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1778. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VI (1777-1778).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Headquarters,Valley Forge, 1 January, 1778.
I have been duly honored with your several favors of the 23d, 24th, and 25th ult., with the inclosures to which they allude.
In my letters of the 22d and 23d of last month, I mentioned the difficulties which the service labored under for want of a Quarter Master General; and as I am induced to believe that a new nomination has not been made since Gen. Mifflin’s resignation, because Congress could not fix upon any person in their opinions fully qualified to fill that important office, I thought it my duty to endeavor to find out a gentleman, who I could venture to recommend, either from my own particular knowledge, or from that of others. That my inquiries might be more extensive, I occasionally mentioned the matter to the General and Field officers, and desired them, if any person came within their idea as proper, that they might mention them to me, that I might, upon their comparative merits, fix upon the most deserving.
Several of the officers from the Northward spoke of the activity and uncommon exertions of Col. Hay, Deputy Quarter Master General in that Department. Hearing him so well spoken of I enquired very particularly of most of those who had served there in the last campaign, and of Generals Sullivan and Wayne, who had served in that country the two preceding ones, in times of uncommon difficulty. They confirmed the favorable report of the others, and went so far as to say, that without disparagement to any gentlemen, they thought him the best qualified of any man upon the continent for the office in question.
Upon this universal concurrence of all parties, I think I may venture to recommend Col. Hay to the consideration of Congress, and if, upon further inquiry, they should find him answer the high character which he bears, I hope no time will be lost in appointing him, provided some other has not already been the object of their choice. I will first add, that Col. Hay’s pretensions, in right of seniority, entitle him to notice.
You must be fully sensible that very little time is left between this and the opening of the next campaign, for the provision of field equipage, carriages, horses and many other articles essentially necessary, towards which I cannot find that any steps have been taken.
In my last I also took occasion to mention, that by Col. Pickering’s appointment to the Board of War, I expected he would soon be called upon to take his seat. In a letter from the Secretary of 24th ult. I am desired to permit him to retire and to nominate an Adjutant General pro tempore. But as there is no person upon the spot that I can with propriety ask to accept of the place pro tem., I am obliged to detain him, and am under the necessity for that reason of urging a new appointment as speedily as possible. I have taken the same methods of endeavoring to find out a person qualified for an Adjutant General, that I did for that of Quarter Master General; but I cannot say that I have received any account sufficiently satisfactory to determine me in favor of any particular person. I will just recite the names that have been mentioned to me, which are Cols. Lee and Scammel, of Massachusetts and New Hampshire; Cols. James and Davies, of Virginia, and Maj. Scott of Pennsylvania. The four first are known to many gentlemen of Congress, and Major Scott is warmly recommended by General St. Clair.
The enemy returned into Philadelphia on Sunday last, having made a considerable hay forage, which appeared to be their only intention. As they kept themselves in close order, and in just such a position that no attack could be made upon them to advantage, I could do no more than extend light parties along their front, and keep them from plundering the inhabitants and carrying off cattle and horses; which had the desired effect.
I have the pleasure to inform you that a vessel has fallen into Gen. Smallwood’s hands near Wilmington. I hope she will prove a valuable prize. You have the particulars in the inclosed extract of his letter.1
Before this reaches you, you will have received a letter from Gen. Weedon, in which he has stated his objections to Gen. Woodford’s taking rank of him. Gen. Muhlenberg is gone to Virginia, and I therefore cannot say what would have been his objections; but I imagine they are founded upon the same reasons as those of Gen. Weedon. And you may perceive by the inclosed copy of General Wayne’s letter to me, that he does not think that the rank of colonel, which Gen. Woodford held at the time of his resignation, could operate in his favor upon his appointment to the rank of Brigadier General. I could therefore wish that Congress, as they now have the matter fully before them, would proceed to the final settlement of the relative rank of the Brigadiers.
I have received information that the militia of Jersey have taken possession of another of the enemy’s vessels that ran on ground upon their shore. I have reason to believe the fact is so, but I have it not from full authority.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 2 January, 1778.
I take the liberty of transmitting to you the enclosed copies of a letter from me to General Conway, since his return from New York to camp, and of two letters from him to me, which you will be pleased to lay before Congress. I shall not in this letter animadvert upon them; but after making a single observation, submit the whole to Congress.
If General Conway means, by cool receptions, mentioned in the last paragraph of his letter of the 31st ultimo, that I did not receive him in the language of a warm and cordial friend, I readily confess the charge. I did not, nor shall I ever, till I am capable of the arts of dissimulation. These I despise, and my feelings will not permit me to make professions of friendship to the man I deem my enemy, and whose system of conduct forbids it. At the same time, truth authorizes me to say, that he was received and treated with proper respect to his official character, and that he has had no cause to justify the assertion, that he could not expect any support for fulfilling the duties of his appointment. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. The enclosed extract from the proceedings of a council of general officers will show, the office of inspector-general was a matter not of such modern date, as General Conway mentions it to be, and that it was one of the regulations in view for the reform of the army.1 The foreign officers, who had commissions and no commands, and who were of ability, were intended to be recommended to execute it; particularly the Baron d’Arendt, with whom the idea originated, and whose capacity seemed to be well admitted.2
TO MAJOR GENERAL GATES.
Valley Forge, 4 January, 1778.
Your Letter of the 8th Ulto. came to my hands a few days ago; and to my great surprize informed me, that a copy of it had been sent to Congress—for what reason, I find myself unable to acct.; but, as some end doubtless was intended to be answered by it, I am laid under the disagreeable necessity of returning my answer through the same channel, lest any member of that honble. body, should harbor an unfavorable suspicion of my having practiced some indirect means to come at the contents of the confidential Letters between you and General Conway.1
I am to inform you then, that Colo. Wilkinson, in his way to Congress in the month of Octobr. last fell in with Lord Stirling at Reading; and, not in confidence, that I ever understood, informed his Aid de Camp Majr. McWilliams that General Conway had written thus to you: “Heaven had been determined to save your Country; or a weak General and bad Counsellors (* ) would have ruined it.” Lord Stirling from motives of friendship, transmitted the acct. with this remark: “The inclosed was communicated by Colonl. Wilkinson to Majr. McWilliams. Such wicked duplicity of conduct I shall always think it my duty to detect.”
In consequence of this information, and without having any thing more in view than merely to shew that Gentl. that I was not unapprized of his intriguing disposition, I wrote him a Letter in these words:
Sir—A Letter which I received last night contained the following paragraph.—In a Letter from Genl. Conway to Genl. Gates he says—heaven has been determined to save your country; or a weak General and bad counsellors would have ruined it. I am, Sir, &c.
Neither this Letter, nor the information which occasioned it was ever, directly, or indirectly communicated by me to a single officer in this army (out of my own family,) excepting the Marquis de la Fayette, who, having been spoken to on the Subject by Genl. Conway, applied for, and saw, under injunctions of secresy, the Letter which contained Wilkinson’s information—so desirous was I of concealing every matter that could, in its consequences, give the smallest interruption to the tranquility of this army, or afford a gleam of hope to the enemy by dissentions therein.
Thus Sir, with an openness and candor which I hope will ever characterize and mark my conduct, have I complied with your request. The only concern I feel upon the occasion—finding how matters stand—is, that in doing this I have necessarily been obliged to name a Genln. whom I am persuaded (although I never exchanged a word with him upon the subject) thought he was rather doing an act of justice than committing an act of infidelity;—and sure I am, that, till Lord Stirling’s Letter came to my hands I never knew that General Conway (who I viewed in the light of a stranger to you) was a correspondant of yours; much less did I suspect that I was the subject of your confidential Letters—
Pardon me then for adding, that so far from conceiving that the safety of the States can be affected, or in the smallest degree injured, by a discovery of this kind; or, that I should be called upon in such solemn terms to point out the author, that I considered the information as coming from yourself, and given with a friendly view to forewarn, and consequently forearm me, against a secret enemy, or in other words, a dangerous incendiary; in which character, sooner or later, this country will know Genl. Conway—But, in this, as in other matters of late, I have found myself mistaken.—I am &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 5 January, 1778.
I yesterday evening had the honor of your favor of the 1st instant, with its several enclosures. The letter you allude to, from the Committee of Congress and Board of War, came to hand on Saturday morning; but it does not mention the regulations adopted for removing the difficulties and failures in the commissary line. I trust they will be vigorous, or the army cannot exist. It will never answer to procure supplies of clothing or provision by coercive measures. The small seizures made of the former a few days ago, in consequence of the most pressing and absolute necessity, when that, or to dissolve, was the alternative, excited the greatest alarm and uneasiness even among our best and warmest friends. Such procedures may give a momentary relief; but, if repeated, will prove of the most pernicious consequence. Besides spreading disaffection, jealousy, and fear in the people, they never fail, even in the most veteran troops under the most rigid and exact discipline, to raise in the soldiery a disposition to licentiousness, to plunder and robbery, difficult to suppress afterwards, and which has proved not only ruinous to the inhabitants, but, in many instances, to armies themselves. I regret the occasion that compelled us to the measure the other day; and shall consider it among the greatest of our misfortunes, if we should be under the necessity of practising it again.
