George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel William Malcom, 12 October 1780

From Colonel William Malcom

Albany, Octr 12—1780


Two days ago, a Body of the Enemy Landed at South Bay—By comparing informations they consist of about 900—the greatest part of which Regular Troops—commanded by a Major Carleton1—They Surrounded & Summoned, a little post called Fort Ann—which was instantly Surrenderd by a Capt. Sherwood, with 70 odd men2—Next towards Fort Edward, in the Vicinity of which, they burnt a Number of Houses—made no Attempt on the Fort—but proceeded towards Fort George where Warners Regiment were Supposed to be—Unfortunately Capt. Chipman, the Commanding Officer, had Sent all his men out except about 14—of Consequence the Enemy got very easy possession—& had previously met about 30 men of the Garrison which were all Killed & taken—Several Militia Regts are Marchd to that Quarter & I hope Col. Vanschaacks Regiment will also March towards Fort Edward to morrow—but the Colonel is under great apprehensions that his men Will desert3—From Fort Scuyler I am informed that a very considerable Body of Troops are got to Oneida—that they have Cannon—Mortars &c.—and one part of them on the Road about 20 Miles below the Fort, not far from German Flatts—It is also Said that Sir John Johnson is to come in by the Way of Jessups Patent—& Join the party on the No. Frontiers.4

I am collecting the Militia & disposing of them, as fast as possible—According to the best Accounts which I obtain of the Enemys Movements—& What is most difficult Collecting provisions for them—Three Regts are Orderd to scoharie—Four to the Mohawk River & Six to Fort Edward. Genl Tenbroek expects they will come Out pretty Generally—but I have great doubts—especially judging by the humour of the City Regiment.

I hope to get Such a disposition made as will enable me to go up to the Mohawk River to morrow, and Co. Vanschaack on the Hudson River.

I have wrote to the Governor & given him a particular Account of all these matters5—he is at Kingston & I expect he will be here to morrow or the day following6—In my last letter I enclosed a very particular State of the Garrison of Fort Scuyler,7 Which will enable Your Excellency to judge what defence it can make, If it shall be Actually invested (which I for many reasons do not believe) the Militia cannot—Will not relieve it—Two days more will discover the Enemys Chief Object, I have the Honor to be with due Respect Your Excellencys mo: Obedt & very hume Servt

W. Malcom


Malcom again wrote GW from Albany on 14 Oct.: “The Enemy recrossed Lake George Yesterday—nothing has happend on the Western Frontiers Since my letter of the 12th—Col. Vanschaacks Regiment will embark to morrow—for head Quarters” (ALS, DLC:GW; addressed to GW at Haverstraw, N.Y.). GW received Malcom’s letters dated 12 and 14 Oct. on 11 Nov. (see GW to Malcom, 12 Nov., DNA:PCC, item 152).

1Christopher Carleton (1749–1787), British general Guy Carleton’s nephew and former aide-de-camp, rose from captain to major in September 1777 and became lieutenant colonel in February 1783.

2For New York militia captain Adiel Sherwood’s decision to surrender Fort Ann, see Clinton Papers, 6:408–9.

3Col. Goose Van Schaick’s regiment instead left Albany for GW’s army (see source note above; see also GW to Van Schaick, 28 Aug., found at GW to George Clinton, same date, n.6, and Malcom to GW, 3 Oct., n.1).

4Below his signature on this letter, Malcom reported casualties from these actions as three officers killed, two officers wounded, and four officers taken prisoner from Col. Seth Warner’s Additional Continental Regiment at Fort George, New York. That regiment also suffered twenty-five rank and file killed and fifty soldiers taken prisoner. Sherwood’s New York levies at Fort Ann had three officers and seventy-four rank and file taken prisoner, plus one soldier killed. Malcom received this information on losses from “an Officer of Warners Regt On parole.”

In response to British incursions from Canada into New York, GW detached a Continental regiment from West Point (see GW to Nathanael Greene, and to Clinton, both 16 Oct.). Carleton’s force of British soldiers and Loyalists had embarked from St. Jean in late September and united with Indian allies before landing on 8 Oct. at Skenesboro. They promptly captured forts Ann and George (see Seth Warner to GW, 30 Oct., DLC:GW). Frederick Haldimand, governor of Quebec, wrote Lord George Germain from there on 25 Oct.: “Major Carleton, who has as well as his detachment shown great zeal and activity in this affair, having fully answered the purposes for which he was sent, is returned to Crown Point where he is to remain as long as the season will permit the vessels to navigate the lake [Champlain] in order to draw the attention of the enemy.

“The reports assiduously published upon all occasions by the enemy of cruelties committed by Indians are notoriously false and propagated merely to exasperate the ignorant and deluded people. …

“A party of one hundred men and Mohawk Indians crossed Lake Champlain with Major Carleton to cooperate with Sir John Johnson who must be before this time upon the Mohawk River” (Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 18:209–11). This smaller force did not cooperate with Lt. Col. John Johnson but raided Ballston while Johnson’s nearly 1,000 British soldiers, Loyalists, and Indians razed Schoharie and threatened locations around Fort Schuyler until New York militia compelled their withdrawal to Oswego (see Clinton to GW, 30 Oct., DLC:GW). For an overview, see Watt, Burning of the Valleys.

6Clinton reached Albany on 16 Oct. (see Clinton to GW, 18 Oct.).

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