George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Philip Schuyler, 17 August 1777

From Major General Philip Schuyler

Fort’s five Miles below Stilwater [N.Y.]
August 17th 1777.

Dear Sir

Last Evening I received a Letter from Mr Petry, Chairman of a Committee, in Tryon County inclosing a Letter from Sir John Johnson and others, to the Inhabitants of Tryon County, and one from two Militia Officers taken prisoners by the Enemy in the Action with General Herkimer; Copies whereof I do myself the Honor to inclose.1 These were taken from Butler, together with a verbatim Copy of General Burgoyne’s Proclamation issued by the commanding Officer in the British Camp before Fort Stanwix on the 10th Instant; which is headed as follows “By Barry St Leger Esqr. Commander in Chief of a chosen Body of Troops from the grand Army as well as an extensive Corps of Indian Allies from all the Nations &c. &c.”

From the Contents of these papers, and Butler’s Declaration that his Business lay with Individuals and that he did not enquire for any Officer either civil or military, I could not consider him as a Flag and have therefore ordered General Arnold to send him and the party with him prisoners to Albany—I hope this Step will meet your Excellency’s Approbation.

General Arnold, in a Letter of the 15th Instant from Schenectady, observes “The last Intelligence from Fort Schuyler was by Colonel Willett, who left it on Saturday last, and says, at that Time only one Man had been killed in the Fort, and seven wounded—The whole were in high Spirits and determined to defend it until the last Extremity—In the last action with the Militia, and by a Sally of two hundred Men from the Fort the Enemy acknowledge to have lost three hundred and fifty Men, with all their Baggage at an Encampment near the Fort from which our people drove them—Our Loss of Militia is said to be one hundred and sixty, killed wounded and missing—By a Return found among the Enemies Baggage, it appears their whole Force was about fourteen hundred Men Vizt British Troops two hundred German Rifles eighty, Royal Yorkers three hundred & eighty, Rangers seventy, Canadians fifty, Artillery twenty, Indians six hundred.” I trust General Arnold’s Forces when joined by the Militia of Tryon County will considerably exceed that of the Enemy.

Your Favor of the 10th Instant came to Hand Yesterday—From its Contents it appears that your Excellency either believes that I am already relieved by some Officer, whom you may have sent, or that I ought to have left the Command to the next senior Officer—I have given my Reason for continuing with the Army until relieved, in a former Letter, and I hope they may prove satisfactory.

General Burgoyne is advanced to Saratoga seventeen Miles from hence—Very few Militia have as yet joined us, nor can I learn that there are many on the Way up. I am Dear Sir with great Esteem and Respect Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

Ph: Schuyler

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

1Dr. William Petry (1733–1806) of German Flats, N.Y., was chairman of the Tryon County committee of safety and a surgeon in the Tryon County militia. The enclosed copy of Petry’s letter to Schuyler from Canajoharie, N.Y., of 15 Aug. 1777 reads:

“Yesterday Morning one Mr [Walter N.] Butler, Son to Colonel [John] Butler and said to be an officer in the British Army came to Mr Shoemaker’s, two Miles from Fort Dayton, accompanied by about fourteen white Men and as many Indians all armed under pretence of a Flag of Truce. He enquired for no officer civil or military—Upon our having Intelligence of this we went and demanded his Business. He said it lay with Individuals and shewed us the papers which accompany this. He was Yesterday inviting the Inhabitants to lay down their Arms and repair to the Royal Standard. While with him he used us very uncivilly indeed, condemning and ridiculing all our Measures as rebellious and tyrannical. His Conversation was much taken up in magnifying the Enemies Strength and the most insolent threats imaginable. Capt. [Peter S.] Deygert while conversing with him having Occasion to mention your Honor’s Name, Butler did not hesitate to call you a damn’d Rebel, but it will be troubling you too much to descend to particulars.

“After such unheard of Conduct in a Flag we concieve it our Duty to sieze and confine him and party till your Honors pleasure can be had concerning them and shall submit the Matter to Colo: [James] Wesson and desire him to sieze and confine them accordingly” (DLC:GW). Walter N. Butler (c.1752–1781) was an ensign in one of the Loyalist ranger regiments in service on the New York—Canadian border. He was charged with spying and tried, convicted, and sentenced to death at German Flats on 21 Aug., but his sentence was commuted after several Continental officers who had known him in the early 1770s when he studied law at Albany intervened on his behalf. Promoted to captain in December 1777 and eventually to major, Butler escaped from American custody in April 1778. In November 1778 he headed the party of Loyalists and Indians that attacked Cherry Valley, N.Y., and in October 1781 he was killed in the Mohawk Valley by New York militia troops under the command of Col. Marinus Willett (see Robert R. Livingston to John Adams, 20 Nov. 1781, DNA:PCC, item 79).

The enclosed copy of a letter from Sir John Johnson, Daniel Claus, and John Butler to the citizens of Tryon County, N.Y., written at the “Camp before Fort Stanwix” on 13 Aug. 1777, reads: “Notwithstanding the many and great Injuries we have received, both in person and property at your Hands and being at the Head of victorious Troops, we most ardently wish to see peace restored to our once happy Country, to obtain which we are willing and desirous upon a proper Submission on your parts to bury in Oblivion all that is past and hope that you are or will be convinced in the End, that we were your Friends and good Advisers and not such wicked designing Men as those who have led you into Error and almost total Ruin. You have no Doubt great Reason to dread the Resentment of the Indians on Account of the Loss they sustained in the late Action and the Mulish obstinacy of your Troops in this Garrison, who can have no Resource but what is within themselves, for which Reason the Indians declare that if they do not surrender the Garrison without further Opposition they will put every Soul to Death not only of the Garrison but of the whole County, without Regard to Age, Sex or Friends, for which Reason it is become your indispensible Duty, as you must answer for the Consequence, to send a Deputation of your principal people, to oblige them immediately to what they must in a little Time be forced the Surrender of the Garrison—In which Case we will engage upon the Faith of Christians to protect you from the Violence of the Indians. Surrounded as you are by victorious Armies; one half, if not the greatest part of the Inhabitants Friends to Government without any Resource surely you can’t hesitate a Moment to accept of the Terms proposed to you by Friends and well Wishers to the Country” (DLC:GW).

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