Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Gates, Horatio (1728-1806) A Journal of a Scout from Crown Point to St. John's Chamblee by Lieut Benjamin Whitcomb and four men

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01072 Author/Creator: Gates, Horatio (1728-1806) Place Written: s.l. Type: Manuscript document Date: circa August 1776 Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 34 x 21 cm.

Summary of Content: Clerical copy of a report of Whitcomb's spying mission in Canada 14-27 July 1776. Details their progress, the weather, attempts to get prisoners, and sightings of British troops moving supplies, etc. Notes that Whitcomb fired on a British officer [Brigadier General Patrick Gordon], whom he ended up killing though he was not aware of Gordon's identity at the time. Includes a three-line autograph note signed by Continental Major General Horatio Gates to Richard Varick, who was serving as military secretary to General Philip Schuyler, advising that the report be forwarded to Schuyler.

Background Information: The British accused Whitcomb of murder for the killing of Patrick Gordon and posted a reward. The Americans promoted him and gave him command of a unit known as Whitcomb's ...Rangers.See More

Full Transcript: A Journal of a Scout from Crown Point to St. John's Chamblee &c &c by Lieut. Benjamin Whitcomb and four Men viz. as follows July 14th. Set out from Crown ...Point went Seven Miles that Night the Wind being very high we could go no further 15th Day we got to Onion River, at dark the Wind & Rain being Severe we could go no further .. 16 Day was obliged to lay by, the Weather being very tempestuous 17th. in the Evening we set out went 20 Miles - 18th. the Wind & Rain being so Severe we could not move from our present Station .. 19th. at Night we set out and arrived at the Head of the Mafisque Bay at Break of Day. 20th. Day we travelled till we came. - opposite St. John's.. The 2d French Men being uneasy & not willing to go near St. John's I told them to take a Frenchman and examine him and return home, upon which we left them and went towards St. John's in the Evening we came within about 5 Miles of St. Johns heard the Drums beat &c - 21st.. the Day being cloudy & Rainy we got to the River about Noon we lay there all Day in hopes of taking a Prisoner but none appeared.. 22 at Day Break we went down to the River Side, stay'd there till the Sun was half an hour high counted thirty Batteaus in the Water all finished 9 on the Stocks there were also 6 Saws employ'd by hand to Saw Boards all appearing to Work with great Life & Activity - Staying there all day till Night & finding none except the Guard they keeping close we imagined it difficult to get a Prisoner there, we then set out to go to Chamblee & on the Way saw four Batteaus Loaden with Barrels we then proceeded to a French House [2] where we found a Canoe and cross'd the River at the lower End of the Island where we saw a large Number of Lights & Supposed them to be a party of Regulars consisting of about 100 we supposed there were at St. John's of Regulars between 2 & 3000; then going into the Road leading into Montreal we soon perceived we were discovered by the Enemy - return'd from the Road a Small Distance & then went forward about a Mile and came into the Road again, immediately a File of Men passed, upon which I concealed myself, and after they had passed me, returned again into the Road & follow'd them a small Distance, where I perceived them sitting, who discovered us again, upon which we concealed ourselves a second Time, coming again near the Road, we made Observations on the Road & passengers, observed Seventeen Carts, loaden with Barrels going towards St. John's, also 7 Armed Indians, that Evening went in Search of Provisions, at which Time the Man who was in Company left me, 23rd. early in the Morning I returned to my former Place of Abode, stayed there the whole Day saw 23 Carts Loaden with Barrels & Tents going to St. John's 24th… Stayed at the Same Place till about 12 oClock then fired on an Officer & moved immediately into Chamblee Road being discoverd, retreated back into the Woods, and Stayed till Night, then taking the Road & Passing the Guards till I came below Chamblee, Finding myself discovered, was obliged to conceal myself in the Brush till dark, the 25th Instant on which I made my Escape by the Guards I saw upwards of 40 carts preparing to go to St. John's & I Judged there were lying at that Place, and on the Road about one full Regiment of [3] Regulars - 26th: on my March towards Montreal Road I saw a party of Regulars coming towards me upon which I made my Escape as fast as possible by the Way procuring myself some Provisions - Came to the aforesaid Road again. saw 27 Armed Indians passing towards St. Johns & a considerable Number of empty Carts returning towards Montreal at the same Time heard 34 platoons fired towards Montreal and heard near the same Number fired every Evening & Morning from the Same [illegible] during the whole of my stay in those Parts - 27th Setting out for home on the West Side of the Lake nothing Remarkable happened; only detain'd by bad Weather and under great Disadvantage in travelling for want of a Compass.. Arrived at this Place on ye. 6th. of August,
Benja Whitcomb Lieut.
Copy
[in Gates' hand:]
Capt. Varick is desired to forward this to General Schuyler by the first Opportunity, a Copy is in the Packet Address'd to General Washington.
Horatio Gates

[docket]
Journal of a Scout to Canada
Recd. Augt. 11. 1776
S
See More

People: Gates, Horatio, 1728-1806
Schuyler, Philip John, 1733-1804
Varick, Richard, 1753-1831
Whitcomb, Benjamin, fl. 1776

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarSoldier's DiarySpyingMilitary HistoryGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyCanadaMilitary SuppliesPrisoner of WarDeath

Sub Era: The War for Independence

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources