George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel William Malcom, 29 October 1780

From Colonel William Malcom

Albany October 29 1780


In my letter of the 25th I had the Honor to give your Excellency a full relation of every material Circumstance that hath taken place in this department Since the 18 last1—This moment only I am favord with your letter of the 16th. The Three months Levys of my Brigade are this day arrived in town & will be discharged—indeed they cannot be prevail’d upon to remain longer & it was with difficulty that they have been Kept Since the 15 when properly their times of engagement expired—Harpeers & pawlings Regts also of the Brigade will Serve untill the first of dec. the former in Fort Scuyler, to be relieved by Wisenfiels—the latter posted on the Fronters of Ulster & Orange Countys—towards the Delawer.2

This State hath pass’d a Law to raise 700 men to replace the three Months men in the Brigade under my Command3 and I had consented to remain in this Quarter with them—A sentiment in your Excellencys Letter hath changed my Resolution—I most certainly will not be Commanded by any Colonel unless his Commission is of an older date—perhaps I may have mistaken your Excellencys Meaning—I am rather inclined to think So because I told you Sir, when I took this Command that it would be under my Continental Commission—To avoid disputes, Congress Shall determine this matter before I Serve again—Although at the Same time nothing can make me more unhappy than to be held in Such A Situation.4

Your Excellency May depend upon it, that I have done every thing in my power5 for the public good—and I will Venture to Say that nott only Fort Scuyler, but the Frontier Settlements of the State would have been abandon’d if it had not been for the Exertions Which I have made—The Governor, every Officer in the dept. & the Inhabitants will give Testimony in my favor—If the means in my hands were not equall to end—It is not my fault—Before I leave this place I Shall think it my duty to dispose of Harpeers Regt when relieved, and of Such of the new raised Levys as may by that time come in—The very Valuable Country on the Rivers above this place will be desolated by the Spring—I am confident that if your Excellency were properly acquainted wt. their importance, they would be Guarded like a magazine—a Scout from Scuyler orderd to Attempt the destruction of the Enemys Boats have fallen into their hands—about 40 men6—To Reinforce the Garrison I have orderd the Levys in Wisenfiels Regt to push up instantly with a Small Supply of provisions—the Residue of the Regt it Seems is to Halt for your orders at schenectady—It will require very considerable exertions to Maintain the Frontier posts this Winter—if they are evacated the inhabitants come in with the Troops—at present there is very little provision, what there is I have Sent to the Forts Viewing it as the first object.

I am Suspicious that there will be bad news from the north-parts of the State—towards the Grants ere’ long—My information although pretty good are not Sufficent to accuse.7 I have the Honor to be with the Greatest Respect your Excellencys Most Obedt & very H. servt

W. Malcom

the prisoners are gone this day to fishkill.8

1Malcom’s letter to GW on 25 Oct. has not been found, but it presumably described the victory of New York state troops and militia over the British on 19 Oct. at an engagement usually called the Battle of Klock’s Field (see George Clinton to GW, 30 Oct., and notes 2 and 4 to that document; see also n.8 below).

2In his letter to Malcom on 16 Oct., GW evaluated the proposal to evacuate Fort Schuyler, N.Y., asked for information on the disposition of troops, and indicated that the commander of the Continental regiment assigned to Fort Schuyler would exercise command over the post. GW subsequently ordered Lt. Col. Frederick Weissenfels’s 4th New York Regiment to garrison Fort Schuyler (see GW to William Heath, 18 Oct., found at Heath to GW, 17 Oct., n.4; see also Malcom to GW, 3 Oct., n.2).

3Malcom probably refers to “An Act to raise Troops for the further Defence of the Frontiers, and for other Purposes therein mentioned,” which the New York legislature had adopted on 29 Sept. (N.Y. Laws description begins Laws of the State of New-York, Commencing with the first Session of the Senate and Assembly, after the Declaration of Independency, and the Organization of the New Government of the State, Anno 1777. Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 1782. description ends , 151–52).

4Malcom wrote New York governor George Clinton from Schenectady, N.Y., on 31 Oct.: “I have lately been told that my name is not on the Register of the war office, & therefore my Rank called in Question.” He continued: “If Congress shall have dismiss’d me no doubt but they will on your Excellency’s application declare it. I am very sorry to give you the trouble, but as a Subject of the State, I am confident that you will favor me with your interposition. As the Campaign is now closing it is a proper time to ask an explanation” (Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 6:416). Clinton forwarded Malcom’s letter to New York’s delegates from Poughkeepsie on 15 Nov. with an observation: “The Embarrassm’ts the Service meets with from the Disputes concerning Rank will apologize for the Trouble I now give you, in requesting that you will be pleased to lay the above Letter before Congress & obtain their Sense on the Subject of his Claim & transmit the same to me by the first Conveyance” (Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 6:415–16). Congress resolved on 8 Jan. 1781 that Malcom “be recommended to the executive of the State of New York as a meritorious officer, who, from the impracticability of employing him in the army, is to be deemed a supernumerary” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 19:36–38, quote on 38).

GW avoided a rank dispute when he assigned Brig. Gen. James Clinton to command at Albany (see his letter to General Clinton, 28 Oct., found at Heath to GW, 24 Oct., n.10).

5Malcom wrote “poor” for this word.

6For details on the disastrous fate of this detachment, see George Clinton to GW, 5 Nov., and n.3 to that document.

7Malcom means the New Hampshire Grants. Vermont militia major general Ethan Allen soon came under treason accusations (see James Clinton to GW, 12 Nov.; see also Philip Schuyler to GW, 31 Oct.–1 Nov., notes 4 and 7).

8Governor Clinton ordered the commanding officer at Fishkill, N.Y., on 30 Oct. to have “thirty one Prisoners of war taken in Tryon County … secured in the Provost at Fishkill. … The[y] were captured by the militia & Levies of this State” (Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 6:356). The prisoners presumably came from the Battle of Klock’s Field (see n.1 above).

Index Entries