I had received from the Board of War a copy of the resolutions of the 29th ultimo, and published such parts in orders as were directed. I shall endeavor, as far as possible, to carry the intention of Congress into execution, respecting the extra pay, and to prevent any from receiving it, who do not come under their description.1 The three packets with commissions came safe to hand. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. I am now under the necessity of keeping several parties from the army threshing grain that our supplies may not fail—But this will not do. As to meat, our stock is trifling, not being sufficient for more than two days, if so long, with the most sparing economy.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 9 January, 1778.
I yesterday evening had the honor to receive your favor of the 5th Inst. with its enclosures.
The power Congress have been pleased to vest me with, for appointing aids-de-camp, I shall use with economy, and I will not appoint more at any time than shall be necessary and essential to advance the public interest. Any future appointments, that may be material, will be made out of the line of the army, if circumstances will allow it. In general this has been the case.3 The proceedings of Congress for the detention of General Burgoyne and army, or rather suspending their embarkation, till the convention of Saratoga is explicitly ratified and notified by the court of Britain, shall remain secret here till they are duly announced by Congress. This procedure, when known to the General, will chagrin him much; for I learn by a letter from General Heath, that the refusal to let his troops embark at Rhode Island, or in the Sound, had given him some uneasiness. I have nothing of importance to communicate; and have only to add, that I have the honor to be, with great respect, &c.1
P. S. The great diversity of opinions prevailing as to the Operations which the Resolves of the 30th Ultimo & 1. Inst. should have, which give a month’s extra pay, makes it necessary for me to request Congress to describe with certainty and precision the persons whom they intended should be the particular Objects of their benevolence. Without this I am certain I shall not be able to execute the Resolves according to their intention and in a manner that will be agreable to the Army.
If such officers and men, as were in Camp when the Resolves were passed, and who continue the whole winter are the only objects to be benefitted, It is urged that many who have discharged their duty with fidelity—who have experienced a severe campaign to that time or till a few days before,—who may be now out of Camp, and yet be here in the course of the Winter will be excluded.
For Example, all officers and men on furlough, tho’ they should have been long from their Home, before, perhaps much longer in many instances than many who remain, whose private and family necessities oblige them to be absent.—Those who have fallen sick from their services & who are in Hospitals or the Country—Detachments on command these would be excluded. Such discriminations, I believe will give great disgust, and uneasiness. It is difficult in cases of this nature to draw a proper line of distinction and impossible to do it in such a way as to give satisfaction. I do not mean to enlarge upon the subject, my only wish is to have it precisely ascertained, who are to be included & paid, and who are not under the Resolves, that I may not on the one hand act contrary to public intention—and on the other give cause of complaint and perhaps do wrong to Individuals.
Knowing the difficulty of drawing a proper line and the disgust and murmurings that ever attend discriminations, were I to advise upon the subject, only such officers and men should be excluded, since Extra pay has been determined on, as are absent from Camp without regular authority or such as may abuse Indulgencies regularly obtained. It has been observed by some and perhaps with propriety, that there are officers & men now in Camp, who may be shortly in, who have no superior claim to merit,—whose affairs are not pressing, or who have already had indulgencies,—or who from their being nearer their friends & connections have had opportunities of seeing them frequently—of ordering their concerns and visiting their Homes, Once, twice, or perhaps oftener in the Campaign, whilst they who are more remote were precluded from any of these advantages & were constantly on duty. These considerations will have their weight in the scale of disgust with the parties interested.
For my part, tho’ the Resolves were founded in principles of generosity,—were intended to reward merit, and promote the service, from the difficulties attending the execution I wish they had never been made, especially as I believe, Officers and Men would in a little time, have become tolerably well reconciled to their Quarters. I have &c.1
TO GOVERNOR WHARTON.
I have the pleasure of observing by a publication in Dunlap’s Paper that before the adjournment of the General Assembly of this State they had among other wholesome laws enacted one for “filling the quota of troops to be raised in this State.” As you may perhaps be ignorant of the reduced condition of your Regiments I have thought proper to inclose you a Return by which you will see how very deficient they are at present as to the number required by the allotment. You will also perceive by a note at the Bottom of the Return, how destitute the men in the field are in point of cloathing. I had sent out officers from every Regiment to procure cloathing for their men, and they were collecting considerable quantities, when Colo. Bayard and Mr. Young a committee from Assembly waited upon me, and desired me to call in the officers, informing me that they had appointed Commissioners in every county to purchase necessaries for the army, which would be a mode more agreeable to the inhabitants than if done in a military way. What these Commissioners have done I do not know, but no Cloathing has yet come to the Army thro their Hands. General Wayne informed me that he understood it was collected and stored at Lancaster and he went up about ten days ago to enquire into the matter.
It being recommended to every State to procure what cloathing they can for their own Troops, I trust yours will not be backward. From the quantity of raw materials and the number of workmen among your people, who being principled against Arms, remain at home and manufacture, I should suppose you have it more in your power to cover your Troops well than any other State. The Continent will continue to import from abroad and to purchase on the general account what they can. I am therefore in hopes that the exertions of the States aided by foreign importations, will contribute to cloath our Troops more comfortably and plentifully than they have heretofore been. But as there are so many impediments in the way of the latter kind of supply, I could wish that no great dependance may be put upon it, but that we may rely principally upon our internal manufacture.1
I shall be glad to be favd. with a copy of the law for raising your quota of men, and have the Honor to be with great Respect, Sir, &c.2
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ARNOLD.1
Enclosed you will receive a commission, by which you will find, that you are restored to the rank you claim in the line of the army. This I transmit by direction of Congress, and in pursuance of their resolution of the 29th of November.2 The situation of my papers and the want of blank commissions prevented me doing it before. May I venture to ask whether you are upon your legs again, and, if you are not, may I flatter myself that you will be soon? There is none, who wishes more sincerely for this event, than I do, or who will receive the information with more pleasure. I shall expect a favorable account upon the subject; and as soon as your situation will permit, I request that you will repair to this army, it being my earnest wish to have your services the ensuing campaign. In hopes of this, I have set you down in an arrangement now under consideration, and for a command, which I trust will be agreeable to yourself, and of great advantage to the public.
I have nothing of importance to inform you of in the military line, that is new or interesting. The enemy still remain in possession of Philadelphia, and have secured themselves by a strong chain of redoubts, with intrenchments of communication from the Schuylkill to the Delaware. We, on our part, have taken a post on the west side of the former about twenty miles from the city, and with much pains and industry have got the troops tolerably well covered in huts. We have to regret that we are not in more comfortable quarters, but these could not be found, unless we had retired to the towns in the more interior part of the State; the consequence of which would have been distress to the virtuous citizens of Philadelphia, who had fled thither for protection, and the exposure of a considerable tract of fertile country to ravage and ruin. I am, dear Sir, with great esteem and regard, &c.
TO SIR WILLIAM HOWE.
Head-Quarters, 20 January, 1778.
Your letter of the 8th instant, enclosing Lieutenant Eyre’s1 representation, was duly received. I am not at liberty to contradict the facts, which he has related; but I am inclined to think, from his own state, that his conduct has not been so discreet, as it should have been; and that, if he experienced a severer treatment, than had been usually imposed upon officers, prisoners with us, it proceeded in some measure at least from that cause. But were not this the case, if the insults and incivilities, which Mr. Eyre complains of having suffered, were ever so unprovoked by him, though I wish not to justify them, yet I cannot forbear observing, that they are not to be wondered at, since the accounts generally received of the treatment of our officers in your hands are replete with instances of the most flagrant indignities, and even cruelties.
Americans have the feelings of sympathy, as well as other men. A series of injuries may exhaust their patience, and it is natural, that the sufferings of their friends in captivity should at length irritate them into resentment, and to acts of retaliation. If you suppose Mr. Eyre’s representation to be just, and that he escaped from a rigorous confinement, under no obligation of parole, I cannot conceive upon what principle you still consider him my prisoner. But, if you are of a different opinion, I shall expect some gentleman of ours in your possession, who was taken in a similar character, in return for him. He was reported to me, at the time of his capture, as a volunteer, in which light I still view him. The officer you mention did not attend the flag of truce with my knowledge or consent. His conduct was reprehensible, and I hope an instance of this sort will not happen again.
Mr. James Bayard was taken prisoner near the Swedes’ Ford, the day your army crossed the Schuylkill. He had just returned from college, and had no rank in or connexion with the army. He is not to be considered as a prisoner of war, but as a citizen, and as such his friends will propose an exchange for him. I am, Sir, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
Head Quarters,Valley Forge,
I have your favor of the 6th and 8th instants. I particularly alluded to Henley’s, Lee’s, and Jackson’s Regiments; when I expressed my surprise that they had not been inoculated, as they had been so long in Boston. I hope that a very strict attention will be paid to that matter against the next campaign. We find upon a scrutiny that there are upwards of two thousand men to be inoculated in camp at this time.
I have given the Adjutant General the Resolve of your Council, but he tells me that he does not think it will be in the powers of the Colonels to make such a return as is called for. Few of them have their papers with them, and some of these who were at Ticonderoga lost them. In my next I shall be able to inform you whether it can be done. Some little time past I sent the President of the Council an exact Return of such of their Troops as are under my immediate command for their Government in compleating their levies.
You will, I suppose, before this time have received orders from Congress, respecting the delaying the embarkation of General Burgoyne and his army till the convention is ratified by Great Britain. By this step General Burgoyne will, more than probable, look upon himself as released from all former ties, and consequently at liberty to make use of any means to effect an escape. I would therefore have you increase the vigilance, and, if necessary, the strength of your guards. All magazines of arms should be removed from Boston and the neighborhood; for if any attempt is made, it must be by first seizing upon arms to force their way.
