George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Seth Warner, 30 October 1780

From Colonel Seth Warner

Bennington [Vt.] 30th October 1780

Hond Sir

Doubtless your Excellency has before now been informed of the Misfortunes that have lately befallen the Troops on the Northern Frontiers, especially the Regt I had the Honour to Command stationed at Lake George, the Particulars and Circumstances of which are too lengthy to enlarge upon by way of Letter therefore beg Leave to refer you to the Bearer Capt. Moulton for a more minute Information.1 However would inform your Excellency that on the Morning of the 9th Instant a Body of about One Thousand of the Enemy appeared before Fort Ann (a Piquet) and demanded the Fort, which was accordingly Surrendered by Capt. Adial Sherwood the Commander, himself and Fifty men becoming Prisoners of War;2 after which the Enemy took their Rout thro’ Kingsborough and Queensborough burning & destroying all before them, to Fort George then commanded by Capt. Chipman with between Sixty and Seventy Rank and File exclusive of Commissioned and Non Commissioned Officers, the Remainder of the Regt being on different Detachments on Discoveries across Lake George &c. Previous to their Arrival at Fort George, the Garrison having been two Days destitute of Provisions, Capt. Chipman had sent an Express to Fort Edward for Supplies, who at a little better than a Miles distance was fired on by a party of about Thirty of the Enemy, and made his Escape and gave him the only Information he had recd of their being on the Coast, he judging their Number not to exceed Forty or Fifty and being anxious to revenge the many Losses the Regt had sustained during the Season by their several detached Parties which generally consisted of an adequate Number, thought that a Number not exceeding Fifty, including Officers, under the Command of Capt. Ths Sill was amply sufficient to repel those Invaders, but unhappily Capt. Sill no sooner made the Attack on the Enemies Front which gave way, but soon found himself charged in Front, Flank and Rere by a Superiority of British, Indians and Tories, and after a short but smart Resistance, Capt. Sill, Ensigns Eno, and McLowrey with Fifteen Non Commissioned Officers and Privates were killed and since found on the Ground; Lt Payne and Ensign Lighthall were wounded and taken with the rest of the Detachment, except Ensign Grant who made his Escape with about Fifteen Men by an Effort thro’ the Enemies Lines.3 The Enemy having thus overcome Capt. Sill and his Party immediately proceeded to invest the Fort and on their Arrival were several times fired at by a Field piece, they then sent a Flag to demand the Surrender of the Fort, Capt. Chipman finding the Impracticability of defending it with so small a Number surrendered on Capitulation, the Articles of which are inclosed.4 Had Capt. Chipman recd the least Information from the Commanding Officer at Fort Edward (who was by an Express from Fort Ann at the hour of Eleven in the Evening of the 9th Instant, advertised of their Approach) that they were on their March and in so large a Number, he would not have sent out that detached Party, and by that Means might probably have saved the Fort, or at least have prevented its being taken till a Reinforcement might have arrived.5

The remainder of my Regt being few in Number and in a destitute and naked Condition I have furlough’d to the 1st Decr next, but however few are always ready and anxious to persevere in the Cause and are actuated with a principle to retrieve their Losses.6

I am sorry to inform your Excellency that by Reason of Mr William Sherman my late Regimental Paymaster’s Elopement, and the Loss the Regt has sustained in their Accounts and other papers at the Surrender of the Fort Notwithstanding the Articles of Caputulation to the Contrary, it will be impossible for me to Liquidate the Public Accts although it is very evident there is a considerable Ballance of Cash and Cloathing in Arrears to the Regt, On my Arresting Mr Sherman in order to bring him to an Acct the Civil Authority in Albany interposed on acct of his Private Debts, notwithstanding my sending an Officer to bring him to the Regt and the application of that Officer to the Commander for his Assistance and representation of the Injustice of preferring a Private to a Public Settlement and recd for answer that the Military must be subservient to the Civil, by which means Mr Sherman had an Opportunity to elope from his Arrest both Civil and Military, which occasioned my sending Col. Safford in Pursuit of him to Connecticut and which may readily excuse his Absense from Fort George when taken, and notwithstanding every Exertion in my power, at a very great Expence he has eluded every Search and hitherto escaped the Hands of Justice. I have the Honour to Subscribe myself Your Excellencies Most Obt & Hum. Servt

Seth Warner

P.S. I must Request your Excellency’s Warrant on the Pay Masr General for two Months Pay for the Officers of my Regiment on Account; to be delivered to Captain Moulton—And that your Excellency will send me Directions concerning the Mustering of the Regt from 1st Decer last; and how I shall conduct with the remains.7


LS, DLC:GW. Warner wrote the postscript.

