George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Sill, 11 January 1783

Albany January 11th-13 1783 Saturday Morning


It gives me pain to be under the necessity of informing your Excellency that Major General Lord Stirling is very dangerously sick, being reduced to such a degree of weakness that his life is not expected for an hour; he has remained for two days in a perfect stupor and wholly insensible, his Physicians pronounce him past recovery. I thought it my duty to give your Excellency this information and likewise to enclose the Report of Capt. Macomber who was ordered with a detachment into the New Hampshire Grants for the purpose mentioned in your Excellencys instructions to Lord Stirling of the 9th Ulto. That your Excellency may be able the more fully to perceive how completely the object of the expedition has been covered under the idea of apprehending deserters I have enclosed a Copy of Mr Chittendens Letter to Captain Macomber. As the expedition has proved fruitless and its real object remaining undiscovered, Major Olney has retaind your Excellencys Letter to Mr Chittenden in his own hands.

It appears by a Letter from Major Olney to his Lordship of the 7th Inst. that the party of a Serjeant and six men who by his Letter of the 9th are supposed to have fallen into the hands of the Enemy were detatched by Capt. Macomber on his return from Brattleborough upon a different route for the purpose of apprehending deserters. McAlpin whose affidavit is enclosed I have examined, he gives the same account of the party said to be in Vermont as when examined by Major Olney with this addition that they were armed and dress’d in green regimentals—I shall keep this Letter unsealed untill the moment the Post leaves Town, should there be any alteration in his Lordship I shall not fail to mention it. I have the honor to be with the most perfect Esteem Your Excellencys Most Obedt humbe Servant

Richard Sill

Monday 13th 12 oclock

His Lordship is still alive and to appearance is exactly in the same situation as on Saturday except being more weak and feeble.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Bennington 27th Decr 1782.


Lord Stirlings instructions to you of the 20th Instant and Lieut. Coll Olneys of the 25th were handed me (by Lieut. Bartlet) a few minutes since, requesting my advise in regard to the best method of apprehending Deserters from the Continental Army as well as my assistance &ca—you have doubtless before this learnt that it is impracticable to take your rout through the Town call’d Stratton (in your instructions) as there is no road. And as I am not possess’d of the knowledge of any such deserters being in any particular Town in this State, can only advise you to pursue your instructions as nearly as you can consistent with taking the most likely steps to effect the business of procuring such deserters, which I think will be from the situation of the road & the part of this State your rout is directed, to detatch a part of your command through this place and from thence to Willmington across the Green Mountain 18 miles, and from thence through the Towns of Guilford, & Hallifax to Brattleborough, And that the other part of your Command take this route through Manchester, and cross the mountain to Bromly Kent, Chester, Rockingham, Westminister to Putney meeting house—And do hereby require all Officers Civil and Millitary (Subjects of this State) to grant such necessary aid for the recovery of any such deserters—And, I do farther recommend to all persons that may be applied to by you, (or other Officer by you duly authorized) to afford their assistance in provisions, sleighs and horses taking your drafts on the A.D.Q.M. agreable to Lord Stirlings engagements. I am Sir Your Obdt Servant

Thos Chittenden

N.B. Should you apprehend any person on suspicion of his being a deserter, who shall punctually deny his being such, you will obtain the approbation of some [   ] magistrate or field Officer in this State previous to [   ] any such person or persons out of it.



Saratoga January 7th 1783.

