Monday, February 19, 2018

Morgan's Rifle Corps Travel North to Saratoga

Continued from Morgan's Rifle Corps Established and the Fog of War 

The following information is from The Life of General Daniel Morgan by James Graham, published in 1859:

The terror which Burgoyne's Indian auxiliaries had spread among the people, by the murder and rapine which marked their path, required counteraction; and it was not, without reason, believed by the commander-in-chief, that in Daniel Morgan and his corps, such a counteraction would be found. He felt assured that they would prove more than a match for the Indians, and soon reassure the affrighted people. Still, the valuable services which they had performed, made him extremely reluctant to part with them. Nothing but the appeal to his benevolent impulses, which was coupled with the desire for the aid of this corps -- that an inhuman and merciless system of warfare might meet with merited chastisement -- induced him to detach them on this service. Orders were accordingly issued, as follows:

Neshamini Camp, August 16, 1777. [To] Col. Morgan, Sir: After you receive this, you will march, as soon as possible, with the corps under your command, to Peekskill, taking with you all baggage belonging to it. When you arrive there, you will take directions from General Putnam, who, I expect, will have vessels provided to carry you to Albany. The approach of the enemy in that quarter has made a further reinforcement necessary, and I know of no corps so likely to check their progress, in proportion to its number, as that under your command. I have great dependence on you, your officers and men, and I am persuaded you will do honor to yourselves, and essential services to your country.

Typical Hudson River sloops (based on Dutch design) near Anthony's nose,
a geological feature near Cortlandt Manor, New York; courtesy of the Hudson
River Maritime Museum

I expect that your corps has been paid to the last of June; but, as you are going on this command, and they may have occasion for more money, you will make out an estimate, as well as you can, for the sum due them for the month of July, and send an officer with it, to whom the amount shall be paid. I do not mean to exclude the corps from their pay in June. If that has not been paid, include it in the estimate.

I have nothing more to add, than my wishes for your success.

I am, sir, your most obedient servant,

George Washington

In obedience to these orders, Morgan put his corps in motion for the North, where he was destined to add so greatly to the laurels he had already won. The corps was in high spirits at the prospect of being speedily in a quarter where their fighting propensities might find full exercise.

While on the march, they were overtaken by further orders[1], not on this occasion countermanding those preceding, but supplementary to them. In obedience of these orders the march was hastened in the direction of Peekskill.

About a week after Morgan's departure for the North, and when he had proceeded too far to be recalled, intelligence was received that the British fleet had arrived in Chesapeake Bay, and that Howe, with sixteen thousand men, had landed, and was marching towards Philadelphia.

Washington, in the meantime, had advised General Gates of Morgan's advance to join him. "From various representations made to me," he observes, "of the disadvantages the army lay under, particularly the militia, from an apprehension of the Indian mode of fighting, I have dispatched Colonel Morgan, with his corps of riflemen, to your assistance, and expect that they will be with you in eight or ten days from this date. This corps I have great dependence on, and have no doubt but they will be exceedingly useful to you; as a check given to the savages, and keeping them within proper bounds, will prevent General Burgoyne from getting intelligence as formerly, and animate your other troops from a sense of their being more on an equality with the enemy."

On the same subject, the commander-in-chief wrote to General Putnam on the 16th:

"The people in the Northern army seem so intimidated by the Indians, that I have determined to send up Colonel Morgan's corps of riflemen, who will fight them in their own way. They will march from Trenton to-morrow morning, and reach Peekskill with all expedition. You will please to have sloops ready to transport them, and provisions laid in, that they may not wait a moment. The corps consists of five hundred men."

To Governor Clinton[2], in a letter of the same date, he observes:

"In addition to the two regiments which are gone from Peekskill, I am forwarding as fast as possible, to join the Northern army, Colonel Morgan's corps of riflemen, amounting to about five hundred. These are all chosen men, selected from the army at large well acquainted with the use of rifles, and with that mode of fighting, which is necessary to make them a good counterpoise to the Indians; and they have distinguished themselves on a variety of occasions, since the formation of the corps, in skirmishes with the enemy. I expect the most eminent services from them, and I shall be mistaken if their presence does not go far towards producing a general desertion among the savages."

Morgan, at the head of his corps, proceeded without delay to Peekskill. Here, having embarked his troops in the vessels which had been prepared for their reception, he started by a more expeditious method of traveling to Albany, leaving Lieutenant Colonel Butler to command during the passage.

Until a short time previous to this date, the operations in this quarter had resulted in a succession of disasters to the American cause. The conquest of Canada was followed by the fall of Ticonderoga, and all the other American posts on that frontier. Burgoyne, at the head of a powerful army and an auxiliary force of Indians and Canadians, had penetrated deep into the country, spreading death and desolation among its inhabitants, and was now encamped near the Hudson. Here his career was destined to terminate. Those severe reverses which he experienced at Bennington and in Tryon county[3], must have warned him of the fate which awaited him, even before the arrival of Gates and a large reinforcement. This officer succeeded General Schuyler in the command of the Northern army on the 19th of August. In reply to the letter of the commander-in-chief, Gates took in review the state of affairs in the North at that time. He likewise expressed his thanks for being permitted to obtain the valuable aid of Morgan and his corps...