I cannot think with you, that the operations of the next campaign will be against New England, except the enemy are much more strongly reinforced, than I think they have any chance of being. They know the unanimity and spirit of the people too well to attempt it by detachment; and should they send a considerable body from Philadelphia, they must either remain besieged in the town, which would be ignominious, or risk a defeat should they come into the field with inconsiderable numbers. The troops, who went back from Philadelphia to New York, were I believe only intended for the security of that city. The garrison was so small, after the reinforcements had been sent to General Howe, that the inhabitants complained much of their being abandoned, and the troops were returned to quiet them. This being merely matter of opinion, it should not relax your endeavors to perfect the necessary defences of the harbor, and to fix upon signals which may at all times alarm the country upon any sudden invasion. If any good sealing wax is to be procured in Boston be pleased to direct a dozen pound to be purchased for me and sent on at different times as opportunity offer. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
Valley Forge, 25 January, 1778.
I begin to be very apprehensive that the season will entirely pass away, before any thing material will be done for the defence of Hudson’s River. You are well acquainted with the great necessity there is for having the works there finished, as soon as possible; and I most earnestly desire, that the strictest attention may be paid to every matter, which may contribute to finishing and putting them in a respectable state before the spring.1
I wish you had not waited for returns of the militia to furnish me with a state of the troops in that quarter; and, if you do not get them in before you receive this, you will please to let me have an accurate return of the Continental troops alone, it being absolutely necessary that I should know the strength of your command as soon as possible. I congratulate you on the success of your two little parties against the enemy, which I dare say will prevent their making so extensive excursions for some time at least. One circumstance however I cannot avoid taking notice of, that our officers, who have been but a very short time in the enemy’s hands, reap the advantages of any captures which happen to be made by us. This must not be practised in future, as it is the height of injustice, and will, if continued, draw upon us the censures of the officers, who have been for a long time suffering all the rigors of a severe captivity. The proper mode of proceeding is, to deliver them into the hands of the commissary of prisoners, who must be best acquainted with the propriety of complying with the claims of our officers in their hands. I shall represent your situation, in the money way, to the paymaster-general, and order such measures to be taken as may relieve you. I am, Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Valley Forge, 27 January, 1778.
Your two letters of the 24th instant came to hand. Before the receipt of the first I had written to you upon the subject contained in it, in consequence of your letter to the commanding officer at Lancaster, which had been transmitted to me. As that will inform you fully respecting the British officers and clothing, I will not trouble you with a repetition of the matter.1 I must observe, however, that the number of officers and men, who came out, does not appear to me so very extraordinary, considering the various duties they have to perform, and the amount of wagons and necessaries they have in charge. The officers are under parole, and the party unarmed, nor will the state of this army admit large escorts to be detached; and if it were much more respectable, I should apprehend two officers sufficient to attend the flag. I should have been happy, if the officers and clothing had not been seized, as it destroys that confidence, which should ever be had in passports, and involves the consequences of a delicate nature. In answer to the last clause of your letter, respecting the detention of the clothing, I refer you to my letter of yesterday, by which you will perceive, that there is a particular agreement between General Howe and myself, under the sanction of which they came out.
I am much obliged by your polite request of my opinion and advice on the expedition to Canada and other occasions. In the present instance, as I neither know the extent of the objects in view, nor the means to be employed to effect them, it is not in my power to pass any judgment upon the subject. I can only sincerely wish, that success may attend it, both as it may advance the public good, and on account of the personal honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, for whom I have a very particular esteem and regard. Your letter was delivered to him in a little time after it came to my hands, and he proposes to set out for Yorktown to-morrow.1
Agreeably to your request I shall order Hazen’s regiment to march from Wilmington to this place, from whence it will immediately proceed towards Albany. As some particular purpose seems to be intended by desiring this regiment, I am induced to part with it, notwithstanding our force will ill bear the smallest diminution. I am, Sir, your most obedient servant.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL CHARLES LEE.
Valley Forge, 27 January, 1778.
I last night received your favor of the 30th ultimo.1 It gave me great pleasure to hear that you were released from your confined situation, and permitted so many indulgences. You may rest assured, that I feel myself very much interested in your welfare, and that every exertion has been used on my part to effect your exchange. This I have not been able to accomplish. However, from the letters, which have lately passed between Sir William Howe and myself upon the subject of prisoners, I am authorized to expect, that you will return in a few days to your friends on parole, as Major-General Prescott will be sent in on the same terms for that purpose. Indeed, till I saw Major Williams last night, I supposed that he had arrived either at New York or Rhode Island, having directed his releasement as soon as I was at liberty to do it. I will take the earliest opportunity to recommend to your friends, Mr. Nourse and Mr. White, the care of your farm.
Your request to Major Morris, in favor of Mrs. Battier, reached me only last night. I wish I had been informed of it sooner. I have enclosed a passport for her to Major Morris, and I doubt not but he will do every thing in his power to accommodate a lady, from whose husband you have received so many civilities. I am, dear Sir, with great esteem and regard, &c.
TO A COMMITTEE OF CONGRESS.1
28 January, 1778.
The numerous defects, in our present military establishment, rendering many reformations and many new arrangements absolutely necessary, and Congress having been pleased to appoint you a Committee, in concert with me, to make and recommend such, as shall appear eligible, in pursuance, of the various objects, expressed in their resolution for that purpose, I have in the following sheets briefly delivered my sentiments upon such of them as seemed to me most essential;—so far, as observation has suggested, and leisure permitted. These are submitted to consideration and I shall be happy, if they are found conducive to remedying the evils and inconveniences, we are now subject to, and putting the army upon a more respectable footing. Something must be done—important alterations must be made;—necessity requires, that our resources should be enlarged and our system improved; for without it, if the dissolution of the army should not be the consequence, at least, its operations must infallibly be feeble, languid, and ineffectual.
As I consider a proper and satisfactory provision for officers, in a manner, as the basis of every other regulation and arrangement necessary to be made, since without officers no army can exist, and unless some measures be devised to place those of ours in a more desirable situation, few of them would be able, if willing, to continue in it, I shall begin with a few reflections, tending to prove the necessity:—
Of a half pay and pensionary establishment.
A small knowledge of human nature will convince us, that, with far the greatest part of mankind, interest is the governing principle; and that, almost, every man, is more or less, under its influence. Motives of public virtue may for a time, or in particular instances actuate men to the observance of a conduct purely disinterested; but they are not of themselves sufficient to produce a persevering conformity to the refined dictates and obligations of social duty. Few men are capable of making a continual sacrifice of all views of private interest, or advantage, to the common good. It is in vain to exclaim against the depravity of human nature on this account—the fact is so; the experience of every age and nation has proved it, and we must in a great measure change the constitution of man, before we can make it otherwise. No institution, not built on the presumptive truth of these maxims can succeed.
We find them exemplified in the American officers, as well as in all other men. At the commencement of the dispute, in the first effusions of their zeal, and looking upon the service to be only temporary, they entered into it, without paying any regard to pecuniary or selfish considerations. But finding its duration to be much longer than they at first suspected, and that instead of deriving any advantage from the hardships and dangers, to which they were exposed, they on the contrary, were losers by their patriotism, and fell far short even of a competency to supply their wants, they have gradually abated in their ardor; and with many, an entire disinclination to the service under its present circumstances has taken place. To this in an eminent degree, must be ascribed the frequent resignations dayly happening and the more frequent importunities for permission to resign, and from some officers of the greatest merit. To this also may we ascribe the apathy, inattention, and neglect of duty, which pervade all ranks and which will necessarily continue and increase while an officer instead of gaining anything is impoverished by his commission; and conceives he is conferring not receiving a favor, in holding it. There can be no sufficient tie upon men, possessing such sentiments. Nor can any method be adopted to oblige those, to a punctual discharge of duty, who are indifferent about their continuance in the service and are often seeking a pretext to disengage themselves from it. Punishment in this case, will be unavailing; but when an officer’s commission is made valuable to him and he fears to lose it, you may then exact obedience from him.
It is not indeed consistent with reason, or justice to expect that one set of men should make a sacrifice of property, domestic ease and happiness,—encounter the rigors of the field,—the perils and vicissitudes of War to obtain those blessings which every citizen will enjoy, in common with them without some adequate compensation. It must also be a comfortless reflection to any man, that after he may have contributed to securing the rights of his country at the risk of his life and the ruin of his fortune, there would be no provision made to prevent himself and family from sinking into indigence and wretchedness. Besides adopting some methods to make the provision for officers equal to their present exigencies, a due regard should be paid to futurity. Nothing, in my opinion, would serve more powerfully to reanimate their languishing zeal; and interest them thoroughly in the service, than a half-pay and pensionary establishment. This would not only dispel the apprehension of personal distress, [at] the termination of the war, from having thrown themselves [out] of professions and employments they might not have it in [their] power to resume; but would in a great degree relieve the painful anticipation of leaving their widows and orphans, a burthen on the charity of their country, should it be their lot to fall in its defence.
I am earnest in recommending this measure, because I know it is the general wish and expectation, and that many officers whom, upon every principle we should wish to retain in the service are only waiting to see whether something of the kind will, or will not take place, to be determined in their resolutions, either of staying in, or quitting it immediately; and I urge my sentiments with the greater freedom, because I cannot, and shall not receive the smallest benefit from the establishment, and can have no other inducement for proposing it, than a full conviction of its utility and propriety.