My Lord,

On the 25th of December 1782 I proceeded with a detachment of Troops consisting of one Subaltern, three Serjeants, and Forty three rank and file into the State of Vermont, according to my instructions recd from Colonel Olney, when I arrived at the Town of Arlington I apply’d to the Governor of the State for his Assistance in apprehending deserters agreable to directions from your Lordship with which application the Governor very chearfully comply’d, requesting all civil and millitary Officers to assist me in apprehending and detecting deserters, and to furnish me with provisions for my Troops and horses &c. (a copy of his Letter I do myself the honor to enclose) I then proceeded on the rout directed in my orders and took up several deserters which serv’d more effectually to cover the design. I with great difficulty cross’d the Green Mountains and proceeded to Putney meeting house, nine miles from Newfane and about the same distance from Brattleborough, from that place (Putney) I detatched a Subaltern with Eighteen men to Newfane with the same orders I recd which he was ignorant of untile that time. I then proceeded with the remainder of the party to Brattleborough and arrived at Coll Welles about ten in the Evening. Coll Welles had then as I was told; been absent six days. The Subaltern proceeded directly to Luke Knowltons but unfortunately when he came there he was absent and nothing could be done towards apprehending him, he having been absent almost the same time, he informed the persons present of the contents of the Governors Letter and that he was recommended to Judge Knowlton for assistance in furnishing him with flour for the party which he stood in great need of, our provisions being then almost exhausted by this means we covered the matter in such a manner that the real design still remains a secret, the next day he join’d me at Brattleborough, the place of Rendezvous I had appointed the preceding day; both our attempts having failed I was under the necessity of resting my men one day to recover from the fatigue of the night, and in the mean time made enquiry for deserters. I also made some enquires respecting the proceedings of the State. One Israel Smith inform’ed me there were a number of men in that State who were very dangerous persons and mentioned Coll Welles and Luke Knowlton judge of the superior court, to be the most active in that quarter, he farther said they had Posts regularly from the Northward, Eastward & Southward, he said that a Post came about ten days since from the Southward, soon after this Post arrived, the two persons mentioned above and a number of others from that quarter went away, where they were gone he did not know, but he imagined the reason of their absence was in consequence of dispatches brought by the Post. he farther said that Knowlton & Welles had recd a Letter from Jonathan Arnold Esqr. at Congress part of which was made public which informed them that affairs in Congress were very unfavorable to them and would have them look out for themselves, what other information this Letter contained he would not say—I found in my march through the State that the last mentioned Gentleman was much in favour with all the principal men in that State I had any conversation with. I returned at Saratoga the 6th Instant with my Command—I look upon Mr Israel Smith to be a man of veracity and a friend to his Country—Governor Clinton can give his character. I am My Lord Your Lordships Obedt humbl Servant

Ebenr Macomber Capt.

R.I. Regt.


Saratoga January 9th 1783

My Lord

After I dispatched my last by Captain Macomber, I was told that one of the deserters taken by him could give some information of a party of the Enemy said to be now in Vermont. I sent for and examined him with every formality and solemnity that I supposed would tend to extract the truth. I send him on with the other two deserters for your Lordships farther scrutiny. I have also taken the Liberty to enclose some sketches of his examination before me, which may serve to suggest to your Lordship, and enable you the more easily to detect any falshood he may be guilty of—The Serjeant and six men left behind by Capt. Macomber, have not yet return’d, which is a coroboration of this Lads storey, and a ground of suspicion that they have fallen into the Enemys hands. I am my Lord with due respect Your Lordships Obdt Servant

Coggeshall Olney Majr



9 January 1783

George McAlpen, a deserter from the New Hampshire Line testifys: that one Foster (whom he understands once belong’d to the New York Line) had come from St Johns with a party of about sixty men, and were encamped on the mountains within two miles of Coll Marshes, where he the deponent livd. That Foster came to the house, with Letters from Coll Marsh and Major Rogers now in Canada, to their wives in Vermont, and many other Letters for other persons, which Letters he delivered to Coll Marshes wife that Mrs Marsh winked to Foster, who retired with her into another room, after which the deponent overheard them reading some of the Letters. The Party had been on the mountains about a fortnight when he was taken by Capt. Macombers detatchment, during which time Foster had been there twice and Eight or ten of the party at several other times for milk bread and other necessaries. That the inhabitants of Danby were knowing to this parties being there as he had frequently observed them in conversation together. That one of the party lives with Mrs Marsh and another with Mr Reynolds, who is supposed by the neighbours to be deserters from our Army. Also that two others of the party are at one Bulls in Danby, whom he understood intended to remain there untill spring before they return. The men informed him that Foster was to have a Commission, if he should take a number of Prisoners and that his design was to inlist deserters from the American Army—Mrs Marsh informed Foster that the deponent was a deserter, and that Foster endeavoured to persuade him to inlist by promising large sums of money. That he understood the party with Foster cross’d the Lake in boats, but intended to remain there untill they could recross on the ice, during which time they intended to go over the mountain to Number four and take some of the inhabitants from that quarter when they returned. They threatened the deponent with immediate death, if he should communicate his knowledge of their being in Vermont.

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