George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 19 May 1780

Kingston 19th May 1780.

Dear Sir,

I inclose your Letter that I have this Moment received from Colo. Van Schaick by the Express who carries this to your Excellency giving a most disagreable Picture of the Situation of our Frontier Settlements. As well from his Account as from Intelligence I have received from different Quarters there is every Reason to believe that the Enemy meditate the Destruction of Tryon County and this with a Force far superior to the Proportion of Troops raised for its Defence—even if they were all embodied which is not yet the Case tho’ I have no doubt they will soon be ready to take the Stations assigned them.

The Scarcity of Provission prevents the Militia from affording any permament Protection as the State of the Public Magazines from Colo. Van Schaicks Representation is such as not to enable them to continue out any longer than till the Provissions they can carry with them are expended, And I can assure you Sir that the Allowance left for My Inhabitants under our Law for impressing Supplies for the Army is (owing to the badness of the Quality of the Grain) scarcely sufficient to support their Families & in many Cases forbids taking them from Home les their Services in the Field be ever so requisite. I think it my Duty to mention these Matters to your Excellency & to sollicit, if the present Situation of the Army will possibly admit of it, that a small additional Force be ordered to that Quarter with means for their Subsistence—this woud give new vigour to the Militia & may prevent Consequences much to be dreaded.I woud only add that it is much easier to afford Succour from the Militia to the Posts in the Highland or to the Army and is your Excellency’s immediate Command than it is to draw them to the Frontier. And upon any sudden Emergency I think may safely venture to promise a Force superior to the Detachment which will be necessary for this Service. I have the Honor to be with the most perfect Esteem your Excellencys Most Obed Servt

Geo: Clinton

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Albany May 17th 1780


The repeated Applications which are hourly made by the Inhabitants of the Western & Northern Frontiers for Protection & Support while they display their Apprehensions of the Enemies Incursions in striking Colours afford me the most painful Sensations excited by a Conviction that their Fears are far from groundless and the Reflection that it is not in my Power to mitigate the Evils with which they are threatened much less effectually to guard against them.

The exposed and defenceless State of our Frontier Settlements which will in all Probability if longer continued be attended with very serious Effects—The Militia of Tryon County, much harrassed by the Military Services which their Situation renders indispensible, are at present exceedingly dispirited and appear averse to adopting the Measures necessary for repelling the Enemy they consider themselves as disregarded by their Fellow Subjects and devoted by their Inattention to Destruction—Hence the most remote Settlements are daily breaking up and unless some speedy and effectual Measures are taken to inspire those desponding People with Confidence it appears far from improbable that Schenectady will be our Frontier to the Westward—The Apprehensions of those to the Northward are equally lively and I should not be surprized if all the settlements to the Northward of the Mohawk and Westward of Hudson’s River were shortly either destroyed or abandoned—Upwards of one hundred Men have in a few Days gone off from this and Tryon County and amongst those some who were reputed good staunch Whigs—Actuated by their Fears and despairing of Succour many others may perhaps be induced to follow their Example.

It is confidently reported by the disaffected in Tryon County that Sir John Johnson is on his March to make an Incursion into the Country and I have Reason to think from a variety of concurring Information that it is more than conjectural that the Enemy meditate a Blow in that Quarter—Upon the whole the Situation of the Frontier is truly distressing.

Thus circumstanced I am incapacitated to draw forth the Militia for Want of Provisions Our Stores are exhausted and it is with Difficulty the Commissary furnishes Subsistence for those few Men who are in the public service in this Part of the Department—Drafts from the Militia have been made a Week or two since—some appeared at the Place of Rendezvous but being unfurnished with Provisions are obligated to disband.

Tho this may possibly appear an exagerated account I think I have not heightened the Colours on this Occasion.

General Ten Broeck in Consequence of my Application has ordered out one half of his Brigade with Eight Days Provision at the Expiration of which Time or shortly after they will probably be obliged to return as it is next to impracticable to subsist even that small Number with the Provisions which the Commissary will be able to provide.

Perhaps the Disposition of a few Troops or Militia Drafts in Addition to the nine month’s Men in proper Posts on the Frontiers would have a Tendency to curb the Enemy’s Incursion and inspirit the Militia—I have the fullest Reason to think it would prevent the Inhabitants from quitting their Habitations in the Manner they do at present—But the Want of Provision disconcerts every Measure nor have we a Prospect of that Obstruction to our defensive Operations being soon removed. I have the Honor to be &c.

G. V. Schaick

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