I am sensible the expense will be a capital objection to it; but to this I oppose the necessity.—The officers are now discontented with their situation;—if some generous expedient is not embraced to remove their discontent, so extensive a desertion of the service will ensue, and so much discouragement be cast upon those, who remain as must wound it in a very essential manner. Every thing that has this effect has a tendency, at least, to protract the war, and, though dictated by a well-intended frugality, will I fear in the end prove erroneous economy.
Of completing the Regiments and altering their Establishment.
The necessity of the first in the most expeditious manner possible, is too self evident to need illustration, or proof, and I shall, therefore only beg leave to offer some reflections on the mode. Voluntary inlistments seem to be totally out of the question; all the allurements of the most exorbitant bounties and every other inducement, that could be thought of, have been tried in vain and seem to have had little other effect than to increase the rapacity and raise the demands of those to whom they were held out. We may fairly infer, that the country [has] been already pretty well drained of that class of men [whose] tempers, attachments and circumstances disposed them to enter permanently or for a length of time, into the army, and that the residue of such men, who from different motives, have kept out of the army, if collected, would not augment our general strength, in any proportion to what we require. If experience has demonstrated that little more can be done by voluntary inlistments, some other mode must be concerted, and no other presents itself, than that of filling the regiments by drafts from the militia. This is a disagreeable alternative but it is an unavoidable one.
As drafting for the war, or for a term of years, would probably be disgusting and dangerous, perhaps impracticable, I would propose an annual draft of men, without officers, to serve till the first day of January, in each year; that on or before the first day of October preceding, these drafted men should be called upon to re-inlist for the succeeding year; and as an incitement to doing it, those being much better and less expensive than raw recruits, a bounty of twenty five dollars should be offered. That upon ascertaining, at this period, the number of men willing to reengage, exact returns should be made to Congress of the deficiency in each regiment, and transmitted by them to the respective States, in order that they may have their several quotas immediately furnished, and sent on to Camp, for the service of the ensuing year, so as to arrive by, or before, the first day of January.
This method though not so good as that of obtaining men for the war, is perhaps the best our circumstances will allow, and as we shall always have an established corps of experienced officers, may answer tolerably well. It is the only mode I can think of for completing our battalions, in time that promises the least prospect of success; the accomplishment of which is an object of the last importance; and it has this advantage, that the minds of the people being once reconciled to the experiment, it would prove a source of continual supplies hereafter.
Men drafted in this manner should not, in the first instance receive any bounty, from the public, which being solemnly enjoined upon each state, and a stop put to the militia substitution laws, would probably be attended with very happy consequences. A number of idle, mercenary fellows would be thrown out of employment precluded from their excessive wages as substitutes for a few weeks or months; and constrained to inlist in the Continental army. In speaking of abolishing the militia su[b]stitution laws, it is not meant, to hinder a person, who might be drafted in the annual allotments, from procuring a substitute in his stead, himself in consequence being excused. This indulgence would be admissible and considering all things, necessary, as there are many individuals, whose dispositions and private affairs would make them irreconcileably averse to giving their personal services for so long a duration, and with whom it would be impolitic to use compulsion. The allowance of substitution, upon a smaller scale—in the occasional coming out of the militia, for a few weeks, a month, or two, is the thing meant to be reprobated.—It is highly productive of the double disadvantage of preventing the growth of the army and depreciating our currency.
In the new establishment of a regiment, as apparent inconveniences result from the enemy’s having no full colonels in their army, distinctly such, to exchange for ours, in case of captivity;—I would propose, that our batalions should be commanded by Lieutenant-Colonels commandant, with the pay of Colonel, and consist of the following officers and men; one Lieutenant-Colonel commandant—one Lieutenant colonel, a major, nine captains; nine lieutenants, nine ensigns, an adjutant, quarter master, paymaster, sergeant, drum and fife major, twenty seven sergeants, 18 drums and fifes, and five hundred and four rank and file: That these should be divided into eight companies: That a captain, lieutenant, ensign, three sergeants, two drums and fifes, and fifty six rank and file should be selected from the whole, to compose a company of light-infantry: That the infantry from each brigade be commanded by a field officer belonging to it,—if officers by the reduction of corps and otherwise, unprovided for are not appointed to these commands; a mode preferable to that of drafting from the brigades, as a mean of doing those officers justice, and because the brigades would miss the field officers, drawn from them for this purpose; And, That the whole be commanded by General officers from the line, chosen by the commander in chief. This body would compose the flying army; and in conjunction with a body of horse would become extremely formidable and useful.
The benefits arising from a superiority in horse are obvious to those who have experienced them. Independent of such as you may derive from it in the field of action; it enables you very materially, to controul the inferior and subordinate motions of an enemy and to impede their knowle[d]ge of what you are doing, while it gives you every advantage of superior intelligence and, consequently, both facilitates your enterprises against them, and obstructs theirs against you. In a defensive war as in our case, it is peculiarly desireable because it affords great protection to the country, and is a barrier to those inroads and depredations upon the inhabitants which are inevitable when the superiority lies on the side of the invaders. The enemy fully sensible of the advantages, are taking all the pains in their power, to acquire an ascendency in this respect; to defeat which I would propose an augmentation of our cavalry, by adding a lieutenant, sergeant, corporal, and twenty-two privates, to each troop. The establishment will then be as follows:—
There are and will continue four regiments of cavalry which composing a brigade, will require a Brigadier—Brigade Major—Quarter master, commissary and forage-master as usual. The men for this service can easily be gotten: the providing horses and accoutrements will be found to suffer some difficulty, yet will not be impracticable. The procuring horses should be undertaken by judicious officers from each regiment well skilled in them; and conducted in such a manner as to occasion no interference with each other. Let Sheldon’s purchases be confined to the Eastward of the North River; Moylan’s between the North River and Susquehanna; Baylor’s between Susquehanna and James’ River, and Bland’s to the Southward of that. The number of horses, to be purchased, by each, ought to be determined, and an average price limited, disclosed only to the purchaser, with a strict injunction to conceal it as much as possible, because if once generally known, sellers would take advantage of it and part with none under the limitation. The accoutrements to be provided in the same districts, and by the same persons, but as some of these districts abound more in manufacturers, than others, all that can be engaged in each, in a certain stipulated time, ought to [be] secured, in order that the overplus, in one part, may supply the deficiency in another. And as these articles may be imported cheaper, and better in quality, than they can be made here, I would advise that at least, fifteen hundred setts should be sent for to France; with directions to divide them in small parcels and embark them in different vessels, that we may have a probability of getting at least a part, and not run the risk of sustaining a total loss and disappointment, by adventuring the whole in one bottom.
Of the Arrangement of the Army.
The establishment of a battalion being fixed under the last head, it remains to ascertain the number of battalions in order to form a proper arrangement. The number of battalions now in the field from each state stand thus:
By the foregoing list, it appears, that in regiments and parts of regiments there are Ninety-seven now in the field, but the state of them requires explanation. Out of nine from North Carolina, by a return of the 31st ultimo, only 572 rank and file are fit for duty. These, with 71 sick present and 137 on command, make 780 rank and file, which I suppose may be produced. The total number, rank and file in the nine regiments is 1079, the difference is accounted for in sick absent and on furlough; which is the only way, I am apprehensive, they ever will be accounted for. From this defective state of them, I should think it adviseable to throw the rank and file of the nine regiments, into two (they have been already reduced to three) and to send the supernumerary officers back to the State, to collect such men as on various pretences were left behind and deserters. And aided by the whole efficiency of the State, voluntary enlistments being, as I said before, out of the question to exert all their endeavors towards completing the seven other regiments, or such of them as Congress shall direct.—I am the more induced to recommend this measure, from the possibility of the enemy’s attempting a more southern expedition next campaign. They may do it, in order to gain possession of the capitol of another State, which will give reputation to their arms in Europe, distress our trade and abridge our supplies; at the same time will enable administration to avail themselves, in another instance, of the illusory idea, they endeavor to hold up to the nation—to keep their hopes alive and extract fresh contributions;—that every State whose capital they possess, is conquered.—These new raised troops, may, either, join this army, or aid South Carolina or Virginia, as circumstances shall point out.
It is needless to enter into a minute detail as to the precise state of the other troops. Let it suffice to say, that they bear too near an analogy to the specimen here given.
Virginia I understand, though not from any direct authority has resolved to draft towards the completion of her batalions; and as this mode seems to be the only one, calculated to answer the end, it is to be hoped, she will be able to furnish the full complement of fifteen including the State battalion. What plan Maryland has fallen upon or may adopt to fill her battalions, I know not, but as the powers of government are with her in full vigor, and the abilities of the State intirely adequate to the end, I think her original quota ought to be depended upon. Delaware must undoubtedly contribute one battalion; no change having happened since that portion was assigned her, sufficient to afford a plea for reducing it. In behalf of Pennsylvania much may be said; the exhausted state of her regiments—her loss of capitol and intestine divisions, ever destructive to the energy of government may perhaps incapacitate her for completing her thirteen regiments, now on foot. Suppose the number should be, for the present diminished to eight, and the State should exert herself to fill them in the first place. When this shall be accomplished, if her resources appear equal to any further efforts, she may proceed to raising the remaining five.—New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, are fully competent to the quotas respectively required of them, and no abatement seems necessary with respect to either. We have reason to hope, their exertions will keep pace with their abilities, and that they will take decisive measures to send their several proportions into the field.
