George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Edward Hand, 18 November 1778

From Brigadier General Edward Hand

Albany [N.Y.] 18th Novr 1778


On the 10th I informed your Excellency of the Intelligence I received of an intended Attack on Cherry Valley, and the Measures I had taken in Consequence—On the 13th I wrote your Excellency from Connychary,1 informing you that the Enemy had reached Cherry Valley the 11th surprised Col. Alden, killed himself, taken the Lieut. Colonel and some other Officers, and after Destroyed the Settlement, & Murdering many Women & Children decamped the 12th.

On the 15th I was Alarmed by Advices that the Enemy had retd the 14th taken Fort Alden, & Invested Fort Plank which has no doubt been Communicated to your Excellency by Govr Clinton.2

I now have the Satisfaction to tell you that the Alarm was false, the enclosed Letter from Col. Clyde to Col. Fisher will Acct for the Mistake; the enclosed Papers with those already transmitted will give you the best light into the Strenght of the Enemy, & Situation of Affairs in this Quarter I can at present Afford your Excellency.3

The Inhabitants of the Mowhawk District among other things have requested that Van Scaiks Regt may be detained in their Neighbourhood for some time,4 this I could not by any Means Consent to, but have promised to Consult your Excellency on the Propriety of Quartering Gonseverts or a part of it their, you will also See that General Schuyler expects a part of that Regt at Seratoga—From the Instructions I have received from your Excellency I cant look upon Gansvorts Regt under my Direction after it is releived therefore request you will be pleased to inform me how you intend disposing of it.

I am firmly of Opinion that untill the Season & other Circumstances will admit of our Acting Offencively against the Savages, or prosecutg some other Measures that may attract their Attention we will not be secure here, so extencive a Frontier, can never be defended against the Sudden incursions of a Numerous Enemy, especially when they are for the most part to be opposed by Militia harrased by Continual Alarms & dispersed over the whole Face of the Country.

In compliance with the petition of the Mowhawk Inhabitants I have directed a Block House to cover 50 Men to be erected at Sacundaga,5 it commands the Water Communication between that Country & Canada, the latter pa<mutilated> their prayer I beleive should be addressed to the Civil power.

As Cherry Valley Settlement is for the most part distroyed I think the Regt Commanded by Major Whiting would be more Advantageously placed at the Foot, or Head of Oswego Lake, if it is not Judged Adviseable to remove it to the Mowhawk River, the Head of the Lake is not more than Six Miles from where the Regt now is, & I beleive would afford them Cover & Storage for Provision &ca. The Foot is 12 Miles it Commands the Navagation of the Head of the East Branch of Susquehannah, & except the Savages have now distroyed them, there are Houses sufficient to Cover the Regt & well Calculated for Defence already built.6 I am Sir with much Respect Your Excellencys most Obedt & most Hhble Servt

Edwd Hand.


1Hand’s letter to GW of 13 Nov. was written from Caughnawaga, not Conajoharie, New York.

2The exact location of Fort Plank is unknown. It was one of a series of forts constructed to protect the Conajoharie settlements along the Mohawk River.

3The enclosed copy of a letter from Lt. Col. Samuel Clyde (1732–1790) of the 1st Regiment of the Tryon County, N.Y., militia to Col. Frederick Fisher, dated 15 Nov. in the morning, reads: “We have found out the Alarm in Cherry Valley is not so bad as we Expected, The Fort is in our Possession yet, therefore inform General Hand imediately and all your Regiment. The Reason of the Alarm was by a Scout of ours that went out last Sunday that we Expected was taken, it got in safe, they appearing in their Blanketts, were taken for the Enemy, when the Mistake was found out Caused the Noise that was heard, and the Small Arms that was Fired. therefore you may make yourself easy, on Acct of the Express that was sent you by Colonel Gorden” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of a letter from Maj. Daniel Whiting to Lt. Col. William Butler, dated 14 Nov. at Cherry Valley, reads: “Mr Magee has just Arrived, Informs me that you are on your March to our Assistance, am Sorry to inform You, that they have left this place, & were 20 Miles off last Night, on their way towards Serveces—had the Militia, under the Command of Col. Klock; Marched to our Assistance, as quick as they might have done, the Enemy had not got off as easily as they have done, for not withstanding repeated Expresses, sent Col. Klock, he did not arrive here, till Yesterday about 11 OClk; & then did not think fit for to persue, as the Militia came poorly provided for provision & the Garrison, entirely destitute of Bread rendered it Impractable. Col. Klock has returned; Col. Fisher with 100 Men arrived here last Night; with a Quantity of Flour, but has likewise Returned, the Destressed Inhabitants beged of him to stay to Assi[s]t them, in Collecting their Cattle which the Enemy left but could not prevail on them to stay; our Scouts are all killed which was the Means of surprising us.

“Col. Alden was killed in his way to the Fort & Col. Stacey taken, they have killed & taken about 12 on their way to the Fort amongst them two Subalterns, and the Doctrs Mate, They have Burnt all the Houses in this Settlement and Murthered about Thirty Women & Children; they took a number of the Inhabitants Several of whom has Returned” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed extract of a letter from Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler to Hand, dated 15 Nov. at Saratoga, N.Y., reads: “Your favour of the 9th I received on the 11th Instt and until Colonel Warner who is at Fort Stacks with his whole Regiment which as one of his Officers informs me Consists of no more than 110 Exclusive of Commissiond Officers, a Force too small Considering the Number of the Enemy at Crown Point, & the few Inhabitants capable of bearing Arms in this Quarter; I have intreated Colonel Warner to keep a good look out and to give me the most early Intillegence should any Enemy tend this way, that I may hasten up the Militia.

