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TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VII (1778-1779).
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Fredericksburg, 20th Novr., 1778.
My Dear Sir,
Congress seem to have a strong desire to undertake an expedition against Canada. The practicability of it depends upon the employment the Enemy intend to give us on the Seaboard next Campaign, on their strength in Canada, the state of our resources, and other circumstances, some of which are too much buried in obscurity, others too much in the field of conjecture to form any decisive opinion of at this time. But there is not a moment to spare in preparing for such an event, if hereafter it should be found expedient to undertake it.
In your Letter of the 9th ulto., which you did me the favor of writing upon this subject, you are opposed to an Enterprise against Canada by the way of Co’os, and assign cogent reasons for not making it a principal dependence. You are also against the rout by Oswego; but, as an Expedition that way had not been suggested, you do not touch upon the reasons, but recomd. the common rout by the way of Lake Champlain, and a Winter Expedition, if the Ice will admit of it.
In general, Winter Campaigns are destructive to Troops, and nothing but pressing necessity, and the best state of preparation, can justify them. I fear neither the State of our Provisions, the condition of our men, nor the situation of our officers (whose distresses, on acct. of the uncommonly high prices of every necessary of life, are a source of general discontent and indifference to the Service), would warrant the undertaking, even if the state of the Lakes, and the force of Canada, should invite the measure. I am clear, also, that neither force nor stratagem can give us a well-founded hope of a decisive superiority in naval strength upon Lake Champlain, where the Enemy are at present so powerful.
Your scheme for preparing materials for building two large Ships upon this Lake is plausible, and, if only one or two were entrusted with the Secret, practicable. But when fifty men are to be consulted, before the measure can be adopted, when a number of these (inattentive to the importance of keeping military manœuvres secret), make matter of incautious if not common conversation of ye Plans in contemplation & a knowledge of them by that means gets into the hand of the Enemy’s emissaries, who are industrious in acquiring and diligent in communicating every piece of useful information; I say, when this is the case, I can entertain but little hope of success from a project of this kind. If, from these considerations, a Winter’s Expedition is found impracticable or unadvisable; if the conquest of the Enemy’s Fleet on Lake Champlain is not to be accomplished by force nor by stratagem; and if an Enterprise by the way of Co’os is inadmissible, as a primary object:—
1st. What door is left open for an Expedition against Canada?
2d. How far is there a moral certainty of extending the American arms into that country in the course of next campaign?
3d. And how far short of the entire conquest, and annexation of Canada to the Union, would give permanent peace and security to the Frontiers of these States?
In considering these points, and such others as may hereafter occur, it will be necessary to take the matter up in two points of view; presuming, in ye one case, that the enemy will evacuate the United States; in the other, that they mean to retain New York and Rhode Island as Garrison Towns. In discussing them with that freedom and candor, which I mean to do, you will readily perceive that it is my wish to enter into an unlimited and confidential correspondence with you on this subject. Where then, in addition, to the above queries;
4th. Lie the difficulties of an expedition against Canada by the way of Lake Ontario?
5th. Why did General Amherst take this rout, (when Lake Champlain was open, free, and so much more direct,) if he did not foresee that some apparent advantages were to be derived from it?
6th. What resources can be drawn from the State of New York towards the support of an Expedition of this kind?
7th. At what places would it be necessary to establish posts between Albany and Oswego, for the support of the communication, and security of Convoys? And
8th. How many men will be required at each Post for the above purposes, and at Oswego?
I mean to hazard my thoughts upon a Plan of operations for next Campaign, if the enemy should evacuate these States and leave us at liberty; but being unacquainted with the country, and many other matters essentially necessary to form a right judgment upon so extensive a project, I am sensible that it will be very defective, and shall consider it as the part of friendship in you, to observe upon every part of my plan with the utmost freedom.
I have already laid it down as a position, that, unless a Winters Expedition can be undertaken with success (opposed to which, in addition to the reasons already assigned, the want of Provisions I find is an almost insuperable bar), or the fleet at St. John’s can by some means or other be destroyed, the door into Canada by way of Lake Champlain is effectually closed. I am further of opinion, that the distance of Land Carriage by the way of Co’os for Flour and stores, &c., is too great to expect, that a sufficient body of Troops can be introduced through that rout, to answer singly any valuable purpose; and I am therefore naturally led to turn my thoughts to the Rout by the way of Oswego, though the same kind of difficulties, but not in so great a degree, present themselves here, as on the other Lake.
If I am not mistaken with respect to the Water carriage from Schenectady to Oswego, by the help of finesse and false appearances a pretty large stride may be taken towards obtaining a naval superiority on Lake Ontario, before the real design would be unfolded.
The plan I would adopt shd. be this. By innuendoes and oblique hints, I would endeavor to inculcate an idea that we were determined to acquire the mastery of lake Champlain; and, to give currency to this belief, I would have the Saw-mills about Fort Anne and Fort Edwd. set to work to prepare plank for Batteaux, and such kind of armed Vessels as may be proper for lake Ontario. I would go further, and, though it should be inconvenient and expensive, I would build the batteaux, and bring the Timber for larger Vessels to some place, or places, that might serve to confirm an Idea of this kind. A Plan of this sort, if well conceived and digested, and executed with secrecy, might, I think, deceive, so far as to draw the attention of the Enemy to Lake Champlain, at the expense of Ontario, especially as part of my plan is to advance a respectable body of Troops at a proper season to Co’os for purposes, which will be mentioned hereafter.
