Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES. - 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 GATES.
Middlebrook, 6th March, 1779.
By the enclosed copy of a resolution of the 25 of Feby. last, you will perceive it is the desire of Congress, that some offensive expedition should be carried on against the Indians the ensuing campaign. With an eye to a measure of this kind, I have some time since directed preparations to be made at such places, as appeared to me most proper for the purpose; to be completed by the 1st day of May, at which time it is my intention, that the operation shall begin. The objects of this expedition will be effectually to chastise and intimidate the hostile nations, to countenance and encourage the friendly ones, and to relieve our frontiers from the depredations to which they would otherwise be exposed. To effect these purposes, it is proposed to carry the war into the heart of the country of the Six Nations, to cut off their settlements, destroy their next year’s crops, and do them every other mischief, which time and circumstances will permit.
From the best information I have been hitherto able to collect, the whole number of warriors of the Six Nations, including the Tories who have joined them, will amount to about three thousand. To these must be added the aid they may derive from Canada, and from the British garrisons on the frontiers. The force we shall have it in our power to employ on the expedition will be about four thousand Continental troops, (I mean rank and file fit for service,) besides such aids of Militia as may be deemed absolutely necessary. These, however, will not be large, as Congress are endeavoring to pursue a plan of strict economy, and to avoid calling out the militia, which is attended with great loss and expense. To obviate the necessity of it, I have strained the supply of Continental troops to the utmost extent, which a comparison of our collective force and that of the enemy will possibly permit. Three thousand of the abovementioned number will compose the main body; the remainder will be employed in different quarters to harass and distract the enemy, and create diversions in favor of the principal operation. It would be improper to hazard upon paper a more minute detail of the plan.
I am now to express my wish, that it may be agreeable to you to undertake the command of this expedition; in which case you will be pleased to repair to head-quarters without delay, to make the necessary previous arrangements and enter upon the business. The season is so far advanced, that not a moment’s time is to be lost. But, as I am uncertain whether your health or other considerations will permit you to accept a command of this nature, and as the advanced state of the season already mentioned will not allow me to wait an answer, I have enclosed a letter for General Sullivan, on whom, if you decline it, it is my intention the command shall devolve. Should you accept, you will retain the letter and return it to me; if not, you will immediately transmit it to him. Whether you accept or not, you will be sensible of the necessity of secrecy. The less our design is known or suspected by ye enemy, the more easy and certain will be its execution.1 It will also be of importance to its success to endeavor to prevent succors coming from Canada. This will be best effected by hanging out false appearances to deceive the enemy there, and beget jealousies for their own security. Among other expedients conducive to this end, one may be, to make inquiry with an air of mystery, and yet in such a way as will spread the idea, what force of militia could be derived from the State of Massachusetts towards an invasion of Canada, by the way of Coos, in case of the appearance of a French fleet and army in the river St. Lawrence. You will employ this and any other artifices that may occur to you for the purpose.2 In the event of General Sullivan’s leaving Providence, you will take the immediate command of the troops now under him. I am, &c.
[1 ]The command was offered to Gates as he was the senior officer; but he declined, saying: “Last night I had the honor of your Excellency’s letter. The man, who undertakes the Indian service, should enjoy youth and strength; requisites I do not possess. It therefore grieves me, that your Excellency should offer me the only command, to which I am entirely unequal. In obedience to your command, I have forwarded your letter to General Sullivan, and, that he may not be one moment detained, I have desired him to leave the command with General Glover, until I arrive in Providence, which will be in a few days. You may be assured of my inviolable secrecy, and that your other directions shall be fulfilled.”—Boston, March 16th.
[2 ]“Nothing will contribute more to our success in the quarter where we really intend to strike than alarming the enemy in a contrary one, and drawing their attention that way. To do this, you may drop hints of an expedition to Canada by way of Coos. This will be the more readily believed, as a thing of the kind was really once in agitation and some magazines formed in consequence, which the enemy are acquainted with. You may also speak of the probability of a French fleet’s making its appearance in the spring in the river St. Lawrence to co-operate with us. It will be a great point gained if we can, by false alarms, keep the force at present in Canada from affording any timely assistance to the savages, refugees, and those people against whom the blow is levelled. I would wish you to keep the motives of your joining to head-quarters a secret, because if it is known that an officer of your rank is to take a command to the westward, it will be immediately concluded that the object must be considerable.”—Washington to Major-General Sullivan, 6 March, 1779.