TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES, TICONDEROGA.
New York, 19 July, 1776.
I expected ere this to have heard from you; and I will open the correspondence by expressing my exceeding great concern, on account of the determination of your board of general officers to retreat from Crown Point to Ticonderoga, assigning, contrary to the opinion of all your field-officers, for reason, that the former place is not tenable with your present force, or the force expected.
My concern arises from information, and a firm belief, that your relinquishing Crown Point is in its consequence a relinquishment of the Lakes, and all the advantages to be derived therefrom; for it does not admit of a doubt, that the enemy will, if possible, possess themselves of that pass (which is a key to all these colonies), the moment you leave it, and thereby confine your vessels to the narrow part of the Lake in front of that post; or, by having them in the rear of it, cut off all kind of supplies from and all intercourse between your camp and them, securing by this means a free and uninterrupted passage into the three New England governments for invasion thereof.
Nothing but a belief, that you have actually removed the army from Crown Point to Ticonderoga, and demolished the works at the former, and the fear of creating dissensions, and encouraging a spirit of remonstrating against the conduct of superior officers by inferiors, has prevented me, by advice of general officers, from directing the post at Crown Point to be held, till Congress should decide upon the propriety of its evacuation. As the case stands, I can give no order in the matter, lest between two opinions neither of the places are put into such a posture of defence, as to resist an advancing enemy. I must however express my sorrow at the resolution of your council, and wish that it had never happened, as every body who speaks of it also does, and that the measure could yet be changed with propriety.
We have the enemy full in view; but their operations are to be suspended, till the reinforcement (hourly expected) arrives, when I suppose there will soon be pretty warm work. Lord Howe is arrived. He and the General, his brother, are appointed commissioners to dispense pardons to repenting sinners. My compliments to the gentlemen with you of my acquaintance. I am, dear Sir, &c.
In reply to this letter, after stating the reasons for evacuating Crown Point, General Gates added: “It would be to the last degree improper to order reinforcements to Crown Point, or even hither, until obliged by the most pressing emergency; as that would only be heaping one hospital upon another. Those troops, when they arrive, are all ordered to halt at Skenesborough. Every thing about this army is infected with the pestilence; the clothes, the blankets, the air, and the ground they walk upon. To put this evil from us, a general hospital is established at Fort George, where there are now between two and three thousand sick, and where every infected person is immediately sent. But this care and caution have not effectually destroyed the disease here; it is notwithstanding continually breaking out.
“Our little fleet already built is equipping under the direction of General Arnold with all the industry, which his activity and good example can inspire. As fast as they are fitted, they are sent to Crown Point, where the sixth battalion of the Pennsylvanians, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hartley, is posted. Three hundred men and officers have been drafted from the corps here to man the vessels; one half seamen, the other to act as marines. As soon as all the vessels and gondolas are equipped, General Arnold has offered to go to Crown Point and take the command of them. This is exceedingly pleasing to me, as he has a perfect knowledge of maritime affairs, and is, besides, a most deserving and gallant officer. The command of the water is of the last importance, for should the enemy ever get a naval force superior to ours upon the Lake, the command thereof is theirs, let who will possess Crown Point. As to their penetrating the eastern governments, they may attempt that by Onion River, which empties itself into Missisque Bay, sixty miles below Crown Point.”—MS. Letter, Ticonderoga, July 29th.
In the same letter General Gates took occasion to reflect in a manner somewhat extraordinary upon the opinions of the general officers in Washington’s army. “I must now take the liberty,” he writes, “to animadvert a little upon the unprecedented behaviour of the members of your council to their compeers in this department. They, Sir, having very ample supplies at hand, make no allowance for the misfortunes and wants of this army, nor for the delay and difficulty that attend the procuring of every thing here. Had we a healthy army, four times the number of the enemy, our magazines full, our artillery complete, stores of every kind in profuse abundance, with vast and populous towns and country close at hand to supply our wants, your Excellency would hear no complaints from this army; and the members of your council, our brethren and compeers, would have as little reason then, as they have now, to censure the conduct of those, who are in nothing inferior to themselves.”
General Gates had written, July 16th, that since the beginning of May the loss sustained in the northern army from the enemy, and by death and desertion, amounted to more than five thousand men, and that three thousand were then sick.
“The General has great pleasure in communicating to the officers, and soldiers of this Army, the Signal success of the American Arms under General Lee at South Carolina. The enemy having attempted to land at the same time, that a most furious Cannonade for twelve hours was made upon the Fortifications near Charlestown: Both Fleet and Army have been repulsed with great loss by a small number of gallant troops just raised. The enemy have had one hundred and seventy-two men killed and wounded, among whom were several officers; Two capital Ships much damaged, one Frigate of Twenty-eight Guns being entirely lost being abandoned and blown up by the Crew, and others so hurt that they will want great repair before they will be fit for service; And all with a loss on our part of ten killed and twenty-two wounded. The Firmness, Courage and Bravery of our Troops, has crown’d them with immediate Honor. The dying Heroes conjured their Brethren never to abandon the Standard of Liberty, and even those who had lost their limbs continued at their posts. Their Gallantry and spirit extorted applause from their enemies, who dejected and defeated have retired to their former station, out of the reach of our troops.
“This glorious example of our Troops, under the like circumstance with us, The General hopes will animate every officer, and soldier, to imitate and even out do them, when the enemy shall make the same attempt on us; with such a bright example before us of what can be done by brave and spirited men fighting in defence of their country, we shall be loaded with a double share of Shame and Infamy, if we do not acquit ourselves with Courage, or a determined Resolution to conquer or die: With this hope and Confidence, and that this Army will have its equal share of honour, and Success; the General most earnestly exhorts every officer and soldier to pay the utmost attention to his Arms, and health; to have the former in the best order for action, and by cleanliness and care to preserve the latter; to be exact in their discipline, obedient to their Superiors and vigilant on duty: With such preparation and a suitable Spirit there can be no doubt that by the Blessing of Heaven we shall repel our cruel Invaders, preserve our Country and gain the greatest Honor,”—Orderly Book. 21 July, 1776.