Morgan, upon his arrival at Albany, found that preparations had already been made for the reception of his troops, and the transportation of their baggage to the scene of the action. As may be inferred from the annexed letter which awaited his arrival, General Gates was anxious to avail himself of his services at as early an hour as possible:

Headquarters, August 29, 1777. [To] Colonel Morgan, Commanding rifle corps, Albany. Dear Sir: I had much satisfaction in being acquainted by General Washington of your marching for this department. I have by this conveyance ordered Colonel Lewis, D. Q. M. General at Albany, to provide you, immediately upon your landing, with carriages for your baggage, and whatever may be necessary; tents, and a camp equipage, I conclude you have brought with you. I could wish you to march as soon as possible to Loudon's Ferry, where ground is marked for your present encampment. I have draughted one subaltern, one sergeant, one corporal, and fifteen picked men from each regiment of this army to serve with your corps and to be under your command. When you have seen your regiment to their ground, I desire you will come to headquarters. I am, sir, Your affectionate, Humble servant, Horatio Gates."

Historical marker indicating the spot near Loudon's Ferry where Col. Morgan
and General Poor's men camped before marching north to meet British General
Burgoyne's forces; photograph by Howard Ohlhous

Upon arriving at headquarters, Morgan met with a cordial greeting from General Gates. Among other tokens of the regard in which he was held, his corps was designated as the advance of the army, and he was directed to receive orders only from the general-in-chief. So flattering a reception could not fail to make a due impression on Morgan, who now longed for a speedy opportunity of justifying the general in his favorable impression.

In a few days his men arrived, and soon afterwards took post at the position assigned to them. They were joined at that place by the promised reinforcement of their numbers, which was organized into a battalion of light infantry under Major (afterwards General) Dearborn. The men of this battalion number two hundred and fifty were selected from the line of the army, with careful reference to their bodily vigor and their acquaintance with bush fighting. Their commander was a gallant a soldier as ever wore a sword. He was doubly acceptable to Morgan, inasmuch as they had together shared in the toils, misfortunes, and glories of Arnold's expedition against Quebec, during which a warm friendship had been cemented between them.

Morgan was not destined to remain long inactive. The events of the preceding month had produced a great change in the prospects of the contending armies. The confidence which animated the British during the early stages of the campaign, had been transferred to the Americans, and the terror and despondency which the latter had experienced, had taken possession of the enemy. The withdrawal of Schuyler from the command, and the appointment thereto of Gates, had produced a favorable influence upon the militia, who now turned out with alacrity. The large reinforcements which had been sent forward were on the ground, ready for action. The time had at length arrived, when the American arms in this quarter might safely count on a triumph.

On the 8th of September, the army under General Gates, numbered at that time about six thousand, struck their tents at the encampment at Sunset, and advanced towards Stillwater. The day previous, Morgan was advised of the intended movement, and received instructions by which his conduct was to be guided.[4] It was thought, at the time, that the enemy would certainly produce an action. The rifle corps was in high spirits at the prospect. But, these expectations were, however, disappointed, as nothing of the moment occurred during the march to Bemis Heights, which place, having been selected for an encampment, was occupied by the American army on the 12th.

[1] Headquarters, Aug. 18, 1777. [To] Colonel Morgan, Colonel of rifle corps on the march for Albany, Dear Sir: In addition to the orders already sent to you by his Excellency, I have it in orders from him to request, that you will march your corps with all possible dispatch to join the army under command of Major General Gates, and when there, you will take orders from him and act accordingly. I am, for his Excellency, Your most obedient servant, John Fitzgerald, Aide-de-Camp
[2] George Clinton, Governor of New York from 1777 to 1795 and 1801 to 1805.
[3] Raising of the siege of Fort Stanwix, along the Mohawk River, and British retreat back to Canada. Fort Stanwix was in modern-day Rome, Oneida County, New York.
[4] Headquarters, sunset, Sept. 7, 1777. [To] Colonel Morgan, Sir: You are to assemble the corps under your command upon the heights above Half Moon, to-morrow morning, at gun firing; you will direct the officer of your rearguard to be attentive to the march of the columns upon the right and left of your corps; and you will dispatch intelligence to me and to General Arnold, of all extraordinary motions of the enemy; and everything you think it is necessary we should be informed of. You cannot be too careful in reconnoitering your front, and gaining every possible knowledge of the ground, and the surrounding country. Reposing especial trust and confidence in your experience and capacity, I rest satisfied you will exert all your endeavors for the good of the public services. You will hear from me frequently in the course of the day's operations, which makes it unnecessary to add more at present, than that I am, with affection and esteem, Dear sir, your most obedient and humbled Servant, Horatio Gates

Morgan's Rifle Corps Established and the Fog of War
Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): A Morgan's Rifleman
British Surrender at Saratoga
Revolutionary War Soldier

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