When I first began to think about writing a book on the experiences of Isaac Frye and his family during the American Revolution, I felt naked in spite of wearing my twenty-first century clothes. A great deal about life in the eighteenth century was different. Since then I’ve sent quite a few days in these clothes, thinking about what it meant to have lived during the American Revolution.
It was a hard life, and war made it much more difficult. I have no delusions of time travel, and am thankful for all the surviving records I’ve had access to while piecing together Isaac and Elizabeth’s Frye’s story during these times.
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
At the landing at the north end of Lake George and at the North side of the carrying place:
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
For opening Wood Creek & repairing Roads: 232
Colo. Van Schaick’s Regiment by last: 425
Colo. Wynkoop’s Regiment supposed at last: 300
Hired Bateauxmen: 100
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.
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/>.
When I started researching Isaac Frye, I had the easy-to-say idea of tracing his path on a map as he made his way through the American Revolution.
So, how can you really know where someone walked, slept, or rode two hundred and forty years ago? Read more