Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. V (1776-1777).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Morristown, 26 January, 1777.
I was last night honored with yours of the 18th instant, enclosing a letter from the State of New York to Congress. From the particular situation of that State in regard to their being totally deprived of commerce, they certainly must stand in need of the assistance of the other States to provide them with clothing and every thing necessary for the equipment of their forces; and it ever was my intention to allow them a full proportion of the clothing purchased to the eastward, whenever it came to hand. Little or none of it has yet reached this army, though in the greatest want, and exposed to the severities of a winter campaign. The Convention have in one instance already provided for themselves out of the public stock, by stopping and making use of twenty-six bales of clothing coming on from the eastward to the army here. As this was done without consulting me, I took the liberty of desiring them not to do the like in future; not that I meant to deprive them of their share, but because it disappointed me of many articles, which I stood in immediate want of, and had not provided from other quarters. But you may be assured, that, whenever returns are made of the whole stock of clothing, they shall have their proportion, and, more than that, allowance for their peculiar situation.
I am amazed to hear the complaints of the hospital on the east side of Hudson’s River. Dr. Morgan, with most of his mates, has been constantly there since I left it with the main body of the army. It is in vain, however, to look back upon past misfortunes. I will not pretend to point out the causes; but I know matters have been strangely conducted in the medical line. I hope your new appointment, when it is made, will make the necessary reform in the hospital, and that I shall not, the next campaign, have my ears, and eyes too, shocked with the complaints and looks of poor creatures perishing for want of proper care, either in the regimental or hospital surgeons. I agree with the Convention in the expediency of obstructing the passage of the North River in some place between the mouth and the Highlands. We have found that our labor and expense have been thrown away in endeavoring to do it below, where the channel is amazingly wide and deep; but, from the slight view I have had of the river above, I think the passage may be easily obstructed, and defended by proper fortifications, as the river is so narrow that no vessel going up could possibly escape the fire. I am no judge of what can be done towards fitting out the frigates at Poughkeepsie; that must be left to the gentlemen of the marine committee.
The hint given by the Convention of New York, of the necessity and utility of a commissary of forage, had struck me before, and had been mentioned by General Mifflin, whose department of quartermaster-general must be eased of part of the load, which is at present thrown upon it. He is obliged in many instances to act entirely out of his proper line; and instead of being confined to the duty of quartermaster-general, is also wagon-master and forage-master general. I have written to two persons, that I think qualified to fill the office of wagon-master; and I hope one of them will accept. That of commissary of forage shall be attended to. The want of accurate maps of the country, which has hitherto been the scene of war, has been of great disadvantage to me. I have in vain endeavored to procure them, and have been obliged to make shift with such sketches as I could trace out from my own observation, and that of gentlemen around me. I really think, if gentlemen of known character and probity could be employed in making maps, from actual survey, of the roads, of the rivers and bridges and fords over them, and of the mountains and passes through them, it would be of the greatest advantage.
I had, previous to the receipt of your letter, written to General Howe, and proposed the fixing of an agent for prisoners at New York. I have not received an answer; but, if he accedes to the proposal, I shall appoint Mr. Lewis Pintard. I am sorry that I am obliged to contradict the Report of the taking of Fort Independence, as mentioned in my last. I believe the evacuation of some detatched Redoubts gave Rise to the Report. I have not heard from Genl. Heath since the 14th instant, which I am amazed at. I am quite in the dark as to his Numbers and what progress he has made.1 On the 23d, a party of four hundred of our men, under Colonel Buckner, fell in with two regiments of the enemy, convoying a number of wagons from Brunswic to Amboy. Our advanced party under Colonel Parker engaged them with great bravery upwards of twenty minutes, during which time the colonel-commandant was killed, and the second in command mortally wounded. The people living near the field of action say their killed and wounded were considerable. We lost only two men, who were made prisoners. Had Colonel Buckner come up with the main body, Colonel Parker and the other officers think we should have put them to rout, as their confusion was very great, and their ground disadvantageous. I have ordered Buckner under arrest, and shall bring him to trial to answer for so extraordinary a piece of conduct.
Reinforcements come up so extremely slow, that I am afraid I shall be left without any men before they arrive. The enemy must be ignorant of our numbers, or they have not horses to move their artillery, or they would not suffer us to remain undisturbed. I have repeatedly written to all the recruiting officers, to forward on their men as fast as they could arm and clothe them; but they are so extremely averse to turning out of comfortable quarters, that I cannot get a man to come near me, though I hear from all parts that the recruiting service goes on with great success. It would be well if the Board of War, in whose department it is, would issue orders for all officers to equip and forward their recruits to headquarters with the greatest expedition. By a resolve Congress passed some time ago, General Schuyler is directed to apply to me for ninety-four tons of powder, a quantity which it is impossible I should have by me, and for which I do not know where to direct him to apply. I could wish that returns were made to me of the quantity of powder on hand, and where it is to be found, that I may not be at a loss at any time of emergency.
Since the resignation of Colonel Reed, the important office of adjutant-general has been left unfilled, I mean as to a principal, and I am much at a loss how or where to find a person in every way capable and proper to execute the office. My inclinations lead me to confer the appointment upon a Major Morris1 ; but ample testimonials should be produced, and full proof of fidelity ought to be made, before an office of so high trust should be conferred upon a person in a manner a stranger to me. I only know Major Morris from a short personal acquaintance, and from report. He never even brought a letter of recommendation to me. From his conversation, and from the accounts I have received from others, he is a man of considerable military abilities; and, from his behavior in two instances, he is a man of bravery and conduct. His story is simply this; that he left the British service in disgust upon not receiving a promotion to which he was justly entitled. Perhaps some gentleman of Congress may know more about him, or may be able to make such inquiries as might satisfy them, as to the safety and propriety of appointing him. I have no other motive for wishing him a preference, than that I think him the properest person that has come under my notice, provided all matters before mentioned were cleared up. I shall wait the result of a determination of Congress, before I proceed further in this appointment; and I wish to be favored with their advice as speedily as possible; for the remains of the old army are much disarranged for want of a good adjutant-general, and the formation of the new one in a great measure depends upon an able officer in that line. I have the honor to be, &c.1
[1 ]“You will receive with this a copy of my letter to you of the 19th instant. Two reasons have led me to send it: the one lest the original may have miscarried; the other to explain it fully, if you have already received it. I do not mean to tie up your hands from effecting or even attempting any thing, that may prove honorable to yourself or useful to the cause. Although the original design of your movements may not be fully answered in all its parts, yet, if you can take possession of the country round about the city, or the city itself, I do not desire you to desist. I have not been favored with a line from you since the 19th, and that never reached me till this evening. I wish to hear from you frequently.”—Washington to Major-General Heath, 27 January 1777.
[1 ]Apollos Morris.
[1 ]Read in Congress, February 4th. Referred to the Board of War.