In the Spring, when every thing is ripe for execution, and the real design can no longer be concealed, I would advance with the utmost celerity (consistent with proper caution) to Oswego in the Batteaux, which have been provided (apparently) for Lake Champlain, transporting the armed Vessels in pieces to the same place. But here I am to ask, if this is practicable. My knowledge of the water communication from Schenectady to Oswego is not sufficiently accurate to form a decided opinion upon the possibility of this measure; and, if it is not to be effected, my plan in part fails, and we can only provide the materials under false colors, and depend upon outbuilding the enemy to obtain the superiority of the Lake. Whether the superiority can be obtained in this manner, I am not well able to determine, tho’ it is very necessary to be known, as it is the cornerstone of the superstructure. Much will depend upon the practicability of the Enemy’s getting Vessels, or materials for vessels, from lake Champlain or Montreal, to the navigation above la galette; because I proceed upon the principle, that, if we can deceive them effectually, their whole attention will be drawn to the more interior parts of the Country, and of course their ship-Carpenters, and materials for Shipbuilding, will be employed in that way.
The foregoing is a summary of my capital movement, to facilitate wch. I would, as has been before observed, advance a body of men from the Co’os. The motions of these should be regulated precisely by those of the main army, establishing Posts as they go, for the purposes of retreat, (in case of necessity,) and to protect convoys, if the main army should be able to penetrate Canada as far as Montreal. Several advantages will be derived from the advance of a body of Troops by the way of Co’os. First, strengthening ye belief, that we mean to enter by the way of St. John’s; secondly, it will serve to distract the Enemy in their councils and measures, and either divide their force & render them weak at all points, or, by keeping them collected, expose the interior or exterior part of the Country to a successful and fortunate blow from one or the other of these bodies; and will, in the third place, open a communication for ample supplies of live Cattle, if we should have occasion for them for Troops in Canada.
Under this plan, it is not only possible, but to be expected, that the Enemy, if they should come at the knowledge of our real designs, would oppose their whole naval force to our Troops on lake Ontario, and their Land force against those by the way of Co’os. In this case I should be glad of solutions to the questions which follow.
9th. Is there any practicable rout from Johnson’s Hall, or any other part of Mohawk River, or from the upper parts of Hudson’s River, to a River emptying itself into the St. Lawrence a little above la galette, by which we could avoid lake Ontario, and the armed Vessels on those waters, altogether? and if this is not to be effected, and a superiority on the lake is despaired of, then I should wish to be informed,
10th. Whether Niagara can be approached with an army and ye necessary apparatus, by a route, which will avoid this Lake?
11th. What will be the distance of the march from Fort Schuyler? the kind of country thro’ which it is to be made, and the difficulties which are to be expected?
12th. The advantages and disadvantages of maintaining that post, after possessing it, Canada remaining in the hands of ye Enemy?
For the more certain reduction of Niagara, and for the Peace and safety of the Frontiers of Pensylvania and Virginia, a part of my plan is, to advance a body of troops from Pittsburg by way of the Allegany, le bœuf (or French Creek,) and Prisquile to the above Post, if it be practicable; of which I am not certain, as the Enemy have armed Vessels on lake Erie, and I am ignorant of the kind of Country between Prisquile and Niagara, in case it is to be attempted by a land march. But admitting the impracticability of this, an Expedition to Detroit, which Congress meditated last Fall, and still have in contemplation, will keep the Indians in that Quarter employed, and prevent them from affording succor to the Garrison of Niagara. The preparations necessary to the one will answer for the other, while the one to Niagara may be concealed under the Idea of going to Detroit.
Although, under the present appearances of things, it is a matter of very great doubt whether we shall be in circumstances to prosecute a project of this kind, I have nevertheless given orders for magazines of Provisions to be laid in at Albany and on Connecticut River, from the lower Co’os to No. Four, and have ordered the Saw-Mills abt. Fort Anne to be set to work, and shall be obliged to you for your advice to Colo. Lewis on this occasion. If it should fall in your way to ascertain with precision the number and strength of the vessels upon Lake Ontario, and down to la galette, and the force of the Garrisons at Niagara and Oswegatchie, I shall thank you, and must beg leave to remind you of the mode you suggested to procure intelligence from Canada in the course of the Winter, as it is of infinite importance to be well informed of the strength, expectation, and preparation of the Enemy. To receive the acct. through different Channels is also essential, to avoid deception.
I shall be very happy to see you at the head-Quarters of the army, in your way to Philadelphia, whenever it happens. Governor Clinton wrote me that he should be at Albany in the course of a few days. As I have implicit confidence in him, it will be quite agreeable to me, that you should converse largely with him upon the sevl. matters herein contained, and then furnish me with your observations upon my plan, and the most effectual means of carrying it, or some other, into execution, with the necessary preparation to be made during the winter. With the greatest esteem and regard, I remain, dear Sir, &c.
P. S. Since writing this Letter I have seen a very intelligent Man who was many years a liver at and about Detroit.—He was sent prisoner in May last from that Post to Quebec—and from Quebec escaped the 7th of October.—He has given me a very accurate Acct. of the Enemy’s Naval force on the two Lakes (Erie and Ontario,) at the time he was in that Country, but I should still be glad to see how far other accts. corrispond with his and whether they have made any late progress in ship building since that period. He is particular also in his acct. of the strength of the Garrisons of Michilamakinack—Detroit—Niagara—and Oswegatchie as they stood in the spring, and adds that at the time he passed down the River, the Enemy were removing cannon from Oswegatchie to Buck Island which place he understood they meant to fortify.—When he left Canada Genl. Haldimand with more of the Troops were at the mouth of the Sorrel, very busy in fortifying that Post and strengthening themselves above on that River.—the received opinion in the Country being that an Expedition would be undertaken.