From Thomas Chittenden
Bennington [Vt.] 6th March 1779
I am directed by my Councel and the General Assembly of this State, to recommend to your Excellency the present unhappy situation of the inhabitants of the northern Frontiers of this State, and to pray your Excellency’s Interposition for their future relief.1
The contiguous situation of those inhabitants to the Enemy, has rendered their Safety perculiarly uncertain from the first commencement2 of the present War, the many Allarms occasioned by the approaches of the Enemy, have kept its inhabitants in such a fluctuating condition, as has rendered it impracticable for them to have secured any considerable Supplies of Provision for the subsistance of their Families before hand; the encroachments of the Army under the Command of Lieutenant General Burgoyne into this State, in the Year 1777, their dareing attempt to distroy this Town, and the Public Stores then deposited here, commanded the attention, as well as the most Vigerous exertions of those inhabitants; And altho there was at that time very plentiful Crops of Grain, Corn Hay &c. on the Ground, yet the Enemy prevented the inhabitants from securing any considerable part of it.
That by their continuing in service, for the purpose of reducing General Burgoyne to a Submission, the Season of the Year was so far advanced, as to put it out of the power of those inhabitants to make the necessary preperations for a Crop of Winter Grain, on which they have ever had their greatest dependance since the first settlement of this part of the Country.
They are therefore the principal part of them, reduced to an Indian Cake, in scant proportion to the number of their Families; and by the destruction of their sheep by the Enemy, and their loss of them otherwise, as well as their Flax, their Bellies and Backs are become co-sufferers.
In this deplorable situation, may it please your Excellency, they remain firm and unshaken; and being generally well Armed & accoutered, are ready on any Sudden emergency, and on the shortest notice to face and encounter their inveterate foe undaunted; but on viewing their present Circumstances, it may be, your Excellency may be prevailed on to make such Provision for the Security of those Frontiers, (which are no less So to three other States) as to prevent the Fatal necessity of continuing those inhabitants in constant service the ensuing Summer.
With this will be communicated a copy of Brigadr General Clintons letter of the 25th Ult. by which your Excellency will perceive his readiness to grant every relief in his power.3
In consequence of his advice, I have ordered the continuance of the Company of Militia therein named, and an addition of fifty men exclusive of officers to join them immediately.4
If after all, that has been exhibited on this subject, it should be found inconsistent to adopt any other Measures in the Case, I desire an order may be granted, for the Subsistance and pay of the officers and Soldiers, that may be found necessary to be raised from time to time within this State for the purpose aforesaid.
The Bearer hereof Joseph Fay Esqr., in whose attachment to the common Cause your Excellency may repose the greatest confidence, will be able to give any further inteligence in the premises, and patiently wait any advice, or directions your Excellency may please to Communicate. I am Sir your Excellency’s most Obedient Humble servant
LS, DLC:GW. Tench Tilghman docketed the manuscript: “answer given to Mr Fay.”
Thomas Chittenden (1730–1797) served as a militia colonel and state representative in Connecticut before moving to Vermont in 1774. He helped draft the first Vermont constitution in 1777 and became Vermont’s first governor in 1778. To protect the land titles of settlers and to eliminate the threat of Loyalist and Indian raids on the northern frontier, Chittenden and other Vermont leaders began secret negotiations in 1780 with Maj. Gen. Frederick Haldimand, governor of Canada, to devise terms that would restore British rule over Vermont. The discovery and persistence of these negotiations created an awkward situation for Chittenden and provoked a political controversy that lasted until the official end of the Revolutionary War in 1783 (see Chittenden to GW, 14 Nov. 1781 and 16 March 1782, both DLC:GW). A skilled and resilient politician, Chittenden served as Vermont governor until his death with the exception of 1790, after he lost the annual election in 1789.
1. A committee of two, Joseph Bowker and Paul Spooner, from the Vermont council had met in late February with a committee from the assembly to consider frontier defense, and the assembly on 26 Feb. requested Chittenden “to write to Gen. Washington apprising him of the intention of the state to provide for the defence of the frontiers” (Walton, Vermont Records description begins E. P. Walton, ed. Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont. 8 vols. Montpelier, 1873–80. description ends , 1:289). Apparently to fulfill this intention, the assembly had resolved on 25 Feb. to appoint the governor and council “a board of war with full power to raise any number of men that shall by them be judged necessary for the defence of the frontiers and to make any necessary preparations for the opening campaign” (Walton, Vermont Records description begins E. P. Walton, ed. Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont. 8 vols. Montpelier, 1873–80. description ends , 1:288; see also Walton, Vermont Records description begins E. P. Walton, ed. Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont. 8 vols. Montpelier, 1873–80. description ends , 1:294–97).
2. A letter is dropped from this word in the manuscript, where it appears that “commenement” was written.
3. The enclosed copy of the letter from Brig. Gen. James Clinton to Chittenden of 25 Feb. has not been found. Writing to Enoch Woodbridge, commissary of issues, on 5 March, Chittenden described this letter from Clinton as one authorizing the governor to raise troops “for the Defence of the Northern frontiers” which “naturally implies” support from “the Continental Store” (Walton, Vermont Records, 1:292). Replying to Clinton, this date, Chittenden thanked the general for his past aid to distressed frontier residents and asked “to know what further assistants you can afford them. I have no disposition to Trouble His Excellency Genl Washington or Congress on the Subject if any thing short can Secure the Inhabitants, but their daily applications to me makes it necessary that I bear their case in mind, and Continue my applications in their behalf until (if possible) I obtain relief for them” (Walton, Vermont Records description begins E. P. Walton, ed. Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont. 8 vols. Montpelier, 1873–80. description ends , 1:293).