On the Elusive History of Brigadier General James Reed

I use the term “elusive” because I had questions about James Reed’s service in Quebec (May and June of 1776) that I was unable to answer as I wrote about him in The War has BegunThe biographical sketches I found only agreed agreed on one fact:  that he was rendered blind due to a “malignant” illness he acquired at Crown Point in early July of 1776, during the Continental Army’s retreat from Quebec.

One account, provided by Amos Blake in 1888, indicates Reed negotiated with Native Americans in the absence of Benedict Arnold, which would presumably have been in Quebec as that was the only time Reed and Arnold were in close proximity.  I could find no evidence to support this claim. Blake mentions a letter to Congress, which may no longer exist. I searched through the Library of Congress’s holdings and the New Hampshire Provincial Congress’s records and found nothing from Reed.

Add to this, the fact that Arnold was in command of Montreal, where I am now certain Reed did not go (though his regiment did). However, Arnold did negotiate with Native Americans prior to Reed’s arrival in Quebec.

With regard to Amos Blake, he was a resident of Fitzwilliam, NH, the town Reed marched from in response to the alarm of April 19, 1775.  Blake was a state senator, and apparently had an interest in history and Fitzwilliam’s most famous Revolutionary War soldier, James Reed.

For context, I should include that James Reed’s character is consistently referred to in the highest regard. Thus, I am merely at a loss for details of his service from late May to July of 1776, when his 3rd New Hampshire Regiment was assigned to the Northern Department, which meant being sent under Brigadier General John Sullivan to support the army already in Quebec.

Between Dr. Lewis Beebe’s journal and correspondence between Sullivan and Arnold (in George Washington’s papers at the Library of Congress), I was able to establish where Reed was, and the following list is what I do feel confident about:

  • June 3, 1776: Journal of Dr. Lewis Beebe notes that Sullivan’s Brigade, which includes Reed’s Regiment marched for Fort St. Johns to Fort Chambly.
  • June 5, Dr. Beebe’s journal entry, tells of Colonel Reed having small pox very lightly. Noting Beebe was at St. Johns, and he described Reed as being on the other side of the river, establishing he was not at Chambly with his regiment.  Note that Reed’s second in command, LTC Israel Gilman, had gone ahead of the regiment and was already at Chambly on May 30th to participate in a council of war.
  • June 8, General Sullivan writes to General Washington, where he includes that Reed’s Regiment only had forty fit men (owing to sickness). [I suspect this was exaggerated]
  • June 12, Alexander’s Scammell’s report on the troops in Canada (in Washington’s papers) shows about two thirds of Reed’s regiment is at Montreal.  Note that Scammell prepared the report while in Montreal, and therefore had first-hand knowledge.
  • June 12, Dr. Beebe’s journal entry: “By invitation crossed the river and dined with
    Colo. Reed, Mr. Barnum & a number of other Gent’n Had a most elegant table in the wilderness. It is pleasant and agreeable in this Strange land, now and then to see old friends, and be a little sociable in retirement.” This places Reed at St. Johns, and not in Montreal. This also implies Reed was not terribly afflicted with the Small Pox. [Also, in reading Beebe’s journal, I note he was not given to sarcasm or overstatement]
  • June 13, Reed’s Regiment is noted as being at Montreal by the account in the 2nd New Jersey regiment’s orderly book.
  • June 13, Benedict Arnold writes from Chambly, to General Sullivan. Arnold indicates he was in St. Johns on the 12th, and notes the place was in “the greatest confusion”. No mention of negotiations with native Americans.

Given the above, Blake’s claim seems unlikely.  One bit of good fortune, however, was while researching this blog, I found the transcript of James Garfield’s 1899 talk on James Reed, which contained a great deal of information about Reed’s service during the Seven Years War. However, his time in Quebec was summed up with this rather generic statement, “Col. Reed was active and efficient in conducting the retreat from that point to Ticonderoga, where they arrived on the first of July.”

