George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel William Malcom, 26 July 1778

From Colonel William Malcom

West point [N.Y.] July 26 1778


I have taken the Command, according to your Excellencys orders,1 and General Glover is gone on to his Brigade—It may be that this post is in good order—but not in my opinion—I can find but very few that know what they are here for2—I expected to have sent your Excellency A perfect State of every department by this Oppty but altho’ I called for returns three days ago I have got none yet but such as might have been expected about the 19th of Aprill 75.3

As Provissions is a Capital Article I enclose the Commissarys return.4 In about a week I hope to furnish a Compleat State of every thing—but an Engineer is necessary—The Militia orderd from Camp are Straggling in—I have however ordered off the detatchments of Levy called Nixons & Putnams, (about 500) because I apprehend they ought to be arranged as soon as possible—and Greatons shall follow the day after tomorrow.

I am posting the Militia Regts on the Out Works and assigning particular duty to each—Mr Kosiesko tells me that—

  300 men will finish Putnams Redt in 3 weeks
  200 Webbs 3
  300 wyllys, Meigs & shereburns 2
  300   Chain battery 3

But I beg leave to remark, That The Fort is in a very unfinish’d State—a Vast deal of work to do on the aproaches—not a little Occassional fatigue & Also the Garrison duty, which requires 80 men dayly—There is also a Block house proposed to be built on a Hill West of Putnams Redt which, commands the whole.

From this Estimate your Excellency will be able to determine what the strength of the Garrison ought to be making allowa⟨nce⟩ for Reliefs—and the estimate is moderat⟨e.⟩

The Two Small Continental Regts are absolutely in Rags6—no Shirts—Shoes or Overhalls—There are some of those Articles in Store at Fish Kill—I Pray your Excellency will indulge me with an order for about 320 pair of each, & Some Blankitts. The Regts have a Number of Waggons—we want but few here and its difficult to provide forrage—i.e. it takes too many men from more importent duty to assisst the F. Master in bringing it over the River—Shall they be discharged & return’d to Conecticut, or will the Q. M. General employ them untill the expiration of the time of Service of the Regiments they came with expire (about two Mos.).

A Garrison C: Martial is often Necessary—Will your Excellency Authorise me to Constitute one Occessionely?

There are Three articles of Expence which I beg leave to propose to your Excellency—viz. The Young Gentleman who Acted as M. of Brigade wt. Spencer, to do duty something in that way7—to assisst in training the Troops & conducting the duty—And another in the Style of an asst A. Genl to the Garrison to make returns &c.—There is abundance of employment for both nor can the duty be carried on without them—with any degree of regularity—and if I do that myself—more capital Servi[c]e must be neglected—They will both only cost the public abt the triffling Sum of forty dollars per Mo.

The other Article, I do not urge—it is some extra allowance as Subsistance for myself—There are a world of people resort here, on bussiness-who must eat, & drink and as Commanding Officer, they expect it from me—I am content to give the Q. Mr my pay & Subsistance if he shall be orderd to supply me—I do not mean to be extravagant—nor wou’d I be hired to live in dessipation—Your Excellency may pronounce on these matters as they appear reasonable.

at General Warners request & from my own Knowledge of its propriety I have sent a Capt. Santford of my Regt to take the Command at Fish Kill, & have orderd him to send the Levys on to Camp except a few for Guards & fatigue in the D. Q. M. Dept and to report to your Excellency every material circumstance that Occurs—I hope this will meet with approbation—I have the Honor to be with great respect May it please Your Exclly Your Excellencys mo. obt & very Hbl. Sert

W. Malcom

does the German Regt now at F. Kill come here8—Grahames woud be usefull in fatigue also if they can be Shared.


2In a letter to Col. John Lamb of 2 Aug., Malcom confided that he found his new command “in just as bad order as even your Imagination can conceive—will you believe that there was not 1 lb of meat in the Garrison of any Kind—and but 200 barrells of flour. … If the Enemy do come I shall fight them in the field, which is my only chance—the works are not worth a farthing” (NHi: John Lamb Papers; see also Malcom to Horatio Gates, 28 July, NHi: Gates Papers).

3The battles at Lexington and Concord took place on 19 April 1775.

4For the enclosed return, made on this date by Assistant Commissary of Issues John Elderkin, see DLC:GW.

5The redoubts at West Point were named after the colonels commanding the regiments that commenced their construction. Fort Putnam was on Crown Hill, about two-thirds of a mile southwest of Fort Arnold. Fort Webb was about a fifth of a mile east of Fort Putnam. Fort Wyllys was about a fifth of a mile south of Fort Webb, with Fort Meigs, closer to the river, just southeast of Fort Wyllys. Sherburne redoubt was about an eighth of a mile northwest of Fort Arnold. When Malcom sent the same information to Henry Laurens, “chain battery” was replaced by “Constitution (East side the River)” (Malcom to Laurens, 1 Aug., DNA:PCC, item 78).

6Patton’s and Malcom’s Additional Continental Regiments stationed at West Point together totaled about 150 rank and file fit for duty (Lesser, Sinews of Independence description begins Charles H. Lesser, ed. The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army. Chicago, 1976. description ends , 77).

7Malcom may have been referring to William Peck, who served as brigade major for Joseph Spencer’s brigade in 1776.

8Malcom was referring to Armand’s corps.

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