From Major General Horatio Gates
Boston 24th March 1779.
By return of the Express who carried Your Excellencys letters to General Sullivan, I received the following Answer to my Letter to Him by That conveyance; “I shall immediately write to General Washington, his Answer may perhaps enable me to determine whether I shall undertake The Expedition, or not:”1 in consequence of This Answer, I remain here, until I know the result of Your Excellencys Determination in this matter—I am Sir Your Excellencys most Obedient Servant
ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NHi: Gates Papers.
1. In addition to his own letter to John Sullivan of 16 March, Gates is referring to GW’s letter of 6 March instructing Sullivan to take command of an expedition against the Six Nations along the Pennsylvania-New York frontier (see Gates to GW, 16 March, and n.1 to that document). Gates quotes the final sentence of a letter from Sullivan to him of 17 March. The prior portion of that letter, written at Providence, R.I., reads: “I Received your favor of yesterday. I Cannot at present possibly Determine upon the Matter Communicated. I have Lately been in a very ill State of health & cannot think of Setting out untill I get my health Established besides this I have been So Long absent from my family that I cannot think of Setting out on Such a Journey without an opportunity of taking Some Care of that Little part of my Interest which I have not already Sacrificed in the Service of the publick besides this the General does not mention whether I am to bring forward my Baggage or Let it remain or whether I am to Set out from here or from head Quarters or where I am to Set out for. I need not add to all this that a years pay will not Support me & my family to Head Quarters & Back again & Even if my health & all other Circumstances would admit I could not think of Leaving a Department where I have Commanded a year without Settling my Accounts & Securing myself ag[ains]t after Demands” (Hammond, Sullivan Papers description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends , 2:535–36). Subsequent correspondence between GW and Sullivan on the specific point of him accepting command of this expedition has not been found, but Sullivan wrote a letter of 23 March to Gates, which reads: “Though I wrote General Washington my objection to undertaking the Intended Expedition & wrote you my Doubts Respecting it yet after more mature Deliberation I have thought it best to set out without waiting General Washingtons answer Lest too much time Should be Lost, but this I could not have Done had I not found a friend to Lend me money to Defray the Expences of my Journey as we have not a farthing in the publick Chest—I Shall Set out on thursday or Fryday morning if the weather permits.
“P S I Leave the Command & papers with General Glover” (Hammond, Sullivan Papers description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends , 2:542). The docket of the manuscript letter, located in Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers,” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends reads in part: “received the 29th—at 11 o’Clock—A.M.” A note on the same page of this manuscript as the address reads: “Genl Sullivan directs this Letter to be sent the day before he Leaves Town.” Sullivan left Providence for Middlebrook on Monday, 29 March.