Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO PATRICK HENRY, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777)
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TO PATRICK HENRY, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA. - 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 PATRICK HENRY, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.
Morristown, 13 April, 1777.
It gives me much concern to hear that the recruiting service proceeds so slowly in most of the States. That it is the case in Virginia affects me in a peculiar manner. I feel myself much obliged by the polite respect your honorable Board of Council are pleased to show to my opinion; and am under the necessity of observing, that the volunteer plan, which you mention, will never answer any valuable purposes, and that I cannot but disapprove the measure. To the short engagements of our troops may be fairly and justly ascribed almost every misfortune, that we have experienced. To that cause, and that alone, have the liberties of our country been put in question, and the most obvious advantages lost. This I speak from painful experience, and, assured of the Facts, I cannot countenance in the smallest degree what I know to be pernicious in the extreme. Short enlistments, when founded on the best plan, are repugnant to order, and subversive of discipline; and men, held upon such terms, will never be equal to the important ends of war; but, when they are of the volunteer kind, they are still more destructive.
Those who engage in arms, under that denomination, let them agree upon what conditions they may, are uneasy, impatient of command, ungovernable; and, claiming to themselves a sort of superior merit, generally assume not only the privilege of thinking but to do as they please; added to these considerations, such corps are long in forming, and half of their time is taken up in marching to and from camp at a most amazing expense; nor are the injuries, to which a country is exposed, by the frequent marching and countermarching of men, to be disregarded. Further, whilst they are in service, the States to which they belong have but little if any chance to engage them for a longer term. When that is out, they will return, though the Exigency of affairs should be ever so pressing, and though you should be on the point of action, or perhaps of Grasping a Victory. Their departure has a most baneful and unhappy influence on those who remain, who consider themselves, notwithstanding their Engagements, as subjected to peculiar hardships, become uneasy and discontented, and many desert. Their return, too, having seen only service sufficient to create disgust, and experienced in the course of it a few difficulties, produces the same disposition through the circle of their connexions. In a word, Sir, I cannot advise the volunteer plan, as I conceive the adoption of it would have the most fatal and pernicious tendency; and in my opinion the Interest of the States would be more advanced by regular enlistments during the war, though it should take a considerable time to complete them.1
The apologies you offer for your deficiency of troops are not without some weight. I am induced to believe, that the apprehension of the smallpox and its calamitous consequences have greatly retarded the Enlistments. But may not those objections be easily done away, by introducing Inoculation into the State? Or shall we adhere to a regulation preventing it, reprobated at this time, not only by the consent and usage of the greater part of the civilized world, but by our interest and own experience of its utility? You will pardon my observations upon the smallpox, because I know it is more destructive to an army in the natural way, than the Enemy’s Sword, and because I shudder whenever I reflect upon the difficulties of keeping it out, and that in the vicissitudes of war the scene may be transferred to some southern State. Should it not be the case, their quota of men must come to the Field.1 * * *
I have the honor to be, &c.
[1 ]At the request of the Virginia Council, Governor Henry had written, lamenting the tardiness with which the Continental enlistments proceeded in that State, and proposing a volunteer corps, which he thought could be raised without much difficulty. He said it would consist of men from the upper country, who would make excellent soldiers, and continue long enough in service to become regularly disciplined. It was a part of the plan, that they should find their own arms, clothes, and blankets, and choose their captains and subalterns, who should in their turn elect the field-officers. They were to be subject to the Continental articles of war.
[1 ]General Howe, having received information from the minister, that a small number only of the solicited reinforcements would be sent to America, was obliged to change his plan of operations for the campaign, which has been stated above (p. 57, note), and to curtail very considerably his proposed sphere of action. He wrote to Lord George Germaine in a secret despatch, on the 2d of April, that the idea of an attempt against New England must be given up, as also that of any important movement up the North River. His main purpose now was to invade Pennsylvania by sea, not deeming a march through the Jerseys expedient, on account of the difficulties and delays that must attend it. Three thousand provincial troops, under Governor Tryon, were to be left at New York, to act on the Hudson, or against Connecticut, as circumstances might point out. At the same time he wrote to Sir Guy Carleton, stating his inability to co-operate with the northern army, particularly in the first part of the campaign. He gave encouragement, however, that a sufficient force might be spared to open the communication for shipping through the Highlands, and that this corps might afterwards act in favor of the northern army. The constructing of the bridge was probably a finesse to conceal his real designs.