I am at a loss what to propose, concerning the German batalion, Hazen’s regiment and the sixteen additionals. Appertaining to no particular state or States, they will have no chance of being filled by drafts, and as little by any other means. They must either remain weak and imperfect corps, be adopted by the States, or incorporated into each other and then, if possible, recruited. The first, upon every principle, ought not to be the case, and as the second would not be altogether eligible from the difficulty of apportioning them,—without dividing and subdividing the regiments,—the third seems to be the expedient to which we must have recourse. Let Maryland take the German battalion, wholly, as one of her eight, for she already claims a part of it; and then let the sixteen additionals, none of which are strong, some extremely weak, and others only partially organized,—be thrown into nine. There is this number of them, which comparatively speaking, are tolerably respectable, and have undergone a good deal of hard service in the course of the last campaign. These after having received the men out of the reduced corps, ought to be licensed, though a barren experiment, to try what can be done by voluntary enlistments, throughout the Continent at large. Hazen’s regiment might be added to them and united in the same privilege.
If these propositions are approved the whole number of battalions, on the establishment, will be eighty, and the total amount of them if complete 40,320, rank and file.
Upon this number of battalions, I shall make my arrangements. Whether full or not, they will require to be thrown into Brigades and divisions,—these again into wings and lines; all of which, for the sake of order, harmony and discipline, should be under distinct commands, capable of moving either jointly or separately, in the great machine, as circumstances shall require;—I would accordingly, to every four battalions, allow a Brigadier, to every three brigades, a Major General, and to the grand army three Lieutenant-Generals; one to command the right wing, another the left, and a third the second line. These three will always be necessary with the grand army, and unless it should be more divided next campaign, than we have reason to judge from present appearances, are all that will be requisite; yet it may be better to appoint four, on account of contingent services.
If it should be deemed improper to reduce the number of Pennsylvania battalions,* in the manner proposed, another Brigadier will be wanted; otherwise, Twenty-two Brigadiers (two for the flying army) eight Major-Generals (one for the flying army) and three Lieutenant Generals, will be sufficient. To each brigade there should be a Quarter Master, Forage Master, Waggon Master and commissary; also armorers, a travelling forge, and some artificers.—In short, each Brigade should be an epitome of the great whole, and move by similar springs, upon a smaller scale.
In a young army, like ours, the office of Inspector General, principally for the purpose of instituting and carrying into practice an uniform system of manual and manœuvres must be extremely useful and advantageous. A number of assistants to this office will be required, as one man would be incapable of superintending the practice of the rules laid down, throughout the army; and unless this were carefully done, it would be of little avail to establish them. It would be proper, in my opinion to have one to each brigade; the benefits, resulting from which, would greatly overballance the consideration of expence.
Another new institution, I should wish to see take place in the army, and from which signal advantages would flow, is that of a Provost-Marshalcy. It should be composed of—
The reason that the pay of this corps is rated so high is, that the offices of it are extremely troublesome; and require men, worthy of trust, and of great activity, to execute them, who would not be tempted by a less recompence to undergo the drudgery and fatigue. It is also, necessary, the officers should have some rank to enable them to maintain a proper degree of respect and command; for which purpose, that of captain for the principal and Lieutenant for his assistants will be sufficient. The intention of the corps requires, that the whole should be on horseback, armed and accoutred in the same manner as light horsemen. And as there is a necessity for good men to be employed in this service, who cannot well be enlisted, they ought to be drafted from the brigades.
The business of this corps is to watch over the good order and regularity of the army, in camp quarters, or on a march—to silence all quarrels, tumults, and riots, detect and hinder every species of marauding,—prevent straggling and other unsoldierlike licenses among the troops—to apprehend spies, or persons whose not being able to give a good account of themselves may render them suspicious,—to establish and inforce good regulations among the suttlers, who should therefore be subject to the rules prescribed them by the grand provost, and of whom he is to keep a register, frequently inspecting their conduct, and seeing that the articles, they offer for sale, are good in quality and at reasonable prices. These, and many other particulars, are comprehended in the duties of the Provost Marshalcy; in the execution of which, continual patroles must be kept up, day and night throughout the limits of the camp and its environs.
There are many little crimes and disorders, incident to soldiery, which require immediate punishment, and which from the multiplicity of them, if referred to Court Martials, would create endless trouble, and often escape proper notice. These, when soldiers are detected in the fact, by the provost-marshals, they ought to have a power to punish on the spot, subject to proper limitations, and to such regulations as the commander-in-chief, according to the customs and usages of war, shall from time to time introduce.
Before I conclude this head, I shall recur a moment to the subject of altering, the establishment of a battalion, in the manner proposed under the preceding. Notwithstanding a company of light infantry is added to it, there will be a considerable reduction of officers, by having only two instead of three subalterns to a company; and this reduction will be greatly increased, if intire regiments are disbanded and the fighting part of the staff taken from the line, not left separate and distinct as heretofore. It becomes an object of inquiry what is to be done with these reduced officers: To turn them adrift, without some provision, though they insist on the privilege, whenever it suits them to continue no longer in it, of relinquishing the service, wears at least the appearance of hardship, if not of injury; and would, no doubt, be a subject of clamor and complaint with them all. With some, who may have provided, and lain themselves out for a military life, it would be perhaps a real grievance I see but one method of obviating the embarrassments on this score and that not altogether unexceptionable. It is to be presumed and fervently to be wished, that every battalion retained in service, will be officered by Gentlemen of the most deserving characters and best military qualifications in it, and that can be selected from other corps belonging to the same state, which may happen to be dissolved, if any are.—After this, should there remain any worthy officers, unprovided for, and that cannot be disposed of in some useful capacity, they may be held on half pay, if not too numerous ’till vacancies, should occur in the line of their own States. Others may be dismissed with an allowance of land proportioned to their several ranks.
Among the complicated causes of complaint, in this army, none seems to have taken deeper root, nor to have given more general dissatisfaction than the lavish distribution of rank. No error can be more pernicious, than that of dealing out rank, with too prodigal a hand. The inconveniences of it are manifest: It lessens the value and splendor of it, in some measure degrades it into contempt, breeds jealousies and animosities and takes away one of the most powerful incitements to emulation.
To avoid this evil in future, it is proposed, that such of the staff as are entitled to it and ought to be commissioned, should be taken from the line. For instance, the Adjutant, Quarter Master and Pay Master of each regiment to be chosen from the regiment, they are to serve in; the two first from the subalterns, the other from the subalterns, or captains according to the fitness of the person. Each of these to enjoy double pay, but to hold no other rank than he is vested with, by his station in the line, in which he is regularly to rise; the adjutant and quarter master ceasing to be such, when they arrive at the rank of Captain, and the pay master when he attains to that of major. The Brigade-major and brigade Quarter Master to be officers from the brigade, not exceeding the rank of Captain and to resign those offices when they obtain a majority. The future appointments of Aid-de-camps to the Major and Lieutenant Generals to be from the line, and they * * * to hold no other ranks, than their commissions there give them a claim to. But as many good officers are now acting in this capacity, to the former, who originally belonged to the line, and have at this time no appointments there, the rule ought to have no retrospective operation with regard to those already created; who ought upon every principle to preserve their present rank.
The Secretaries and Aid de Camps to the commander in chief ought not to be confined to the line for plain and obvious reasons. The number which the nature and extent of his business require, in addition to the many drawn from the line to fill the different offices of the staff, when it is considered, that they ought all to be men of abilities, may seem too large a draft upon the line. But a consideration still more forcible is, that in a service so complex as ours, it would be wrong and detrimental to restrict the choice; the vast diversity of objects, occurrences and correspondencies, unknown in one more regular and less diffusive constantly calling for talents and abilities of the first rate; men, who possess them, ought to be taken, wherever they can be found. With respect to their rank, those who are now in the station, ought in every point of view to retain that, which they now hold: some of them have been acting in these capacities a considerable length of time, others who quitted the line of the army to come into them, would in the common course of promotion have been at least as high as they now are, and almost all of them have been in the service, from an early period of the war; in future those who happen to be from the army, ought only to hold their rank in it; and rise, in course, like others in a similar predicament: it is submitted whether those taken out of it ought to have any rank, and, if any, what; also what shall be the pay in both cases.
The Quarter Master General and Adjutant General, as they fill places of the highest trust and importance, and ought to be Gentlemen of the first military characters, should, if not of the line, have rank conferred upon them, and not less, than that of Colonel.
As it does not require military men to discharge the duties of Commissioners, Forage Masters and Waggon Masters, who are also looked upon as the money making part of the army, no rank should be allowed to any of them, nor indeed to any in the departments, merely of a civil nature. Neither is it, in my opinion proper, though it may seem a trivial and inconsequential circumstance, that they should wear the established uniforms of the army, which ought to be considered as a badge of military distinction.
These regulations will add weight and dignity to the fighting part of the army, render commissions valuable, and bringing rank into the estimation it ought to bear, will make it a stimulus to bravery and enterprize. At the same time, they will ease the public of a present, and, in case of half pay, of a considerable future expense.
