Keeping Ticonderoga Secure and Healthy During the Winter of 1776-1777

“The Care of the Fortresses of Tyonderoga and Mount Independence being committed to you as commanding Officer…” begins a letter written by General Philip Schyler as he turns over command of Ticonderoga to Colonel Anthony Wayne in the fall of 1776 was recently acquired by Fort Ticonderoga through generous donor support.  Written November 23, 1776, this important letter relays orders to Wayne regarding the security and maintenance of Ticonderoga through the winter.  Colonel Wayne is given specific instructions to “continually keep scouting parties on the Lake as long as the Season will permit it to be navigated” and to “pay the strictest Attention to your Guards & Centinels and punish severely the least Remissness in Duty” in order to keep the fortresses secure through the winter.  In making sure that the forts can be properly defended in case of attack, Schuyler orders that “All Huts & Buildings that may in the least obstruct the Defense of your posts must be levelled.”

Keeping the winter garrison healthy is also a chief concern on which General Schuyler instructs Colonel Wayne.  He writes that a considerable quantity of provisions, livestock, and vegetables are being forwarded to supply the men for three months stating that “You will know of what Importance it is that the greatest attention should be paid to the Health of the Men” and that “having their Victuals properly dressed are capital points and greatly tend to the preservation of the Men.”  In addition to provisions being forwarded for the troops, Colonel Wayne is also notified that to help keep the men healthy through the winter “Bedding… will be sent as soon as possible together with a Number of Iron Stoves… to be put up in your Barracks for the greater Conveniencey of the Men” and instructs that barracks chimneys be swept every two weeks.

This letter provides unique documentation of the minute details Ticonderoga’s officer’s had to be concerned with in order to protect the post from attack and properly care for its troops.  Below is a complete transcript of the document.

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Saratoga November 23d: 1776

Sir

The Care of the Fortresses of Tyonderoga and Mount Independence being committed to you as commanding officer, with a Garrison composed of your Regiment and those of Wood, Dayton, Irwin, Burrel and Whitcomb to compose the Garrison, together with the Artillery under Major Stevens, the light Infantry Companies under Capt: Whitcomb, Colonel Baldwin the chief Engineer, with sundry Artificers and Major Hay as a D Q M. General, exceeding in all  upwards of two thousand five hundred Rank and File.  I have the fullest Confidence in your vigilance, Attention and Foresight to guard against a Surprize, and do every Thing that may have a Tendency to secure your post & promote the Zeal of the service, and that you will not lose the least Time in putting yourself in the best posture of Defence possible, you will continually keep scouting parties on the Lake, as long as the Season will permit it to be navigated, and when that is no longer passable practicable parties must be kept out on both Sides of the Lake, to give the earliest Intelligence of the approach of an Enemy.  You will pay the strictest attention to your Guards & Centinels and punish severely the least Remissness in a Duty, on which the Safety of the Forts and Troops so eminently depend.

Provisions are forwarding to you in very considerable Quantities and I have ordered such a Stock to be laid in, before the Navigation stops, as will maintain your Garrison for three Months, and long before that is expended a fresh Supply will be sent on.  A very considerable Quantity of vegetables will be forwarded to you as soon as the Troops that are retiring into Winter Quarters are passed this place.  Bedding is also preparing and will be sent you as soon as possible, together with a Number of Iron Stoves, which I have sent for to be put up in your Barracks for the greater Conveniency of the Men.  You well know, of what Importance it is that the greatest attention should be paid to the Health of the men.  Cleanliness in their persons and Quarters, and having their Victuals properly dressed are capital points and greatly tend to the preservation of the Men.  All Huts and Buildings that may in the least obstruct the Defence of your Posts must be levelled, reserving all such Materials as may hereafter be serviceable to the Army.  As it is of Importance that I should be constantly and fully informed of what passes of the State of your Garrison and its Wants, you will do me the pleasure to write me frequently.  You will please, as soon after the Receipt of this as you conveniently can, to send me a Return of your Garrison, and order Major Stevens to make me a minute Return of all the Ordnance ammunition and Artillery Stores at the post you command, with an Estimate of whatever is wanted, not only for the Defence of the Works already erected: but such others as the chief Engineer shall think necessary to construct.  The chief Engineer is likewise to make a Return of every article in his Department, and his Wants for an Army of ten thousand men.  Major Hay will make a like Return, and the Commissary one, of what provisions he has in Store.  If soap and Candles are wanted he must immediately apply to Mr. Avery for them.

You will please to order all the Batteaus between you and Skenesborough and from every other part of the Lake to be collected and drawn out of the water.  The like to be done at the Landing as soon as all the provisions are gone over Lake George.  Major Hay will not forget to mention in his Return the Number of Batteaus, nor omit attention to the Barrack Chimneys, which should be swept once every Fortnight.

Whatever money you may have Occasion for to pay contingent Expenses, I shall order you to be furnished with, on application to me.  If Lieut: Colo: White of Dayton’s Regiment is still at your post, you will order him down to me without Delay, and if he refuses to obey the Order you will send him down a close prisoner under a proper Guard, with the strictest Charge to the Officer to guard against an Escape.

Inclose you sundry Resolutions of Congress which you will cause to be made public.

Keep a Party at the Landing at the North End of Lake George to protect the provision going to your post.

I am,

Sir Your most

Obedt Humbl Servant

Ph. Schuyler

Colo: Wayne Commanding at Tyonderoga

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Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator, Fort Ticonderoga

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