St. Clair’s letter, see Smith, St. Clair Papers description begins William Henry Smith, ed. The St. Clair Papers. The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair: Soldier of the Revolutionary War; President of the Continental Congress; and Governor of the North-Western Territory with his Correspondence and other Papers. 2 vols. Cincinnati, 1882. description ends , 1:396–400.

2The enclosed “paper No. 1” is a copy of the examination of William Amsbury, a British spy recruited in Canada by Burgoyne in early June 1777 to convey a letter from Peter Livius, the chief justice of Quebec, to Maj. Gen. John Sullivan, erroneously thought to be in command at Ticonderoga. The second enclosure, paper “No. 2,” is Livius’s letter, which was written at Montreal on 2 June 1777. Livius was an old acquaintance of Sullivan and the former chief justice of New Hampshire. Amsbury was captured near the Winooski River by a detachment of American troops and taken first to Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair, who sent him to the fort at Saratoga, where Schuyler interrogated him on 15 June: “This Morning William Amsbury taken near Onion [Winooski] River, was brought to me—After interrogating him for a considerable Time, and pointing out the Improbability of his having left Canada as a Friend to America, and assuring him that Brigade Major Kirkman’s pass which mentioned his being ‘sent on secret Service’ which he acknowledged to have received from the Major’s own Hands, was sufficient proof for me to execute him as a Spy which I solemnly declared I would do, and having ordered him back to the Guard, and to be sent in Irons to Albany, he after some Time sent Word to me that he would make some Discoveries—Upon which I sent for him and after having assured him, that if what he was going to declare was frivolous and intending to amuse, that I would adhere to my Resolution of hanging him, he proceeded as follows.

“That Mr Levy a Jew had spoke to him to carry some Thing to Tyonderoga, which he promised to do; that on Wednesday the fourth Instant, Judge Lieveus or Lievers of Montreal, whom he calls the Head Judge of Montreal, delivered him a Canteen with a false Bottom, charging him to deliver it in a secret Manner to General Sullivan, who was supposed to command at Tyonderoga, and to inform General Sullivan that when he opened it he would find from whom it was: that at Fort George he gave the Canteen to Adjutant [Peter B.] Tierse’s [Tearse] Servant to bring some Water; that the Servant did not return with it, when he was marched off (Upon which I sent Lieut. [Bartholomew Jacob] Van Valkenburgh for the Canteen with Orders to meet me to Morrow Morning at Fort Edward).

“That the Enemy had built a Number of Carts several of which he saw paraded at Montreal—that those Carts were designed for transporting the Baggage provision and Ammunition.

“That they were collecting a Number of Horses which were to be drove along the West Side of the Lake to draw the Carts.

“That they intended to cut off the Communication between Mount Independance and Skenesborough, and also the Communication between Fort Edward and Fort George.

“That General [Simon] Fraser with ten Companies of Light Infantry had taken post at point Fer.

“That the 21st Regiment was at St John’s—a Brigade at a small Distance from it, and the whole in Motion to rendezvous at St John’s.

“That General Burgoine was expected at St John’s the Day on which he left it, which was on Thursday the 5th Instant.

“That they were in no Want of provisions, altho’ fresh Meat was very scarce, Lamb selling from 7/6 to 8/ Hallifax Currency per Quarter.

“That Sir John Johnson with a Body of Canadians and Indians and British Troops—were to penetrate to the Mohawk River, by Oswego: that Sir John arrived a few Days before he left Canada; that there were not many Indians at Montreal.

“That General Carlton arrived at Montreal the Day before he left it.

“That he heard it was out in orders that General Burgoyne was to have the Command of the Army as soon as it was out of Canada.

“That they have plenty of Batteaus: that some have been built this Spring.

“That they have lost some Rigging in Stores which were burnt at St John’s but no great Quantity, nor much provisions or other Stores.

“That he has not heard of any Scouts being sent this Way since Capt: McKay’s.

“That the Troops in Canada are well paid.

“That fine Salt sells for two Dollars a Bushel—coarse at one Dollar.

“That Wheat sells for one Dollar per Bushel.

“That the Canadians are averse to take Arms—but that they are forced to do it.

“That Colo: McClean was arrived in Canada.

“That no Troops as he could learn were arrived from Europe.

“Fort Edward Monday June 16th 1777 ten O’Clock A.M. This Moment Lieutenant Van Valkenburgh delivered me the Canteen mentioned above which I opened and found a Letter directed to John Sullivan Esqr. Copy whereof is herewith sent” (DLC:GW). GW forwarded a copy of the examination to Hancock on 20 June (DNA:PCC, item 152).

The copy of Amsbury’s permission to pass through territory under British control reads: “The Bearer and his Companion, being employed on secret Service—Lieut: Gen: Burgoyne desires that they may be furnished with passports to prevent their being interrupted, and to give them every Assistance they may want from any parties of the Army they may fall in with—They are not to be searched, and to be assisted at the Isle-aux Noix in getting their Cannoe over the Carrying place into Aussisquit” (DNA:PCC, item 153).

In his letter to Sullivan, Livius attempted to persuade Sullivan to abandon the American cause and secretly declare his loyality to the British crown. Amsbury told St. Clair that a Michael Shannon had composed the letter (see St. Clair to Schuyler, 13 June, in Smith, St. Clair Papers description begins William Henry Smith, ed. The St. Clair Papers. The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair: Soldier of the Revolutionary War; President of the Continental Congress; and Governor of the North-Western Territory with his Correspondence and other Papers. 2 vols. Cincinnati, 1882. description ends , 1:396–400, and GW to Schuyler, 20 June). The letter is in NHi: Sullivan Papers, and printed in Hammond, Sullivan Papers description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends , 1:355–60. GW wrote Sullivan about the matter on 21 June (see GW to Sullivan, 21 June, in the source note to GW’s other letter to Sullivan of 21 June, and Sullivan’s reply of the same date). For a thorough discussion of the affair, see Van Doren, Secret History description begins Carl Van Doren. Secret History of the American Revolution: An Account of the Conspiracies of Benedict Arnold and Numerous Others drawn from the Secret Service Papers of the British Headquarters in North America now for the first time examined and made public. New York, 1941. description ends , 43–49.

Peter Livius (1727–1795), who was born in Bedford, England, settled in Portsmouth, N.H., about 1762 and quickly became prominent in New Hampshire affairs, serving as a member of the royal council of New Hampshire and as the chief justice of New Hampshire before moving to Quebec, where he was appointed chief justice on 31 May 1777. Livius served in this office until 1786, when he moved back to England.

3This letter was drafted on 17 June 1777, and a copy is in DNA:PCC, item 153.

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