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May 1781

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May 1781

I begin, at this Epoch, a concise Journal of Military transactions &ca;. I lament not having attempted it from the commencement of the War, in aid of my memory and wish the multiplicity of matter which continually surround me and the embarrassed State of our affairs which is momently calling the attention to perplexities of one kind or another, may not defeat altogether or so interrupt my present intention, & plan, as to render it of little avail.

To have the clearer understanding of the entries which may follow, it would be proper to recite, in detail, our wants and our prospects but this alone would be a Work of much time, and great magnitude. It may suffice to give the sum of them—wch., I shall do in a few words—viz.—

Instead of having Magazines filled with provisions, we have a scanty pittance scattered here & there in the different States. Instead of having our Arsenals well supplied with Military Stores, they are poorly provided, & the Workmen all leaving them. Instead of having the various articles of Field equipage in readiness to deliver, the Quarter Master General (as the denier resort, according to his acct.) is but now applying to the several States to provide these things for their Troops respectively. Instead of having a regular System of transportation established upon credit or funds in the Qr. Masters hands to defray the contingent Expences of it, we have neither the one nor the other and all that business, or a great part of it, being done by Military Impress, we are daily & hourly oppressing the people—souring their tempers and alienating their affection. Instead of having the Regiments compleated to the New establishment (and which ought to have been So by the [ ] of [ ] agreeably to the requisitions of Congress, scarce any State in the Union has, at this hour, an eighth part of its quota in the field and little prospect, that I can see, of ever getting more than half. In a word—instead of having everything in readiness to take the Field, we have nothing—and instead of having the prospect of a glorious offensive campaign before us, we have a bewildered, and gloomy defensive one—unless we should receive a powerful aid of Ships—Land Troops and [357] Money from our generous allies & these, at present, are too contingent to build upon.

May 1st. Induced by pressing necessity—the inefficacy, & bad tendency of pushing Military Impresses too far and the impracticability of keeping the Army supplied without it, or money, to pay the transportation I drew for 9000 dollars of the Sum sent on by the State of Massachusetts for payment of their Troops; and placed it in the hands of the QM General with the most positive orders to apply it solely to this purpose.

Fixed with Ezekiel Cornell Esqr. a member of the Board of War (then on a tour to the Eastward to inspect some of the Armoury’s &ca;.) on certain articles of Cloathing—arms and Military Stores which might be sent from hence to supply the wants of the Southern Army. Major Talmadge was requested to press the C——s Senr. & Junr. to continue their correspondence and was authorized to assure the elder C—— that he should be repaid the Sum of 100 Guineas, or more, with interest; provided he advanced the same for the purpose of defraying the expence of the correspondence, as he had offered to do.

Colo. Dayton was also written to, and pressed to establish a correspondence with New York, by way of Elizabeth Town for the purpose of obtaining intelligence of the Enemys movemts. and designs; that by a comparison of Accts. proper & just conclusions may be drawn.

May 2d. No occurrence of note. A very fresh and steady gale of Wind all day from the So. East. Upon its shifting (about dusk) it blew violently, & continued boisterous through the Night or greatest part of it.

4th. A Letter of the Baron de Steuben’s from Chesterfield Court House Virga. dated the 21st. Ulto. informs that 12 of the EnemysVessels but with what Troops he knew not, had advanced up James River as high as Jamestown—that few Militia were in arms and few arms to put into their hands—that he had moved the public Stores from Richmond &ca;. into the interior Country.

A Letter from the Marqs. de la Fayette, dated at Alexandria on the 23d., mentioned his having commenced his march that day for Fredericksburg—that desertion had ceased, & that his detachment were in good Spirits.

5th. Accounts from Brigadr. Genl. Clinton at Albany, dated the 30th. ulto. & 1st. Inst., filled me with anxious fears that the Garrison of fort Schuyler would be obliged to evacuate the Post for want of Provisions and that a Mutiny in the other Troops was to be apprehended. In consequence of this alarming information, I directed the Q. M. Gl. to send 50 Barls. of flour & the like qty. of Salted Meat immy. up for the Garrison of Fort Schuyler—but of the latter there being only 24 in Store, no more could be sent.

6th. Colo. Menonville, one of the Adjutt. Generals in the French Army came to Head Quarters by order of Count de Rochambeau to make arrangements for supplying the Troops of His Most Christian Majesty with certain provisions contracted for by Doctr. Franklin. This demand, tho’ the immediate compliance with it, was not insisted upon, comports illy with our circumstances; & is exceedingly embarrassing.

