Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL McDOUGALL. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL McDOUGALL. - 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).
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL McDOUGALL.
Head Quarters,Valley Forge, 16 March, 1778.
I was favored with yours of the 17th ultimo in due time, and should have proceeded immediately upon the business of the inquiry, had not General Putnam’s private affairs required his absence for some little time. I have appointed Brigadier-General Huntington and Colonel Wigglesworth to assist you in this matter; and, enclosed, you will find instructions empowering you, in conjunction with them, to carry on the inquiry agreeable to the resolve of Congress. You will observe by the words of the resolve, that the inquiry is to be made into the loss of Forts Montgomery and Clinton, in the State of New York, and into the conduct of the principal officers commanding those forts.
Hence the officer commanding in chief in that department will be consequentially involved in the inquiry; because if he has been deficient in affording the proper support to those posts, when called upon to do it, the commandant and principal officers will of course make it appear by the evidence produced in their own justification. I am not certain whether General Putnam has yet returned to Fishkill; and I have therefore by the enclosed, which you will please to forward to him by express, given him notice that the inquiry is to be held, and have desired him to repair immediately to that post.1 General Huntington and Colonel Wigglesworth will set out as soon as they can make preparations for the journey.
Upon your arrival at the Highlands, you are to take upon you the command of the different posts in that department, of which I have advised General Putnam. Your time will at first be principally taken up with the business, which you now have in hand; but I beg that your attention may be turned, as much as possible, to the completion of the works, or at least to putting them in such a state, that they may be able to resist a sudden attack of the enemy. Governor Clinton has wrote his opinion very fully to Congress upon the propriety of ordering all the troops, except the garrison of Fort Schuyler, down to the Highlands, as all prospects of carrying on the northern expedition seem to have vanished. I have backed his opinion forcibly with my own, and hope, if Congress see matters in the light we do, that those troops may be instantly brought down. I have, &c.
P. S. There has been a resolve of Congress vesting Governor Clinton with the direction of the works erecting for the defence of the river, and requiring the commanding officer at Peekskill to aid him in the execution of the same. Governor Clinton, I understand, from his civil avocations, does not incline to take the immediate direction of the business, and the late commanding officer in that quarter has doubted from that resolve, whether his command or superintendency extended to the forts. To remove difficulties of this kind, by which the public service must suffer, and as I consider it essential to the nature of the command, that one officer should have the general control and direction of all the posts in the Highlands and their dependencies, and be answerable for them, you are to consider yourself as possessed of this general control and direction, and to act accordingly. If the Governor has leisure from his official duties to undertake the more immediate management of the works, it will afford you a very desirable assistance.
I have written to Congress to give you every power necessary to promote the objects of your command; and in the mean time you are to consider yourself authorized, as far as can depend upon me, to take every measure conducive to that end. I am sensible this command will not be in itself the most agreeable piece of service, and that you would prefer a post on the principal theatre of action; but the vast importance of it has determined me to confide it in you, and I am persuaded your object is to be useful to the public. If you get things in a proper train by the opening of the campaign, so as that the prosecution may be assigned to other hands, I shall be extremely happy to avail myself of your services with the main army.1
[1 ]“The Congress having, by a resolve of the 28th of November last, directed that an inquiry be made into the loss of Forts Montgomery and Clinton, and into the conduct of the principal officers commanding those forts, I have appointed Major-General McDougall, Brigadier-General Huntington, and Colonel Wigglesworth, to carry the resolve into execution. It is more than probable, that the conduct of the officer commanding at the time in that department will be involved in the inquiry, and I therefore desire, that you would repair immediately to Fishkill upon the receipt of this, to meet General McDougall and the other gentlemen.
[1 ]There had been a series of misapprehensions on the subject of constructing military works in the Highlands, as well as a train of obstacles to their progress. On the 5th of November, Congress had appointed General Gates to command in the Highlands, or rather had connected that post with the Northern Department, and invested him with ample powers to carry on the works; but, as he was made President of the Board of War, he never entered upon these duties. Again, on the 18th of February, Governor Clinton was requested to take the superintendence of the works; but the multiplicity of his civil employments made it necessary for him to decline the undertaking. Meantime General Putnam went to Connecticut, and left the post in charge of General Parsons. Unfortunately this officer conceived the notion, that he had no control over the works in the Highlands; that the resolve of Congress in regard to Gates and Clinton were personal, and not designed to apply to any one else; and that, having no direct instructions, he could not rightfully assume any authority in the matter. By the judicious advice of Governor Clinton, however, he was prevailed upon to exercise a proper supervision, till General McDougall arrived. When these doubts in regard to the extent of command are considered, and also the tardy movements of the engineer in executing a plan which he did not approve, the extreme fatigue of the service in the midst of winter, the privations and sufferings of the men, and the want of teams and other necessary aids, it is not surprising that very slow progress had been made. General McDougall took the command on the 28th of March. Two days previously Kosciuszko arrived, who had been appointed engineer in the place of Radière. From that time the works were pressed forward with spirit. To the scientific skill and sedulous application of Kosciuszko, the public was mainly indebted for the construction of the military defences at West Point.—Sparks.