George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Horatio Gates, 2 November 1779

To Major General Horatio Gates

Head Quarters West Point 2d Novemr 1779


After my letter of yesterday was dispatched—I received your favor of the 27th Ulto1 from Major Armstrong by Express, from Peekskill. The Major said he had been detained by a want of horses and bad roads—& being charged with dispatches more immediately for Congress—he was prevented from calling on me as he wished.2 I regret the disappointment—as it possibly may have deprived me of information of some particulars not mentioned in your letter.

Altho your letter is silent upon the subject—I cannot doubt but you are on your march before this for Hartford with the Continental Troops at least, agreeable to the determination expressed in your letter of the 15th Ulto and to mine of the 22d in answer. Indeed I hoped the instant the Enemy had Embarked that you would have pushed the Troops on—and did not expect that they would have gone to the Island at all. Possibly you might have thought their going there for a day or two necessary for collecting and removing the Stores. If however by any means you should have deferred your March I am to request that you will begin it according to the plan settled between us in the course of our correspondence without a moments delay.3 I gave before, in consequence of what you said about Garrisoning the Island—with Militia, my private opinion of the most, I thought, the State should do upon the occasion—I am still of the same opinion for the reasons I then suggested and as I view the post in the light of a Trap. I am Sir Yr Most Obet servt

Go: Washington

P.s. If by any possibility the Troops should not have left the Island when this comes to hand—perhaps the route through Norwich will be more convenient for ’em to pursue and from thence along the Sound than that through Hartford—This however must be with you to determine from circumstances. Which ever way you proceed you will be pleased to inform me by the earliest opportunity—that I may meet you with farther directions.4

LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, NHi: Gates Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The letter from Gates to GW of 27 Oct., presumably that officer’s report on the British evacuation of Rhode Island, has not been found (see Gates to GW, 31 Oct., and GW to Gates, 1 Nov.; see also GW to Duportail and Alexander Hamilton, 30 Oct., and notes 1 and 2 to that document).

2Maj. John Armstrong, Jr., aide-de-camp to Gates, apparently had gone from Peekskill, N.Y., where he had called at Maj. Gen. William Heath’s camp on 1 Nov., to Philadelphia (see Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs, description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends 235–36).

3Orders for “all the Continental Troops to March to the westward” apparently did not reach the units in Rhode Island until 5 Nov., and inclement weather delayed concerted movement toward Hartford nearly another week (Field, Angell Diary, description begins Edward Field, ed. Diary of Colonel Israel Angell, Commanding the Second Rhode Island Continental Regiment during the American Revolution, 1778–1781. Providence, 1899. description ends 89–91; see also Gates to GW, 8 Nov., and Greenman, Diary, description begins Robert C. Bray and Paul E. Bushnell, eds. Diary of a Common Soldier in the American Revolution, 1775-1783: An Annotated Edition of the Military Journal of Jeremiah Greenman. DeKalb, Ill., 1978. description ends 143). For the arrival of Gates and two regiments of his division in Hartford on 14 Nov., and the division’s departure on 18 Nov., see The Connecticut Courant, and the Weekly Intelligencer (Hartford), 16 and 23 Nov. 1779.

4Not receiving further directions prompted Gates to camp his command at Hartford (see Gates to GW, 15 Nov.).

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