WILLETT'S CORRESPONDENCE
ON HIS FAILED
OSWEGO CAMPAIGN
OF
FEBRUARY 1782

Lieutenant Colonel Marinus Willett's 1782 Correspondence on Fort Ontario at the mouth of the Oswego River transcribed from
the New York State Library's Manuscript Collection #SC16670 Box 1 Folder 14


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Albany 29th Novr 1782

Sir

I have thought much of your excellencies plan since I left you and the more I think if it the more I like it _ I think no enterprise of the kind can bid fairer for success Indeed it appears to me with some very Cross Intervention It must Succeed if it is properly managed _ _ For my own part I can only assure your excellency that I shall be supreemly happy in the execution of a plan that bids so fair to terminate with advantage The prospect is Daring and I find as much Anxiety as is necessary to accomplish so desirable a piece of Service. Your Excellencies smar  observation of Secrecy being an essential Ingredient in the performance of this business as Makes the first and most Important Article in this business  and Your remark of the Danger of having even a Third person let into the knowledge of it shows how much Vallue must to be set upon this arcane of the business - - This being the case all the measures necessary to be taken are to be formed in such a way as to keep the design completely concealed - This is the work therefor which has taken up my thoughts The preperations necessary are to be made in a way that will afford least suspicion - - I shall Just mention those  such Materials that  as I conceive necessary for the enterprise - - And First I should suppose 550 men ought to be employed in the works, There -- If your excellency should think proper I would wish one half of the men were taken from the Rhode Island regt and the other half from our three years State troops But these troops are not yet Clothed - I could therefor e earnestly wish that the Clothing might be forwarded soon as possible - - As without their Clothing I cant conceive it possible for them to participate in the


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business And this I could be very long for an  where to be deprived of would be cause of much regre[torn] - If it could be procured I think it would be well for if every man who goes on this service to have a Coat A Vest a pair of Woolen overalls a pr stockings a Wollen Cap a pair of Mittens And in the place of the common shoes I should think it necessary to have either the Indian or Canadian Shoes and Socks - Their Shoes and Socks cannot cost as much as the Common shoes and are much the better for a Cold Country besides were Snow Shoes are used the Common Shoe will not do - - And I think if they could be they  be procured it would be well for every man to have a pair of Snow Shoes as there is no telling  for not withstanding the march is to be performed in Slays somthing may turn up to make it necessary to maneuver the march  whole party on foot in which case Snow Shoes would be Essential - The Cost of Snow Shoes is but trifling Especially if we was to provide the hides and get the Indians to make them at any rate some snow Shoes must be provided for the troops in this Quarter as it is not possible to keep out Scouts without them And should your Excellencies plan be put in execution it would be of very great service to send a party of small smart men on Snow Shoes a day before to [torn]ce the path, And the marching of a few men on [torn] Snow Shoes is the best way I know of to break a road for Slays were the Snow is deep _ Now Sir I must beg leave to remind your excellency that as much  such of these thing as your excelle[torn]y may Join with me in conceiving ought to procured it will be for your excellency to give directions about in such a way as you may conceive best Calculated to conceal the design - - With respect to the Slays I am Inclined to think some streak of power will be necessary in order to have to have them Collected  - Whether it would be proper to direct the Qr Master to assi[torn] in procuring Slays or whether this part of the


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business may not be left with me I shall  beg to submit to your consideration if the Qr Master should receive orders to perform this business any time before it is done  hand the door of discovery will be open - I have thought whether it would not do for  to have the troops when they become detached for the expedition to be  ordered to obscure places in Companies along the Mohawk river And each Officer [unreadable]   having previously the names of each  such persons as are known to have horses and Slays let each officer Commanding a Company have the names of such persons as are Intended to furnish Slays for his Company with orders to take those horses & Slays with a Driver to each And as many Days forage as may be necessary And Repair to the German flats at which place It would be [an unreadable word in the crease] be best possible to have the whole detachment Victualed - that being our advanced post And will be most Convenient for a place  General Rendezvous - These Orders


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may be given to each Officer Commanding a Company separately and executed in such a way as will not at first discover the Strength of the party And may  the design may be keep out of Sight by giving out to the Officers Commanding Compan respectively that they are going to Fort Schuyler to bring down Stores that were left at that place when it was evacuated - - And it is A truth that is  pretty well known that when that place was abanded there were a number of Shot Left in the woods about a mile or two below it - A good time to put the Enterprise In Execution I Judge  think will be late January As previous to that time   the Ice is seldom of one  rarely to be trusted before that time - -


Public Service

His Excellency General Washington

Head Quarter

New Burgh


______

[Willett Family Papers NYSL SC16670 Box 1 Folder 15]


[Page 1]


Albany December 16th 1782

Sir

Your Letter of the 13th Instant enclosing th[piece missing] return of you [piece missing] Regiment I have received __ Considering the diminution of Y [piece missing] comman [piece missing] the discharge of the Levies and the advanced season of the [piece missing]ar you may withdraw the Company from Johnstown with the piece of Artilery and Officer and Men belonging to it leaving an observing Officer and a small party, [piece missing] watch the conduct of the Tories at that place, and in its vicinity, that no bad consequences may follow from any combination they may be disposed t[piece missing] form.

