George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General James Clinton, 12 November 1780

From Brigadier General James Clinton

Albany Novr 12th 1780.


On the 4th instt I arrived at this place in pursuance of your Excys directions of the 28th ulto.1 And receiving intelligence of the appearance of the Enemy in the Lake, I immediately proceeded on to Saratoga, where I was necessarily detain’d untill yesterday, for the return of a flag, which had been previously sent in by Genl Schuyler, and Col. Gansevort, with a view of conferring with Majr Carlton, concerning a number of families whom the Governor had directed to be sent in, and also to assertain if possible the Situation and movements of the Enemy. On the 8th the flag returned and reported “that all the Shipping had gon down—exept one small Schooner—that their force consisted of about four hundred chiefly british—that they were encamp’d ten Miles below Crown-point, and that from the appearance of the Weather they could not remain there many days longer.”2 Col. Gansevoort being possest of all the Papers, I beg leave to refer your Excy to him for further perticulars.3

Col. Wiessenfels march’d for Fort-Shuyler four days before my arrival in town, with all the Provisions that could be collected calculated to be sufficient for the Garrison untill the first of January next, but the water has been so low that he has not yet got further than the little Falls, fifty miles below the Fort—by water—and if the weather shoud continue so severe as it now is, I fear he will not be able to proceed with the Stores.4

On the road from Saratoga I received your favour of the 6th and on my arrival in town found Col. V. Schaick, to whom I communicated your Excellency’s instructions, and dispatched a Boat down the river, with the last five Barrels of Flower in store, and orders for the Troops to return.

The Conduct of the People of the Grants is exceedingly suspicious. They have appointed a Committee to confer with a Flag from Carlton. the ostensible Business of which is to settle a Cartel. Sundry heavy Charges have been thrown into the Assembly against Genl Allen: and report says he is dismiss’d from Command.5

The Situation of public Affaires in this Quarter is truly lamentable. The very small Stock which had been collected here for the use of the troops stationed here, has been entirely consumed by the Militia, during the late Alarm.6 All the Supplies for some time past have been procured by impress. This mode has become insupportable to the People—they are clamorous. The uncertainty and delay which accompanies it, reprobate the Method. I am distress’d about Fort Schuyler—how long we shall maintain that important Post, depends entirely upon the exertions of Col. Hay—At present there is not in store, one single Atom of either Beef, Flower, Rum, Hay or Grain: about one hundred Cords of Wood, and not as much Cash as will pay an Express from hence to Head Quarters. Every branch of business in the Quartermaster’s Department, however necessary, is dead. The public Armourers refuse to work—and a general Discontent universally prevails.

While I write your Excellency’s Letter of the 5th has come to hand.7 I shall notify Col. Wiessenfels of the Contents, but sincerely wish Col. Gansevoort’s Regiment which is stationed at Saratoga—Fort Edward &c. were to be included in the return, as they will shortly be unfit for duty in this severe climate.8 I have the honor to be Your Excellency most Obedient & huble Ser.

James Clinton

ALS, DLC:GW. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman noted below the docket: “28 Octobr wrote Govr Trumbull for salt Beef” (see GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 28 Oct., found at GW’s first letter to George Clinton, 6 Nov., n.6).

James Clinton wrote similarly from Albany on this date to Maj. Gen. William Heath, then at West Point, and who recently had directed reinforcements up the Hudson River: “The Troops have just arrived, but as the alarm which occasioned their movement has subsided, and as it is his Excellency’s direction that in that case they shoud instantly return, I have ordered them to hold themselves in readiness to sail with the first fair wind.” Clinton subsequently resumed: “I have informed Genl Washington of the situation of affairs in this place … Every branch of public business is at a stand … These are melancholy Facts. …

“Every assistance in my power shall be granted to forward on those arti[c]les to you which are to be sent from this place” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also Heath to GW, 4 Nov., n.2; GW’s second letter to George Clinton, 6 Nov., n.1; and n.2 below). Heath enclosed a copy of James Clinton’s letter when he wrote GW on 15 Nov. (first letter).

1See GW to James Clinton, 28 Oct., found at William Heath to GW, 24 Oct., n.10.

2Writing his brother New York governor George Clinton from Albany on this date, James Clinton provided additional details from this intelligence report and on the families (see 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 , 6:405–7). Reports of a renewed British drive into the New York frontier had proven erroneous (see George Clinton to GW, 5 Nov., and notes 1 and 2; see also William Malcom to GW, 7 Nov.).

4For orders that directed Lt. Col. Frederick Weissenfels’s 4th New York Regiment to garrison Fort Schuyler, see GW to Heath, 18 Oct., found at Heath to GW, 17 Oct., n.4; see also James Clinton to GW, 19 November.

5For GW’s letter to James Clinton dated 6 Nov. with word that the rest of the New York brigade had been ordered to Albany, and with instructions to investigate matters regarding Vermont, see GW’s second letter to George Clinton, same date, n.2; see also Philip Schuyler to GW, 31 Oct.–1 Nov., notes 4 and 7.

6See n.2 above.

7GW had written James Clinton on 5 Nov. regarding clothing (see GW’s first letter to George Clinton, 6 Nov., n.5).

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