George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Jacob Bayley, 31 August 1780

From Brigadier General Jacob Bayley

Newbury [Vt.] August 31 1780


One party for intelligence to Canada returned yesterday; they have been longer out than I expected; their account agrees with the former,1 that the force in Canada is chiefly at Quebec, where they mean to make their chief stand; three hundred men at St Johns and Isle aux Noix, one hundred men at Sorell; about six hundred at Montreal, and stationed among the Inhabitants from Chamble to Sorell;2 the Inhabitants continue in our favour; Crops good. None of the fleet have arrived from London,3 one of our Crusers taken near Quebec, three hundred of the regular troops were sent from Quebec down the river some time since, not returned, Capt. Goslin one of the parties sent to me by the Marquis, is not returned from St Nicholas, tho’ he has been out thirty five days, by him I expect (if he is not taken) a more particular account, which I shall immediately transmit to your Excellency.4 I am obliged to find hard money for the parties I send into Canada and money for the expresses—as I have not received any money for public use for nine months past, and have expended all I can borrow, I could wish to have some little supply by Colo. Olcott5 or an order on the State of the Massachusetts for any sum your Excellency shall please, I will be accountable for the same; as to an expedition into Canada I cannot give it up; the importance of it to the united States is so great—That Country (at least the District of Montreal) can easily be reduced, so easily that if only the people to the East of Lake Champlain included in the Province of Quebec by their bill of 1774 were imployed and the Canadians were armed they would drive every Britain out of Canada, except Quebec; if I had either money or an order of Congress I will engage bread enough for any army needed to reduce that Country; forage plenty and the people spirited. I am your Excellency’s humble Servant

Jacob Bayley


Newbury August 31 1780


I am informed that there is a number of arms at Springfield, wanting stocks only; if your Excellency would send an order for five hundred of them, I will be accountable for them and it will oblige the people and be of service to the general cause. I would also be glad of an order on the commissary of cloathing at Boston for twenty blankets, and sixty yeards of cloath, for indian stockings; as I have been obliged to borrow those articles for the parties I have sent into Canada; Colol Olcott the bearer may be inquired of respecting my request and can bear what orders of any kind your Excellency sees fit to send.6 I am &c.

Jacob Bayley

LS, DLC:GW. Bayley wrote “By Express” on the cover.

2Île aux Noix, St. Jean, and Chambly are located along the Richelieu River between Lake Champlain and Sorel.

3Privateers ravaged this British supply fleet (see William Heath to GW, 13 Aug., n.5).

4Bayley wrote GW from Newbury on 4 Sept.: “one of the Party Sent here by the Marquis I Sent to St Nicolate—which is not returned—I must think they are Taken. the Marquis desired one of the Party might be Sent with the Intiligince to Head Quarters and as Capt. Goslin who I Intended to Send is not returned I Send Belonger who has what Inteligence Brot by the other Party, and will Recive further Instructions from your Excelency, as Capt. Goslin is not returned by whom I Exspected the most Material Inteligence I Shall Send another Party as Soon as I Can get them ready” (ALS, DLC:GW; Bayley wrote “Exspress” on the cover).

Noel Belanger (Bélanché; b. 1754) became a private in the 2d Canadian Regiment in December 1776 and served until June 1783.

Bayley wrote GW from Newbury on 7 Sept.: “Capt. Goslin is returned after a Hazardous Tour Through Much Dificulty ocationed by the Elertness of the Enemys Disscovering Partys his accounts he will Bear himself which I do not Scruple, I have Proved him and his Party heretofore and have no reason but to believe what they Say. Your Excelency was Pleased to desire me to give my opinion In matters Relateing affairs to the Northward Some Time Past, I now Take the Liberty to give it as my opinion, that no Time ought to be lost in Secureing the uper Part of Canada as Quebec and Point Leve is Strongly Fortified we Cannot Exspect to Take Quebec this year, but I think it will be a very Great acqu[i]sition to Take the Districts of Three Rivers and Montreal as it will Secure to us the Produce of that Country whereby we may be Enabled the next Spring to Proceed against Quebec, all the Force of the Enemy must fall into our Hand at St Johns and above Montreal which will open a Passage Into Canada for Heavy Artilery &c., I am Sure we Can Keep that Part of the Country if we Can find arms for the Inhabitants without Much of our Exertions. and if between this and Spring a Peace Should be In Contemplation we Shall have Some Claim against the Quebec Bill, whereas now we are Desstitute of any, this is the Best time of the year but if Circumstances will not admit at Present any time will do before march but the Sooner the Better—Every Support for an army is plenty here as to Provitions and the People free to advance it as well as thier Personal serviss, the Enemy are Still in Small Party on our Frontiers but the Elertness of the Inhabitants have Prevented thier doing much Mischaef as yet” (ALS, DLC:GW; Bayley wrote “Exspress” on the cover; see also GW to Bayley, 5 May 1779).

Trois-Rivières (“Three Rivers”) is along the St. Lawrence River about eighty miles from Point Levee and Quebec City. Parliament’s Quebec Act of 1774 granted the Province of Quebec extensive areas north of the Ohio River together with parts of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

5Peter Olcott (1733–1808) became a militia colonel for New York in June 1776 and then for Vermont in 1777. He served in 1778 on the Vermont Council and acted as envoy to Congress in January 1780. Olcott became a Vermont militia brigadier general in 1781 and later Vermont’s lieutenant governor.

6Olcott probably carried a letter Bezaleel Woodward wrote GW from Dresden, Vt. (now Hanover, N.H.), on this date: “The vast importance to the united States in general and to this new country in particular that Canada be annexed to the States, which can be only by an army’s going into that country, is the occasion of our troubling your Excellency with the enclosed address, which we send by Colo. Olcott who is appointed agent for that purpose by a convention of members from the towns on both sides of Connecticut river and northward of Charleston.

“He will be able more fully to represent the importance of the expedition than we have done on paper ⟨no⟩ more need be said on the subject.

“I write this by order and in behalf of the convention above mentioned” (ALS, DLC:GW; Woodward wrote “By Express” on the cover). Woodward enclosed a petition to GW from a convention whose members met “at Dresden on the New Hampshire Grants” on 30 August. It reads: “That the union of Canada with the united States is in our opinion of the greatest importance to them, for the following reasons viz. There is but one seaport in that country which we shall ever have need to defend, yet good water carriage for near two thousand miles, stre[t]ching itself in a circular manner round the thirteen united States, through an excellent country of land, great part of which is inhabited by savages, whose fur & skin trade produces to our enemies an annual profit which is immense—The annual produce of wheat in that country for exportation is very great, by which the British armies in America receive essential advantage—The capture of that country will be a leading step towards securing to the united States the profits of the fish oil &ca procured at and near the gulph of St Laurence, which would be a greatly beneficial acquisition—While they hold possession of Canada our frontiers must be very extensive and the savages at their command, and we had almost said the enemy destroy & take yearly from the frontiers bordering on Canada as much in value as the cost of reducing & holding that country—we are sure the defence of our frontiers costs more—The securing that country in our interest will be the only effectual means to enable us to secure those of Ohio and Missisipi both on account of obtaining in that way the interest of the savages in our favor and as the conveyance for the enemy (while they hold possession of Canada) of men ammunition and provisions to those parts is not only as easy but more expeditious and safe by the waters of St Laurence than by the gulph of Mexico—and in our opinion those countries cannot otherwise be effectually secured.

“By obtaining Canada we add to our fource thirty thousand fighting men, and destroy the efficacy of the bill passed in the British parliament in the year 1774 for extending the province of Quebec which includes the province of Main and great part of New Hampshire; these Grants &c., the establishment of which is without doubt the main object of the enemy in taking and holding possession at Penobscot; and within the extent of which the united States have not a single fortress to cover their claim in opposition to that of the British—in short, that bill is so extensive that should it be established the united States would have little or nothing left worth contending for, and we see not how it can be effectually destroyed but by an union of Canada with them. The body of inhabitants in that country are desirous of such union, and unless it can be brought about speedily by sending a fource into Canada, they will be under necessity to take an active part against us, which they have hitherto avoided.

“The whole fource of Britain now in arms in Canada at all their posts from Quebec to Detroit including one thousand five hundred tories and indians (who are continually roving and destroying our frontiers) does not exceed five thousand men—one thousand are stationed in the destrict of Montreal and six hundred of the rovers have that destrict for their head quarters.

“The communication from the settlements on this river to St Charles on Chamblee [Richelieu] river is easy—the road already opened more than half the way, the rest may be opened at very little expence, and the whole will be very good—the distance about one hundred miles.

“A good commander with few continental troops in addition to such volunteers as may be raised for that purpose on these Grants and in the N. England States, with a suitable quantity of arms and ammunition to furnish those Canadians who are now eagar for such an expedition and will at onc[e] join us on the arrival of an army there, will easily take possession of and keep the destrict of Montreal, and that being secured, the country above even to and beyond the western lakes must soon submit to the united states.

“Your petitioners are confident that fifteen hundred Men from these Grants will turn out (if called upon) to assist in taking possession of that country—They can and will chearfully furnish five hundred horses, one hundred teams, and ten thousand bushels of wheat and more if necessary, also such other grain as may be wanted on the credit of the continent, from the destrict of country betwixt the heights on the two sides of Connecticut river and north of the Massachusetts Bay, the inhabitants of which (more than five thousand families) are now chiefly obliged to hold the sword in one hand and tools for husbandry in the other, and probably must continue so to do till that country is reduced, unless we have a large continental fource continually supported here to defend us from their ravages, as our frontier is very extensive.

“We therefore humbly pray that your Excellency will be pleased to recommend to Congress that by the middle of september next or as soon as possible a party under a suitable commander be sent on the said enterprize, and a recommendation to the people in this country and the New England States for voluntiers to join their fource in the expedition, and that we make ready necessary provisions, which we shall chearfully comply with to the utmost of our power” (DLC:GW).

Bezaleel Woodward (1745–1804) graduated in 1764 from Yale College, where he became a professor of mathematics and philosophy. He worked as a professor at Dartmouth College after marrying into the family of that institution’s founder in 1772. Woodward became Dartmouth College’s president after the war.

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