George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 3 March 1779

From George Clinton

Pokeepsie [N.Y.] 3d March 1779

Dear Sir,

Altho there have been no Hostilities committed by the Enemy during the Winter on the Western Frontier of this State the Inhabitants particularly of Tryon County are so Strongly impressed with Apprehensions of Danger on the Opening of the Spring that many of them have already and I am informed that most of them will speedily remove into the interior Parts of the Country unless they can have Reason to expect more perfect Protection than we were able to afford them last Year. Within a few Weeks I have received repeated Applications from them on this Subject intimating their Intentions to abandon their Settlements unless I could assure them that such Measures would be pursued as would render them secure and as I am sensible that nothing short of spirited offensive Operations against the Savages can effect this I find myself particularly embarrassed—If I am much longer silent they will remove and to encourage them to continue might in the Event be cruel—I would therefore wish if offensive Operations are really intended in that Quarter that I might have such Intimation of it as would enable me to give general Assurances to the Inhabitants to induce them to continue on their Farms—which, considering the present general Scarcity of Bread will be a capital Object as that County is one of the principal Grannaries of this State. I am also induced to make this Application to your Excellency1 as our Legislature is now sitting and discover a Disposition to enable me to call out a Body of Men for the ensuing Season to co-operate with such Continental Troops as your Excellency may destine for this Service.2

I am advised that Lieut. Colo. Willett who has an Influence among the People of Tryon County (from his Exertions at Fort Schuyler when invested by St Leger) might be serviceably employed in arranging the Militia there for a few Months and I would be glad to have it in my Power to call him to that Service if I should esteem it necessary and this I presume might be done without injuring his Regiment as it is completely officered.3

I will be much obliged to your Excellency for any late Intelligence which you are at Liberty to communicate. I am with the highest Respect and Esteem Your most obedt servt

Geo: Clinton

P.S: I omitted mentioning that if we raise any Number of Men we shall be at a Loss to arm them fit for the Field—unless we can be supplied by the Public—the Arms to be returned at the Expiration of the Time allotted for the Service.4

LS, DLC:GW. The version of this letter that is printed in Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:611–13, apparently was taken from a draft manuscript that has not been found. It varies significantly from the wording of the LS in two places; see notes 1 and 4.

1At this place, the text in Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:611–13, includes the words, “at present.”

2GW responded to Clinton’s concerns in letters of 4 and 6 March. The letters from settlers on the New York frontier to Clinton have not been identified, but Clinton wrote to Jacob Klock and others of Tryon County on this date: “I have received your Representation of the 23d ult. and shall lay it before the Legislature who have now under Consideration the measures to be pursued for Defence of the Frontiers. I have already wrote to the Delegates from this state in Congress representing in the strongest Terms the Necessity of affording you Protection & will also address a Letter to his Excellency Genl. Washington on the same subject. Whatever may be the Event of these applications you may depend upon every aid in my own Power for your Defence & security” (Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:613).

3Marinus Willett was then lieutenant colonel of the 3d New York Regiment. For Willett’s attack on the besiegers of Fort Schuyler, also known as Fort Stanwix, N.Y., on 6 Aug. 1777, see Clinton to GW, 13 Aug. 1777, and n.1 to that document, and Philip Schuyler to GW, 15 Aug. 1777. In a letter of 15 March 1779, Clinton tendered Willett the command of a new militia regiment meant for New York frontier defense, but Willett declined in a letter of 22 March because he did not wish to be a lieutenant colonel commanding a militia regiment while Lt. Col. Pierre Regnier de Roussi, who he asserted stood lower than himself in the New York line, commanded a Continental regiment (see Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:635–36, 656–57). Willett subsequently participated in an expedition against the Onondagas in April (see James Clinton to GW, 8 April, and Philip Schuyler to GW, 12 May, both DLC:GW).

Barrimore Matthew (Barry) St. Leger (c.1733–1789) entered the British army as an ensign of the 28th Foot in April 1756, served on the New York frontier and in Canada during the French and Indian War, and received promotion to major of the 95th Foot in September 1762. Promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 34th Foot in May 1772, St. Leger was breveted a provincial brigadier general to lead an expedition through the Mohawk Valley that departed in June 1777 from Montreal to support the main British drive toward Albany under Gen. John Burgoyne. St. Leger’s force laid seige to Fort Stanwix in early August, but American counterattacks and reinforcements from the army confronting Burgoyne prompted its withdrawal by the end of the month. St. Leger was promoted to colonel in 1780 and led unsuccessful expeditions from Canada in 1781, one meant to capture Philip Schuyler and the other designed to return the Vermont region to British control. St. Leger was promoted to brigadier general and served in Canada until 1785, after which he left the army because of ill health.

4The text in Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:611–13, reads: “to be returned when the Service expires.”

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