1For losses in Warner’s Additional Continental Regiment at Fort George, N.Y., and an overview of the British incursions into New York from Canada, see William Malcom to GW, 12 Oct., n.4.

3Warner apparently enclosed a letter from Capt. John Chipman to Capt. Thomas Sill written at Fort George, N.Y., on 11 Oct. following a report about “a Small party of Savages” nearby: “you will immediatly take forty eight men officers included and proceed on the main road untill you make discoveries of them Keeping Sufficient advanced and flank guards in such a manner as to prevent being Surrounded—if you find a large party you will immediatly retreat to the fort—except they Should be Savages only—in which Case you will attack and immediately Charge uppon them” (DLC:GW).

Martin Eno (d. 1780) became a sergeant in Warner’s regiment in June 1777 and died as an ensign.

Alexander McLowrey (McLowry; d. 1780)joined Warner’s regiment as a sergeant in December 1776, became sergeant major in August 1778, and later rose to ensign.

Francis Payne became a sergeant major in Warner’s regiment in January 1777 and rose to ensign in August 1778. Captured in October 1780, he was promoted to lieutenant prior to his exchange in November 1782.

William Lighthall (1756–1822) entered Warner’s regiment as a sergeant in March 1777 and rose to ensign in November 1778. Promoted to lieutenant in 1779, Lighthall was captured at Fort George and taken to Canada, where he stayed until paroled in November 1782.

Benoni Grant (c.1759–1825) joined Warner’s Additional Continental Regiment as sergeant in February 1777 and rose to ensign in August 1778. In a deposition he gave at Franklin County, Vt., on 24 April 1818, Grant reported that “he was promoted to a Lieutenant” shortly before being “dismissed from the service as a Supernumary Officer” in early 1781 (DNA: RG 15, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800–1900).

4Warner enclosed “Articles of Capitulation Between Major Carlton Commanding a Detachment of the Kings Troops and Captain Chipman Commanding at Fort George,” dated 11 October. Article 1 designated the surrendered troops as “prisoners of war.” Article 2 permitted women and children “to return to their homes With two Waggons and their Baggage.” Article 3 allowed each officer “their Servants.” Article 4 prohibited Indians from entering “the fort untill a British detachment take posses[s]ion.” Article 5 gave Maj. Christopher Carleton’s assurance “that no lives in the Fort shall be lost nor any person mollested.” Article 6 allowed “each Soldier to Carry his Knapsack.” Article 7 enabled an ensign “to return home with his family & the Regiment Books on giving his parrole” (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 6:290–91).

5Lt. Col. Henry Livingston, Jr., commanded at Fort Edward, New York.

6Warner enclosed a return of his regiment compiled at Bennington, Vt., on 27 Oct. that lists thirty-six “Rank & File” (with thirty-four furloughed). Fifteen had been “Killed” and thirty-five “Taken Prisoners” on 11 Oct. (DLC:GW).

7GW replied to Warner from headquarters at Passaic Falls on 12 Nov.: “I have recd your favr of the 30th October by Capt. Moulton. I am sorry for the unfortunate stroke upon your Regt at Fort George, but I cannot but think it extraordinary that you should furlough the remainder at a time when their services were so essentially necessary—By the new establishment of the Army, your Regiment with all the other Corps upon the same foundation (Colo. Hazens excepted) is to be reduced on the 1st January—The Officers to go out on half pay for life and the non Comm[issione]d and private Men to join the Regiments of those States to which they properly belong—The time of reduction being so near, you may as well send the remainder of your Men immediately down to West point, under the care of an Officer where they will be incorporated and receive Cloathing.

“The Military Chest here and to the Northward are both empty, and I cannot therefore make the advance of pay which you require. As Mr Sherman your late pay Master has gone off in so scandalous a Manner, you must appoint one of your Officers, who is best qualified, to make up the Regimental accounts in the best manner that circumstances will admit, and send them down to the Auditors that they may be finally adjusted. You must at the same time prepare your accounts for the Money which you have received at different times for recruiting (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also the general orders for 1 Nov.). Warner replied to GW on 23 December.

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