Last, if you know of the source Blake used, or have additional information about General James Reed’s time in Quebec, please leave a comment telling me about it.

-CEF


Sources: 

Beebe, Lewis, 1935 “Journal of a Physician on the Expedition Against Canada in 1776” The Pennsylvania Magazine Vol LIX, Number Four.

Blake, Amos J. 1888.  “GEN. JAMES REED. Sketch of his Life and Character”, Proceedings of the New Hampshire Historical Society. Vol. 1 Part 4 1884-1888. pp. 109-115.  P113:  On one occasion, in the absence of Arnold, he received and held a talk with the chiefs of some Indian tribes. It was managed with address, and successfully concluded by Colonel Reed ; and the pledges of their friendly disposition were transmitted by him to the president of congress.  No record of this is indicated in either the Continental Congress or the New Hampshire Congress.

Fitzpatrick, John C. “The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799” in “The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799” accessed throughout 2015 and 2016.  Scammell’s report and Sullivan’s & Arnold’s correspondence are in this collection.

Garfield, James F.D. 1899 (read) 1908 (published) “General James Reed” Proceedings of the Fitchburg Historical Society and Papers Relating to the History of the Town read by some members. Vol IV pp. 113-124.

Salsig, Doyen. 1980. “Parole: Quebec; Countersign: Ticonderoga; Second New Jersey Regimental Orderly Book 1776” Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Toronto

 

Philip Schuyler: Crisis Manager

As I researched how Sullivan’s Brigade made its way north from Albany to Fort Ticonderoga in the late spring of 1776, I came across a remarkable document. It was a project plan sent from Major General Philip Schuyler to his commander, General George Washington describing the number of men needed, and their roles in transporting food 185 miles from Albany, NY to the Continental troops in Quebec based at Fort St. Jeans.

Schuyler learned of the need for food in a letter from Charles Carroll and Samuel Chase, two of Congress’s commissioners in Quebec, dated 11 May, 1776. They wrote, “We are unable to express our apprehensions of the distress our Army must soon be reduced to from the want of provisions, and the small-pox.”

Separately, Brigadier General John Thomas, who was now in command of the Continental Troops in Quebec wrote Brigadier General Benedict Arnold also in Quebec, on May 8, 1776 appraising him of the need of provisions in Canada:

“I shall make a stand here with a small number of men. I have but two days’ provision, and will bring them to half allowance, and remain on the ground myself till I can hear from you.”

Much of the route was over water, but to get from Albany to Fort George at the southern tip of Lake George, several overland carriages were required, including the longest at fifteen miles. The plan spelled out exactly how Schuyler would to transport barrels of pork and flour, enough for 10,000 men in about two and a half weeks.

As a mapmaker and product engineer at a software company, I learned project management is a vital skill, but I had myopically thought that skill to be a modern, i.e., 20th century competency. Schuyler’s plan shows a high level of proficiency, and his organization and efficiency of expression are also noteworthy.

Below is my transcription of Schuyler’s plan, where I have inserted additional lines to make use of right side of the page similarly to Schuyler’s original.

[1776, May 24]

An estimate of the number of men necessary to transport provisions for 10,000 men from Albany to Canada specifying the manner in which it is conveyed.

10,000 Weight of Pork is …… Barrels …  50
10,000 Weight of Flour is  ……   …….        55
add for sundries               ……..  ………….   15
To leave Albany each day ……   ………    120
At Albany the provisions is put into bateaux capable of carrying 13 Barrel when Hudson’s River has plenty of water, but henceforward only ten Barrels will be carried in each bateaux – Thus it will take 12 bateaux, but I have stationed 14 between Albany & Half moon (which are about ten miles apart) to make up for rainy days and accidents. Each of these bateaux is navigated by 3 men

…….  42 (men)

From Half Moon it is conveyed in wagons to Stillwater, the distance is 12 miles. From Stillwater it is conveyed to Saratoga (12 miles farther) in 14 boats.

