From Brigadier General Edward Hand
Albany [N.Y.] 20th Novr 1778
I yesterday recd the inclosed Packet from Major Whitcomb for the President of Congress & take this opertunity of forwarding it by way of Head Quarters, as I think your Excy should see it.1
I dont know what Establishment Major Whitcombs Corps is on or on what footing they were raised. had I been Earlier informd of their want of Stores would have falen on means of Supplying them—Inclosed your Excy has a Copy of Major Whetcombs narative of the progress of the Enemy to the Northward, and Returns of the Strength of his Garrison.2
I take the liberty to hint to your Excy that if Congress mean to Send a force into the Indian Country in the Spring Provision should be made for it this Winter whilst the Snow is on the Ground, either at Fort Schuyler, or Otswego Lake, at the Former if the Rout be by the Onida lake, & at the latter if by the Susquehanna.3 I am Sir with much respect your Excy most Obedt and most Hble Servt
P.S. when I recd Major Whetcombs Packet the D.M.M.G. for the department was at my Quarters, and on his way to Fort Stark I directed him to go to Rutland to Muster the Garrison there. he told me it was not in his department, & could not afford the Expence of Traveling there, he however has engaged to go there on my promising to defray the Additional Expence. I expect some Instructions from yr Excy in the Matter.
1. Maj. Benjamin Whitcomb’s letter to Henry Laurens, dated 11 Nov., is in DNA:PCC, item 41.
2. The enclosed copy of a letter from Whitcomb to Hand, dated 16 Nov. at Rutland, Vt., reads: “On the 6th inst. I received an Express from Captn Smith, Commandg at Fort Stark, Informing to the same purpose as the Copy of a Letter enclosed in your Honours of the 9th Int. Same day arrived two men from a party of 24 Men, under Comd of Lt Cook, whom I had sent to the Lake several Days before, Confirming the above Intelligence. Upon which I called in Col. Warrens Regt of Millitia, in Order, by different Movements, to intercept the Enemy, & to cut of[f] their Communication with the Lake if possible, the Night following Lt Cook was attacked by a Party of 36 Men, Commanded by one Sherewood, who was taken in the Caputulation at Saratoga last Year, Lt Cook repulsed them, with the loss of two men killd and Several Wounded. We had one Man Slightly wounded; upon which Lt Cook, with his party, retreated to this Post, as soon as the Millitia could be embodyed, Col. Warren with a learge Detatchment, Marched down Otter Creek, whilst at the same time I sent a party of about 70 Men, under Command of Captn Parmela Allen, to East Bay, there to take Boats, and meet us near Crown point, in Order to Faciliate our Crossing the Lake, if Necessary, and soon as possible I followed Col. Warren, with about 130 more Men, on our arriving within some Miles of the Lake, we sent Reconitring Parties to discover the Enemys Situation, who to our great Surprise brought Intelligence, that all the Houses, and other Buildings on the Lake, & 40 Miles up Otter Creek, were Burnt, with all the Grain, Forage & Effects, the Men taken prisoners, all the living Annimals, that could not be brought off killed, the Women & Children after being Plundered were sent to Skeensborough & the Enemy with Shipping &ca has made their Escape; I imediately sent other Parties, to Asist some few Famelies, who had Escaped the Genl Conflagration by being some further Distance from the Water, as also to make some Descoveries if possible of the Enemy; but also they are fled: I have dismissed the Melitia, who would have behaved well, if they could have had an oppertunity, it is reputed One Fraizer Comd them this Villanious Expedition who Swore that before Chrismas he would have Whitcomb (meaning me) in possession, or else he would lose his life. I have several parties out at this time, who are Assisting the Distressed Inhabitants, & daily bring them to this Post. I am Necessiated to supply their Wants with Provisions out of the Store, Desire your Honours further Orders concerning them” (DLC:GW). Two enclosed copies of returns of the troops under Whitcomb, one dated 15 Nov. and the other undated, are in DLC:GW. GW forwarded these letters to Congress in his letter to Henry Laurens of 23–24 November.
3. Oneida Lake, in central New York State northeast of Syracuse, is about 22 miles long and from one to five miles wide. On its western end it empties into the Onondaga River (now called the Oneida and Oswego rivers), which enters Lake Ontario about 25 miles to the northwest.