“I dont suppose you can at present spare any Troops from the Western Communication but when Gaunsworth is releived by V. Schaiks I could wish for three Companies of his in this Quarter, as I apprehend more danger from a Visit when the Lakes are Frozen in Winter than at any time before” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of a letter from Brig. Gen. Abraham Ten Broeck to Hand, dated 16 Nov. at “Middle Fort Schohary,” reads: “On Receipt of your Favour of Yesterday which came to hand on the Afternoon of the same day—I called a Council of the Continental and Millitia Officers last Evening and laid before them your Letters together with some other Pieses of Intelligence which Colonel Butler had received who after a full and Mature Consideration were unanimous of Opinion that not any Part of the Troops now at this post can be spard from the Imediate Defence there of—I regret that no more of the Militia have turned out on this Occasion—I can however assure you that nothing has been wanting on my part to make their Number equal to our Wishes—but notwithstanding every Effort in my power I have not been Able to collect more than 150 out of the three Regt ordered to the Assistance of this Post tho I am Informed there are some yet on their March Col. Butler who writes by this Conveyance will Inform you of the state of the Continental Troops under his Command & by the Return made here last Night by the Officers commanding the Detatchment of Militia at this post there are Ninety three on the Ground fit for Duty” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of a letter from Butler to Hand, dated 16 Nov. at Schoharie, N.Y., reads: “In Consequence of the enclosed Letters from Major Whiting & those I received from you, I marchd the 13th Inst. with such of my Troops as I could possibly get Shoes for Consisting of about 180, with thirty Volunteers out of the Militia & Lt Dietz’s Rangers to the Assistance of that Garrison—I could not get off untill the Evening on Acct of my Mens Cooking their provission, I then marched untill after Midnight it raining excessive hard 13 Miles, the 14th in the Evening I met an Express (who I had sent off before my March to inform Majer Whiting of my Coming) with the enclosed Letter of that date, as I had my Apprehentions of their Changing their Rout and Attacking this Settlement, and knowing it would be in Vain to follow them, I set out on my return Yesterday morning and after Marching between twenty & thirty Miles arrived at this Place in the after Noon.

“The distressed situation of my Troops again they got here was Shocking, Numbers of their Shoes being worn out on the way, Marched barefooted thro the Snow.

“On my Return I found Genl Tenbrook here who had arrived with between one & two Hundred Militia.

“Genl Tenbrook and myself received your Letters from Senectaday of the 15th last Evening, as the Genl has wrote you Minutely in Answer to those Letters, I need say little on that Head, It makes me exceeding Unhappy that the Distressed situation of my Troops makes it impossible for me to March at this inclement Season . . . Since my return am exceeding unwell. . . . I have also enclosed you a Depotition of a Deserter from the Enemy who came in here, about half an Hour before your Acct of Cherry Valley being Attacked, I should have sent it before but could not direct the Express where to find you” (DLC:GW).

Hand also enclosed a “Return of the loss Sustaind by the Regimt late under the Command of Col. Ichabod Alden in the Attack on Cherry Valley 11th Novr 1778. . . . Agreable to Major Whitings return.” It lists eleven killed, including one colonel and ten rank and file; and eighteen missing, including one lieutenant colonel, one lieutenant, one ensign, one surgeon’s mate, and one sergeant. It also lists two men and thirty women and children killed, two men wounded, and thirty “of Dift Ages & Sexes” missing (DLC:GW).

4The enclosed “Humble Petition of the Inhabitants of the Mohawk District, County of Tryon, and State of New york” to Hand, dated 15 Nov. at Caughnawaga, N.Y., and signed by Col. Frederick Fisher, Maj. Jelles Fonda, John Nukerk Madger, Zepheniah Batcheller [Batchelor], John Fonda, and Lt. Col. Volkert Veeder, reads: “your Petitioners have been during this Last Summer verry much Invaded by our Savage Enemy, and Still are likely to Continue in murdring men Women and Children; burning and Plundering all our Frontiers, we your Petitioners in Consequence, Humbly begs, that you<r> Honour will be pleased to admit of Colo. Goshen Van Schaacks Regi<men>t to Remain in our Neighbourhood, at Johnstown and at Sacondag<a> untill good Sleighing time to Protect our Fron<tier> and your Petitioners also further begs that y<our> Honour will be pleased to order two Hundre<d> and fifty men to Sacondaga, to build Block house<s> there, which will be a great means of Retarding the Progress of the Enemy which we Expect daily from that Quarter, and said block Houses will be a good place of Refuge for Scouting Parties in Case of an Attack, and also to leave a Small Guard in Johnstown to take Care of the Prisoners and Torys which may from time t<o> time be Confined in our Goal, and your Petitioners Humbley begs that all the Torys and Tory familys, may be Removed from this Quarte<r> as we your Petit<ioners h>ave great Reason to believe that they <mutilated>d with the Enemy . . . plase to Seand an aswer upon the within Contant by the bearer as Colo. Van Schick Leis at Mejor Fondas an weats For the Batos to Cum up” (DLC:GW).

5Sacandaga was located about ten miles northeast of Johnstown at what is now Mayfield in Fulton County, N.Y., at the southwest corner of Sacandaga Lake. A blockhouse was constructed there in the spring of 1776, destroyed by Indians in June 1778, and subsequently rebuilt.

6Hand is referring to Otsego Lake, at the headwaters of the eastern branch of the Susquehanna River in Otsego County, N.Y. The settlement of Springfield was at the head of the lake; the foot of the lake became the site of the village of Cooperstown in 1786, but no permanent settlement existed there at this time.

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