In speaking of rank as a spur to enterprize, I am led, by the way, to hint an idea, which may be improved and turned to no small advantage. This is the institution of honorary rewards, differing in degree, to be conferred on those, who signalize themselves, by any meritorious actions, in proportion to the magnitude and brilliancy of the atchievement. These should be sacred to the purpose of their institution, and unattainable by loose recommendations, or vague, though arrogating pretensions:—given only upon authentic vouchers of real desert, from some proper board.—Congress have already adopted the idea, in particular instances; but it were to be wished, it could be extended to something more general and systematic. I have not sufficiently employed my thoughts upon the subject to digest them into a proposition, as to the nature, variety and extent of these rewards; but I would in general, observe, that they may consist in things of very little cost, or real value, and that the more diversified they are,—the better. If judiciously and impartially administered they would be well calculated to kindle that emulous love of glory and distinction, to which may be imputed far the greater part of the most illustrious exploits performed among mankind, and which is peculiarly necessary to be cherished and cultivated in a military life.
Irregular promotions have also been a pregnant source of uneasiness, discord and perplexity in this army. They have been the cause of numerous bickerings and resignations among the officers, and have occasioned infinite trouble and vexation to the Commander in Chief. To rectify mistakes introduced by accident, inadvertency, the interference of State appointments, or other means, employed much of the time of the General officers, in the course of last campaign, and to less purpose than could be wished. We find, that however injuriously to the rights of others, an officer obtains irregular promotion, he is not the less tenacious of it; but it is with the utmost difficulty, if at all, he can be convinced of the propriety of doing an act of justice by abandoning his claim; though he will confess there was no just cause in the first instance, for giving him the preference. But as it did happen, he pretends his honor would be wounded, by suffering another, who is, in fact, his inferior to come over him, not considering how much that other was injured by the act, which gave him the superiority.
This, however shows how indispensably necessary it is, to have some settled rule of promotion universally known and understood and not to be deviated from, but for obvious and incontestible reasons. Extraordinary promotions founded upon acknowledged worth on the one hand and acknowledged demerit on the other, would rather excite emulation than murmurs. The prospect of not being shackled to the tedious gradations of ordinary succession, would teach the good officer to aspire to an excellence, that should entitle him to more rapid preferment; and the fear of being superseded, with dishonor, would teach indifferent ones to exert more activity, diligence and attention than they otherwise would; were they left in a listless security, certain of enjoying the honor and emoluments of progressive rank, let their conduct be ever so undeserving. But this is a matter that ought to be handled with the utmost caution and delicacy. Nothing is more alarming and prejudicial than an injudicious infraction of rank. It discourages merit and foments discontent, and disorder. No departure from the established maxims of preferment is warrantable which is not founded upon the most apparent and unequivocal reasons.
With respect to the rule of promotion, proper to be observed; as I believe it to be consistent with the general sense and sentiment of the army, I would propose:—
That promotion should be regimental to the rank of Captain inclusively:—and from that, in the line of the state of the rank of Brigadier, inclusively; proceeding from that, in the line of the army at large.
The reason that promotions in the line of a State end with the Brigadier, and are extended from that to the line of the army, is, that, though the principle of having regard to the proportion of troops furnished by each state, in the appointments of general officers be in the main equitable and politic; yet the end proposed from it, will be sufficiently answered by limiting it to the creation of Brigadiers. If carried further, it will be injurious and become an incurable source of inquietude and disgust. When once a man is made a general officer, his circle of expectation widens, and he transfers his views from the line of his state to the line at large. He looks for promotion according to his seniority in the scale of general officers, and will not brook being overleaped by his juniors and inferiors, merely because he had the ill fortune to enter the service of his country, in a smaller, or less populous State than they. These feelings and sentiments are universal and we have already in some instances, experienced their operation.
As four regiments, in the arrangement proposed, are required to constitute a Brigade and some states send less than that number to the field, a mode should be fallen upon to place this matter upon determinate principles, so as to prevent disputes hereafter. At present no difficulty can arise; because all the States, Delaware excepted, have Brigadiers; but time and accident may remove these, and give rise to contention unless some rule is previously fixed and declared.
It appears to me absolutely essential that Congress, the board of war, or some other body, or person, should exercise the sole power, when once the states have sent their regiments into the field, of giving and receiving commissions, filling vacancies and the like. If this should not be the case, I fear, the confusion will be endless. Erroneous promotions will probably be made, as heretofore, commissions antedated, officers dissatisfied, time lost in transmitting returns from one end of the Continent to the other, and waiting the arrangements upon them, the wheels of the whole machine, in consequence clogged and disordered, and infinite trouble incurred in putting them to rights again.
Of Cloathing the Army.
In regard to cloathing, experience has evinced, that the mode of providing hitherto in practice is by no means adequate to the end; and that unless, our future efforts are more effectual, it will be next to impossible to keep an army in the field. I am in hopes, that valuable consequences, will accrue from a resolution of Congress of the 22d of November, directing, “That the several States from time to time, exert their utmost endeavours to procure, in addition to the allowances of cloathing heretofore made by Congress, supplies of blankets &c. for the comfortable subsistence of the officers and soldiers of their respective batalions.”
As this puts the business into a greater variety of hands, than it has heretofore been in, and under the providence of a more diffusive attention, besides exciting a laudable rivalship, and operating upon the attachments of the different states,—it will probably be not a little instrumental in bringing us the needed supplies. But it is not an expedient that can be relied on altogether; of which, I doubt not, Congress are fully sensible and will only consider it as an auxiliary to their exertions. Indeed with several states, which happen to be more, or less the theatres of the war, and labor under other local impediments, it would be impracticable to furnish, but a very small part of their proportion.
For my own part, (with all deference I speak it) I have little conception that our extensive wants can be completely satisfied, in any other way, than by national or governmental contracts, between Congress and the Court of France. If we are to depend wholly upon the resources of our mercantile credit, they must from the nature of things, be too limited and contingent. While the seas are crowded with the British navy, and no foreign maritime power is employed in the protection of our trade; the precariousness of remittances from this Continent must be so great, as to destroy or at least, sicken our commercial credit, and make it neither the interest nor within the abilities of private individuals to adventure so largely upon that foundation, as our necessities demand.
It is not in my power to judge with certainty what terms we may be upon with the French Court, what may have been already attempted, or may be now negociating, in the matter here suggested. Perhaps the project of our national contracts is not practicable, but if it is, it would certainly be our interest to embrace it. Besides placing our supplies, in so essential an article, on a sure and unfailing foundation, it would cement the connexion between the two countries, and, if discovered, prove a new and powerful topic of hostility between France and Britain. At the same time I do not think, that the fear of a discovery, from an unwillingness on the part of France, to force on an immediate war, supposing it to exist, need be any insuperable obstacle. Things might be conducted, in such an indirect and discreet manner, as to make them go on, in all appearance, as they do at present, and render a detection of the part the government bore in the affair, morally impossible.
The resolution, before cited, recommends to the respective states, the appointment “of one or more persons to dispose of the articles (procured) to the officers and soldiers in such proportions as the General officers from the respective states, commanding in the army, shall direct, and at such reasonable prices as shall be assessed by the Clothier-General or his deputy and be in just proportion to the wages of the officers and soldiers, charging the surplus to the cost of the United States”; “adding that all cloathing hereafter to be supplied to the officers and soldiers of the continental army out of the public stores of the United States beyond the bounties already granted, shall be charged at the like prices.”—The regulation contained in this clause is very wholesome, generous and equitable: It will give great satisfaction to the army, and conduce to removing the difficulties stated in the first section of these remarks, arising from the insufficiency of the present provision for officers. Nor do I know whether it admits of any improvement, by being made more definite. As the criterion of reasonableness in the prices seems to lie with the Clothier-General, or deputy, it may, perhaps be liable to uncertainty and abuse, and may be the subject of dispute between them and the officers. If, to prevent this, a catalogue of rates could be established as the standard, it would be desireable, but perhaps, the great difference and variety in the quality and kinds, of goods, may not admit of such a measure.
It will, of course, be necessary for each state to have agents for importing and purchasing goods, towards its quota, of supplies; and the Clothier General should have a deputy in every state, for purchasing all over plus articles wanted in his department, “provided that effectual measures be taken by each state for preventing any competition between their agents or the Clothier General and his agents, who are severally directed to observe the instructions of the respective states, relative to the prices of cloathing purchased within such state.”1 There should also be a sub clothier or clerk from every state, constantly with the army; to receive and distribute the cloathing, see that the goods brought correspond with the invoices, and that the issues are made conformable to some general rule established to do justice to the public, to regiments and to individuals.
The rule, I would propose for issuing and distributing cloathing is this: That the captains of companies in the first place give certificates, containing the names of his men, with the particular wants of each:—That these be digested into a regimental return, signed by the officer commanding the regiment; That the pay master draw the cloathing, lodging the regimental return, so signed, with the Clothier as a voucher for the delivery, who is to keep an account with the regiment for the same; That the pay master, retaining the certificates for his own government, distribute the cloathing to the men, agreeable to them, taking their receipts and keeping an exact account with every individual, which he can easily do, as he is supposed to have accounts open for their monthly pay: And, that all cloathing, delivered to the men, be given credit for in the pay rolls, with accounts, signed by the sub clothiers annexed, for the information of the Pay Master General.
