George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General John Sullivan, 29 July 1779

To Major General John Sullivan

Head Quarters West Point July 29th 1779

Dr Sir,

I have been duly favored with your letter of the 10th, the contents of which are of so serious a nature, with respect to the Quarter Masters and Commissary’s departments, that I thought it my duty to communicate them to General Greene and Col. Wadsworth1—If there has been neglect in either department, the delinquents must be reponsible to the public and these Gentlemen ought to be acquainted with what has been alledged.

I cannot but repeat my intreaties, that you will hasten your operations with all possible dispatch; and that you will disencumber yourself of every article of baggage and stores which is not necessary to the expedition.2 Not only its success but its execution at all depends on this. Tis a kind of service in which both Officers and men must expect to dispense with conveniences and endure hardships—They must not and I trust will not expect to carry the same appa[ra]tus which is customary in other operations. I am persu[a]dded that if you do not lighten yourself to the greatest possible degree, you will not only imminently hazard a defeat, but you will never be able to penetrate any distance into the Indian Country—The greater part of your provisions will be consumed in preparation, and the remainder in the first stages of a tedious and laborious march.

General Clinton in a letter to the Governor of the 6th Instant mentions his arrival at the south end of Otsege Lake where he was waiting your orders.3

Inclosed I transmit you extracts of two letters of the 7th and 27th instant from Major General Schuyler with interesting intelligence.4 I am with great regard Dr Sir Yr Most Obet, servant

Go: Washington

⟨P.⟩s. This will be accompanied by Commissions for the four New York regiments5 and the 4th Pennsylvania—in three packages.

Col. Broadhead has informed me that he had a prospect of undertaking an expedition against the Mingoes with the aid of some of the friendly Indians; I have encouraged him by all means to do it, if practicable:6 should it take place, it will be an useful diversion in your favor—as he will approach pretty near to your left flank.

LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, NhHi: Sullivan Papers; Df, DLC:GW; copy (extract), enclosed in GW to John Jay, 15 Aug. 1779, DNA:PCC, item 166; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Obscured material in the LS is supplied in angle brackets from the draft manuscript.

1Sullivan’s complaints prompted Q.M. Gen. Nathanael Greene to write Col. Charles Pettit from West Point on this date: “I begin to be seriously alarmd for the Indian expedition. It goes on so prodigiously slow and the season is so far spent that I am apprehensive Tioga will terminate the affair. . . .

“If the Duke de Sully [General Sullivan] dont push his affairs, but suffers our frontiers to be ravaged with a handful of Indians when he has a force of between 4 to 5000 men with him, it will make him less than little … He maledicts the Staff Departments in a long Letter to the General, particularly the Commissarys. He and Wadsworth will have another dispute” (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 4:283–85).

Also on this date, Greene wrote to Col. John Cox, Jr., that “General Sullivan writes a long and complaining letter to the General respecting the neglects and disappointments he has met with from the Staff upon the Susquehannah. The Boats are deficent and the Battauesmen very much so. I wish I could obtain a true return of all the Boats employed in the service of that expedition that I might see how far he has a right to complain” (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 4:280–82).

3For Brig. Gen. James Clinton’s letter to George Clinton of 6 July, see George Clinton to GW, 13 July, n.1.

4These enclosures have not been identified, but see Philip Schuyler to GW, 7 July. The letter from Schuyler to GW of 27 July has not been found.

5These commissions were for officers in the 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th New York regiments, units under Brig. Gen. James Clinton’s command, which then were preparing to join Sullivan’s main body.

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