If there are an Levies in your Regiment whose tim[piece missing] of service

Surpass the first of January please to make me a return of them and what periods they respectively expire

I am Sir

Your very Humble Servant

Sterling

Colonel Willett


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F. Rensselar 22d Decr 82

Sir

From Albany I wrote to your excellency on the prosecution of the plan

prose[ed] by you when I was at Head Quarters I there promised to endeavour at enquires on th [piece missing] after my arrival at this place And altho I have not been able to Complete my enquiries so pointed without affording [room for surmise as to determine] on the exact rout which would be best Yet I am pretty Clear that the March may be accomplished It is true I have found out some obstacles which I was n[ot] before acquainted with such as the Uncertainty of the Sufficient Ice in the some rivers laying on the most direct and easy route. Yet this matter I shall be to discover in time and should Ice fail on those routs they can   [piece missing] other routes which may be taken tho attended with some dificulties - Dificulties however which if  I humbly conceive ought not to superseed the attempt - An attempt which I am very desirous of making ----

The Fort is a regular built fortification Lying on the North Side of the river

Consisting of Five angles about 100 paces each And  with a Bastion to each angle The Angles are all of one length supposed about 100 paces - The Ditch is about 30 feet wide and Nine feet deep from the bottom of the Ditch to the top of the Paraput is about is about 30 feet except the Angles were the Sally port is fixed [piece missing] were it is 20 feet - Ther is a row of perpendicular pickets in the center of the Ditch and a row of Horisontal Pickets along the wall about for


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[piece missing] 6 feet above the Berm -- The Gate way secured by a Draw bridge. At the entrance of the Gate on one Side is the Guard ho[use] and on the other side a house for the Comm[andant] Under  Within one of the Bastions is placed the M[aga]zine in the other four Bastions and [Curtains] are filed with Barraks which are made [of] Logs [piece missing]elis of t[piece missing] are  fro[piece missing] e were [All of the buildings are said to be Bum proof Three of the Angles of the Fort front the Lake as the River] And in some places [lay very] near to those waters -- It is not Improbable but the Ditch may be nearly Covered   filled with Snow - The most familiar way however to assend the wall it appears to me would be to Lay boards from the Paraput of the Glacis to the top of the Picket which are placed in the Ditch and on top of those boards the feet of the Ladders might stand. In this way Ladders of about 14 feet I think would answer the purpose - I should suppose a half dosen of those Ladders would not be too many -- And that might be easly placed together [wi]th a few boards in the Bottom of the Slays

The season at present in this Quarter is remarkbaly open - I have been thinking about the

12 [or 13th] of Febry would be sufficiently early to put the affairs in execution and I would p[itch on] one those days [on] account of ben[e]fiting by the moon which will then [sett be] tween 3 & 5 oC in the morning so that we may profit by its Light in our march & execute the business Just after it has withdrawn its light at which time it is Generally darkest so that we may hope to approach the river undiscovered ----


[the right-hand corner of the document where Lieutenant Colonel Willett's autograph signature normally appears has been carefully ripped from the original document, most probably by an early autograph collector: KDJ. The text herein entered in brackets and shown in italicized bold text was taken from the final copy of Lieutenant Colonel Willett's letter which was sent to His Excellency George Washington and found within the George Washington's Papers of the Library of Congress. & is dated Fort Rensselear Decemr 1782]


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Colonel Marinus Willett

Fort Renselear

Sterling


1000 [Catreen town?] 1000 [levies or Men]

Doctor Strayer 500 &c

Lush & Lansing 1000

2500


Description

10th Decr

Fort Oswego and Copy

of a Letter by W

24th Dec 82

______


[Willett Family Papers NYSL SC16670 Box 1 Folder 18]


