George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Horatio Gates, 25 July 1779

To Major General Horatio Gates

Head Quarters West Point 25th July 1779


I have duly received your favour of the 18th With respect to the ration for the Artificers1 at Springfield2 it ought to be regulated by the contract which has been made with them as far as the state of supplies will permit—As you can best judge of this being on the spot, I shall be obliged to you to give direction to the Commissary accordingly.3 I do not know by what authority the usual ration has been retrenched, General Knox can give me no information on the subject—The Officers and guards stationed there ought to receive the same ration, which is given to the troops with you.4

The want of regularity you mention in the care and distribution of the Ordnance stores, requires to be remedied—I shall direct General Knox to take proper measures for this purpose as far as the present establishment of the department will permit;5 though the œconomy and management of the stationary magazines and Arsenals do not depend on military authority; but rest intirely with the Board of War— Tis to them also, that the disposal of the salt peter and sulphur you mention belongs—I shall immediately write to them upon the several subjects—of your letter, that require their attention.6

Were it necessary, I should with pleasure confirm your order for the 50 barrells of powder; but you have in this respect the same power in conjunction with your commanding Officer of Artillery which I have.

You will have heard before this reaches you of a successful attack made upon Stoney Point on the night of the 15th by Brigadier General Wayne and the Corps of Light Infantry under his Command. The number of prisoners taken including the wounded amounts to 1 Lt Colo. 4 Captains. 19. Subalterns 3 staff Officers and 516 non Commission’d Officers & privates, The killed is estimated at about 50—there were 15 pieces of fine Artillery in the garrison of different sizes with a proportion of stores—on our part we had fifteen killed and eighty four wounded among the latter were seven Officers none mortally—General Wayne himself received a flesh wound in the head. The subsequent reduction of Ver Planks point made a part of the plan; but in this we were disappointed by some accidental and unavoidable delays; which gave the enemy time to march to its relief. When we came to examine Stoney Point we found that it would require more men to maintain it than we could spare and a great deal of time to put it in a State of defence against a water attack. The enemy had constructed their works wholly with a view to a land attack. Had we attempted to keep it, the Army must have remained in the vicinity ’till the defences were completed, and this would have put it in the power of the enemy to bring us to a general action on their own terms; besides uncovering West Point and exposing that important post [to] imminent hazard—We therefore removed the cannon and Stores and destroyed the works—The enemy have since repossessed the post.7

General Glover stationed at Ridgefield writes me that on the evening of the 21st forty one sail of vessels passed by Norwalk steering Eastward8—We have advices in this Quarter of a considerable Embarkation near Tarry Town the shipping fell down the river from that place the 22d—We know nothing of the object of this movement, nor whether it be serious or a mere feint.9 I am Sir Your most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S.10 the inclosed Letters you will please to forward.11

LS, in Caleb Gibbs’s writing, NHi: Gates Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1At this place on the draft manuscript, which is in the writing of GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton, the words “and guards” were inserted above the line and then struck out.

2At this place on the draft manuscript, Hamilton wrote and then struck out this passage: “I think it ought to be governed regulated by that which is allowed to the troops under your command, which no doubt depends on the state of provisions in the Eastern district—There is no reason that I know of to make it more or less; but it seems to be proper that it should be exactly the same. I shall be obliged to you to give orders.”

3No orders from Gates on this subject have been identified.

4For more on artificer rations at Springfield, Mass., see GW to David Mason, this date.

5Hamilton wrote to Brig. Gen. Henry Knox in a letter of 24 July: “I have communicated your letter to the General. He thinks Col. Harrison’s regiment not entitled to a share of the present supply.

“I inclose you, by the General’s order, a letter from General Gates, with sundry papers respecting powder Springfield, &c. on which your opinion is requested. The question is, What is to be done?

“Col. Nixon sent to Springfield with charge of the Massachusetts levies, writes that he has obtained a partial supply of arms, but no cartridge boxes. His Excellency requests your attention to this matter, that measures may be taken to have a sufficient number ready here to furnish the men as they arrive” (DLC: Peter Force Papers; see also Thomas Nixon to GW, 18 July).

GW’s eagerness to learn Knox’s views on matters raised in the letter of 18 July from Gates to GW is evident in a note from Hamilton to Knox written on this date: “The General is anxious to receive your observations on the letter sent you yesterday from General Gates so soon as possible, that he may dispatch an express waiting for an answer” (NN: Emmet Collection).

7The British reoccupied Stony Point almost immediately after the Americans abandoned that place on 19 July (see Richard Butler to GW, 19 July, and n.2 to that document).

8Brig. Gen. John Glover’s letter to GW with this intelligence has not been found.

9For GW’s realization that no consequential British embarkation had occurred near Tarrytown, N.Y., see his first letter to Jay, 29 July; see also GW to Jay, 24 July, and to Gates, 30 July.

10The postscript does not appear on the draft manuscript or the Varick transcript.

11The enclosed letters have not been identified.

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