George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Peter Gansevoort, 8 October 1779

From Colonel Peter Gansevoort

Albany Octobr 8 1779

Hond Sir—

I have Inclosed my Letter to Major General Sullivan, for your Excellency’s perusal—that you might be informed of my Conduct respecting the Mohawk Indians—I beg Your Excellency woul’d forward the Letter with its inclosed Copy, to Major General sullivan.1 I have the Honor to be your Excellency’s Most Obedt & very Humble Servt

Peter Gansevoort

Copy, NN: Gansevoort-Lancing Collection.

1Gansevoort had been with Maj. Gen. John Sullivan on his expedition against the Six Nations. The enclosures sent to GW have not been identified, but all the enclosures concerned Gansevoort’s execution of his orders from Sullivan to destroy the Mohawk settlement at Tiononderoga, often called the “Lower Castle,” near Fort Hunter, N.Y. (see Sullivan to GW, 28 Sept.). Gansevoort’s undated draft of his letter to Sullivan reads: “Agreable to my Orders I proceeded by the shortest rout to the lower Mohawk Castle, passing thro’ the Tuscorora & Oneida Castles, where every Mark of Hospitality & Freindship was shewn the party, I had the pleasure to find that not the least damage nor insult was offered any of the Inhabitants, on the 25th Ultimo I arrived at Fort Schuyler, where refreshing my party, I proceeded down the River & on the 29th effectually surprised the lower Mohawk Castle, making prisoners of every Indian Inhabitant, they then occuppied but four Houses, I was preparing agreeable to my Orders to destroy them but was interupted, by the Intercessions & Intreaties of several Inhabatants of the frontiers, who have been lately driven from their Settlements by the Savages, praying that they might have Liberty to enter into the Mohawk’s Houses, whilst they coul’d procure other Habitations, & well knowing these persons to have lately lost their all, Humanity tempted me in this particular, to act in some degree contrary to orders, altho’ I coul’d not but be confident of your approbation, especially when you are informed that this Castle is in the Heart of our settlements, & abounding with every Necessary, so that it is rema[r]ked, that these Indians live much better than most of the Mohawk River farmers their Houses were very well furnished with all necessary Household utensils, great plenty of Grain, several Horses, Cows, & waggons, of all which I have an Inventory, leaving them in the care of Major Newkirk of that place, who distributed the Refugees in the several Houses—such being the situation I did not allow the party to plunder. The prisoners arrived at Albany on the 2d Inst. were closely secured in the Fort, Yesterday the 7 Inst. I recieved a Letter from General Schyler (I have inclosed a Copy), respecting the prisoners, & desiring the sending the prisoners down might be postponed untill, an Express arrived from his Excellency General Washington, agreable to this request a serjeant & twelve are detained to keep charge of the prisoners, untill his Excellency’s pleasure is known. It [is] with the greatest Regret I mention my Indisposition being so great, as to hinder my taking charge of the party to Head Quarters, I have been several days confined, & my Surgeon, informs me, that my Complaint is the Billious fever—Capt. Sytez takes command of the detachment, & will proceed with all Expedition to Head Quarters with the Baggage of the Several Regiments, where I hope shortly to join the Army.”

An undated copy of Gansevoort’s letter to George Sytez reads: “You will take Command of the Detachment—& proceed with all expedition, to Head Quarter’s, with the Baggage of the Several Regiments, from which the Detachment was draughted—If you arrive at Head Quarters before the Western Army Commanded by Major Genl sullivan, you will apply to his Excellency General Washington for further Orders.”

A copy of Philip Schuyler’s letter to Gansevoort, dated 7 Oct. at Albany, N.Y., reads: “Having perused Genl Sullivans orders to you respecting the Indians of the Lower Mohawk Castle and their Property, I conceive they are Founded on Misinformation given to that Gentleman. Those Indians have Peaceably remained there under the Sanction of the Public faith repeatedly given them by the Commissioners of Indian Affairs on Condition of peaceable demeanor, this Contract they have not Violated to our Knowledge, It is therefore Incumbent on us as servents of the Public to Keep the Public faith Inviolate—And we therefore intreat you to Postpone the sending the Indians from hence untill the pleasure of his Excellency General Washington can be Obtained, and a Letter is Already dispatched to him on the Occassion and in which we have mentioned this application to you” (all NN: Gansevoort–Lancing Collection). Only an extract of Schuyler’s letter to GW has been found; for GW’s comments on Schuyler’s letter and his approval of Schuyler’s actions, see GW to Schuyler, 12 October.

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