George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Arthur St. Clair, 20 July 1779

To Major General Arthur St. Clair

Head Quarters New Windsor 20th July 1779

Dear Sir

You will be pleased to examine critically the long hill in front of Fort Putnam, at the extremities of which The Engineer is commencing some works.1 Colo. Gouvion or Mr Rochefontaine will be able more particularly to designate the Hill I mean.2 The possession of this Hill appears to me essential to the preservation of the whole post and our main effort ought to3 be directed to keeping the enemy off of it. You will make it the Alarm post for your division in the first instance, from which if requisite you can reinforce the Troops in front. You will consider this Hill in all its relations and make yourself completely master of its defence, it will be useful that this knowledge should extend to your principal Officers; and that your Officers in General should be acquainted with the ground on which they are to act—I shall be4 glad also you will have an eye to the works to be erected to hasten their completion as fast as possible.5 I am Dr Sir Your most Obed. hum. servant.

LS, in Caleb Gibbs’s writing, sold by Sotheby’s, New York, catalog no. 5700, item 144, March 1988; Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The Sotheby’s catalog includes an incomplete facsimile of the LS that consists of the entire first page beginning with the dateline and ending at the point indicated by note 4.

1Brigadier General Duportail was the chief engineer overseeing the improvement of the fortificatons at West Point.

2GW is referring to Rocky Hill, which rose above Fort Putnam to the west and extended southward. The works being commenced at the extremities of Rocky Hill eventually were named redoubts 1, 2, and 4, with redoubt 4 overlooking Fort Putnam directly and being the most important to its security. What became known as redoubt 3 was built on another elevation just to the west of Rocky Hill. For the naming of these redoubts, see General Orders, 24 July, and n.1 to that document; see also GW to Alexander McDougall, 19 June, n.2.

3At this place on the draft manuscript, Hamilton initially wrote “must.” He then struck out that word and wrote “ought to” above the line.

4The incomplete facsimile of the LS ends here. The rest of the transcription is taken from the draft manuscript.

5GW focused his attention within the next few days on perfecting a system of fortifications at West Point that would allow fewer troops to hold this strategically vital location.

Index Entries