Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN. INSTRUCTIONS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN. INSTRUCTIONS. - 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 SULLIVAN.
Head-Quarters, 31 May, 1779.
The expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians, with their associates and adherents. The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground & prevent their planting more—The troops to be employed under your command are Clinton’s, Maxwell’s, Poor’s and Hand’s brigades, and Independent Companies raised in the State of Pennsylvania. In Hand’s brigade I comprehend all the detached corps of Continental troops now on the Susquehanna, and Spencer’s regiment. Cortlandt’s I consider as belonging to Clinton’s brigade; Alden’s may go to Poor’s, & Butler’s & the rifle corps to Maxwell’s or Hand’s.
Clinton’s brigade, you are informed, has been ordered to rendezvous at Canajoharie, subject to your orders, either to form a junction with the main body on the Susquehanna, by the way of Otsego, or to proceed up the Mohawk River and coöperate in the best manner circumstances will permit, as you judge most advisable. So soon as your preparations are in sufficient forwardness, you will assemble your main body at Wyoming, and proceed thence to Tioga, taking from that place the most direct and practicable route into the heart of The Indian Settlements. You will establish such intermediate posts, as you think necessary for the security of your communication and convoys; nor need I caution you, while you leave a sufficiency of men for their defence, to take care to diminish your operating force as little as possible. A post at Tioga will be particularly necessary, either a stockade fort, or an intrenched camp; if the latter, a block-house should be erected in the interior. I would recomd. that some post in the center of the Indian Country, should be occupied with all expedition, with a sufficient quantity of provisions; whence parties should be detached to lay waste all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.
I need not urge the necessity of using every method in your power to gain intelligence of the enemy’s strength, motions, and designs; nor need I suggest the extraordinary degree of vigilance and caution which will be necessary to guard against surprises from an adversary so secret, desultory, and rapid as the Indians.
If a detachment operate on the Mohock River, the commanding officer should be instructed to be very watchful that no troops come from Oswegatchie and Niagara to Oswego without his knowledge: and for this purpose he should keep trusty spies at those three places to advertise him instantly of the movement of any party and its force. This detachment should also endeavor to keep up a constant intercourse with the main body.
I beg leave to suggest, as general rules that ought to govern your operations, to make rather than receive attacks, attended with as much impetuosity, shouting, and noise, as possible; and to make the troops act in as loose and dispersed a way as is consistent with a proper degree of government, concert, and mutual support. It should be previously impressed upon the minds of the men, whenever they have an opportunity, to rush on with the war-whoop and fixed bayonet. Nothing will disconcert and terrify the Indians more than this.
More than common care will be necessary of your arms and ammunition from the nature of the service—They should be particularly inspected after a rain or the passage of any deep water.
After you have very thoroughly completed the destruction of their settlements, if the indians should show a disposition for peace, I would have you encourage it, on condition that they will give some decisive evidence of their sincerity, by delivering up some of the principal instigators of their past hostility into our hands: Butler, Brant, the most mischievous of the Tories, that have joined them, or any others they may have in their power, that we are interested to get into ours. They may possibly be engaged, by address, secrecy, and stratagem, to surprise the garrison of Niagara, and the shipping on the Lakes, and put them into our possession. This may be demanded, as a condition of our friendship, and would be a most important point gained. If they can render a service of this kind, you may stipulate to assist them in their distress with supplies of provisions and other articles of which they will stand in need; having regard, in the expectations you give them, to our real abilities to perform. I have no power at present to authorize you to conclude a treaty of peace with them, but you may agree upon the terms of one, letting them know that it must be finally ratified by Congress, and giving them every proper assurance that it will. I shall write to Congress on the subject and endeavor to obtain more ample and definitive authority.
When we have effectually chastised them, we may then listen to peace, and endeavor to draw further advantages from their fears. But, even in this case, great caution will be necessary to guard against the snares, which their treachery may hold out. They must be explicit in their promises, give substantial pledges for their performance, and execute their engagements with decision and despatch. Hostages are the only kind of security to be depended on. Should Niagara fall into your hands in the manner I have mentioned—you will do every thing in your power for preserving and maintaining it, by establishing a chain of posts, in such manner as shall appear to you most safe and effectual and tending as little to reduce our general force as possible—This however we shall be better able to decide as the future events of the campaign unfold themselves—I shall be more explicit on the subject hereafter.—When you have completed the objects of your expedition, unless otherwise directed in the mean time, you will return to form a junction with the main army, by the most convenient, expeditious, and secure route, according to circumstances. The route by the Mohawk River, if it can be pursued without too great a risk, will perhaps be most eligible on several accounts. Much should depend on the relative position of the main army at the time. As it is impossible to foresee what may be the exigencies of the service in this quarter, this united with other important reasons makes it essential that your operations should be as rapid and that the expedition should be performed in as little time as will be consistent with its success and efficacy.
And here I cannot forbear repeating my former caution, that your troops may move as light and as little encum[bered] as possible even from their first outset—The state of our magazines demands it as well as other considerations—if much time should be lost in transporting the troops and stores up the River—the provision for the expedition will be consumed, & the general scantiness of our supplies will not permit their being replaced—consequently the whole enterprise may be defeated. I would recommend it to you for this purpose that the General Officers should make an actual inspection of the baggage of their several brigades and absolutely reject to be left behind at proper places, every article that can be dispensed with on the expedition—This is an extraordinary case and requires extraordinary attention. Relying perfectly upon your judgment, prudence, and activity, I have the highest expectation of success equal to our wishes; and I beg leave to assure you, that I anticipate with great pleasure the honor, which will redound to yourself, and the advantage to the common cause, from a happy termination of this important enterprise.