George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Philip Schuyler, 21 July 1777

From Major General Philip Schuyler

Fort Edward [N.Y.] July 21st 1777.

Dr Sir

On the 19th Instant the Enemy sent a Drum with Colonel Cilley’s Son and a Servant of General Poor,1 who were taken prisoners at Skenesborough on the Retreat from Tyonderoga, the former was charged with a Letter from Colonel Skene to me, dated (I suppose by Mistake) on the 20th Instant, Copy whereof No. 1 I do myself the Honor to enclose, with Copy of mine in Answer No. 2.2

The Intelligence brought by General Poor’s Servant and which was confirmed by Colonel Cilley’s Son, as also that of two prisoners taken on the 19h Instant is contained in No. 3.3

The Militia being extremely uneasy at being detained here in the very Time of Harvest began to leave us in great Numbers, and their Officers entreating that at least a part might be sent Home. In Order to prevent the whole from going, I called a Council of War on the Occasion, Copy of their proceedings No. 4 is herewith transmitted.4 Altho’ one half of the Militia have promised to remain three Weeks, I have not the least Hope that we shall keep above a Quarter of them, if so many—But supposing half of what are now on the Ground from the County of Berkshire in the Massachusetts State, and from the County of Albany in this, your Excellency will percieve by the inclosed Return No. 5. that we are greatly inferior to the Enemy supposing them the least they have been made by the Information received.5 In this Situation it is a natural Wish to be reinforced and if your Excellency affords it me, I wish it to be expedited the soonest possible.

From their being so steadily employed in cutting a Road towards us, I believe they mean to visit us soon, and from the Number of Horses they are said to have and to expect, I conjecture they will attempt to bring on their provisions on Horseback, if so, they will be able to move with Expedition.

Not one of the New Hampshire Militia had joined Colonel Warner on the 18th and very few from any other Quarter—I believe if a Body of Men were speedily collected in that Quarter, that General Burgoyne might be apprehensive, should he march this Way, that they would either fall in his Rear or make an Attempt on Mount Independance and probably prevent him from making the Attempt. I am Dear Sir most sincerely Your Excellency’s obedient humble Servant

Ph: Schuyler

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

1Joseph Cilley, Jr. (1734–1799), of Nottingham, N.H., who had been a captain in the New Hampshire militia and a member of the New Hampshire provincial congress in 1775, served as major of the 2d New Hampshire Regiment from May to December 1775, and as major of the 8th New Hampshire Regiment from January 1776 to November 1776, when he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Cilley served as colonel of the 1st New Hampshire from April 1777 until his retirement in January 1781. Cilley was named major general of the New Hampshire militia in 1786, and in the 1790s he was a prominent member of the New Hampshire state legislature. Cilley and his wife, Sarah Longfellow Cilley, had ten children, but the son who carried Philip Skene’s letter to Schuyler has not been identified.

2The enclosed copy of Philip Skene’s letter to Schuyler, which is dated “Skenesborough House the 20h of July 1777,” reads in part: “The principal Inducement for my coming to this part of the Country arose from a Desire of contributing my Mite towards establishing Constitutional Government upon a solid and permanent Footing—to further this Desire his Excellency General Burgoyne has been pleased to commission me to grant Protections to those who wish to see themselves once more united to that Country from whence they derived their Existence—Most happy shall I think myself in being the least instrumental in accomplishing an Undertaking so important, and upon which the Happiness of thousands immediately depends—From my own Feelings I am inclined to believe that the prosperity and not the Destruction of your Country is the ultimate Object of your Wishes—Our former Knowledge and the present State of Independency, makes me extremely desirous to converse with you upon Matters of the highest Consequence, as I have Nothing to propose, that I flatter myself, you will not wish to hear, or that will not be fully performed. I shall be glad to hear this Offer of mine will meet your Approbation—This goes by Colo: Silly’s Son & General Poor’s Servant” (DLC:GW).

Schuyler wrote a reply to Skene on 20 July: “Your Letter of this Day’s Date from Skenesborough House was delivered me by Colonel Cilley’s Son. As his Excellency General Burgoyne commands the British Troops, and is at the place whence your Letter was dated, I cannot consent to open a Correspondence except with him, or Officer commanding in his Absence, to whose Flags I shall always pay that Respect which is due from one Military Commander to another, and if a Conference is desired and an officer appointed on the part of General Burgoyne one of mine of equal Rank will meet him” (DLC:GW).

3The enclosed undated “Notes of Examination” contains intelligence given by an unnamed servant of Brig. Gen. Enoch Poor and two prisoners from the 21st British Regiment, Francis Croter and John McCoy.

“General Poor’s Servant says—

“That he came by Wood Creek, the Enemy cut a Road to within about six Miles of Fort Ann—Middling good Road on the West Side of the Creek—Had a hundred Men out of each Regiment employed on it.

“Two Brigades of British Troops at Skenes.

“One Brigade of the Foreigners commanded by General Retseler [Riedesel] gone to the Grants.

“150 or 200 Batteaus brought into Wood Creek.

