George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Arthur St. Clair, 3 June 1779

To Major General Arthur St. Clair

Head Qrs Middle Brook June 3: 1779

Dear sir

I received your favor of yesterday at 10 OClock last night1 and have written to Genl Knox to supply the Ammunition &c. which you want.2 As the Enemy notwithstanding their demonstrations of an Attack upon the Highland posts, may have it in contemplation to strike this Army (comprehending your division) in its divided & separted state, It will3 be expedient for you to act with the greatest caution—and perhaps not to advance beyond pumpton—till the Other divisions get up. I do not mean however to restrict your movements, but leave them to be governed by your own discretion and as circumstances may require. I am &c.

G. Washington

Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. For St. Clair’s reply, see his fourth letter to GW, this date.

These instructions were repeated in another letter of this date, 11:30 P.M., from GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison to St. Clair: “General Woodford has transmitted His Excellency Your favor of this morning dated at ½ past ten A.M.

“His Excellency having written to you to day by an Express returning to General McDougal has nothing to communicate now, and refers you to that Letter. However, Lest by any accident it should have miscarried, he has desired me to repeat the Contents as well as I can, which were that notwithstanding the demonstrations of an Attack on the Highland posts—the Enemy possibly might mean to strike this Army (comprehending your division) in its weak & divided state—and therefore that it would be expedient for you to act with the greatest caution—perhaps not to advance beyond pumpton ’till the other Troops got up—However that he did not mean to restrict your movements—but should leave you to be governed by your own discretion and as circumstances might require” (DLC:GW).

Uncertainty over British movements and intentions prevented St. Clair from settling on a course for his division and prompted a series of communications from that general to GW on this date as he struggled to reach a final determination.

1This letter from St. Clair to GW of 2 June has not been found.

2GW’s assistant secretary James McHenry wrote Brig. Gen. Henry Knox on this date, 4:00 P.M.: “Gen. St Clair inclosed his Excellency the two returns which I herewith send you. These complete the compliment the conductors are required to have agreeable to your instructions. His Excellency requests you to take immediate measures to have it forwarded to the General by the route of Pompton. You will not lose any time in accomplishing this.

“The enemys vessels are as high up as haverstraw bay. He has landed about 1500 men at Tallars point. The small work on the east side embarrasses the enemy Gen. McDougal says he seems unwilling to pass it. We wear a very respectable face at our posts on the highlands” (NN: Emmet Collection). The two returns mentioned in this letter have not been identified.

3At this place on the draft manuscript, Hamilton first wrote “may.” He then struck out that word and wrote “will” above the line.

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