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Schuyler, Philip John (1733-1804) soldier, statesman, landowner
Pair of Autograph Letters Signed as a Major-General of the Northern Department June 26, 1777 and June 29, 1777 to Major Christopher Peter Yates, Saratoga and Albany – giving orders a week before the Siege of Ticonderoga

two letters, two pages, folio, paper tanned, some staining, old folds, some nicks and chips at edges, with some minor loss, separations at fold joints, else in good, legible condition. Inscribed on laid paper water-marked “OCR” a mark not found in Gravell.

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         This pair of letters from General Philip Schuyler to Major Yates contains orders for the troops, including preparations, and various actions to be undertaken in the field, issued in late June the week before the Siege of Fort Ticonderoga the first week of July 1777.

             The 1777 Siege of Fort Ticonderoga occurred between July second and sixth 1777, near the southern end of Lake Champlain in the state of New York. Lieutenant General John Burgoyne's 8,000-man army occupied high ground above the fort, and nearly surrounded the defenses. These movements forced the occupying Continental Army, an under-strength force of 3,000 under the command of General Arthur St. Clair, to withdraw from Ticonderoga and the surrounding defenses. Some gunfire was exchanged, and there were some casualties, but there was no formal siege and no pitched battle. Burgoyne's army occupied Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, the extensive fortifications on the Vermont side of the lake, without opposition on 6 July. Advance units pursued the retreating Americans.

         The uncontested surrender of Ticonderoga caused an uproar in the American public and in its military circles, as Ticonderoga was widely believed to be virtually impregnable, and a vital point of defense. General St. Clair and his superior, General Philip Schuyler, were vilified by Congress. Both were eventually exonerated in courts martial, but their careers were adversely affected. Schuyler had already lost his command to Horatio Gates by the time of the court martial, and St. Clair held no more field commands for the remainder of the war.


         Saratoga [June] 26, 1777


             As a body of the Enemy are encamped at Gilliland’s creek on Lake Champlain, from whence they will probably send parties to harass us, I entreat you to keep a good Look out to send scouts continually Distance to the West and North West of your Garrison to make discoveries, and lest an attempt should be made to burn our vessels on Lake George I have ordered Commodore Wynkoop to get the guns in the vessel already launched that he may be in a condition of Defence.

             Please to send the Letter to General St. Clair by the first Boat, together with the Horses which the Bearer will deliver you to be forwarded to General Fermois. I am sir

                                                                                                        Your most obedient

                                                                                                                Humble servant

                                                                                                                Ph. Schuyler”


         Albany June 29, 1777


             The Necessity of forwarding any more Batteaus or provisions to Tyconderoga for the present being superseded you will please to desist from sending any until further orders from General St. Clair or me.

              Cause all the spades, shovels, axes & pick-axes to be helved and make as many cartridges as you possibly can – Continue to keep out scouts to the westward as to intersect the Road from Jesups towards Crown Point. I am Sir

                                                                                                                          Your very humble Servant

                                                                                                                                      Ph Schuyler”


                Philip John Schuyler was born into the prominent family of New York merchant-landowners. Schuyler commanded a company in the 1755 expedition against Crown Point; served in John Bradstreet’s expedition to Oswego, 1756. He returned to service in 1758, as deputy commissary under Lord Howe and was again with Bradstreet at the taking of Fort Frontenac. He collected and forwarded provisions from Albany to Amherst’s forces, 1759-60. His experiences in provisioning and equipping an army were to serve him well during his service in the Revolution. He lived as a country gentleman thereafter until the outbreak of the Revolution. Elected to the New York Assembly in 1768, Schuyler joined the partisan struggle between the Livingstons and the DeLanceys over which faction might better manage protests against British attempts at regulating and taxing the colonies. Although Schuyler did not condone radical violence, he was regarded as a troublemaker by Lieutenant-Governor Cadwallader Colden. Refusing to allow as effective a criticism of British policies as Schuyler sought, the DeLanceys finally forced him to choose a colonial loyalty over fealty to empire.

             Accepting membership in the New York delegation to the Second Continental Congress, he was appointed on June 15, 1775, one of four major-generals under Washington and assigned to command in the Northern Department, he proceeded to recruit and provision an army for the invasion of Canada – the principal campaign of 1775. With only half-hearted support from New England he recruited a force, strengthened garrisons at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, maintained the neutrality of the Iroquois. But illness forced him to yield the field-command to Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery, he was nevertheless held responsible for the failure of the expedition by New Englanders who disliked him as a severe disciplinarian and as a symbol of the mutual antagonism between “Yorker” and “Yankee.” Yankee and Yorker animus was aggravated in 1776 by Schuyler’s quarrels with General David Wooster and General Horatio Gates over their jurisdictions within the Northern Department. Except for his indecision over defending Ticonderoga, which ended in St. Clair’s abandonment of that fort, in July 1777, Schuyler handled the difficult situation in northern New York with considerable skill. Retreating before the British in such a way as to permit levies of militia to harass the advancing Gen. Burgoyne, he upset another part of the British strategy by relieving Fort Stanwix and so wrecking the efforts of the British general St. Leger to approach from the west. Congress, however, alarmed by the loss of Ticonderoga, ordered him to headquarters and superseded him with General Horatio Gates, August 4, 1777. This was done partly on the premise that gates would better be able to raise New England militia to defeat Burgoyne. The militia proved no more cooperative with Gates than they had with Schuyler. Burgoyne was finally defeated by Continental troops after Schuyler laid the groundwork for the British surrender at the Battle of Saratoga. There Schuyler suffered substantial losses when the British destroyed his country estate. Schuyler demanded a court-martial and he was acquitted, with honor, October 1778, and in the following spring resigned from the Continental service. He continued to assist Gen. Washington with advice and served briefly in Congress 1779-1780. Schuyler held a number of public offices, 1780-1798, Schuyler gave particular attention to the problems of finance; he was a strong supporter of the movement which culminated in the Federal Convention of 1787 and served as U. S. Senator from New York 1789-1791 and again in 1797-1798. He was intimately associated with the career of his son-in-law, Alexander Hamilton.


         American National Biography, volume 19, pp., 461-464, Dictionary of American Biography, vol. VIII, part two, pages 477-480


         Schuyler’s correspondent was Major Christopher Peter Yates (1750-1815) was born March 29, 1750 at Canajoharie, Albany County, New York. Yates served under Col. Van Schaick in the 1st New York Regiment. He served in the Commissary Dept. on the Quebec Expedition. He was the son of Colonel Peter J. Yates (1727-1807) and Sarah Van Alstyne (1727 -1793) both of whom were born in Albany County, New York.