George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Horatio Gates, 16 November 1779

To Major General Horatio Gates

Head Quarters West point 16th Novemr 1779.


I wrote to you on the 13th desiring you to continue your march to Peekskill or Kings Ferry. We have since that time recd advices of a disagreeable nature from the Southward. The following is the best account which I have been able to obtain from Major Clarkson,1 and which I give you for your private satisfaction only—as perhaps the official account may be somewhat different. Much more time having been spent in the Seige of Savannah (where it seems the enemy had secured themselves by strong fortifications) than was at first expected, and there being no certainty of reducing them in a short time by regular approaches, it was agreed to attempt the place by storm on the 9th ulto the attack was accordingly made by the allied troops, who were repulsed; in consequence of which the Seige was raised, having p[r]eviously brought off all the Cannon and Stores. The Count has been obliged, I imagine from his engagements in another quarter (for I have not the particulars) to leave the Coast of Georgia.

It now remains to put the Army in such a chain of winter Cantonments as will give security to these posts, and to take a position with the remainder which will afford Forage and Subsistence, and which will at the same time preserve us from the insults of the collected force of the enemy—these several matters are now in contemplation, and until they are determined, you will be pleased to halt the troops at Danbury.2 Should they have passed that place before this reaches you, you will halt them on the most convenient Ground; till you hear further from me. I am Sir Your most obt Servt

Go: Washington

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

1Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln’s aide-de-camp Maj. Matthew Clarkson had reached West Point on 15 Nov. with Samuel Huntington’s letter to GW of 10 Nov. and news of the American and French defeat at Savannah on 9 Oct. (see Clarksons of New York, description begins The Clarksons of New York. A Sketch. 2 vols. New York, 1875–76. description ends 2:56–57). This information confirmed GW’s decision to curtail preparations for combined operations with Vice Admiral d’Estaing’s French fleet due to the lateness of the season (see GW to Duportail and Alexander Hamilton, 11 Nov., and to Henry Knox, 12 Nov.; see also Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 Oct., editorial note, and GW to Huntington, 20 and 24 Nov.).

2For efforts to place the Continental army in winter quarters, see Nathanael Greene to GW, 14 Nov., and n.1 to that document, and GW to Greene, 30 Nov., and n.2 to that document.

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