To make soldiers look well and bestow proper attention and care upon their cloaths, they ought to receive them at stated periods. This gives a taste for decency, and uniformity and makes the officers regardful of the appearance of the men; a matter of no small moment in an army, as tending to promote health, and foster a becoming pride of dress, which raises soldiers in their own esteem and makes them respectable to their enemy.
The periods I would fix upon for delivery, are on the first days of June and January. In June should be given a waistcoat with sleeves, flannel, if to be had, two pair of linnen overalls, one shirt, a black stock of hair, or leather, a small round hat bound and a pair of shoes. In January, a waistcoat to be worn over the former, close in the skirts and double breasted, resembling a sailor’s—, to have a collar and cuff of a different color, in order to distinguish the regiment, a pair of breeches, woolen overalls, yarn stockings, shirt, woolen cap, and a blanket when really necessary. Watch coats ought if possible, to be provided for sentinels. Whatever might be furnished more than these, the soldier ought to have stopped out of his pay, upon the terms fixed by Congress, in their late resolve; a list of the cloathing to be kept by the commanding officer of each company, an inspection into them made at least once a week, and punishment inflicted or restitution made for every article missing, unless well accounted for. If it could be done which is much to be doubted, it would be well to discriminate the troops of each state—by the color of their cloaths and each regiment by that of the collar and cuff.
If this plan could be adopted and a quantity of supernumerary articles laid in, for occasional demands, our men would appear infinitely better, be much healthier, and the army a great deal stronger, than it commonly is.
The Clothier-General ought to be authorized and directed to enter into contracts, for as large quantities as possible of shoes and stockings to be manufactured in the Country. These are articles, that can least be dispensed with, and the deficiency of which we have most severely felt.—A Mr. Henry, of Lancaster, I am told, would contract for one or two hundred thousand pair of shoes, annually, to be paid for in raw hides. The number of cattle killed for the consumption of the army enable us to make this contract to great advantage.
Of the Quarter Master General’s Department.
In this department are comprehended Forage Masters, Waggon masters, artificers, &c., with all their appendages. It is a department of great trust and magnitude, on the due administration of which all the operations of an army essentially depend. The person who fills it ought to be a military character—a man of abilities of business and activity, well versed in the resources of the country and of sufficient prudence and rectitude, to exercise his office, in drawing the necessary supplies, in a manner, least distressing to the inhabitants.
His duty requiring him to be almost constantly with the army, to see and know its wants, superintend the movements of his department in the different branches, and to prevent or rectify the abuses that may be creeping into it,—he will stand in need of assistants, to execute the business, abroad under his direction. It is not easy to ascertain the number of these assistants, that will be requisite; circumstances vary and must govern. But I cannot forbear observing, that some measures ought to be taken to restrain that extravagant rage of deputation, now too prevalent among us. It has served to create a number of mere sinecures, and to render the execution of every office more perplexed, more expensive and less satisfactory than formerly, both to the army and country.
I should imagine, that a great part of the business of this department might be managed by contracts with people capable of performing them and bound by sufficient securities. This would unburthen the public of large sums now paid in stationary wages, often for temporary purposes, and would perhaps answer the end of supplies better. Standing wages are very apt to beget indolence and inattention, and commonly continue an incumbrance, when the cause that gave rise to appointments ceases to exist, from the difficulty of throwing off the persons to whom they were given; on which account they ought to be avoided, whenever any point can be effected without them.
I am, also unacquainted with the number of persons the Quarter Master General may find it necessary to employ in camp or elsewhere as store keepers clerks and the like; but under the NA of these remarks I have given my opinion of all the Assistant Quarter Masters required in the subordinate duties of the office in camp. More than these should not be allowed. Division Quarter Masters, Forage Masmasters and Waggon Masters should be abolished.
Who may be in contemplation to fill the place of Quarter Master General is as yet to me unknown, and equally indifferent, provided he be a fit person. But in making the appointment, not a moment’s time should be lost. The least procrastination will be extremely prejudicial as the season is already far advanced, which we ought to be improving in preparations for the next campaign. Every thing is to be done;—the old waggons to be repaired, new ones provided, horses and pack saddles procured, Bell tents for arms and tents for the men, haversacks and knapsacks made, tools of different kinds prepared, and artificers and waggoners engaged.
And here I shall take occasion to declare, that however inconvenient it may be to the Quarter Masters to provide or expensive to the public to pay for waggoners, it ought, nevertheless, at all events, to be done. Soldiers are drafted for waggoners and many other purposes, by which their services in the line are entirely superseded, while they actually compose a part of our numbers, and appear on the returns to compose part of our strength. This may be tolerated in quarters or in a season of inaction, though even then the soldiers would be better employed in learning the duties of their profession; but it ought not to be submitted to in the progress of the campaign, as has been of late the invariable practice.
Several new regulations, will I believe be necessary in the Forage department, the particulars of which, the Gentlemen at the head of it will be best able to point out.
One thing I shall observe, that the manner of paying the Forage Master has been a subject of discussion. It has been suggested that the allowing a commission instead of a fixed determinate pay, opens a wide door to fraud, and peculation. In mentioning this not the least insinuation is intended to the prejudice of the gentleman, now acting in this capacity, it is merely hinted, as a matter worth consideration on general principles.—I think however, it may be safely asserted, that the assistant forage masters are not in general so accurate as they ought to be, in receiving or delivering forage, and that depending too much upon the farmer’s reports and their own conjectures the public pays for much more than they receive.
We have to lament that we are suffering exceedingly from a scarcity of forage; an article not less essential to the well being of an army, than that of provisions. Should we be able to shift through the winter, this want will be no small obstacle and delay to our operations in the spring; especially as we are exhausting the small stock now on the spot, which will probably be the immediate scene of them. We have numbers of horses dying dayly for the want of provender; what then must become of them, when it grows scarcer and the distance to fetch it greater? How are magazines to be formed, under these circumstances? And without magazines how are our horses to be supported in the early part of the next campaign; when their number shall be greatly augmented. These are serious questions, not easy of solution, and are proposed that every exertion may be made to avert an evil of no small consequence.
A waggon Master General is a necessary officer, and there would be a great saving to the public, if the duties of the office were discharged by an active careful man, who would make a judicious choice of deputies, and not be himself above his business, as has been the case with most of those heretofore in this line. They have been apt to indulge fantastical notions of rank and importance; and assume titles very inapplicable to their stations; which have served to destroy a great part of their usefulness; and make them the objects of general contempt, and resentment. This inconvenience must be obviated in future by allowing no rank to any of them, from the highest to the lowest.
The number of assistants requisite cannot be precisely ascertained, as it must depend upon the number of waggons. There must be one to each brigade to superintend the baggage waggons; but how many will be wanted to take the charge of forage, provisions and for a variety of other purposes, I am at a loss to judge. This must be left to the quarter master general, of whose department, this is a branch, and to the waggon master General, who is the immediate agent. One deputy however to every twenty waggons appears to me fully sufficient.
The men employed in this capacity should be plain, sober, diligent men, acquainted with the management of horses and waggons, and untainted with absurd fancies of gentility; who would understand the end and design of their appointment, and not consider the means of making themselves useful, as a degradation of their imaginary dignity.
I shall close this head with an observation on the mode hitherto in practice of estimating and paying, for damages done by the army in quarters, or in the field; which appears to me objectionable, on several accounts. The payments have usually been made, on certificates of appraisement by farmers or other persons in the neighborhood of the parties injured—chosen by themselves and whenever the accounts were presented and there was money in hand to pay them. This mode is unequal and gives the injured party an evident advantage over the public; and has no doubt in many instances been attended with gross impositions. Besides this defect, it would probably promote the service and be productive of more regularity, if a fixed time was appointed, when these payments should be made. There would not be such frequent large drafts upon the Quarter Master, in the most active part of a campaign, when he wants money for more pressing exigencies, and the entries of his disbursements might be made with more order and exactness if these were deferred to a time of greater leisure. It is submitted in the first place whether the appointment of two, or more persons would not be proper to accompany the army, constantly, for the purpose of ascertaining damages, with a like number of persons chosen by the party interested; whose certificates should be a sufficient justification to the Quarter Master, for paying them; and in the second place, what time or times would be proper to satisfy demands of this nature. Perhaps two different periods would be best, both in the interval of tranquility,—one a little after the entrance of the army into Winter Quarters, and the other just before the opening of the campaign.
Of the Commissary’s department.
This department has been all along in a very defective and for some time in a very deplorable situation. One important change has already taken place, in it; since which it has been with the utmost difficulty we were able to keep the army together. Whether this proceeded from the revolution being ill-timed, or too great, from the difficulties in the way, of executing the office being multiplied, or from the present gentleman at the head of it, not having yet had leisure to digest his plan and form his connexions,—I shall not undertake to determine. But unless a very considerable alteration shortly takes place I see no prospect of adequate supplies for the succeeding campaign. To attempt supplying the army from hand to mouth (if I may be allowed the phrase) scarcely ever having more than two or three days provisions before hand, and sometimes being as much in arrears, is a dangerous and visionary experiment. We shall ever be liable to experience want in the most critical junctures, as we have frequently done heretofore; and to suspend or forego the most interesting movements on account of it. Whether the first establishment of this department—the present—or the mode of supplying the army by contract at certain stipulated rates, be preferable, is a question not for me to decide, though well worth a strict and candid examination. But I shall not scruple in explicit terms to declare, that unless ample magazines are laid up in the course of this winter and the approaching spring, nothing favorable is to be looked for, from the operations of the next campaign; but our arms, enfeebled by the embarrassments of irregular and fluctuating supplies of provisions will reap no other fruits than disgrace and disappointment. To obviate this, no possible exertion should be omitted; the ablest and best qualified men in the several states, whence provisions are drawn, should be called forth to aid in the matter,—such as are acquainted with the resources of the country and may have been conversant in business of the kind.
