Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VIII (1779-1780).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
My dear Sir,
Your fair daughter, for whose visit Mrs. Washington and myself are greatly obliged, did me the honor to present your favor of the — Inst.—for which, and the several useful hints (if it should be in my power to extend my views to St. Johns) contained in it, you have my hearty thanks.
To the several matters for investigation, mentioned in my letter of the 25th Ulto. permit me to add a further enquiry into the place and manner of securing the enemy’s vessels on lake Champlain. This is become essential from accidental information rec’d the other day which, though not delivered as authentic, has at least the semblance of truth. It is that the enemy during the frost scuttle and sink their vessels under the Guns of St. Johns. Should this be the fact there is not an object to compensate the fatigue, hardships, and risks to which troops must be exposed in such an enterprize (if other matter should answer) nor could I stand justified for exposing them to these, or the public to the expence, which would arise from the expedition.
I am perfectly in sentiment with you respecting the policy of making friends of those Indians we have lately chastised and all others, and of the expediency of doing it at this time. The hour of victory, we are informed by Lord North, is the time for negotiation. That hour, so far as they are concerned, is come; and it would be wrong in my judgment, to force them, irrecoverably, into the arms of the enemy. To compel a people to remain in a state of desperation, and keep them at enmity with us, when no good is to be expected from it and much evil may follow, is playing with the whole game against Us. If any security therefore can be had of their Aid, (if circumstances should require it)—or neutrality under all circumstances, We should, by being rid of a dangerous and distressing Foe (which they certainly are,) be relieved of a heavy expence, and acquire more freedom to our Arms in other quarters—and, which is a consideration of no small weight, must embarrass the enemy not a little in the field, the cabinet, and at negotiation, if matters come to this.
How far, my good Sir, would it be practicable if the Indians should be disposed to more than a neutrality, either by themselves, or with the aid of a few men in disguise, to seize the Fortress of Niagara? A proof like this, of returning friendship, would be interesting and masterly; but from the numbers adequate to the execution of such a plan, who must be brought acquainted with the scheme, it more than probably would be known by the enemy, and of course be defeated. Next to this would it be possible to surprize it ourselves, without their aid (or with the assistance of a few trusty guides only before the frost breaks up,) by a rapid movement of an adequate number of men in sleds from Fort Schuyler? The enterprize, more than probably, would be very unexpected, and consequently, likely on that account to succeed, if the Wood Creek, Onondago River, and border of the lake Ontario were in such a state as not to impede the progress of Slaies with proper degree of rapidity.
If there are obstacles in the way of either of these projects which may seem too difficult to be surmounted, cannot some successful attempt be made by a detachment from the garrison at Fort Schuyler, the Indians, or a party of both, on the vessels in lake Ontario which are, I believe usually laid up at Buck Island?
I need not tell you that these are crude, undigested thoughts—thrown out more with a view of learning your sentiments of them, than as the result of deliberate thinking. If you should hold a treaty, or have a meeting with the Indians, such information may be derived from the most intelligent of them, as to shew how practicable either of the projects here mentioned is.
There is no doubt but that Lake Champlain is sufficiently closed—but how long may we expect it to continue so? Will the Snow be any impediment to the Passage of Slaies to St. Johns? Is it known whether the borders of Lake Ontario (especially the hither side which is the most exposed to the boisterous Winds) are ever so frozen as to admit a passage for Slaies? What may be the difficulties of getting from Fort Schuyler to Oswego?
Since the date of my last we have had the virtue and patience of the Army put to the severest trial. Sometimes it has been 5 or six days together without bread; at other times as many days without meat; and once or twice two or three days without either. I hardly thought it possible, at one period, that we should be able to keep it together, nor could it have been done but for the exertions of the Magistrates in the several Counties of this State, on whom I was obliged to call, expose our situation to them, and in plain terms declare, that we were reduced to the alternative of disbanding or catering for ourselves, unless the magistrates would afford us their aid. I allotted to each County a certain proportion of flour or grain—and a certain number of Cattle, to be delivered on certain days; and for the honor of the Magistrates and good disposition of the people, I must add that my requisitions were punctually complied with, and in many Counties exceeded. Nothing but this great exertion could have saved the army from dissolution, or starving; as we were bereft of every hope from the Commissaries. At one time the Soldiers eat every kind of horse food but Hay. Buck Wheat, common wheat, Rye, and Indn. Corn was the composition of the Meal which made their bread. As an Army they bore it with a most heroic patience; but sufferings like these, accompanied by the want of Cloaths, Blankets, &c., will produce frequent desertions in all armies and so it happened with us, tho’ it did not excite a mutiny. * * *