George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Clinton, 17 May 1781

Albany May 17th 1781.


Since my last of yesterday, another Express has been received from Fort Schuyler, Copies of which Inclosed for your Excellency’s Satisfaction.

By the Proceedings of the Court of Inquiry it appears that the loss of the Barracks was occasioned by Accident, however suspicious it appeared at first View, a Circumstance which affords me singular Pleasure. The Distruction of a considerable Quantity of Officers & Soldiers Baggage, in some measure reconciles the Supposition.

The enclosed Returns of military Stores will point out the necessity of an immediate Supply of those Articles, which should be forwarded without loss of time.

I am anxious to receive your Excellency’s Answer to this & my former Letters, as, if the Barracks are to be rebuilt, a number of Articles will be immediately wanting; together with a skillful Person to superintend the Work which from Accounts I have reason to believe are in a ruinous State. I have the Honor to be Your Excellencys most obt Servt

James Clinton

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Fort Schuyler 14 May 1781


You will see by the commanding officers Letter of this date the disaster we have met with the Barracks and Bombproofs are entirely burnt down the Magazine and the other three Bombproofs in the Bastions excepted. Some part of the Stores deposited in the Larboratory are entirely consumed and an immediate supply is necissary to the service that the under mentioned articles be forwarded to the post with the utmost expedition vizt.

6 doz. port [fires]
a quantity of Flints
Tubes for nine pounders: 300
do. do. 6 do. 400
do. do. 3 do. 300

Six setts of [drag] ropes, a Quantity of Slow match, Fuzes for 4 2/5 Inch Mortars 150-- Musket and Cannon Catridge paper thread and twine for to make musket Catriges as none of the above articles are saved. The rapidity of the fire was amazing every building was in flames in ten minutes after it was discovered.

No endeavour was wanting to save the Stores and every thing has been saved that was possible is secured-- Lieut. Brewster and myself attended the Magazine and our endeavours has been blessed with success. I have only to regret that Mr Brewster has suffered much by over heating himself by being exposed to the fire & is very ill I am poorly by the reason. the Commanding officer afforded me every assistance in his power for further particulars refer you to the Commandants Letter and have the honor to be Sir Your &c.

Andw Moodie Capt.

2d Regt of Artilly


Fort schuyler May 14th 1781 3 oClock P.M.

Dear sir

I am sorry to inform you that this day between the Hours of eleven and Twelve this Garrison took fire and Consumed every Barrack notwithstanding every exertion was made to extinguish the flames-- I still remain in possession of the Works and have saved the Magazine with a Small part of the provisions, tho’ as the Risque of our lives in my next shall give you every Particular. I am &c.

Robert Cochran


Fort Schuyler 14 May 1781

Dear Sir

This is the second I have wrote you this day on the unhappy occasion.

About eleven oClock I took a walk at the Foot of the Glacis to examine some recruits who were exercising where I happened to meet a Majority of the officers that were off duty, and after a short time the Alarm was given that the Barracks were on fire. I immediately retired to the Fort and found the west Barracks all in flames the wind being westerly [so] in a few moments put the whole Barracks on fire which put it out of our power to prevent its Rapid progress-- The Magizine of ammunition is preserved with the utmost difficulty likewise we have saved provisions sufficient to last us Six Days on half allowance-- Being suspicious that the fire might be occasioned by some designed person I have thought proper to call a Court of inquiry to examine into the Matter the proceedings of which I inclose you.

Lieutenant Denniston who is the bearer will be able to inform you of every minute Circumstance that has happened. in utmost haste I am &c.

Robert Cochran


14 May 1781

At a Court of Inquiry held at Fort Schuyler by order of Lieut. Colo. Cochran, to Inquire in what manner the said Garrison Took fire May 14. 1781.


Capt: Hamtramck President
Capt: Fowler Lieut. Denniston
Lieut: Van Howenbergh Ensign Dodge

David Pettic. Mattross in Captain Moodie’s Compy being sworn says that this morning about Ten oClock he had the brands of the Cole pit put out with water at the Pit and then brought them in the Garrison. and knocked off all the Cole and piled them up in his Room which was occupied by the Artificers, and suppose the Barracks took fire from the brands.

Charles Williams. Soldier in the Second New York Regiment being sworn says that he was in the Room next to the Room where the fire took and that it was occupied by the Artificers, the deponant farther says that from the time he discovered the fire first he judges the whole of the west Barracks was on fire in less than five minutes which occasioned the whole to be consumed by the fire except the Bombproofs under the Bastions.

M. Hamtramck Presidt

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