WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("G:o Washington") as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, TO BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES CLINTON (1733-1812), text in the hand of John Laurens, Head Quarters [Middle Brook], 11 February 1779. 1 full page, folio, original deckle edges of the sheet preserved. FINE.
FOLLOWING THE WYOMING AND CHERRY VALLEY MASSACRES, WASHINGTON PLANS A PUNITIVE EXPEDITION AGAINST THE IROQUOIS
As part of a general British and Indian offensive on the New York and Pennsylvania frontiers, Joseph Brant and Walter Butler led Tory-Indian raiding parties from Niagara against American settlements in the Mohawk Valley and Wyoming valleys, culminating in the bloody massacre at Cherry Valley, November 10-11. In response, Washington laid plans for a punitive expedition against the Iroquois: "I am more and more convinced of the necessity of carrying the War into the Indian Country in the Spring," he wrote to General Schuyler in late January, "in order to give peace and security to our own frontier." As Washington immediately perceived, Fort Schuyler (formerly Stanwix) and Schenectady on the Mohawk were critical to the coming campaigns: "Upon a further consideration...it appears to me of the utmost importance to secure a communication between Fort Schuyler and Schenectady, in case any expedition should be formed. You will therefore regard this as your primary object, and make the best dispositions relatively to it, that your force and the nature of the Country will allow. Enclosed [no longer present] is an extract of General orders for reinlisting Soldiers who are not engaged to serve during the War [ie., for the duration of the war] which you will have executed without loss of time...."
In late February, Congress ordered Washington to launch the offensive against the Iroquois he had long planned. General John Sullivan was given command, and in May, a three-pronged offensive was launched. James Clinton, the recipient of this letter, commanded one wing, leading some 1500 men from the Mohawk Valley. The Six Nations never recovered from the systematic destruction of villages and food caches carried out by Sullivan's expeditionary force, but nevertheless struck back with renewed ferocity in 1780 and 1781.
Published in Writings, ed. J.C. Fitzpatrick, 14:98.