George Washington Papers

Instructions to Captain James Chrystie, 4 June 1779

Instructions to Captain James Chrystie

[4 June 1779, 4:00 A.M.]

To proceed immediately to West Point To inform the Garrison where we are—two divisions at Pompton—one near Mr Lot’s1 about ten miles in the rear of the others—the whole to move this night at moon rising—by way of Ringwood & to press forward with all possible diligence.2

To assure them that I am3 determined at the utmost hazard to support the fort and that I expect it will hold out to the last extremity.

To ascertain the precise strength of the Garrisons—the quantity of cannon stores and provisons and the state of the works—the degree of defence of which the garrison is susceptible.

To give it as my opinion that no part of the garrison ought to be militia, but that the number necessary for its defence ought, if possible to be—furnished in Continental troops—More than a sufficiency should by all means be avoided.

To understand precisely from General McDougall what is his strength situation and views—and what he would think most adviseable for cooperating with us in an attack upon the enemy.

What prospects he has of provisons what militia he has applied for and whether his prospects of supplies would admit of calling for more4—To recommend it to him—to apply in the most earnest manner for the aid of the Governments of Connecticut & New York for assisting in collecting and transporting supplies.

To know what number of boats there are upon the River, and where the troops under General McDouga⟨ll⟩ could most conveniently cross over to this side to cooperate in an attack upon the enemy.5 what precautions had best be taken & what previous demonstrations made.

To inquire what has been done with the stores at Fish Kill.6

D, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The document is docketed: “Substance of the Message to the Forts & Genl McDougal by Capt Christie 4 at nigh[t] June 1779.” It is possible that Chrystie committed this message to memory and never received the communication in writing. For Chrystie’s meeting with Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons, who then commanded at West Point, see Parsons to GW, 5 June.

GW issued a pass to Chrystie on 4 June at Pompton, N.J., that reads: “Capt. Christie is sent by me to give information and make inquiries. The fullest confidence is to be reposed in him” (DS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, PHi: Society Collection). GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton also wrote a pass for Chrystie at the same place and on the same date: “Capt. Christie dispatched by His Excellency The Commander in Chief on very important business is hereby authorised to impress horses by the way. By His Excellys Command” (PHi: Society Collection).

1GW is referring to the exile residence of New York merchant Abraham Lott near Troy Hills, N.J., where GW had stayed in late July 1777 and early December 1778 (see GW to Theodorick Bland, 26 July 1777, and to Thomas Clark, 4–7 Dec. 1778, n.1).

2The more advanced commands at Pompton were the Pennsylvania and Virginia divisions, which had left the winter encampment at Middlebrook earlier than the Maryland division (see GW to Arthur St. Clair, 29 and 31 May; to Stirling, 1 and 2 June; to John Jay, 3 June [first letter]; and to Henry Knox, this date [first letter], source note).

3At this place on the document, Hamilton first wrote “we are.” He then struck out those words and wrote “I am” above the line.

4See the first letter from GW to Alexander McDougall, 2 June, and n.3 to that document.

5McDougall’s command then was located on the east side of the Hudson River opposite West Point (see McDougall to GW, this date).

6See the second letter from McDougall to GW, 1 June, and n.5 to that document.

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