George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Clinton, 6 November 1780

To George Clinton

⟨Head Quarters Prekaness⟩ Novr 6th 17801

Dear Sir

I have received your several favo⟨rs of the 18th 30th⟩ and 31st Ulto.2 I congratulate you upon your safe return from yo⟨ur⟩ late excursion, and upon the success which attended ⟨Genl Rans⟩alaers attack upon the enemy in their retreat—It is to be ⟨regretted⟩ that your Excellency was not near enough with the Reinfor⟨cement to⟩ take advantage of their situation. The damage, which has ⟨been⟩ done, will, I fear, be severely felt by the public as well as by individuals. We had the most pleasing prospects of forming considerable Magazines of bread, from the Country which has been laid waste, and which, from your Excellency’s letter, is so ⟨ex⟩tensive, that I am apprehensive we shall be obliged to bring f⟨lour⟩ from the Southward to support the troops at and near West p⟨oint.⟩ You will be pleased to give me your opinion upon the quantity of flour that may yet, with probability, be procured above, in the course of the Winter, that I may form some calculation of the quantity which it will be necessary to draw from Jersey—Pennsylvania and Maryland.

I am very sorry that the troops of your State should look upon it as a hardship to do the Garrison duty of Fort Schuyler. I had always allotted it to them, as thinking it would be agreab⟨le⟩ to both Officers and men to guard their own Frontier, especially when they were not continued an unreasonable time upon the tour. The Frontier posts of Pennsylvania and Virginia have been constantly Garrisoned by their own Regiments, which have not been releived these two years. The troops of the line in general are, in point of Cloathing, upon a footing with the rest of the Army, which is very bare, and which has a poor prospect of being well supplied⟨.⟩ But as Colo. Weissenfelds Regiment is going to a distance and where ⟨he will not have an opportunity of drawing those temporary supplies which the troops with the⟩ main Army sometimes do, ⟨I have given orders to have⟩ it as well furnished as our3 Magazines ⟨will admit.⟩4

I have appointed Brigadier General Clinton to ⟨take the⟩ command in the Northern department, and have ordered him to repair to Albany for that purpose.5 I am convinced he will second every measure which may be thought expedient for the security of the Frontier.

I am much obliged to your Excellency for the attention which you promise to pay to the provisioning Fort Schuyler. I daily expect four or five hundred Barrels of salt beef from Connecticut, as soon as they arrive upon the North River, part of them shall be sent up to Albany for the Garrison of Fort Schuyler, I desired Governor Trumbull to hurry them on that they might be got up in all this month.6

I am very happy to find that the Legislature has vested your Excellency with the power of complying ⟨with⟩ the requisitions of Congress for Compleating the new Army. I find that the Resolve of the 3d of Octr had only reached you, and that your calculation of the deficiency of 313 men had been founded upon that—Congress, by a subsequent act of the 21st have made some very material and salutary amendments, the principal of which are—giving half pay for life to the Officers—confining the term of service expressly to the War, and augmenting the number of men in each Regt to 612 Rank and file. I therefore state your exact deficiency at 449 Men, upon the following principles7 This ⟨your Excellency will be pleased to observe is the deficiency⟩ in figures—but ⟨when we come to take into the computation the⟩ casualties that will happ⟨en between this time and the junction⟩ of the recruits—the number of men ⟨sick in Hospitals and upon⟩ extra service, many of the first incurab⟨les, and of the last so⟩ detached that we shall never find them—⟨the deficiency which⟩ there will be in the number of Recruits voted—⟨and other unfore⟩seen deductions, it will appear plainly, that if ⟨the assessment⟩ is laid at 449 only, the Regiments will want very ⟨consider⟩ably of that strength, which is absolutely necessary to ⟨make⟩ our Combined Continental force any ways adequate ⟨to the⟩ probable services of the next Campaign. I would theref⟨ore⟩ beg leave to recommend to your Excellency to lay your Asses⟨sm⟩ent at 100 men more than the apparent deficiency. I am convinced it will be found cheaper and in every respect more eligible to compleat the matter at one stroke, than ⟨to⟩ have a second tax to lay.