“No Cannon brought into the Creek—a Scow went up with two Field pieces but returned next Day.

“Two hundred Horses brought in from Canada, six hundred more at St John’s, for which Boats were applied for to bring them over.

“Capt. [Henry Farington] Gardiner Aid De Camp to Genl Burgoyne went to England.

“They have no Carts.

“From what he could learn, they meant to come this Way.

“Heard from Tories Inhabitants, that there was great Slaughter amongst the British Troops at Hubberton.

“A good many came in for protections—Two small Companies of Tories joined them—Jones commanded one of them.

“Colonel Skene imagined some whole Regiments of Continental Troops would come over to them.

“They have few Canadians.

“Does not think there are above two hundred and fifty Indians.

“Lord Bclearris [Alexander Lindsay, sixth earl of Balcarres] slightly wounded in the Thigh.

“Not a great many Cattle drove into them.

“They were hawling the Gun and other Boats across into Lake George.

“Francis Croter Soldier of the 21st Regiment, a prisoner taken between Fort Ann and Skenesborough.

“Was taken in Company with some of the Inhabitants who were driving Cattle to Skenesborough & who had Letters from the Officer commanding at the Block House. Capt. [James] Lovel of the 21st and Captain [Alexander] Frazer of the 24th belong to the Indians & Rangers—The party came to the Blockhouse two Days after our Troops left Skenesborough.

“At Skenesborough 9th 20th 47th 21st & 53d Regiments.

“The Foreign Regiments are at Mount Independance Tyonderoga and Lake George.

“Believes six British Regiments came from Canada.

“About 8 or 9 foreign Regiments.

“About 500 Indians—200 Canadians.

“A good many Cattle drove to the Enemy.

“100 Men at the Blockhouse.

“Companies consist of 53 or 54.

“Not a very good Understanding between the British and Foreign Troops.

“The Enemy are cutting a Road towards Fort Ann.

“John McCoy 21st Regiment.

“[James] Parks went with a Drove of Cattle to Skenesborough.

“Foreign Troops at Skenesborough.

“The Gun Boats and Artillery going to Fort George.

“Have about 100 Horses for the Artillery.

“Had ten Days provisions at the Block House—Most of it expended.

“The 21st & 31st have not received their Cloathing.

“The Troops that were in the Grants returned to Skenesborough.

“Agrees in other Things with Croter” (DLC:GW).

4The council of war held at Fort Edward on 20 July 1777 was attended by major generals Schuyler and Arthur St. Clair and brigadier generals John Nixon, Enoch Poor, John Paterson, Ebenezer Learned, Abraham Ten Broeck, and John Fellows. The enclosed copy of the council’s minutes, in the writing of Schuyler’s secretary John Lansing, reads: “General Schuyler informed the Council that Application had been made to him by several of the Officers of the Militia to permit at least part of the Militia to return to their Habitations—He also laid before the Council the Examination of Colonel Cilley’s Son and a Servant of General Poor sent in by the Enemy and those of two Soldiers of the 21st Regiment, who were made prisoners by one of our Scouts about six Miles below Fort Ann. After reading this Information General Schuyler begged the Sense of the Council upon the following Questions—

“1 Whether, in our present Situation and that of the Enemy at Skenesborough, it would be prudent to dismiss any of our Militia?

“2dly If that Measure is the thought prudent, what proportion of the Militia ought to be discharged?

“3dly What will be the most eligible Mode of discharging part of them, so as not to give too much Umbrage to such as shall be ordered to remain?

“4thly Whether, if it shall be thought expedient to dismiss part of the Militia, any of the Militia of the County of Hampshire in the State of Massachusetts, and of the County of Litchfield in the State of Connecticut, which are just come up, and which, the General is informed are only Drafts and not the whole Force of that County, should be suffered to return?

“On the first and second Questions the Council are of Opinion, that altho’ the Army is already inferior to that of the least Number of the Enemy, of which we have an Account yet, considering the Distress that may be brought on the Country, at this very critical Time when the Harvest is so near at Hand, should the whole of the Militia be detained, and in Hopes that a Reinforcement of Continental Troops will be sent up, that one half of the Militia be permitted to return Home.

“on the third Question the Council recommend that the Brigadier Generals of Militia, together with their Field officers, adopt such Measures as shall appear best adapted to answer the purpose.

“Upon the fourth Question the Council are unanimously of Opinion that the Militia of the County of Hampshire in the Massachusetts Bay and those of the County of Litchfield in the State of Connecticut should be detained & that General Schuyler immediately write to the President of the State of Massachusetts Bay for a Relief of those of the Counties of Berkshire and Hampshire, that will be left here, and for a Reinforcement of not less than one thousand Rank and File from the State of Connecticut” (DLC:GW).

5The enclosed copy of a return of this date of the Continental troops at and in the vicinity of Fort Edward, N.Y., shows 354 commissioned officers, 489 noncommissioned officers and staff, 3,818 rank and file, and 154 artillery. In addition, the return says there were “About sixteen hundred Militia with the army” (DLC:GW).

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