Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VI (1777-1778).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
2 December, 1777.
I was yesterday favored with yours of the 23d of November, and am glad to find that you were upon your guard against any attempt of General Burgoyne to endeavor to change the place of embarkation. No transports have yet sailed from the Delaware, for the purpose of carrying the troops to Europe, nor do I hear that any have gone from New York. I can only attribute this delay to want of provision for the voyage. Bread we know is exceedingly scarce among them.
By a resolve of Congress of the 5th of November, (copy of which I perceive, by the Resolve itself has been transmitted to you) you are directed, with a certain part of the northern army and the assistance of the militia of New York and the eastern States, to attempt the recovery of the posts upon the North River from the enemy, and to put them, if recovered, in the best posture of defence. The enemy having themselves vacated Forts Montgomery and Clinton, while the resolve was in agitation, but of which the Congress could not at the time be informed, the first part falls of course; but the last deserves our most serious attention, as upon the possession of the North River depends the security of all the upper part of the government of New York, and the communication between the eastern, middle, and southern States. It is also the quarter, in which the enemy will probably attempt a diversion in the spring; as, from the small force they have remaining in Canada, there is not a possibility of their doing any thing on that side, till very late in the campaign, if at all. My not having heard from you, what steps you have taken towards carrying the resolve for repairing the old works, or building new into execution, or when you might be expected down into that part of the country, has made me hitherto delay recalling General Putnam from the command. But I beg leave to urge to you the necessity of your presence in that quarter, as speedily as possible; for I fear few or no measures have yet been taken towards putting matters in a proper train for carrying on these important works. General George Clinton will necessarily be employed in the affairs of his government; but I have wrote to him, sir, and I am certain he will call for and contribute all the aid, that the State of New York can possibly afford. You are vested by the resolve of Congress with authority to demand a proportionable share of assistance from the eastern States. I observe by a paragraph in the Fishkill paper of some days later date than your letter, that the Enemy had evacuated Ticonderoga, and Independance. If this should have happened, it will not only relieve your attention from that object, but it will enable you to draw the Force which you might have intended to watch the operations of the Enemy in that quarter, lower down the River.
Lieut Colo. Willet, who was here a few days ago, mentioned that Gansevoort’s Regiment was at Fort Schuyler, and Van Schaik’s at Schenectady. He seemed of opinion from his knowledge of that country and from the disposition of the Indians since your success to the Northward, that a much less Garrison than the whole of Gansevoort’s Regt. would be sufficient for Fort Schuyler and that the remainder of that and Van Schaick’s might be brought down the Country. Your own Knowledge and Judgment will undoubtedly point out the propriety & safety of such a measure. I barely mention Colo. Willet’s opinion of the matter.
You must be so well convinced of the importance of the North River that nothing more need be said to induce you to set about the security of it with the greatest vigour. I sometime ago sent up Lt. Colo. La Radiere to Fishkill to assist in carrying on the Works, but if he, with the Gentleman who was before with you should not be sufficient, I can send up another who I believe is a master of his profession.
General Howe has withdrawn himself close within his lines, which extend from the Upper Ferry upon the Schuylkill to Kensington upon the Delaware; they consist of a chain of strong redoubts connected by abatis. We have reconnoitred them well, but find it impossible to attack them while defended by a force fully equal to our own in Continental troops. The reinforcement from New York unluckily arriving before ours from the northward, it was out of my power to afford adequate relief to Fort Mifflin, which fell after a most gallant defence of seven weeks. The works upon the Jersey shore, which were of no great consequence after the reduction of Fort Mifflin, were evacuated, as it would have been impossible to support the garrison there. We have not yet determined upon a position for the army during the winter. That situation will undoubtedly be most eligible, which will afford best cover to the troops, and will at the same time cut off the enemy from resources of provision, which they may probably stand in need of when the navigation of Delaware is obstructed by the ice. I am, Sir, &c.1
[1 ]“I hope the exertions of our Friends in your House of Assembly will be attended with the desired effect. Unless we can fill our Regiments against the next Campaign, I very much fear that all our past labors will have been in vain, for unless a war with France should divert the attention of Great Britain, I am convinced she will strain every nerve to make up for the disappointment and losses of this Campaign. And altho’ from many of our late accounts it should seem as if a war was inevitable, we ought not to count upon that score, but make our preparations as if we were to depend solely upon our own bottoms.