George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Marinus Willett, 24 December 1782

Fort Rensselear c.24 Decemr 1782.


From Albany I wrote to your excellency on the prosecution of the plan proposed by you when I was last at Head Quarters, I then promised to endeavour to make further Inquiry after my arrival at this place, And altho I have not yet been able to compleat my Inquiry so pointedly (Without affording room for surmise) as to determine on the exact rout which it would be best to take, I am prety clear that the March may be accomplished in the way mentioned by your Excellency—It is true I have found out some obstacles with which I was not before acquainted. Such as the uncertainty of sufficient Ice in some rivers lying in the most direct and easy routs. This is a matter however which I shall be able fully to ascertain in time, And should the Ice prove Insufficient to enable us to Take those routs, Other routs may be taken tho attended with some difficulties—Difficulties which are by no means I humbly conceive such as ought to supersede the attempt which I confess I am very desirous of making.

I have thought it might not be amiss to give your Excellency some description of the Fort Which according to the accounts I have received is a regular built Fortification on the North side of the river, Consisting of five Angles, with a Bastion to each Angle, The Angles are all nearly of a length supposed about one hundred yards each. The fosse is about twenty feet wide and nine feet deep. From the bottom of the fosse to the top of the Parapet is about thirty feet, Except the Angle where the Sally-port is placed at which part it is represented to be not more than twenty feet. And the fosse not so wide as in other ports, It is said the Fort is surrounded with a Glacis but which does not appear to be protected with any kind of Frieze work. There is a row of Picketts perpendicularly fixed in the Center of the fosse. And another row of Horozontal ones placed along the wall about seven or eight feet above the Berm. The Gate–way is secured by a Draw–Bridge—At the entrance of the Gate on one side is the Guard house And on the other side a house for the Commandant. Within one of the Bastions is placed the Magazine. The other four Bastions and Curtains are filled with Barracks—All the buildings are made of logs and are said to be Bum-proof, Three of the Angles of the Fort front the Lake or the River, And in some parts lay very near to those waters. It is not Improbable but the Ditch may be nearly filled with snow, which may in some measures facilitate the business. But be this matter as it may it appears to me that the most famalier way to ascend the wall would be to lay boards from the parapet of the Glacis to the top of the picketts which stand in the fosse, on the top of which boards I humbly Conceive the feet of the ladders might stand secure[.] In this way ladders of about fourteen feet long I think would answer—I should suppose six of these ladders would not be too many, And they might be easily Carried in the Slays together with a few boards for the purpose before mentioned.

The season in this quarter at present is remarkable open—I have been thinking that about the 12th or 13th of February would be sufficiently early to put the affair in execution, And I would pitch on one of those days on account of benefiting by the Moon which will then sett between three & five OClock in the morning, So that we may profit by its light in our March, And execute the business Just after it has withdrawn its light, At which time it is generally darkest and will be likely to serve us in giving us opportunity of approaching nearer undiscovered.

All these things however and every thing else I have said on this Subject I do most humbly beg leave to submit to the Consideration of Your Excellency—And only beg leave to assure you that whatever directions your Excellency may think proper to give in this or any other matter no person will more chearfully strive to accomplish them Sir Your most Obedient and very humble Servant

Marinus Willett

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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