George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, 30 October 1777

To Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton

Head Quarters Philada County [Pa.] 30th October 1777

Dear Sir

It having been judged expedient by the Members of a Council of War held yesterday, that one of the Gentlemen of my family should be sent to Genl Gates in order to lay before him the State of this Army, and the Situation of the Enemy, and to point out to him the many happy Consequences that will accrue from an immediate reinforcement being sent from the Northern Army;1 I have thought it proper to appoint you to that duty, and desire that you will immediately set out for Albany, at which place or in the neighbourhood, I imagine you will find Genl Gates.

You are so fully acquainted with the two principal points on which you are sent, namely the State of our Army, and the Situation of the Enemy, that I Shall not enlarge on those Heads; What you are chiefly to attend to, is to point out in the Clearest and fullest manner, to Genl Gates, the absolute necessity that there is for his detaching a very considerable part of the Army at present under his Command to the reinforcement of this; A measure that will in all probability reduce Genl Howe to the same situation in which Genl Burgoine now is, should he attempt to remain in Philadelphia without being able to remove the obstructions in Deleware, & opening a free communication with his Shipping.

The force which the Members of the Council of War judge it safe and expidient to draw down at present, are the three New Hampshire, and Fifteen Massachusetts Regiments, with Lee’s and Jacksons two of the 16 Aditionals. But it is more than probable that Genl Gates may have destined part of those Troops to the reduction of Ticonderoga, should the Enemy not have evacuated it, or to the garrisoning of it, if they Should, in that case, the reinforcement will vary according to Circumstances; but, if possible, let it be made up to the same Number out of other Corps.

If, upon your meeting with Genl Gates,2 you should find that he intends in Consequence of his Success3 to employ the Troops under his Command upon some expedition by the prosecution of which the common cause will be more benefitted than by their being sent down to reinforce this Army, it is not my wish to give any interruption to the plan. But if he should have nothing more in contemplation than those particular objects which I have mention’d to you, and which it is unnecessary to commit to paper, in that case you are to inform him that it is my desire that the reinforcements before mentioned or such part of them as can be safely spared, be immediately put in motion to join this Army.

I have understood that Genl Gates has already detached Nixons & Glovers Brigades to join Genl Putnam, and Genl Dickinson informs me,4 Sr Henry Clinton has come down the River with his whole force. If this be a fact, you are to desire Genl Putnam to send the two Brigades forward with the greatest expedition, as there can be no occasion for them there.

I expect you will meet Colo: Morgans Corps upon their way downe, if you do, let them know how essential their services are to us, and desire the Colo. or Commanding Officer to hasten their March as much as it is consistent with the health of the Men, after their late fatigues.

Let me hear from you when you reach the North River, and upon your arrival at Albany. I wish you a pleasent Journey And am Dr Sir your Most Obt Servant

Go: Washington

P.S. I ordered the detatchments belonging to Genl Mcdougalls Division to come forward.5 If you meet them direct those belonging to Green’s, Angells, Chandlers and Durgees Regt not to cross Delaware but to proceed to Red Bank.

LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s and Tench Tilghman’s writings, DLC: Alexander Hamilton Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The postscript on the LS is in Tench Tilghman’s writing and does not appear on the draft, which is also in Tilghman’s writing.

Hamilton set out with Caleb Gibbs for Albany on this date, keeping an account of his expenses along the way (vouchers and receipted accounts, 1776–1780, DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 29).

1The general officers’ decision to send a member of GW’s military family to Gates’s headquarters is not reported in the proceedings of the council of war held on 29 October.

2The following passage was struck out at the beginning of this paragraph on the draft: “You are to bear in mind that the demand for the above number of Troops is more in the nature of a requisition than a command, for Genl Gates may, in consequence of his success have set some.”

3These additional words were crossed out at this point on the draft: “set some other expedition on foot, by which the cause may be more benefitted, you may in that Case judge.”

4This additional passage appears on the draft: “that by intelligence, which he thinks may be depended upon.” GW is referring to Philemon Dickinson’s letter to him of 25 October.

5GW apparently is referring to his request in his letter to Israel Putnam of 26 Oct. that Putnam send on the “small detatchments belonging to the New England Regiments now here.”

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