George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 13 August 1777

From George Clinton

New Windsor [N.Y.] Augt 13h 1777

Dear Sir,

As the inclosed Copies of sundry Letters whch were forwarded to me by the Council of Safety at Kingston together with Extracts of their Letters to me accompanying them contain a Description of the melancholly Situation of our Affairs to the Northward with a particular Account of two small Actions between Parties of the Enemy near Fort Schuyler and the Militia of Tryon County and Part of the Garrison of Fort Schuyler I have thought it my Duty to transmit the same to your Excellency by a special Express.1 In a Letter I did myself the Honor to address to your Excellency on Saturday last from Fort Montgomery2 I particularly mentioned how I had disposed of the Militia of this State tho’ I have Reason to believe from the present unhappy Situation of the County of Albany and the North Part of Dutchess County (both being much infested with the disaffected) neither have been able to do as much as might otherwise have been expected from them—The well disposed Militia of the County of Tryon were at most but few in Number—they have behaved with Spirit in their late Encounter, but tho victorious from every Account they have suffered much and I fear that the Loss of their bravest Officers in the late Action will so dispirit them that unless they can be speedily succoured little more may be expected from them.

It is with Pain I repeat my Surprize to your Excellency that under these unhappy Circumstances of our public Affairs, in which not only this State more immediately, but the whole Continent is eventually so deeply interested, we as yet have received no Aids for our Northern Army from our Eastern Neighbours nor from any Accounts I have been favored with have we the least Prospect of any arriving from thence in Time to be of Service. The Militia of Connecticut it is said are ordered to Peck’s Kill at one Time, at another that they have promised to send a Proportion of their Militia there to replace Continental Troops destined to reinforce the Northern Army as appears by Copies of Letters to the Committee of Albany and from Governor Trumbull to General Schuyler now inclosed but it is a Fact, Sir, that of the 1500 Militia lately requested by your Excellency from that and this State but 500 were ordered from Connecticut and I have Reason to believe that four or five Days ago even to the Amount of that Number were not arrived, from Connecticut, at Peck’s Kill. Some may however have got in since.3

Their witholding of those Aids which we had a reasonable Right to expect from Sister States strikes a sensible Damp on the Spirits of our warmest Friends in this, whilst it encourages Our internal Enemies to Acts of the most daring Insolence tending to destroy the Force of such Exertions as we might otherwise be able to make (even in our present weak Condition) against the Common Enemy, And in this Point of View does a double Injury.

As the Council of Safety are led to believe that my Presence in the Northern Part of the State might be of Service in rouzing the Spirits of the Militia and as my Brother is now at Fort Montgomery I propose going, at least, to Kingston and if I find it will answer any valuable End to proceed to Albany tho’ I am persuaded I shall not be able to draw after me any considerable Force more than are already ordered out to that Quarter. I am with much Esteem your Excellency’s most obed. sert

Geo. Clinton

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, DLC: George and James Clinton Papers; copy, DNA:PCC, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 16 Aug. 1777, item 152. Clinton enclosed a copy of this letter in his letter to the New York council of safety of this date (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:1041–42).

1Clinton enclosed extracts of two letters written to him by the New York committee of safety on 12 Aug. 1777, and located in DLC:GW. Both letters enclosed accounts of Gen. Nicholas Herkimer’s defeat by the British army at Oriskany, N.Y., on 6 August. The account enclosed in the committee’s first letter to Clinton was from the German Flats committee, written on 9 Aug.: “Just arrived Capt. Demuth and John Adam Hemles [Hellmes] the Bearer hereof with an Account that they arrived with some Difficulty at Fort Schuyler the Sixth Day of this Month being sent there by Order of General Herkemer before he set out to the Field of Battle he requested some Assistance from the Fort in Order to make an Effort to facilitate our March to the Fort two hundred and six Men were granted they made a Sally, encountered the Enemy, killed many, destroyed the Tents of the Enemy and came off victorious to the Fort the Commander desired them to acquaint us and his Superiors that he is wanting Assistance and thinks to stand out so long that timely Assistance could come to his Relief concerning the Battle on our Side all Accounts agree that a great Number of the Enemy is killed the Flower of our Militia either killed or wounded except 150 who stood the Field and forced the Enemy to retreat the wounded are brought off by these brave Men, the dead they left on the Field for Want of a proper Support we will not take upon us to tell of the Behavior of the Rear so far we know they took to Flight the first Firing—Genl Herkemer is wounded Collo: Cox seemingly killed and a great many Officers are among the slain we are surrounded by Tories a Party of 100 of whom is now on their March through the Woods we refer you for farther Information to the Bearer—Major Watts of the Enemy is killed, Joseph Brandt, William Johnson, several known Tories and a Number of Indians—Gentlemen we pray you will Send us Succours, by the Death of the most Part of our Committee Members the Field Officers and General being wounded every Thing is out of Order the People entirely dispirited our County at Esopus unrepresented that we cannot hope to stand it any longer without your Aid we will not mention the shocking Aspect our Fields do shew—faithful to our country we remain your sorrowful Brethern” (DLC:GW).

The bearer of the above letter, Adam Hellmes, made a report to the New York committee of safety upon his arrival at Albany on 11 Aug., which the committee enclosed in its second letter to Clinton of 12 Aug., written at 6 P.M.: “Adam Hellmes informs that he was sent to Fort Schuyler by General [Nicholas] Herkemer with a Letter to Colo. [Peter] Gansevoort acquainting him of his March to the Relief of the Garrison That he arrived at the Fort on Wednesday last [6 Aug.] at one OClock that at two Colo. [Marinus] Willet turned out with 207 Men and attacked an Encampment of the Enemy about one Mile from the Fort in Order to facilitate Genl Herkemer’s March to the Fort that the Engagement lasted about one Hour and that the Enemy were drove off with great Loss that the Colo. then orderd the flanking Parties to spread themselves farther out in Order to discover whether there were any Enemy near them upon their Report that they discovered none he ordered his Men to take as much of the Baggage as they could and destroy the rest which they effectually did each one carrying with them as much as they could. That in their Way to the Fort just above the Landing (where the old Fort used to stand) a Party of 200 Regular Troops appeared preparing to give them Battle, that upon our Troops discovering them Captain [Joseph] Savage of the Artillery pointed his Field Piece upon them and saluted them with Grape Shot This together with a smart Discharge of small Arms and one of the Cannon of the Fort did great Execution among them and soon obliged them to scamper off—when our Troops with their Plunder marched to the Fort where they arrived about 4 OClock with the same Number they left the Garrison not one Man being killed or wounded—That they took one Regular Captain and four Privates Prisoners that among the Plunder they took was one Scarlet Coat, trimmed with Gold Lace three laced Hatts a good Deal of Money in Specie & Paper—That the Enemy’s Force amounted to twelve hundred consisting of Regulars, Indians and Tories before the Engagements of Genl Herkemer and Colo. Willet but thinks they have lost a great many—That the Cannon the Enemy have with them are two six Pounders, two threes, and four Cohorns that they are busey erecting two Batteries one to the North East and the other to the North West of the Fort that he heard the Officers say that the Plunder taken by our Troops that Day at a reasonable Computation amounted at least to £1000—That he left the Fort on Thursday Night last [7 Aug.] that next Morning he often heard the Report of Cannon—That our Troops also found in the Enemy’s Encampment a Number of Letters (which had fallen into their Hands) directed to the Officers in the Fort but not one had been opened” (DLC:GW). Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler in his letter to GW of 15 Aug. also gives an account of Willett’s attack against the British.

3The enclosed letters, located in DLC:GW, from Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., to Philip Schuyler, 1 Aug., and from the Litchfield, Conn., committee to the New York committee of safety, written at 6 P.M. on 4 Aug., both indicate that the militia reinforcements from Connecticut had been ordered not to Albany but to Peekskill, New York. Trumbull also wrote to Rhode Island governor Nicholas Cooke on 5 Aug. apprising him of the northern department’s critical need for reinforcements, saying “if there Remains any Body of Continental Troops in your State it Seems to be Genll Washington’s Intention that they March to oppose Burgoyne” (R-Ar).

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