George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Philip Schuyler, 21 May 1779

From Philip Schuyler

Saratoga [N.Y.] May 21st 1779

Dear Sir

Both Your Excellency’s favors of the 10th Instant I had the honor to receive last night. the letters which were Inclosed for General Clinton and Colonel Van Schaick were Instantly returned to Albany.

Immediately on receipt of Your favor of the 5th Instant I dispatched Instructions to Colo: V. Schaick and Mr Deane pointing out the mode I wished to have pursued In exploring the Country from Wood Creek to Oswegatchie, I have no copys here or would Inclose them. they were pretty full but not sufficently so to Obtain every Information your Excellency wishes In your letter of the 10th Instant I shall however Immediately and with great pleasure take measures to procure the best, fullest & Clearest Information on the Subject, and with all the requisite Secrecy, to which I have already Injoined Colo: V. Schaick & Mr Deane.

The present post at Oswegatchie is on the south East side of the St Lawrence but wether the Oswegatchie river disembogues above or below It, I do not certainly recollect; last War the French had a fort on an Island near Oswegatchie and Just above the rapids which General Amherst reduced in 1760,1 A fortification there I believe would Effectually cut of[f] all that Communication between Canada proper and the lakes which is carried on In Batteaus, the river In the part where the Island I allude to lays is about 3/4 of a mile wide the Island which is small nearly In the Middle Immediately above the breadth of the river Increases to near A mile and an half and is exceedingly streight for thirty Miles up without any Islands from thence to the lake It Increases to two three & four miles and is Interspersed with many Islands.

The Country from Fort Edward towards Oswegatchie, In which I have been to the distance of about fourty miles north of Fort George, is much the roughest I know of In this part of North America and by all the Accounts I Ever had Continues so a great part of the way. the mountains are numerous very high and Craggy and the Swamps Close and deep. thro that part which I have seen It would be next to Impossible to move an Army with artillery.

On the 18th Instant A Robert Brisbren a neighbour of mine who had suffered him self to be prevailed upon to Join the Enemy in 17772 returned from Canada he left St Johns (in Company with an other man who was last fall Captivated near Fort George) on the 30th ult. and Montreal a few days before that, he Informs me that not any preparations are making At Montreal or elsewhere that he could learn for moving troops to the westward or to any other quarter—that the Enemy are very busy In constructing the Fort at Sorrel, that they are daily employed in strengthning St Johns and Isle-au-noix that some Vessels were sitting at St Johns to enter lake Champlain that a few troops were to be put on board as sailors were Scarce—that the vessels were to be stationed at or near Crown point.

Inclose your Excellency Copies of two letters which I received Yesterday from Mr Deane3 I shall without delay write Governor Clinton on the subject of the disaffected people back of Katts-kill and recommend that they be apprehended & their families moved from thence.

I have this moment received a letter from Mr Lansingh covering copy of one from Mr Deane to Colo. V. Schaick, copy of which he Informs me is transmitted to Your Excellency and duplicate whereof I have the honor to Inclose.4 If Butler has Really left Niagara with the Intention mentioned In the letter we shall probably soon hear of him he most certainly will not be able If 300 Senecas are gone to the Southward to collect any body in force sufficient to retard the progress of either the troops coming up the Susquehanna or those under General Clinton should they act seperately. I have the honor to be My Dear Sir, with the Sincerest Affection & Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant

Ph: Schuyler

ALS, DLC:GW; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 166; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 169. GW replied on 9 June.

1Schuyler is referring to Fort Levis on Isle Royal on the St. Lawrence River, which the French built in 1759 and the British destroyed the following year, replacing it with a new structure named Fort William Augustus.

2Robert Brisbane (Brisbren), a native of Ireland, owned a farm near Saratoga at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He joined Gen. John Burgoyne with over fifty other area residents in the autumn of 1777 and subsequently relocated to Canada, serving the British as a guide. He returned to the United States in early 1779, ostensibly to gather information and recruit Loyalist volunteers, but instead returned to his farm near Saratoga. After the war he turned his farm over to his brother and moved back to Canada.

3The first enclosure was a copy of a letter from James Deane to Schuyler, dated 6 May at Oneida, N.Y.: “Your favour of the 28th Ulto I received yesterday shall consult with the Grasshopper, as to the persons proper to be recommended to receive the Commissioners & transmit You a list of their names as soon as possible.

“An Express arrived here yesterday from Quiyago, with proposal from that Tribe, of an Exchange of Prisoners—They think it rather unequal to give up the whole number they have in their hands, only for the four of their people who were taken by Colo: V. Schaicks But are very willing to deliver up four young Men in exchange, & Submit it to you to appoint the place—They have proposed either Fort Schuyler, or their Castle” (DLC:GW).

The second enclosure was a copy of a letter from Deane to Schuyler, dated 9 May at Oneida: “The Oneidas have been to Onondago for the purpose mentioned in my last—They set out again to morrow for the same place to bring the remaining part of the inhabitants, who have professed friendship to us, together with their effects to this place—The Onondagos informed Skenando, in private, that they were determined to give the Commissioners a proof of the sincerity of their present professions—That as soon as the Old people &c. had set out for this place, The Warriors would go to some of the posts occupied by the Brittish Troops & if possible, take a number of prisoners or Scalps which they are to bring here—The Onondagos begs the Commissioners to consider them as friends & to Suffer them to repossess their Country after the Close of the War.

“Our Friends here have made frequent complaints of a number of disaffected Inhabitants, settled by their description, somewhere West of the Katskill, between the Deleware & that large Ridge of Mountains westward of Hudsons River—They have for some time made a practice of Supplying the Hostile Indians upon the Susquehanna with provisions & have been known lately to have received a considerable Quantity of Ammunition from Niagara, which has been sent from Mr Butler by the Indians—There seems to be some persons of property & influence among them who has directed the Indians, to apply to him for whatever quantity of provisions they may need” (DLC:GW).

4The enclosed copy of a letter from Deane to Col. Goose Van Schaick, dated 16 May at Oneida, reads: “Yesterday had a Conference with the Onondago’s who report that one of their Tribe lately from Niagara, brings an account that a Letter has been intercepted by the Seneca’s near some of the out Post’s upon the Frontiers of Virginia & conveyed to Colo. Butler, who thereupon informed the Indians that two large Bodies of Men were on the March to Attack them. The one from Fort Pitt & the other from susquahanna. And that, in Consequence of which discovery, three hundred Indians had Marched to meet the party from Fort Pitt & that Colo. Butler had set out from Niagara, with a professed design of attacking the Latter—Which way he may direct his Course, is however uncertain” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries