From Major General Horatio Gates
providence [R.I.] 8th June 1779
In Obedience to Your Excellency’s Commands of the 26th Ulto, I immediately forwarded The inclosed Letter to General Heath; His Answer went from hence Yesterday forenoon by the Express who was The Bearer of Your Excellency’s packets;1 Lieutenant Castaing wrote by the same Express to General Du portail, to acquaint The General, of his intention to repair to Head Quarters the instant he is able to Travel.2
It is proper I should be particular in acquainting Your Excellency with the State of The Corps of Artillery, and Ordnance Stores, in providence, & its Dependencies. By The General Return inclosed, You will perceive there are nearly as many Officers, & Non Comd Officers as there are Mattrosses;3 when, and how, this great deficiency of Mattrosses will be supply’d, I know not, as The State Regiment Commanded by Col. Elliot receives no Recruits;4 and it is to Your Excellency I must look for those wanting in Col. Crane’s, & Col. Harrison’s Detachments. By the Return of Ordnance Stores, Your Excellency will be inform’d there is only Forty Eight Barrells of Serviceable powder in These Magazines, Exclusive of The Fix’d Ammunition;5 and when I arrived here, Col: Crane acquainted me there was no Lead! I immediately procured five Tons from Boston, which is now casting into Musket-Ball. Either there must have been a prodigious Expenditure of Ordnance Stores during the Seige of R. Island, or, the Quantity provided must have been extreamly inadequate to The intended Service. I have ask’d for a Return of The Ordnance Stores brought off the Island; Col. Crane says, there never was one made, until a little before General Sullivan left providence,6 so I can Give Your Excellency no better information than what is to be found in the one inclosed. I must again request Your Excellency will Urge Congress to forward an immediate Supply of Money to this Departmt, the recruiting Service is intirely at a Stand for want thereof; and the Commissary’s, & Qr Master’s wants, are Equally unsatisfied.7 Forty Men from Col. Jackson’s Corps, Deserted last Week;8 some who have been apprehended, declare, they should not have left the Regiment, if Their Just Demands had been duly paid. Shoes, Shirts, & Over’alls are totally unsupplied to this Army; I beg Your Excellency will acquaint me from whence, & by whom those Articles are to be provided.9 The Cry has been so Great for Shoes, that I was Obliged to Advance 12,000 Dollars out of the Military Chest, to Messrs Rennolds, & Mumford, to purchase as many as would cover the Feet of those, who are Naked.10
Sundry Travellers from the westward have reported, that The Enemy made an attempt to Force their way up the North River last Tuesday, this day Sen’night, in Order to beseige West point, & that Sr Harry Clinton in person Commanded The Expedition;11 if there is any truth in these reports, it cannot be long before they will be properly authenticated. Long Island is intirely evacuated by The Enemy.12 I am &. &.
ADfS, NHi: Gates Papers; copy, DNA:PCC, item 154; copy, DNA:PCC, item 171.
1. Orders for Maj. Gen. William Heath to come to headquarters from Boston were contained in a letter from GW to Heath of 26 May. That letter was enclosed with GW to Gates of the same date. Heath responded to GW in a letter of 5 June.
2. This letter from Lt. Pierre de Castaing la Grâce, who subsequently served as an aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. Duportail, has not been identified, but Gates, then in Providence, wrote Col. Henry Jackson, who commanded an Additional Continental Regiment, on 4 June that “General Washington has desired, Monsieur de Castaing of Your Regiment may be sent immediately to His Head Quarters. I desire you will direct him to come directly to providence, that I may deliver to Him General Washington Orders” (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 ).
3. Gates is referring to “A Return of the Artillery in the State of Rhode Island,” dated 5 June, which listed twenty-one commissioned officers, one staff officer, and sixty-five non-commissioned officers, for a total of eighty-seven, against eighty-nine matrosses “Present fit for Duty” (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 ).
4. Robert Elliot (d. 1781) received a commission as a captain in the Rhode Island state artillery in October 1775, commanded an artillery company that served with the Continental Army at various times in 1776, and became colonel of the Rhode Island state artillery regiment that December. He continued as colonel until named brigadier general in July 1780. Elliot also served as a deputy from Newport to the Rhode Island general assembly from May 1780 until his death.
5. Gates is referring to “A Genl Return of Ordnance & Stores at the Different Posts in the State of Rhode Island Depar[tmen]t, Under Command of the Honorable Major General Gates,” dated 4 June, which listed forty-eight “Barrls of Good C[annon] Powder” at Providence (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 ).
6. Gates is referring to the unsuccessful Franco-American attempt to oust the British from Newport, R.I., between July and August 1778. Maj. Gen. John Sullivan commanded the American forces, which retreated from Aquidneck Island to the mainland after an inconclusive battle on 29 August. For Sullivan’s departure from Rhode Island in March 1779, see GW to Sullivan, 6 March, and Gates to GW, 16 and 24 March.
