George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Horatio Gates, 29 October 1778

To Major General Horatio Gates

Head Quarters Fredericksburg October 29th 1778


Colo. Harrison transmitted you by my direction yesterday, together with some dispatches to yourself from Congress, the copy of a Resolve inclosed to me, directing you to repair to Boston and take the command in the Eastern district.1

On the departure of the fleet which sailed from the Hook the 19th and 20th, I recommended to General Heath to call out a body of Militia from the vicinity of Boston, sufficient to complete the number already in service to about five thousand 2—This was on the supposition, that that fleet contained the embarkation of which we had been informed. When this supposition was contradicted by subsequent intelligence; expecting still, that every moment would bring us advice of the actual sailing of the detachment—I omitted recalling the order respecting the Militia. But as several days have since elapsed, and this event has not taken place, and as every day’s delay weakens the proba[bi]lity of any attempt against Boston and the French fleet—Will it not be adviseable to dismiss those drawn out in consequence of that order? The exhausted state of our Magazines every where makes the greatest œconomy necessary in the consumption of provisions.

I have not this day or two received any thing particular from New York. I am Sir Your most Obet Servt

Go: Washington

p.s. There is one matter which will claim your immediate attention—It respects the removal of the Convention Troops—As I do not know whether you may have received any instructions directly from Congress on the subject I inclose you a copy of their Resolve—It has been already transmitted to Genl Heath3—General Portail has been sent some time since to examine the state of the fortifications at Boston and to form a plan for its more complete defence. His report has been made to Genl Heath who will of course communicate it to you, and you will have it carried into execution, so far as you shall judge it adapted to the purpose and accommodated to our circumstances.4

Go: Washington

LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, NHi: Gates Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Robert Hanson Harrison wrote Gates on 28 Oct.: “The inclosed Letter from Congress came in a packet to His Excellency [GW] since he went out—which he sent to me with directions to forward it to you by Express. I also transmit by his command, a Copy of a Resolution of Congress of the 22d Instant; and it is his request, that you repair to Boston in compliance with their intention” (DLC:GW). Harrison enclosed Henry Laurens’s brief letter to Gates of 23 Oct., which covered Congress’s resolution of 22 Oct. directing GW to order Gates to Boston to take command of the eastern department (see 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 , ll:102, and 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 , 12:1038; see also Laurens to GW, 23 Oct.).

2See GW to William Heath, 22 October. Admiral Byron’s fleet, which was seeking to intercept d’Estaing’s fleet off the Massachusetts coast, and the fleet of transports bound for England had sailed together from Sandy Hook on 18 or 19 Oct. (see Richard Howell to GW, 9 Oct., and note 3 to that document).

3See GW’s second letter to William Heath of 21 October. For Congress’s act of 16 Oct. concerning the removal of the Convention Army to Charlottesville, Va., see Henry Laurens to GW, 16 Oct., and 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 , 12:1016.

4For Duportail’s plan for the defense of Boston, see his letter to GW of 20–21 Oct., and note 1 to that document. GW apparently did not receive Duportail’s letter of that date until the end of October (see GW to Duportail, 31 Oct.). For the delivery of the plan to Heath, see Heath to GW, 21 October.

Index Entries