George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Benedict Arnold, 3 August 1780

To Major General Benedict Arnold

[Peekskill, 3 Aug. 1780]


You are to proceed to West Point: and take the command of the Post, and its dependencies—in which are included all from Fish-kill to Kings Ferry, The Corps of Infantry and Cavalry advanced towards the Enemy’s lines on the East side of the River will also1 be under your orders, and will take directions from you, and you will endeavour to obtain every intelligence of the Enemy’s motions. The Garrison of West Point is to consist of the Militia of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, for which reason, as soon as the Number from those States amounts to twelve hundred,2 the New York Militia under the command of Colonel Malcom are to join the main Army on the West side of the River.3 And when the number from Massachusetts Bay alone shall amount to fifteen hundred Rank and File—the Militia of New Hampshire will also march to the main Army.4 Colonel James Livingstons Regiment is till further Orders to Garrison the Redoubts at Stoney and Verplanks Points.

Claverac upon the North River is appointed for the place of rendevous of the Militia of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, from whence you will have them brought down as fast as they arrive.5 A supply of provisions will be necessary at that place, which you will order from time to time as there may be occassion.

You will endeavour to have the works at West Point carried on as expediously as possible by the Garrison, under the direction and superintendance of the Engineers—The stores carefully preserved—And the provision safely deposited and often inspected—particularly the salted meat. a certain quantity of provision has been constantly kept in each work, to be ready against a sudden attack. Where there are Bomb Proofs they serve for Magazines—but in the smaller works where there are none, you will have places erected sufficiently tight to preserve the provision from damage and pillage.

You will as soon as possible obtain and transmit an accurate Return of the Militia which have come in, and inform me regularly of their encrease.6

Should any Levies, from the State of New York or those to the Eastward of it, intended for the Continental Army arrive at West Point, You will immediately forward them to the lines to which they respectively belong.7

The difficulties we shall certainly experience on the score of provisions render the utmost œconomy highly necessary. You will therefore attend frequently to the daily issues, and by comparing them with your Returns, will be able to check any impositions. Given at Head Quarters at Peekskill this 3d of August. 1780.

Go: Washington

LS, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; DfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

The general orders of this date announced Arnold’s shift to the command of the forts at West Point, N.Y., and the other posts in the Hudson River highlands. GW previously had designated Arnold as the commander of the army’s left wing (see General Orders, 1 Aug.). For Tobias Lear’s account of GW’s recollection of the conversations between GW and Arnold leading up to this change in assignment, see Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends 4:174–77.

GW reiterated orders sent on 28 July to Maj. Gen. Robert Howe, the previous commander of West Point and the Hudson River highlands posts, when his aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote Arnold on 4 Aug.: “His Excellency desires you to order One hundred Men from the Artillery and Infantry to take Colo. Lambs directions for making up Cartridges—The proportion will be 20 of the first and 80 of the last if so many can be found acquainted with the Business. If not, the Artillery must be increased” (DLC:GW).

1GW wrote this word on the draft, which was penned by Tilghman.

2GW wrote the previous two words on the draft.

3For the orders directing this militia unit to West Point, see GW to William Malcom, 30 July.

4GW wrote the previous twenty-eight words on the draft.

5See Circular to the States, 2 and 30 June; see also GW to John Fellows, 24 July.

6Arnold made his first reports to GW on 6 Aug. (see both letters of that date [letter 1; letter 2]).

7These were troops intended to raise the Continental regiments to full strength (see GW to the Committee at Headquarters, 25 May, and n.5 to that document).

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