The D[eputy] Q[uarter] M[aster] at Sussex C[our]t House, [360] conceiving that the Provision Magazine, & other stores at that place were exposed to a surprize, and in danger of being destroyed by the Indians & Tories who were infesting the Settlement at Minisink, I directed Colo. Dayton to send a guard there from the Jersey Brigade near Morristown.

Mr. John Flood (at present a liver at lower Salem) whom I had sent for to obtain from him an acct. of the Harbours in the Sound from Frogs point Eastward, arrived; and gave the information wch. is filed in my Office.

Other letters arriving this Evening late (more expressive of the wants of the York Troops at Albany, & the Posts above) I ordered 100, out of 131 Barrls. of Flour which were in Store, to be immediately sent up; & again called upon the Q. M. Genl. in the most pointed terms to send active men to forward on, by every means they could devise, the Salted provs. in Connecticut; & flour from Sussex Ct. Ho. &ca;.

That the States might not only know our Wants, which my repeated & pressing letters had recently, & often communicated, but, if possible, be impressed with them and adopt some mode of Transporting it to the Army, I resolved to send Genl. Heath (2d. Offr. in Commd.) to make to the respective legislatures East of York State, pointed representations; & to declare explicitly that unless measures are adopted to supply transportation, it will be impossible to subsist & keep the Troops together.

7th. The Wind which blew with great force from the So. East the last two days was accompanied this day by incessant Rain and was a most violent Storm & is supposed to have done damage to Ships on the Coast.

9th. Went to the Posts at West point, and found by enquiry of General Heath, that all the Meat deposited in the advanced redoubts for contingent purposes would not, if served out, serve the Army two days—that the Troops had drawn none that day & that none remained in the common Magazine.

10th. The Q. M. Genl. representing, that it was not in his power to get the Salt Meat of Connecticut transported—even for the Money that was put into his hands for this purpose—the people now alledging that they had no forage—when the badness of the roads was an excuse when they were called upon by the Executive of their State in the Month of March and that nothing but Military force could affect the transport for our present wants. Parties were ordered out accordingly and the Officers commanding them directed to receive their Instructions from him.

[362]11th. Major Genl. Heath set out this day for the Eastn. States, provided with Instructions, and letters couched in strong terms—representing the distresses of the Army for want of provisions and the indispensable necessity of keeping up regular supplies by the adoption of a plan, which will have system & permanency in’t.

This day also I received advice from Colo. Dayton that 10 Ships of the line, and 3 or 4000 Troops had sailed from New York. The intelligence was immediately communicated to Congress, and to the French Genl. & Admiral at R. Isld.

12th. Colo. Dayton’s intelligence, so far as respected the Sailing of Troops, was confirmed by two sensible deserters from Kingsbridge; which place they left yesterday Morning at two Oclock. They add the detachment consisted of the Grenadrs. (Bh.)—the Corps. of Anspach (two Battalions) & the 37th. & 43d. British regiments, amounting, as is supposed, to about 2000 Men under the Command of Majr. Genl. Redeisel.

13th. Received Letters from Count de Rochambeau advising me of the arrival of his Son & from Count de Barras informing me of his appointment to the Command of the French Squadron at Rhode Island—both solliciting an Interview with me as soon as possible. Appointed, in answer, Monday the 21st. Inst. & Wethersfield, as the time & place of Meeting.

14th. About Noon, intelligence was recd. from Genl. Patterson at West point, that the Enemy were on the No. side of Croton in force—that Colo. Green, Majr. Flag, & some other officers with 40 or 50 Men were surprized & cut off at the Bri⟨dg⟩e & that Colo. Scammell with the New Hampshire Troops had Marched to their assistance. I ordered the Connecticut Troops to move in & support those of New Hampshire.

In the evening, information was brot. that the enemy (consisting of about 60 horse, & 140 Infantry) had retreated precipitately & that several of our Soldiers had been inhumanly murdered.

[365]15th. Information, dated 12 oclock yesterday reports 15 Sail of Vessels & a number of Flatboats to be off Fort Lee. Ordered a detachment of 200 Men to March immediately to support the Post at Dobbs’s. ferry—countenance the Militia, & cover the Country in that Neighbourhood.

