George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, 5 July 1779

To the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council

Head Quarters, New Windsor, 5th July, 1779.


I am extremely concerned to find by several letters from General Sullivan that he is like to be disappointed in the independent companies which were to reinforce him from the State of Pensylvania.1 The consequences of this disappointment will certainly be very injurious. They may be more than injurious. For want of these he will be obliged to reduce his operating force to establish the necessary posts of communication, too low, perhaps, to act with safety and effect, or he must leave his communication and convoys in the most precarious state. I have advised him rather to hazard something in the last respect than in the first, with an assurance that I would again solicit the aid of the State to strengthen the posts in his rear and assist in protecting his convoys.2 I must entreat in the most pressing terms that the Council will be pleased, without delay, to take effectual measures to have the number of men originally requested, sent forward. If the independent companies are not ready I beg their place may be supplied by Militia, to be relieved periodically. The Council are fully sensible of the importance of success in the present expedition and of the fatal mischiefs which would attend a defeat—we should perhaps lose an Army, and our frontiers would be desolated and deluged in Blood. A large reinforcement3 has been sent from Canada to join the savages.4 They are collecting their force for a vigorous opposition, and if they are successful their devastations will exceed any thing we have yet experienced. Their means will be increased and their cruelty will be emboldened by success and sharpened by revenge.

It was not in my power to send a greater Continental force. I stretched this string as hard as it would possibly bear, and relied on the further aid of the States more immediately concerned.5 I hope I shall not be eventually disappointed. I flatter myself the Council will think my anxiety on this occasion natural and will excuse my importunity. With very great respect and esteem, I have the honor to be, Gentlemen, Your most obed[t] Servt


P.S. I shall be much obliged to the Council to Communicate what they will have it in their power to do, to General Sullivan that he may take his measures accordingly.

Pa. Archives, description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends 1st ser., 7:535; Df, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in GW to John Jay, 15 Aug. 1779, DNA:PCC, item 166; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council received and read GW’s letter on 10 July (Pa. Col. Records, description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends 12:43).

1See John Sullivan to GW, 12 June, and n.4 to that document, and 25 June; see also the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council to GW, 8 May, and GW to the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, 20 May.

3At this place on the draft manuscript, Hamilton first wrote “Seven hundred men.” He then struck out those words and wrote “A large reinforcement” above the line.

4See Philip Schuyler to GW, 30 June, n.2; see also GW to George Clinton, 28 June (first letter).

5For the commands, which totaled over 4,400 troops, assigned to Maj. Gen. John Sullivan for his expedition, see GW to Sullivan, 31 May (first letter); see also Sullivan to GW, 16 April, and GW to John Jay, 15 Aug. (DNA:PCC, item 152).

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