The interest that Gates showed in ordnance supplies and troop strength may have been related to thoughts of attacking the British on Aquidneck Island (see Ephraim Bowen to Nathanael Greene, 3 June, and Greene to Bowen, 11 June, in Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 4:117, 140–41). After bringing this matter to GW’s attention, Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene wrote Col. Ephraim Bowen from New Windsor, N.Y., on 28 June in a letter that in part reads: “Since your letter upon the subject of the Rhode Island Expedition I have consulted General Washington upon the matter and he says he knows of no such expedition either having been orderd by Congress of by any other body Authorisd for the purpose. I wish you therefore to be very careful and not take a single step without written orders to justify your conduct; as it will be insinuated hereafter that you have precipitately gone into an unnecessary expence to swell your own commisions” (Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 4:186–87).
7. Gates also had requested additional money in his letter to GW of 25 May, and that appeal prompted GW to seek assistance from Congress (see GW to John Jay, 3 June [first letter]; see also GW to Gates, 11 and 13 June).
8. Jackson wrote Gates from “Newtown,” now Wickford, R.I., on 29 May: “Last night three men Deserted from my Regiment & two the Night before—& since I have been at this Post twelve have gone off—I have no doubt they are gone to Boston to enter on Board of the Privateers.
“I have a Smart active good Serjeant a native of Boston a man that I can trust & is well acquainted with the different Rendezvous keep by the Privateersmen. I would propose to your Excellency that he may be impowerd & sent immediately to Boston in pursuit of them—& to remain there for some time to take up all he may meet with—I have a number of men that have Join’d the Regiment by virtue of his Excellency Genl Washington Proclama[tion] that have been a Privateering and have made large sums of money—this had made a great number of my men discontented & I am apprehensive that numb[e]r[s] will go, unless there can be some method to put a stop to the Privateers taking them off—it is my Opinion that they are man’d by Des[er]ters from the Army” (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 ).
Asked if any of his deserters had joined the enemy, Jackson replied to Gates in a letter written at “Barbers Hill,” formally Barber Heights, a 205-foot elevation in North Kingstown, R.I., on 2 June: “I have every reason to think that every one of them is gone to Boston—Salem—or New London—to go a Privateering—one of them that Deserted has sent me word if I will pardon him. he will immediately Join the Regiment—I wish your Excellencys direction” (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 ).
10. The Providence firm of Reynolds and Mumford acted as departmental clothiers. For the appointment of Nathaniel Mumford as Continental subclothier for Rhode Island, see William Greene to GW, 3 June, n.1.
Nathaniel Mumford (c.1728–1780) served in the Rhode Island militia prior to the war, obtaining the rank of lieutenant colonel, and acted as auditor of accounts to the Rhode Island general assembly as early as 1775 before his formal designation in October 1777. He was appointed Continental sub-clothier for the state in May 1779, and Congress named him a commissioner of the chamber of accounts that November. Responding to notice of this last appointment in a letter written at Providence on 2 Jan. 1780, Mumford explained: “This being so entirely unexpected, Put it out of my Power sooner to resolve what answer I shoud give, and has Occasioned greater delay than I coud have wished—I have however at last resolved to Venture to expose my small Abilitys, and to Undertake the Task. Tho’ I cannot immediately enter upon the Duty—As I am connected in the Cloathing department of the Army here And have had the Care of the Accounts of this State since the Commencements of the present Troubles; Which will take some time to arrange in such Order a[s] I coud wish to leave them I hope by the last of March or beginning of April to get them and my Own domestick concerns in such Order that I can leave them with some satisfaction, when I shall hasten forward to enter upon Business” (DNA:PCC, item 78; see also Samuel Huntington to Mumford, 12 Nov. 1779, DNA:PCC, item 14, and JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 16:130). After Mumford died on 8 April, the Providence Gazette; and Country Journal (Rhode Island) for 15 April 1780 printed a notice, which in part reads: “The Virtues that constitute and adorn the Character of a good Citizen and Patriot were eminently possessed and practised by him, and his Death may justly be considered as a public Loss.”
John Reynolds, a master weaver who lived in East Greenwich, R.I., acted as a clothing agent for Rhode Island as early as April 1777 (see Bartlett, R.I. Records, description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends 8:196, 293, 322). His formal appointment that December as “Agent Clothier” for the state is explained in a letter of 11 June 1778 from William Coddington, clerk for the Rhode Island Council of War, to the state’s congressional delegates Henry Marchant and John Collins (DNA:PCC, item 64; see also JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 12:1006–7). The Rhode Island general assembly paid Reynolds £13,000 on account in February 1780, but his service as clothier concluded before 3 Jan. 1782, the date on which Congress considered a report on how to settle his affairs (see Bartlett, R.I. Records, description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends 9:40, and JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 22:7). For Reynolds’ career after the war in the nascent Rhode Island textile industry, see Gail Fowler Mohanty, Labor and Laborers of the Loom: Mechanization and Handloom Weavers, 1780–1840 (New York, 2006).
12. Loyalist units and a detachment from a Hessian regiment still garrisoned Long Island (see Baurmeister, Revolution in America, description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends 278).