Our affairs to the Southward put on a more pleasing aspect since the defeat of Colo. Ferguson. Lord Cornwallis8 was retreating precipitately from Charlotte, and giving up a fine district of Country which he had in poss⟨e⟩ssion. But the diversion which General Leslie will occasion, by taking post in Virginia, will I fear, operate against the formation of the Southern Army, and will embarrass us on the score of supplies.9 Another embarkation is prepareing at New York, which I have no doubt is also intended for the Southward,10 as, without considerable Reinforcements, they must abandon their late conquests in ⟨that quarter⟩.11 ⟨I have⟩ the honor to be ⟨wi⟩th the greatest esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedt humbl. servt

Go: Washington

LS (partially burned), in David Humphreys’s writing, N-Ar: Clinton Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Burned material in the LS is supplied in angle brackets from the draft, which GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman penned. The draft and Varick transcript are dated 5 November.

1The date is transcribed from the docket of the LS.

2These letters primarily covered military operations along the New York frontier (see Clinton to GW, 18, 30, and 31 Oct.)

3Tilghman wrote “scanty” at this place on the draft.

4GW had written David Brooks, deputy clothier at Newburgh, N.Y., from headquarters at Preakness on 5 Nov.: “The Regimental pay Master and Cloathier of Colo. Weissenfelds Regt will apply to you for a supply of Cloathing for that Regt. You will deliver him a suit of Cloathes ⅌ Man—two shirts—two pair of stockings and two pair of shoes each if your stock will admit of it, as they are going to a distant post and will not have another opportunity of drawing before Spring” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

5GW had written Brig. Gen. James Clinton from Preakness on 5 Nov.: “Be pleased to order the Regimental Pay Master and Cloathier of Colo. Weissenfelds Regt to repair to New Burgh for a supply of Cloathing for the Regiment. If it does not reach them before they march from Schenectady to Fort Schuyler, it may follow them up. I have directed the Cloathier to give them as full a supply as our Store will admit, as they will be at a distance, and will not have opportunities of obtaining temperary aids.

“His Excellency the Governor promises to give every assistance in procuring provision for Fort Schuyler. You will be pleased to make that a primary object, and endeavour to have the supply thrown in, in the course of this Month. … P.S. The Levies are not to be included in the Cloathing Returns” (LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, PPRF; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; GW signed the cover of the LS, which was addressed to James Clinton at Albany; see also n.4 above).

6GW had written Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., from headquarters near Passaic Falls on 28 Oct.: “I am to request your Excellency to direct the salt Beef mentioned in your letter of the 31st August, and concerning which I wrote to you from Har[t]ford, to be forwarded with as much expedition as possible to Fishkill landing, by the upper route, as that by Crumpond has become dangerous, from the incursions of the Enemy’s Refugee Corps—I am the more anxious to have this parcel of salt provision brought speedily to the North River, as I see no other, on which I can depend, for furnishing a Winter supply for the important Garrison of Fort schuyler, and if it is not got up to that post in the month of November, it will be extremely difficult afterwards, from the badness of the Road.

“Although the season is already arrived when the Magazines of salt Meat, for the ensuing Winter and Campaign, should be laid in, I cannot learn that the Commissary General has been enabled to put up a single Barrel—so far from it, it is with difficulty the troops, in any quarter, are subsisted upon fresh Meat from day to day” (LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, Ct: Trumbull Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; “recd 5th Novr” is written on the docket of the LS). See Trumbull to GW, 31 Aug., and GW to Trumbull, 5 September. No letter from GW to Trumbull written while he attended the Hartford Conference has been found (see The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept., editorial note).

7GW next presented in tabular form that the required “2 [New York] Regiments of Infantry Rank & file” amounted to 1,224 men, and the non-commissioned officers and privates in one “Regt of Artillery” equaled 650 men, for a total of 1,874. A return showed 1,121 “Rank and file” already enlisted “for the War” from New York. Adding 304 soldiers from Col. John Lamb’s artillery regiment “which will be apportioned to the State” made 1,425 in service and left a “deficiency” of 449 troops to complete the new arrangement. For a subsequent modification of this calculation, see GW to George Clinton, 14 November.

8Humphreys wrote “Corwallis” for this name.

9For the the Battle of Kings Mountain on 7 Oct., the subsequent retreat of British forces under Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis, and Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie’s expedition to Virginia, see General Orders, 27 Oct., and n.2 to that document, and Nathanael Greene to GW, 31 Oct., notes 3 and 4.

10For a possible source of this erroneous intelligence, see John Jameson to GW, 31 Oct.; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 4 Nov., and Samuel Culper to Benjamin Tallmadge, 12 Nov., found at Tallmadge to GW, 14 Nov., n.1.

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