George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 22 April 1778

From George Clinton

Poukeepsie [N.Y.] April 22d 1778.

Dear Sir,

Tho’ the removal of a considerable Part of the Troops that were stationed at Albany to the Posts in the Highlands appeared to be a Measure expedient and absolutely necessary, I am nevertheless very apprehensive, that the withdrawing all the Troops from that Quarter (Gansevoort’s and Warner’s Regiments excepted) which I learn by a Resolve of Congress is to be the Case1 may be attended with bad Consequences, especially while the Disposition of several of the Indian Tribes, if not known to be hostile, is at least very doubtful,2 and from our weak State there may be fixed against us. We have large quantities of Stores of every kind in Albany and its vicinity. The Enemy are not without some Troops in Canada. They are Masters of the Lakes, and should they, aided by the Indians, be disposed to make Incursions into this State, they might do us infinite Mischief before a force, sufficient to oppose them, could be collected. Gansevoort’s Regiment is stationary, and Warner’s, weak undisciplined and, as General Conway informs me, unarmed;3 The Militia, therefore, is all we have to rely on, and they consider themselves as deserted & are already moving in, and leaving the most fertile Parts of the Country uninhabited. That Department being also without any particular Person to command in it contributes greatly to the Discouragement of the Inhabitants. I have ordered out about 300 militia in that Quarter, but the Northern & Western Frontiers are so very extensive that this small force must necessarily be much divided. I am with great Respect Your Excellency’s most Obed’t & very humble Serv’t

Geo. Clinton.

Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 3:205–6.

1In a letter dated April 1778 Board of War president Horatio Gates wrote Maj. Gen. Thomas Conway commanding at Albany: “Congress at the request of his Excellency General Washington have thought proper to order all the Continental troops now at Albany, or Schenectady or at any of the posts to the Northward or Westward of Albany, to be immediately embarked in Sloops and sent down to Fish Kill (Gansevoorts Regiment at Fort Schuyler, Warners Regiment, and Whitcombs Rangers excepted). . . . You will please to give your particular orders, to all the Corps to be sent to Fish Kill, to prepare immediately for embarkation; as it is His Excellency General Washingtons earnest desire, that not one moment should be lost in reinforcing the troops posted for the Defence of the passes of Hudson’s River” (NHi: Alexander McDougall Papers). The resolution of Congress was probably that of 21 Mar., which gave command in New York to a single general officer. That officer was directed “forthwith to draw together, at the Highlands, such of the troops therein as he shall deem expedient,” and, to enable him to employ “most of the continental troops now at Albany” for construction of the works in the Hudson Highlands, he was “authorized to ask” New York to call up militia “to serve at Albany, for the security of the arsenal and magazines there, until the obstructions at the highlands are in such condition as to render any sudden attempt upon Albany by that pass impracticable” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:275–76). Receipt of the order sparked protest from Albany, requesting that the regiments of Colonels Ichabod Alden and John Greaton be retained there (John Barclay to Clinton, 16 April, in Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 3:175; see also Clinton to Alexander McDougall and to Barclay, 18 April, and McDougall to Clinton, 19 April, ibid., 186–87, 189–90, 194–95).

2For discussion of the Indian threat in New York, see Robert R. Livingston to GW, 10 April, and note 3 to that document; see also James Duane to Clinton, 13 March, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 9:287–92.

3Major General Conway wrote Clinton from Albany on 4 April: “I am assur’d by the Deputy muster master of this town that Warner’s Regiment was Compleatly armed Last year at Tyconderoga . . . now they have not a single firelock. . . . If I issued arms to Warner’s Regiment, they Certainly would be Lost as no Dependance can be plac’d in that very Strange Regiment” (Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 3:124). When John Barclay, chairman of the Albany committee, wrote Clinton on 16 April, he argued in part that Warner’s troops were “not sufficiently disciplined to discharge the trust that will be reposed in them” (ibid., 175).

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