George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 3 November 1780

From George Clinton

Poughkeepsie [N.Y.] Novr 3d 1780

Dear sir

I have the honor of transmitting your Excellency a Letter from Genl Schuyler which came inclosed to me under a flying Seal.1 The Intelligence it contains has induced me to ordered out Generals Ten Broeck & Rensselaers Brigades of Militia to oppose the Enemy and cover the exposed Settlements: but I fear they will move slowly as they have but just returned from the Frontiers whither they were called by the late Incursions of the Enemy. I have subjected them to the Directions of Brigr Genl Clinton; and to prevent as much as possible the consumption of Provision have requested him to dismiss them the moment the public Service will admit.2

Your Excellency will be informed by Genl Schuyler’s Letter of the very extraordinary Conduct of Colo. Allen and the Jealousies it has occasioned—With the first Intelligence I had of the approach of the Enemy under Sir John & Carleton3 I received a Piece of Information that gave me some Reason to suspect that there had been an unwarrantable communication between a certain Person in that Quarter and the Enemy at St Johns But as the Evidence was not direct I then conceived it most prudent for obvious Reasons to be silent on the Subject. There are however some other Circumstances, exclusive of Colo. Allens Conduct, come to light since; which will induce me to collect and forward the whole to your Excellency as early as I shall have it in my Power.4 I am extremely distressed lest the frequent Alarms and Incursions of the Enemy will occasion the abandonment of all our Northern Frontier Settlements unless their present Apprehensions are removed by a more permanent Force in that Quarter than can be afforded them from the Militia.

I have not yet any official account of the Detachment sent out of Fort Schuyler: but from a Passage in a Letter this Moment received from Colo. Malcom there is too much Reason to apprehend that the Report of their being captured by the Enemy is too true.5

Your Excellency’s Letter of the 29th Instant accompanying the Proceedings against Joshua Smith is this Moment received—the Moment I can find Leizure to peruse them they shall be returned with an Answer on the Subject.6 I have the Honor to be with perfec⟨t⟩ Respect and Esteem. Dear Sir Your Excellency’s most Obedt Servant

Geo: Clinton

LS, DLC:GW; Df (partially burned), N-Ar: Clinton Papers. GW replied to Clinton on 6 Nov. (second letter).

2No letters dated 3 Nov. from Clinton to brigadier generals Abraham Ten Broeck or Robert Van Rensselaer of the New York militia have been identified, but Clinton wrote Ten Broeck from Poughkeepsie on 4 Nov., 10:00 a.m.: “I have this moment rec’d yours of yesterday by Express, inclosing a Copy of the Information transmitted by Genl. Schuyler. My Brother passed thro’ this Place yesterday morn’g for Albany where he is to take the Command. I communicated to him the Intelligence I had then rec’d respect’g the approach of the Enemy on the northern Frontier & vested him with authority on the pres’t emergency to call upon the whole or such proportion of your & Genl. Rensselaer’s Brigade as should be necessary to oppose the Enemy & cover the frontier Settlements; If proper & timely Exertions are made, which from your early Intelligence of the approach of the Enemy I hope may be the case, I do not apprehend that they will in the first instance attempt to penetrate the Country: but it is greatly to be feared that they may occupy Fort George, which I am informed was not perfectly destroyed, until the militia is wearied out & their Provisions exhausted, & then having a secure Retreat commence their Depredations; this, therefore, as well as to oppose their progress in the first instance, ought to be attended to. My brother will reach Albany this Evening & will of course make the proper disposition of the militia as they arrive. I have written to Genl. Rensselaer, by the Return of the Express, to hasten him on with his Brigade, & if I should learn by the next Express that my presence is necessary in Albany, I will, tho’ full of Pain with the Rheumatizm & harrassed by pressing applications from the posts below, attempt to get there” (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 , 6:379–80; see also Clinton to GW, 5 Nov., n.1). Clinton also wrote Van Rensselaer from Poughkeepsie on 4 Nov. that “Information received from Genl. Ten Broeck by the Express … renders it absolutely necessary that you should repair to Albany with your Brigade with the least possible Delay. Brig’r Genl. Clinton, by whom I wrote you yesterday, is to Command at Albany” (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 , 6:380).

3The writer rendered “Caleton” for this British officer. Maj. Christopher Carleton and Lt. Col. John Johnson had led attacks from Canada into New York (see William Malcom to GW, 12 Oct., and n.4 to that document).

4For the troubling activities of Vermont militia general Ethan Allen, see Philip Schuyler to GW, 31 Oct.–1 Nov., and especially notes 4 and 7.

5No letter from Col. William Malcom to Clinton with this information has been identified. For the dismal fate of the detachment from Fort Schuyler, N.Y., see Clinton to GW, 5 Nov., n.3.

6For this letter asking whether state officials wanted to take custody of Joshua Hett Smith following his acquittal for complicity in Benedict Arnold’s treachery, dated 29 Oct. and addressed to Clinton or New York lieutenant governor Pierre Van Cortlandt, see Document XVI with The Smith Family and Major General Benedict Arnold’s Treachery, 26 Sept.–30 Oct., editorial note; see also William Heath to GW, 1 November. New York officials imprisoned Smith, but he escaped in May 1781 (see Smith, Narrative description begins Joshua Hett Smith. An Authentic Narrative of the Causes which Led to the Death of Major Andrè, Adjutant-General of His Majesty’s Forces in North America. 1808. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 225–28, 259–87, and Koke, Joshua Hett Smith description begins Richard J. Koke. Accomplice in Treason: Joshua Hett Smith and the Arnold Conspiracy. New York, 1973. description ends , 185–207; see also Heath to GW, 10 Nov., postscript).

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