George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 26 January 1779

From Major General Horatio Gates

Boston 26th January 1779.


Since I had the Honour to write to Your Excellency, I have received the inclosed Letters from General Bayley, and Colonel Bedel. The intelligence contained in them, being nearly the same with that sent before, by several conveyances, to Your Excellency, I did not think it necessary to dispatch it by a Special Messenger.1

By the Numbers of Prisoners sent lately from New York, Newport, and Hallifax, it should seem as if the Enemy’s Magazines of Provisions were in a declining State; not less than Seven hundred prisoners, have arrived at New London, providence, and Boston; and no more than about one half the Crew of the Somerset Ship of War has been returned, the rest having entered in the privateers of this, and the Neighbouring States. Mr Mersereau Commissary for the Continental prisoners of War is not yet returned to Boston. I am therefore under a necessity of representing to Your Excellency that there are near two hundred Prisoners of War, who draw Provisions at Rutland, and more in different Quarters, who get Provisions from the Magazines in this Department. I wish Your Excellency would please to Order them to some State,2 where they can be Cheaper Victualled. The exhausted condition of The Flower Magazines here, require that every means should be Used, not only to Spare, but replenish them. The Draughts of Officers, and Soldiers, who come from the different Armies into this State upon Furlough, are a great Drawback upon these Magazines. I doubt not but Your Excellency foresees the very great propriety of immediately conveying a large Quantity of Flour into this State. The Operations of the Ensuing Campaign, The Assistance which shall be required by the Fleet of our Allies, and the Preparations for Acting Offensively, or Defensively, at this port, are Objects of such importance that they cannot fail Striking Your Excellency. I am, Sir, Your Excellency’s Most Obedient hume Servt

Horatio Gates

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, NHi: Gates Papers.

1Gates had written GW most recently on 15 January. The enclosures were copies of Brig. Gen. Jacob Bayley’s letters to Gates of 1 and 2 Jan. and Col. Timothy Bedel’s letter to Gates of 13 Jan., all of which are in DLC:GW. Bayley’s letter to Gates of 1 Jan., which he wrote at Newbury, Vt., consists of the same intelligence regarding the strength of the various Canadian posts found in Bayley’s report of 2 Jan., which Bayley had enclosed in his letter to GW of that date (see n.2 to that document).

Bayley wrote Gates on 2 Jan., again from Newbury, that the British in Canada “expect to be attacked by us; they keep their Main army force at Sorrel where we proposed to Attack them. I am sorry we could not this Winter. I believe two thousand men, with the help of the Canadians, would Burgoined the total of them without much Risque…. I wish you to send, if in your power, four small field pieces to this place, they will be of service in Case of an Attack, which I expect, if we do not Attack them—A few of the Train would likewise be necessary with them.” The word “Burgoined” apparently means to defeat in a manner like that in which Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne had been defeated in 1777.

Bedel wrote Gates on 13 Jan. from Haverhill, N.H., to remind him “that we are destitute of blankets Amunition &c. to defend ourselves or the Stores in case of any Attack made by the enemy—General Washington in his Letter to me about the middle of December informs me that he has sent the Resolves of Congress with his own dispatches to me relating the Cloathing &c. of my Regiment by Colonel Wheelock, I have never heard from nor yet seen the Resolves—… I hope by this time your honour has received orders from his Excellency [GW] relating this Quarter, which I hope your honour will please to communicate to me by the Bearer, that I may be able to Govern myself accordingly, and know what is to be done. We have constantly the most favourable intelligence from Canada we can expect, by Indians who are daily coming in from that Quarter, and the Inhabitants wait for us with the Greatest impatience. I have upwards of 200 Men constantly on duty here and not more than 50 Blankets, and the Barracks not made comfortable as yet.” No letter from GW to Bedel of mid-December 1778 has been found. GW says in his letter to Jacob Bayley of 20 Jan. that he had not sent any dispatches by Lt. Col. John Wheelock. For Congress’s resolution of 27 Nov. 1778 disbanding Bedel’s regiment, see Henry Laurens to GW, 28 Nov. 1778.

2At this place on the draft manuscript, Gates initially wrote “the Middle States.” He then struck out the first two words, wrote “some” above the line, and made the final word singular. For the wreck of the British warship Somerset near Cape Cod on 2 Nov. 1778, see John Sullivan to GW, 10 Nov. 1778, and n.2 to that document.

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