George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 30 October 1780

Pokeepsie Octr 30th 1780

Dear Sir

My last letter was dated at Albany and communicated the disagreable Intelligence of the destruction of Schoharie and part of Balls Town about twelve miles North east of Schenectady; since which I have not been able to write to your Excellency.

As I then proposed, I immediately left Albany in order to take the necessary Measures for checking the further Incursions of the Enemy. On my arrival at Schenectady I was advised that the different Parties of the Enemy at Schoharie and Balls Town had left those Places—the former moving towards the Mohawk River and the latter shaping their course towards Sacondaga. General Van Rensselaer who had arrived at Schenectady before me & with orders to act according to Emergencies on receiving this Intelligence immediately moved up the River in hopes of being able to gain their Front: But this proved impracticable as their Route was much shorter and their Troops more unused to marching, they reached the River at the confluence of the Schoharie Kill about six Miles ahead of him and in that futile Country recommenced their Devastations by burning the Houses and with marks of the greatest barbarity, destroying every Thing in their way. Under these Circumstances I was exceedingly perplexed—the Militia under Genl Rensselaer were inferior in number to that of the Enemy, the few I had with me were too far in the rear to sustain them and not much could be expected from the Militia of the Country through which the Enemy passed, their whole attention being engaged in the preservation of their families and the Levies were necessarily very much dispersed at the different Posts to cover the frontier Settlements against the Incursions of small Parties. Genl Rensselaer however continued to move on and, being soon after joined by Colo. DuBois with between 3 & 400 Levies & 60 of the Oneida Indians, pursued the Enemy with vigor He came up with them at Fox’s Mills, about 26 Miles from where the Enemy first struck the River, about Sunset and attacked them. After a considerable resistance they gave way and fled with precipitation, leaving behind them their Baggage Provisions and a brass three pounder with it’s Ammunition—The Night came on too soon for us to avail ourselves of all the Advantages which we had reason to promise ourselves from this Action. The Enemy took advantage of passing the River at a Ford a little above the Place of Action; where they again collected and renewed their March up the River with great celerity and it became necessary for our Troops, who had marched upwards of 30 Miles without halting, to retire from the Ground to refresh themselves. The Pursuit was however renewed early in the Morning and the Enemy so closely pushed as to prevent their doing any further Mischief. The Morning after the action I arrived with the Militia under my immediate command: but they were so beat out with fatigue, having marched at least 50 Miles in less than 24 Hours—as to be unable to proceed any farther; I therefore left them & put my self at the head of the advanced Troops and continued the Pursuit to within about fifteen Miles of Oneida and if we could possibly have procured Provisions to have continued the Pursuit a Day or two longer, there is little doubt that we might have succeeded so far as to have scattered their main body and made many Prisoners: but there were no supplies but such as I was obliged to take from the Inhabitants on our Route and these were inadequate and the Collection of them attended with delay, nor were the Pack Horses with the small quantities procured in this disagreable manner able to overtake us in so rapid a March through a perfect Wilderness. I was therefore obliged, tho’ relunctantly to return—most of the Troops having been near two Days utterly destitute and unable to proceed. Sir John, Brandt and Butler, immediately after the Action at Fox’s Mills, left their Troops and with a Party of Indians on Horseback, struck a cross the Country and went towards Oneida, taking their wounded with them. We discovered where they joined their main body again near the Waters of the Susquehanna about Six Miles on this side where we quitted the Pursuit—Brandt was wounded through the Foot. The Enemy’s Force under Sir John from the best account I have been able to collect amounted to 750 picked Troops from the 10th & 34th british Regiments, Hessian Yangers, Sir John Corps, Butlers Rangers & Brandts Corps of Indians & Tories; and the Party that appeared at Balls Town of about 200 chiefly British; and by some accounts it appears they intended to form a junction at Johns Town.

In the different Skirmishes a considerable number of the Enemy were killed—the exact amount I am not able to ascertain—We have taken about forty Prisoners; recovered most of those they had taken from us at Schoharie and other Places, with the Negro’s Cattle and Plunder. Our principal Loss is Colo. Brown of the Bay Levies—He by false Intelligence was led into the fire of the whole body of the Enemy and fell with 39 of his and the Militia and Levies of this State and two were made Prisoners.

The accounts I formerly transmitted your Excellency respecting the Enemy to the Northward, are, as far as I have since been able to learn, nearly true. The little Post and Garrison of Fort Ann appears to me to have been surrendered through Treachery or Cowardice. Capt. Chipman commanding Officer at Fort George, having on the first Alarm sent out his whole Garrison (supposing the Enemy to consist of only about 30 Indians and Tories) except fourteen Men, obtained a very honorable Capitulation before he could be induced to surrender.

The—Injuries we have sustained by these different Incursions of the Enemy will be most severely felt—They have destroyed on a moderate Computation 200 Dwellings and 150,000 bushels of Wheat with a proportion of other Grain and Forage.

The Enemy to the Northward continue in the neighborhood of Crown Point and the Inhabitants in consequence of their apprehension of Danger are removing from the northern Parts of the State. Colo. Ganswoort by the advice of Genl Ten Broeck marched to cover that part of the Country, and Colo. Weissenfels has since marched to Schenectady where his Regiment will continue to escort a sufficient supply of Provisions to Fort Schuyler, a very inconsiderable part of which is as yet provided and unless particular attention is paid to this Business (as the Season for Water transportation in the course of a month will be over and it will be impossible to forward Supplies by hand) the Post must in the course of the Winter be abandoned. The Levies incorporated into this Regiment, whose times expire about the middle of December, were immediately to march to Fort Herkeimer to keep open the Communication of Fort Schuyler with the Country.

This Regiment with the others of this State are so exceedingly destitute in point of Clothing (not withstanding every attempt of the State to supply them) that I could have wished some other Regiment better provided against the severe Climate had been ordered to garrison that Post especially as I find from this consideration and because the Troops of this State conceive it an hardship constantly—to perform that Duty, it is become extremely disagreable to them.

I forgot to mention that when we arrived at Fort Herkeimer a Letter was dispatched to Major Hugh commanding at Fort Schuyler giving him an Account of the Force and Route of the Enemy and of their Boats lying at Onandaga Lake, that he might if he found it consistent with the safety of his Garrison send out a small Party to annoy the Enemy on their March. By his letter to Colo. Malcom I find he dispatched a party of sixty men for this Purpose with orders to use the utmost precaution against Surprise or any Thing that might prevent their returning to the Fort. Since my Return from Albany a Report prevails that this Party were ambushed by the Enemy and defeated: but from Major Hugh’s cautious Orders & as I have no official Account I do not credit it. I have the honor to be with the most perfect Respect & Esteem Dear Sir Your Excellencys Most Obedt Servant

Geo. Clinton

P.S. The Enemy bro’t with them two brass Mortars for 4 3/4 shells which they concealed on their Route from Schoharie—from our discoveries, we are in hopes of finding them.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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