Fort Herkemer 8th Feb 7 83

Sir

Thus far we got and After a Variety of Difficulties are furnished with every thing nesessary to proceed in our march I expect we shall camp for the night ten or  fifteen Miles above this. If too many horses don't give nor any other Insurmountable obstacle occur I hope to be able to execute the business at the time mentioned in your Excellencies Letter of the 2d Instant - -- The mode that has been taken to procure our the Sleighs I have to h  has Laid us open to legal prosecutions. Unless There for executions however may be avoided by a Warrant from your Excellency the Governor of the State, Where authorised  This a matter I did not advert to untill after I had sent of my last letter from Albany and then it was too late or I should have applied to your Excellency for a warrant of Impress which by the Laws of Our State would have prevented the possibility of Danger of such an  of any such kind of prosecution If however it may not be received In proper time I could with your excellency still be provedd such a warrant was Dated previous to the Sixth of this Instant when the Impresses were begun below

[written in Marinus Willett's hand: KDJ]

______


[Willett Family Papers NYSL SC16670 Box 1 Folder 17]


Schonectady 6th Feb..7 1783..

My dear Sir

4. Oclock PM

Yours by Captain Fonda Came save to hand & have opserved your meaning I am unhapy

I have not seen You Going & Coming from home Yesterday my Business Called me to Alby where I Called at your Brothers But you were Gone and took it when I got home you had Gone Above this place I Got home at Eight OClock _ The moment I Recd yours I whent for the Incampment ware my Regiment Lys I Got Jonjost & Captain John a Very prudent savage & a man that Can dependd on Ready for the for the Randevous You had orderd which is F Renselier who I now send to You & Flatter my self will Answer our hand they are both Trouble some when in Liquor perticuler Jonjost who when drunk Not ley his Sincier Vaules are the Conjectures since you have past this City & the More so since a Number of slays with Armed men Past Likewise

As the matter of the troops marching from the North to the westward Gives a large field

for Conjecture I must think tho. No Great thinker my self if their was Some thing in the wind

Should that be the Cause No men shell be more happyier to learn the Success of this

Expedition then your truley friend if its not Connected with the duty you owe your Country to tell me by a line before you Department & Conveyed me by a save hand I am Equally Contented shall pray our save Return to one who is Near & dear who in Mrs Willott & more friends I must Conclued with my Best wishes for your save Return if you Go & at all times my wishes will Attend you ware Ever you Go I will all most Insure you Success should you to the part of O. If you Carry your Slays as far as west End of ondia Leake & no forther _ three days after that will do the Job & two back too the slays -- I am with the Greatest Sincerity your [a blotted out word] & Very humble Servt

H Glen

T o Col. Willott & & &


at home the Chief of the enamies are on the Hunt

H Glen


Colonel M Willott Commanding

The Troops westward

Tryon County

Fort Renselier

by Capt John &

Jonjost 2 Indians


PS .. Since writing this Letter Jonjost Got in the Frowlking a[torn]sy & unfitt to Go for which I have optained a[torn] other one in his place whos name is Peter St[torn]ongly Recommand by the Scsham


[endorsement on reverse]


Letter from H Glen Esq

with the Indian

Guides 7th Feby 1783______


HEMAN CHAPMAN, RWPA #S16076. He was born on 1764 in the Town of Sharon, Litchfield County, Connecticut. He served as a private in Captain James Cannon's Company of Lieutenant Colonel Marinus Willett's Corps from May of 1782 through the War's end. Of the Willett's February, 1783 Oswego Expedition he testified on May 4, 1833, that . . . Fort Plain and Herkimer were but a small distance apart went to Oswego or near it was in the winter the formost went on Snow Shoes untill it was hard enough to bear men without them then the footmen and then the teams followed It was said by our spy and guide an Indian that we had passed by the Fort that Captain John told two other India[ns] to meet him at a particular place directing them to go one way with the troops which they did when they met he informed them that they were passed the fort Capt John's breath smelt of Rum they suspected him of being treacherous and supposing that he had been to the enemy's fort was put under gard the wach word or signal was York - Town if the answer was Town we were to let him pass or he was a friend we returned to Fort Plain . . . On November 24, 1834, Mister Chapman testified that . . . when we went to oswego in my last service it must have been near the close of the war because the soldiers were angry with Col. Willet for taking them to Oswego had heard that peace was about to take place and believed that Col. Willet done it for the purpose of getting a great name when, the troops got back to Herkemer Col. Willet left the troops and went on to Albany some of the soldiers say'd he was afraid to stay with them, while here we heard the news of Peace shortly after went to Schenectady and I believe got our discharges at Schenectady I remember the names of two sergeants that they were Hessians named Houseman & Smith a corporal named miller Privates named Wan Rhinehart Jacob Lusk Caleb Forgason and Thomas Orchard Ichabod Tubs & John Meed were in the nine months service . . .

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