Intelligence from C—— Senr., dated 729—a detachment is expected to Sail tomorrow from New York, & said to consist of the Anspach Troops’s 43d. B. Regiment, remainder of the 76th., 80th., 17th. Dragoons, & Infantry of the same—to be conveyed by 7 Ships of the line, 2 fifties, & 3 forty fours which are to cruize of the Capes of Virginia. He gives it as the opinion of C—— Junr. that the above detachmt. does not exceed 2000 Men—that not more than 4000 remain—wch. is only (he adds) to be accounted for on the supposition of their expecting a reinforcement immediately from Europe.

16th. Went to the Posts at West point. Received a particular acct. of the surprize of Colo. Green & the loss we sustained which consisted of himself & Major (Flag) killed—three officers & a Surgeon taken prisoners (the latter & two of the former wounded)—a Sergeant & 5 R[ank] & F[ile] killed—5 left wounded & 33 made Prisoners & missing—in all 44 besides Officers.

The report of the number of Shipping &ca;. at Fort Lee was this day contradicted in part—the number of Vessels being reduced, & said to be no higher than Bulls ferry. In consequence of this intelligence Lt. Colo. Badlam who marched with the detachment of 200 Men pursuant to the order of Yesterday & had reached Stony point halted—but was directed not to return till the designs of the enemy were better understood.

17th. Received a letter from Captn. Lawrence, near Dobbss ferry, informing me that abt. 200 Refugees were building a block house & raising other works at Fort Lee. Order’d the detachment [366] [367] which had halted at Kings Ferry & another forming under Colo. Scammel to advance down & endeavour to annoy, if they could not prevent them.

A Letter from Genl. Foreman of Monmouth (dated the 14th. Instt.) informs me that the British fleet from New York consisting of Seven Ships of 60 Guns & upwards—12 large Transport Vessels, & 10 topsail Schooners & Sloops made Sail from Sandy hook the 12th., with the wind at So. East. but veering round to the Southward, & Westward, it returned within the hook & lay there till 10 o’clock next day when it again Sailed. By two oclock it was clear of the hook and steering Southward.

18th. Received Letters from Generals Schuyler and Clinton giving an acct. of the threatened Invasion of the Northern Frontier of this State from Canada, and of the unfavourable prospects from Vermont and of the destruction of the Post of Fort Schuyler—the indefensible State of the Works occasioned thereby & submitting for considn. the propriety of removing the Garrison to the German Flatts which he (that is Clinton) was requested to do if it appear’d to be the sense of the Governor & other principal Gentn. of the State that it would be eligable.

Set out this day for the Interview at Weathersfield with the Count de Rochambeau & Admiral Barras. Reached Morgans Tavern 43 Miles from Fishkill Landing after dining at Colo. Vandebergs.

19th. Breakfasted at Litchfield—dined at Farmington & lodged at Weathersfield at the House of Joseph Webb Esqr. (the Quarters wch. were taken for me & my Suit).

20th. Had a good deal of private conversation with Govr. Trumbull who gave it to me as his opinion that if any important offensive operation should be undertaken he had little doubt of our obtaining Men & Provision adequate to our wants. In this opinion Colo. Wadsworth & others concurr’d.

[369]21st. The Count de Rochambeau with the Chevr. de Chastellux arrived about Noon. The appearance of the British Fleet (under Adml. Arbuthnot) off Block Island prevented the attendance of the Count de Barras.

22nd. Fixed with Count de Rochambeau upon a plan of Campaign—in Substance as follows. That the French Land force (except 200 Men) should March so soon as the Squadron could Sail for Boston—to the North River & there, in conjunction with the American, to commence an operation against New York (which in the present reduced State of the Garrison it was thought would fall, unless relieved; the doing which wd. enfeeble their Southern operations, and in either case be productive of capital advantages) or to extend our views to the Southward as circumstances and a Naval superiority might render more necessary & eligable. The aid which would be given to such an operation in this quarter—the tardiness with which the Regiments would be filled for any other—the insurmountable difficulty & expence of Land transportation—the waste of Men in long marches (especially where there is a disinclination to the Service—objections [370] to the climate &ca;.) with other reasons too numerous to detail, induced to this opinion. The heavy Stores & Baggage of the French Army were to be deposited at Providence under Guard of 200 Men (before mentioned) & Newport Harbour & Works were to be secured by 500 Militia.

