George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Philip Schuyler, 25 January 1779

From Major General Philip Schuyler

Albany Jany 25th 1779.

Dear Sir

Your Excellency’s Favor of the 31st Ult. I had the Honor to receive on the 20th Instant.

I feel myself sensibly affected by the generous and polite Manner in which your Excellency leaves me the Alternative to take the Command in this Department or not—My Letters of the 27th Ult. & 2d Inst. which could not have come to Hand when your’s was written will evince the propriety of my declining the Command.1 Your Excellency will probably have seen my Letter of the 27th Ult. inclosing my Resignation to Congress—The Reasons I gave for requesting Leave to resign were certainly amongst those which induced me to it;2 but they were not the principle ones—Those I witheld, because in addressing them I must of Necessity have arraigned the Conduct of Congress towards me, which, for the present I wish to wave—it is needless to give them to a Gentleman whose Sensibility will realize, altho’ he has happily never experienced, how painful it is to a Man of the least Sentiment to be deprived of the Means of Justification, for a whole Twelve Month, and deprived of an Opportunity of evincing that every Suspicion to his prejudice was equally malicious and groundless.

I am informed Congress had not accepted my Resignation on the 12th Instant—That it was deferred until the Delegates of this State should have advised me to recal my Resignation3—Your Excellency will easily percieve what will be the Result of such an Application, for if it is inconsistent with the Dignity or Views of Congress to declare that my Services are necessary to the public (the only Reparation they can now afford me, and that very short of the Injuries I have sustained) it would be dangerous for me to continue their Servant, and however earnestly solicited to it by my Friends I must not yield to their Wishes.

From the Information contained in mine of the 17th Instant,4 which is in a great Measure corroborated by the inclosed,5 Your Excellency will see the Advantages which would result from an early penetration into Canada, should the Enemy you have in Front make such Movements as to permit one—I trust, notwithstanding the Difficulties that are to be surmounted, that the Means of Conveyance will be compleated in good Time—Sure I am, that no Exertions on my part shall be wanting, either in or out of the Army, to promote the Success of the intended Operation. I am with the Most Affectionate wishes Dr Sir Your Excellencys Most Obed: H[umbl]e Servt

Ph: Schuyler


1Schuyler’s letter to GW of 2 Jan. has not been found.

2The principal reason for resigning that Schuyler had given in his letter of 27 Dec. 1778 to Henry Laurens, who recently had resigned as president of Congress, was his need to pay more attention to his long neglected private business affairs (DNA:PCC, item 153).

3After reading Schuyler’s letter of resignation on 5 Jan., Congress had considered and then rejected a motion directing the president of Congress, John Jay, to confer with GW “on the expediency of Accepting Major General Schuyler’s resignation” and to submit a written report thereon to Congress. Further consideration of the matter was postponed (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 , 13:27–28; see also Jay to Schuyler, 15 Jan., 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 , 11:469–70). Congress finally accepted Schuyler’s resignation on 19 April (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 , 13:473).

4This letter has not been found.

5Schuyler enclosed the letters of 11 Jan. that he had received from Brig. Gen. Jacob Bayley and Col. Timothy Bedel and an undated examination of British deserter Anthony Dunnivell. Bayley’s letter to Schuyler of 11 Jan., which he wrote at Newbury, Vt., consists principally of the same intelligence regarding the strength of the various Canadian posts found in Bayley’s report of 2 Jan., which he had enclosed in his letter to GW of that date (see n.2 to that document). Bayley also informed Schuyler briefly about the recent movements of Caughnawaga chief Colonel Louis, and in regard to future military operations, he wrote: “by the Disposition of the Enemy [in Canada] they Expect to be attack’d[.] I wish it Could be the Case—at least their Shiping destroyed in the Lake this winter that a way might be opened for a Sumer Campaign that way” (ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; Sprague transcript and original cover, DLC:GW).

Bedel, who wrote his letter to Schuyler of 11 Jan. at Haverhill, N.H., reports the same strength numbers for the various Canadian posts as Bayley gave in his 2 Jan. report enclosed to GW and his 11 Jan. letter to Schuyler. Bedel then adds: “The Tories chiefly at Sorrell, no Fortifications, but Building large Barracks, Store Houses &c.—they are in great Expectation of seeing us in that Country this Season—The Canadians are very desireous of seeing us come in Earnest and have kept their Horses fat so as to be ready to help us, and Arms Secreted to proceed along with us—The above Intelligence is Confirmed by our Scouts and from different Priests from those parts by their Letters—We are also informed they have taken their heaviest Cannon out of their Shipping and from St John’s and Carried them to Quebec—The Indians from the Upper Country are almost to a man gone back, and Caused a great deal of Trouble before they coud settle with them—We have upwards of 30 Families of Indians here (almost Naked) am Obliged to furnish them with Provisions, they are ready for any Service when called upon coud they be furnished with Blankets &c.” (DLC:GW).

Anthony Dunnivell, who had deserted from the British 29th Regiment at Île aux Noix, Quebec, on 2 Jan., provided intelligence about the location of particular regiments in Canada. He also reported: “Two strong Redoubts built last Summer at St John’s—A picket Fort mounting 14 nine pounders and one eight Inch Howitz[er] at Isle-aux Noix—Has heard that the Fort at St John’s mounted 150 Guns—All the Vessels in Lake Champlain brought to St Johns’ last Fall & drawn up under Cover of the Guns of the Fort, excepting the 30 Gun Frigate, which is kept clear of Ice & constantly manned—A block House opposite to St John’s to the West of the Sorrel [Richelieu River]—four six pounders in it—No vessels built last Year—The Marines and Sailors who manned the Fleet do Garrison Duty at St John’s—Does not know their Number—On the 24th of August last an Order was given by General Carlton [Guy Carleton], that all the Troops permitted to return to Canada by the Saratoga Convention should take Arms, assigning as a Reason that the Convention was broke on the part of the Americans—The Canadians much disatisfied on Account of the pressing their Horses Carts &c. which has frequently been done last Campaign to carry on the Fortifications—It was the received Opinion of the Officers and Soldiery at St John’s & Isle aux Noix that our [the American] Army would attempt the Reduction of Canada this Winter—Fifty Indians at Isle-aux-Noix quartered in a Block House—Arrived there about three Weeks since and were to remain all Winter as he understood—The Examinant has been in Canada since May 1776—plenty of fresh & salt provisions—Troops paid as well as usual—General [Frederick] Haldimand commands in Chief—[Lt.] Colonel Carlton [Thomas Carleton] at Isle aux-Noix—No British or Foreign General Officers that he knows of, in Canada, excepting Genl Haldimand” (DLC:GW).

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