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SCHUYLER ON THE POINT OF RESIGNING-COMMITTEE OF INQUIRY REPORT IN
THE time was at hand for the committee of inquiry on General Schuyler's conduct to make their report to Congress, and he awaited it with impatience. "I propose in a day or two to resign my commission," writes he to Washington on the 3d of May. "As soon as I have done it, I shall transmit to your Excellency my reasons for such a step."
Washington was grieved at receiving this intimation. He had ever found Schuyler a faithful coadjutor. He knew his peculiar fitness for the Northern department from his knowledge of the country and its people; his influence among its most important citizens; his experience in treating with the Indians; his fiery energy; his fertility in expedients, and his "sound military sense." But he knew also his sensitive nature, and the peculiar annoyances with which he had had to contend. On a
former occasion he had prevented him from resigning, by an ap peal to his patriotism; he no longer felt justified in interfering. "I am sorry," writes he, "that circumstances are such as to dispose you to a resignation; but you are the best judge of the line of conduct most reconcilable to your duty, both in a public and personal view; and your own feelings must determine you in a matter of so delicate and interesting a nature."
Affairs, however, were taking a more favorable turn The committee of inquiry made a report which placed the character of Schuyler higher than ever as an able and active commander, and a zealous and disinterested patriot.
He made a memorial to Congress explaining away, or apolo gizing for, the expressions in his letter of the 4th of February, which had given offence to the House. His memorial was satisfactory; and he was officially informed that Congress now "en tertained the same favorable sentiments concerning him, that they had entertained before that letter was received."
There were warm discussions in the House on the subject of the Northern department. Several of the most important of the New York delegates observed that General Gates misapprehended his position. He considered himself as holding the same command as that formerly held by General Schuyler. Such was not the intention of Congress in sending him to take command of the army at Ticonderoga. There had been a question between sending him to that post, or giving him the adjutancy general, and it had been decided for the former.
HONORABLE ACQUITTAL OF SCHUYLER.
* Schuyler's Letter Book.
It would be nonsense, they observed, to give him command of the Northern department, and confine him to Ticonderoga and
Mount Independence, where he could not have an extensive idea of the defence of the frontier of the Eastern States; but only of one spot, to which the enemy were not obliged to confine their operations, and, as it were, to knock their heads against a single rock. The affairs of the north-east, it was added, and of the State of New York in particular, were in a critical condition. Much disaffection prevailed, and great clashing of interests. There was but one man capable of keeping all united against the common enemy, and he stood on the books as commander-in-chief of the Middle, or, as it was sometimes called, the Northern department. His presence was absolutely necessary in his home. quarters for their immediate succor, but if he returned, he would be a general without an army or a military chest; and why was he thus disgraced?
The friends of Gates, on the other hand, who were chiefly delegates from New England, pronounced it an absurdity, that an officer holding such an important post as Ticonderoga, should be under the absolute orders of another one hundred miles distant, engaged in treaties with Indians, and busied in the duties of a provedore. The establishment of commands in departments was entirely wrong; there should be a commander-in-chief, and commanders of the different armies.
We e gather these scanty particulars from a letter addressed to Gates by Mr. Lovell. The latter expresses himself with a proper spirit. "I wish," writes he, 66 some course could be taken which would suit you both. It is plain all the Northern army cannot be intended for the single garrison of Ticonderoga. Who then has the distribution of the members? This must depend on one opinion, or there can be no decision in the defence of the North
ern frontiers. It is an unhappy circumstance that such is the altercation at the opening of the campaign."
This letter produced an anxious reply: "Why," writes Gates, "when the argument in support of General Schuyler's command was imposed upon Congress, did not you or somebody say,' the second post upon this continent next campaign will be at or near Peekskill. There General Schuyler ought to go and command, that will be the curb in the mouth of the New York tories, and the enemy's army. He will then be near the convention, and in the centre of the colony, have a inilitary chest, and all the insignia of office. This command in honor could not be refused, without owning there is something more alluring than command to General Schuyler, by fixing him at Albany. By urging this matter home you would have proved the man. He would have resigned all command, have accepted the government of New York, and been fixed to a station where he must do good, and which could not interfere with, or prevent any arrangement Congress have made, or may hereafter make. Unhappy State! That has but one man in it who can fix the wavering minds of its inhabitants to the side of freedom! How could you sit patiently, and, uncontradicted, suffer such impertinence to be crammed down your throats?"
"Why is it nonsense," pursues Gates, "to station the commanding general in the Northern department at Ticonderoga ? Was it not the uniform practice of the royal army all last war? Nothing is more certain than that the enemy must first possess that single rock before they can penetrate the country.
It is foolish in the extreme, to believe the enemy this year can form any attack from the northward but by Ticonderoga. Where, then, ought the commanding general to be posted? Certainly VOL. III. -3*
THE NORTHERN DEPARTMENT.
at Ticonderoga. If General Schuyler is solely to possess all the power, all the intelligence, and that particular favorite, the military chest, and constantly reside at Albany, I cannot, with any peace of mind, serve at Ticonderoga."
This letter was despatched by private hand to Philadelphia. While Gates was in this mood, his aide-de-camp, Major Troup, reported an unsuccessful application to the commander-in-chief for tents. In the petulance of the moment, Gates addressed the following letter to Washington. "Major Troup, upon being disappointed in procuring tents at Fishkill, acquaints me that he went to head-quarters to implore your Excellency's aid in that particular for the Northern army. He says your Excellency told him you should want every tent upon the continent for the armies to the southward, and that you did not see any occasion the Northern army could have for tents, for, being a fixed post, they might hut. Refusing this army what you have not in your power to bestow, is one thing," adds Gates, "but saying that this army has not the same necessities as the Southern armies, is another. I can assure your Excellency the service of the northward requires tents as much as any service I ever saw."†
However indignant Washington may have felt at the disrespectful tone of this letter, and the unwarrantable imputation of sectional partiality contained in it, he contented himself with a grave and measured rebuke. "Can you suppose," writes he, "if there had been an ample supply of tents for the whole army, that I should have hesitated one moment in complying with your demand? I told Major Troup that on account of our loss at Danbury there would be a scarcity of tents; that our army would be
* Letter to Jas. Lovell, of Massachusetts. Gates's papers, N. Y. Hist. Lib. Gates's Papers.