23d. Count de Rochambeau set out on his Return to Newport, while I prepared and forwarded dispatches to the Governors of the four New England States calling upon them in earnest & pointed terms, to compleat their Continental Battalions for the Campaign, at least, if it could not be done for the War or 3 Years—to hold a body of Militia (according to the Proportion given them) ready to march in one Week after being called for and to adopt some effectual mode to supply the Troops when assembled with Provisns. & Transportation.

I also sollicited the Governors of the States of Massachusetts & Connecticutearnestly for a Loan of Powder & the means of Transporting it to the Army.

[371] A Letter from Genl. St. Clair came to hand with accts. of an apparent intention of the enemy to evacuate New York.

24th. Set out on my return to New Windsor—dined at Farmington and lodged at Litchfield.

25th. Breakfasted at Squire Cogswells—dined at Colo. Vandeburgs & reached head Quarters about Sunset where I found letters from Generls. Schuyler & Clinton, full of uncertain information respecting the enemys landing at Crown point & intention to penetrate on the Hudson & Mohawk Rivers. This uncertainty respects the number, not the fact—the latter seeming to be beyond a doubt. In consequence of this information I ordered the Companies of Vanscaicks Regiment at West point to hold themselves in readiness to Move at an hours warning.

26th. Received a Letter from the Honble. Jno. Laurens Minister from the United States of America at the Court of Versailles—informing me that the Sum of 6,000,000 of Livres was granted as a donation to this Country—to be applied in part to the purchase of Arms—Cloaths &ca;. for the American Troops and the [372] ballance to my orders, & draughts at long sight and that a Fleet of 20 Sail of the Line was on its departure for the West Indies 12 of which were to proceed to this Coast where it was probable they might arrive in the Month of July. He also added that the Courts of Petersbg. & Vienna had offered their Mediation in settling the present troubles wch. the King of France, tho’ personally pleas’d with, could not accept without consulting his Allies. A Letter from Doctr. Lee—inclosing extracts of one from his Brother Wm. Lee Esqr. dated the 20th. of Feby. holds out strong assurances of Peace being restored in the course of this Yr.

28th. The Commanding Officer of Artillery & the chief Engineer were called upon to give in estimates of their wants for the intended operation against New York. The intention of doing this was also disclosed to the Q. M. General who was desired to give every attention toward the Boats, that a number of them might be prepared; & provide other matters necessary to such an undertaking—especially those things which might be called for by the Artillery, & the Engineering departments.

31st. A Letter from Count de Rochambeau informed me that the British fleet had left Block Island—that Adml. de Barras would Sail with the first fair Wind for Boston (having 900 of his Soldiers on Board to Man his fleet) and that he should commence his March as soon as possible, but would be under the necessity of Halting a few days at Providence.

A Letter from Major Talmage, inclosing one from C—— Senr. & another from S. G. dated the 27th. were totally silent on the subject of an evacuation of New York; but speak of an order for Marching the Troops from Long Island and the Countermand of it after they had commenced their March; the cause for either they could not assign. Neither C. Senr. nor S. G. estimate the Enemys regular force at New York or its dependencies at more than 4500 men including the New Levies; but C—— says it is reported that they can command five & some add 6,000 Militia & refugees. S. G. disposes of the Enemys force as follow.

At Fort Washington & towards New York2 Hessn. Regts. 2 Laurel Hill—Fort George. 57th B. 1 Haerlam—at a place called Laurel Hill38 Do. 1 At Hornes hook, & towds. the City—22d. & 42d. B. Regts. 2 In the City Hessian Regimts. 2 On Staten Island 2 Total on this Isld. . . . . . 1200 On Long Island 1st. B. Grenadrs. . . . New Town 1 2d. . . . . Ditto . . . Jamaica 1 Worms Hessian Yagers (called by him 6 or 700) No. side of the Plains 1 Light Dragns. . . . 17th. Regt. at Hempstead Plains 1 Loyds Neck—detachmets. from New Corps Abt. 6, or 700 14 The detachment which left Sandy hook the 13th Instt. according to the S. G.’s acct.—consisted of the Troops on the other side [375] —though it is thought he must be mistaken in naming the 46th. & 86th. Regimts.—the first of them being a convention Regimt. and the other not in America. By Accts. from Deserters the 37th. Regt. went with the detachment and must be in place of the 46th. as the 80th. must be that of the 86th. suppos’d 43 British Regiments 300 Anspach—2 Battalions 700 part of the 86th. 150 part of the 46th. 150 Hessian Yagers—abt. 150 1450