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.
Hd.-Qrs. Smith’s Clove, 11 June, 1779.
I have duly received your two letters of the 25 and 30th of May, which the situation of affairs in this quarter prevented my acknowledging sooner. I can only lament, that your prospects of reinforcement are so unfavorable. The appearances are not better for the main army. It would almost seem, as if the States were determined to let our security depend entirely on a want of enterprise in the enemy.
With respect to my plans, the only offensive one I could have in contemplation independent on contingencies, has been announced to you; I mean the western expedition. Our defensive ones must depend on the movements of the enemy. I imagined you had too just an idea of the comparative state of their strength and ours, to make a particular explanation on this head necessary; but the opinion you express in your last, of the glorious opportunity of making an attack upon New York, shows that you must either greatly overrate our force, or undervalue that of the enemy. Indeed, you are entirely mistaken in your estimate of the detachments, which have gone from New York since the 1st of October last, including that to Virginia, which has lately returned. They did not amount to much more than one half the number you mentioned; at the highest calculation they could not exceed nine thousand five hundred. The force then remaining at New York and its dependencies, by the lowest computation, was not less than nine thousand serviceable men. It is now eleven thousand. You will judge from this state of facts, whether the opportunity for attacking New York was a very glorious one or not.1
I am almost entirely in the dark, as to our foreign prospects, and can therefore give you no light on that head. I have little more for my own government, than newspaper intelligence, common report, and conjecture. Instantly on the receipt of yours of the 25th of May, I despatched an extract from it to Congress, and urged an immediate and competent supply of money. I agree with you, that a precedent of payment for deficiency of rations would be dangerous and very hard to get over.
You will have heard that the enemy have made a movement up the North River, and taken possession of Verplanck’s and Stony points. They are fortifying and seem determined to keep possession. It is judicious on their part, and will be productive of advantages to them and inconveniences to us, which will be too obvious to you to need enumeration. They have about six thousand men on the two divisions. A part of those, who came up at first, have since returned to New York. An attempt to dislodge them, from the natural strength of the positions, would require a greater force and apparatus, than we are masters of. All we can do, is to lament what we cannot remedy, endeavor to prevent a further progress on the river, and to make the advantages of what they have now gained as limited as possible.1 I am, Sir, &c.
[1 ]From General Gates’ Letter.—“As it will be too late for any of the army with your Excellency to disappoint the enemy’s immediate views in Virginia, a glorious opportunity at this instant presents itself for attacking New York with the fairest prospect of advantage; sixteen thousand of the enemy’s troops having most undoubtedly been detached from that city since October last.”—Providence, May 30th.
[1 ]The possession of these posts was looked upon as a step to operations against West Point and other posts in the Highlands. “Our communication by King’s Ferry, far the easiest, is at an end. The extent and difficulty of land transportation are considerably increased,—a new resort and sanctuary afforded to the disaffected in these parts of the country, and a new door opened to draw supplies and to distress and corrupt the inhabitants. Reasons, which need not be explained, put it out of our power to prevent it beforehand or to remedy it now it has happened. We have taken post for the present with the main body of the army in this Clove, where we are as well situated, as we could be anywhere else, to succor the forts in case the future operations of the enemy should be directed against them.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 11 June, 1779.