…….  42 (men)

From thence it is carried two miles by land to McNeils

……  42 (men)

And four bateaux receive it there, and convey it to Fort Miller which is about 3 1/2 miles.

……  12 (men)

There is a land carriage of half a mile above the falls. Thence it is carried in 14 bateaux and the river being frigid & incommoded with rifts or small falls, each boat must have 4 men, the distance is about 8 miles.

……..   56 (men)

From Fort Edward it is carried to Fort George by land / distance 15 miles.

  Sub total  ……..  152 (men)

On Lake George, we have a flat bottom boat with sails, which will carry about 200 barrels and allowing five days for a trip, she carries at a rate of 40 barrels a day & is navigated by 11 batteaus carrying 30 barrels each & navigated by seven men,

…….  8 (men)

working a trip in four days – convey at the rate of about 82 barrels the length of the lake 36 miles.

…… 77 (men)

From the North end of Lake George it is conveyed 1 1/2 miles by land to Lake Champlain, where it is put in one bateaux making 4 trips a day and carried to Ticonderoga, the distance about 1 1/2 miles.

……. 7  (men)

On Lake Champlain we have two schooners, a sloop, and Row Galley which may carry about 600 barrels and make a voyage to St. John’s (about 120 miles in ten days, which is at the rate of 60 barrels a day navigated by sailors assisted by about

…… 30 (men)

For the remaining sixty barrels per day it will take 20 bateaux carrying 30 barrels each making a voyage in 10 days navigated by 8 men each.

……  160 (men)

total ……. 434

Allow for sick, lame, & lazy …… 66

Total of  ….. 500

A guard at Half Moon of privates: 12
A guard at Stillwater of privates: 12
A guard at Saratoga of privates: 24
A guard at McNeils of privates: 12
A guard at Fort Miller of privates: 12
A guard at Fort Edward of privates: 12

560

At the landing at the north end of Lake George and at the North side of the carrying place:

48
At crown Point: 24
Fort George should not by any means have a garrison of less than 200
Ticonderoga should have a like number: 200

Total 1,060

For opening Wood Creek & repairing Roads: 232

Total: 1,300

Colo. Van Schaick’s Regiment by last: 425
Colo. Wynkoop’s Regiment supposed at last: 300
Hired Bateauxmen: 100
Total: 825

If no flour is to be sent it will reduce the number of men to be employed in bateaux to about 250… If therefore about 250 men were sent to the six posts it would suffice.

The scans of Schuyler’s plan are available online at the Library of Congress’s collection of George Washington’s papers.

Another reason this plan is noteworthy is that it was not previously transcribed like much of the collection, and thus, not text searchable, so unless you are specifically searching for this, you would be unlikely to find it. I happened to be searching for all correspondence between generals Schuyler, Sullivan, and Arnold during May of 1776, trying to determine their whereabouts and the location of Sullivan’s troops as they moved north from Albany.

In The War has Begun, I wrote of how Quartermaster Isaac Frye and the 3rd NH Regiment played a role in implementing this plan as they moved north from Albany in May of 1776 to support the Continental troops already in Quebec.

Citations:

George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence: Philip J. Schuyler to George Washington, May 24, 1776, with Estimate of Men. 1776. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/mgw444852/>.

Force, Peter, 1837, American Archives: Fourth Series Containing a Documentary History of the English Colonies in North America, from the King’s message to Parliament, of Mar 7, 1774 to the Declaration of Independence by the United States.  Series 4, Volume 6. M. St. Clair Clark and Peter Force Under Authority of an Act of Congress, Passed on the Second of March, 1833. Washington D.C. p. 482 (letters from commissioners and General Thomas)

George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence: Charles Carroll and Samuel Chase to Philip J. Schuyler, May 16, 1776. 1776. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/mgw444803/>.

-CEF