George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 12 June 1779

From Major General John Sullivan

[Easton, Pa., 12 June 1779]

Extract of a letter from Genl Sullivan Dated at Easton June 12th 1779.

I should have moved from this post before now but the stores not having got up the Susquehannah I thought it imprudent to throw the whole army on to consume the provisions before we were in readiness to move on. I expect an Officer to return from Wyoming this day who was sent on to examine into the state of affairs1 and hope to move the whole Army early on Monday2—The road was much more difficult than was at first apprehended; it is however now completed.3 The companies of Pennsylvania are not half raised I must proceed without them4 though I much fear my numbers will be far short of what was supposed necessary and should the enemy reinforce strongly as represented in Van Schaicks letter,5 but it is reasonable to suppose that they will spare all the troops from Canada which may be done with safety—I lament exceedingly the delay occasioned by the want of Boats & men on Susquehannah for transporting the stores in season which has occasioned such a loss of time that I cannot think of waiting for the Pennsylvania troops even though my numbers will be small & Genl Hand writes me that the troops with him are not to be depended on6—I have now established expresses so as to hear from Genl Clinton every two days & I hope the exactness and regularity of our advancement will in some measure supply the want of numbers by dividing the attention of the enemy and preventing a collection of their whole force at any one point—your Excellency may rely that not a moments time shall be unnecessarily lost: but as the difficulties I have already encountered in getting Waggons forwarding stores supplying guards & preparing the roads would baffle all description.7 I have the honor to be &ca

Jn S.

L (extract), in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, enclosed in GW to John Jay, 15 Aug. 1779, DNA:PCC, item 166; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

1This officer apparently carried a letter of 10 June from Sullivan to Brig. Gen. Edward Hand at Wyoming, Pa.: “I have your two favors of the 6th & 7th Instant. I wish that the Beaf which appears to be bad may be repacked new Pickelled & Every possible method taken to preserve. I find by your Letter & Colo Courtlands that the road must by this time be nearly Compleated. I now Send an Express who is to return as Soon as possible with Intelligence how far the Road is Compleated & when it will be Done. I also beg you to give me the best Intelligence you can with Respect to our Stores & when you think they will arrive as that must in great measure govern my movements for I think it will be the heighth of Imprudence to Send our Troops on to the Susquehannah to Consume our provisions before the State of our Stores will admit of our proceeding into the Indian Country. I wish the Express to Return with all possible Expedition” (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 3:59–60). A copy of Hand’s letter to Sullivan written at Wyoming on 6 June reads: “As I wrote you this Morning informing you of the Arrival of Ogdens Regimt and of my having sent a Detachment on the Road, I have now only to acknowledge the Receipt of your favour of the fourth & pray for the Arrival of the Regiments at work on the Road—which will enable us to protect our Stores on the Passage from Sunbury, which at present we can’t sufficiently do. I rejoice at the Prospect you have of the Companies from Pennsylvania being Compleated” (DLC:GW).

2The next Monday was 14 June. Sgt. Thomas Roberts of the 5th New Jersey Regiment wrote a journal entry at Easton for 16 June: “Resevied orders to march for Wyoming next morning at Day Breake But a Storm prevented it” (Sullivan Expedition Journals, description begins Frederick Cook, ed., and George S. Conover, comp. Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779 With Records of Centennial Celebrations. Auburn, N.Y., 1887. description ends 241). For Sullivan’s departure from Easton on 18 June and arrival at Wyoming, Pa., on 23 June, see his letter to GW, 25 June, and n.1 to that document.

3Sullivan is referring to the Great Swamp Road from Easton to Wyoming.

4Raising troops to accompany Sullivan on his expedition against the Six Nations was one subject of a letter from Joseph Reed, president of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, to Sullivan, dated 3 June: “From the best Judgment we are able to form of the Progress of the ranging Companies, about half are raised. We have given them directions to proceed to Sunbury as fast as possible after they are compleated or nearly so, & hope they will prove essentially useful to you; there have been some Companies raised in Westmoreland & Northumberland for Special Defence; if they are found necessary we shall give them Orders to Join, but we are unwilling to take any Measure which may lessen the Security of the Inhabitants or increase your Number of Mouths, as we fear a Scarcity of Provisions & Necessaries will be one of the most painful Enemies you will have to combat” (Pa. Archives, description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends 1st ser., 7:457–58). Sullivan replied to Reed on 7 June (see Pa. Archives, description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends 1st ser., 7:473).

5See GW to Sullivan, 10 June, and n.1 to that document.

6This letter from Hand to Sullivan has not been identified.

7GW apparently communicated these complaints to Q.M. Gen. Nathanael Greene, who responded to Sullivan in a letter of 21 June from Smiths Clove, N.Y.: “I have done every thing in my power to accomodate you. I have neglected the necessary preparations for every other part of the service in order to give dispach and success to your measures; but notwithstanding all my exertions it has been out of my power to do as much for you as I could wish.

“The difficulty of procuring labourers, the scarcity of Stores; and the Depreciated State of our money renders the business of the quarter masters Department a Herculean Task. I mention these things that you may not think yourself neglected” (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 4:175–77).

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