The choosing of fit places for magazines in defensive war, is equally momentous and difficult. Expence and hazard are naturally incident to them; because the possible movements of an enemy must ever be conjectural and it is precarious when, where, and often, how they are to be removed. According to present appearances, magazines any where in the rear of the army from Lancaster to the North River would not be amiss, and the more numerous they are, the better; as their multiplicity, decreasing the importance of each, would leave no one a sufficient object of enterprize; enhance the trouble of destroying them, and lessen the labor and expence of forming them in the first instance.
Whether the Commissaries should be dependent upon the Quarter masters for teams, or be empowered to provide for themselves, is a matter they can perhaps best settle between themselves. But it is necessary they should come to some agreement, or determination upon the subject, to remove the inconveniences hitherto incurred on this score; the commissaries having frequently imputed the deficiency of supplies to a want of the means of transportation.
It is a point of prodigious consequence and in which we have been amazingly deficient that vinegar, vegetables, and soap should be regularly, and abundantly furnished to the army; nothing contributing more than this to the health, comfort and contentment of soldiers. Certainly there are no insurmountable obstacles to doing it; and if not, no pains should be spared to accomplish so valuable an end.
A ration should be more precisely defined than it now is, and the quantity of spirituous liquors allowed the soldier, fixed. It should also be considered whether any and what quantity should be allowed officers at the public expence; at all events the Commissaries should be obliged to provide for them, if at their own charge, as they would otherwise have no opportunity of getting it, and in the hard and fatiguing service they pass through, it is indispensable, even to the most temperate men.
Of the Hospital department.
There ever have been, and, I fear will continue difficulties and imperfections in this department. What they are particularly, or whence arising, it is not in my power minutely to enter into, as I have neither had leisure nor opportunity to examine its present constitution with a critical eye. One powerful reason, no doubt, of its not producing so fully the advantages to be hoped for, from it, is the extreme scarcity of proper supplies for the accommodation of the sick.
But one thing, which has had a very pernicious influence, is the continual jealousies and altercation, subsisting between the hospital and regimental surgeons, they seem always to be at variance, and recriminating the sufferings of the sick upon each other. The regimental surgeons complain, that for want of medicines and other necessaries, they are disabled from giving that assistance in slight cases, and in the first stages of more dangerous complaints, which would serve to check their progress to maturity and save the lives of the soldiery. The hospital surgeons reply, that their stores are incapable of bearing the excessive drafts, which the profusion and carelessness of the regimental surgeons, would make upon them, if indulged in their demands.
I shall not attempt to decide the merits of this dispute, nor can I conceive any adequate mode of adjusting the difference. But one would imagine, it might not be impossible, to fix some general rule of allowance, by which the supplies to regimental surgeons might be regulated; and to make them accountable for the right and œconomical application of what they received.
At all events, as the accommodation of the sick and the preservation of men’s lives are the first and great objects to be consulted; the regimental surgeons ought not to be destitute of a reasonable quantity of medicines and other conveniences, of which the sick stand in need. The ill effects of it are many and glaring. Either men, at every slight indication of disease, must be sent away to distant hospitals, and the army unnecessarily deprived of the services of numbers, who, if the means were at hand, might in a day or two be restored; or they must remain without proper assistance till their diseases confirm themselves, and with regard to many, get beyond the power of cure.
Other ill consequences, that have attended the sending so many men away to a distance from the army, are desertions, and the waste of arms and cloathing; for which reasons it ought to be avoided as much as possible. To prevent these evils, as far as it can be done, a field officer is stationed at each hospital to see the arms of the soldiers, carefully deposited at their admission into it, take care of them in their convalescent state, and send them on to join their regiments, under proper officers, so soon as they are fit for duty.
Of the Pay Master General’s Department.
This department is well conducted so far as depends upon the Gentleman at the head of it; but the want of money, which too frequently happens, is extremely injurious to our affairs. It is unnecessary to observe, that besides feeding and cloathing a soldier well, nothing is of greater importance than paying him with punctuality, and it is perhaps more essential in our army, than in any other, because our men are worse supplied, and more necessitous and the notions of implicit subordination, not being as yet, sufficiently, ingrafted among them, they are more apt to reason upon their rights, and readier to manifest their sensibility of any thing that has the appearance of injustice to them; in which light they consider their being kept out of their pay, after it is due.—Nor does the evil end here; the inhabitants, who through choice, accident, or necessity have any pecuniary concerns with the army, finding themselves frequently disappointed in the payments they have a right to expect, grow dissatisfied and clamorous;—the credit of the army, and which is nearly the same thing, the credit of the continent is impaired—our supplies, of course, are impeded, and the price of every article we want, raised. This circumstance is not among the least causes of the depreciation of our currency.
Of the Commissary of Muster’s Departt.
The duties of this officer are, I believe, discharged with fidelity and care by the Gentleman at the head of it. No complaint has ever come to my ear, either of him, or his deputies.
Of the Commissary of Prisoners’ Departt.
The business of this department, as far as I am yet capable of judging is in good hands and going on a proper train.
Of Auditors of Accounts.
The want of such an institution has been much felt, and I am very happy it is at length adopted. The sooner the gentlemen appointed enter upon the execution of their office, the better, as much necessary business waits their regulating hand. The public has sustained a loss of many thousands, which might have been prevented, by the negligence, dishonesty, and death of numberless officers.
Having run through the different distributions of the army as composed of horse and foot, with all the departments depending thereon, and offered such remarks as occurred to me on the several subjects,—I proceed to the mention of two departments commonly considered as separate and distinct—the Artillery and Engineering.—
Of the Artillery Department.
This department, if the arrangements and measures in contemplation meet with proper countenance and support, bids fair to be upon a very respectable establishment. A plan was agreed upon not long since, between General Knox and myself, for the formation of four battalions, which was intended to be presented to Congress; that if approved by them, it might be recommended to the several States. It is now submitted to the consideration of the Committee.—
We have, at this time, three imperfect battalions of Artillery in the field, besides some detached companies, which have never been regularly incorporated. These together make 1370, including officers; to which, Harrison’s battalion of Virginia being added, would amount to 1970. The deficiency of the four battalions on this State, will be 910, which, it is proposed, should be raised by the different states agreeable to the following arrangement.
In the above are included all the officers except the Brigadier, field and staff officers; and, if completed would prevent the necessity, of the pernicious practice of drafting from the battalions.
General Knox communicated to me, more than two months ago an estimate of ordnance and ordnance stores; which he had prepared to send to the board of War, for the supplies of the next campaign, agreeable to their request. Nothing more is necessary than an enquiry what has been done in consequence.
I shall take the liberty in this place to give it as my opinion, that any arsenal or depositary of stores at Albany, in the present situation of the North River is improper. It would be too easily accessible and exceedingly liable to be surprized and destroyed. Indeed it ought to be a general rule to have every kind of magazines as far advanced into the interior parts of the country, and as remote from the sea-coast or from the sides of navigable rivers, as the nature and design of them will permit. We have seen the effects of not attending duly to this precaution.
Of the Engineering Department.
The Gentleman at the head of this department appears to be a man of science knowledge in his profession and zeal in the cause. He complains, that he has not assistant Engineers enough to execute the various duties of his office, and wishes for an augmentation of the number. He also proposes that three companies of workmen should be formed to be instructed in the fabrication of all kinds of field works, so far as relates to the manual and mechanical part, whose business it should be to teach the fatigue parties to execute the works with celerity, an exactness, which could not otherwise be expected from men entirely unpracticed in the matter. These companies, he would have to, consist of a Captain, three lieutenants, four serjeants, four corporals and sixty privates each:—the commissioned officers to be intelligent and skilled in some branches of the mathematics; the non-commissioned officers to be sober, sensible men and capable of writing a legible hand, and the whole corps to consist of men of good characters, of diligence and integrity. In consideration of these qualifications, and the extra duty, confinement and hazard they must encounter, being always foremost in danger to repair the injuries done any fortification by the enemy’s fire, and to prosecute works, in the face of it, the corps is to have extraordinary pay. This proposition appears reasonable and promises a degree of utility, that out weighs the cost.
These companies, if formed, are to be solely under the direction of the Chief Engineer and to have the care of all the intrenching tools of the army.
I shall now in the last place beg leave to subjoin a few matters, unconnected with the general subject of these remarks, or not recollected in their proper places, to which the attention of the Committee is requested.
What is to be done with the foreign officers, who have been commissioned and never designated to any particular command; and who cannot without displacing others, be brought into the line? Such of them as possess any competency of military knowledge, and are otherwise men of character, I have sometimes thought, if they understood enough of our language might be employed as Assistant Inspectors. At other times, I have judged it best, if practicable, to form them into a corps by themselves, but most of them being field officers, the difficulty of getting men for such a corps, unless deserters and prisoners were enlisted, (which I have ever looked upon as impolitic) appeared to me an insurmountable objection.
The enemy have set every engine at work against us, and have actually called savages, and even our own slaves to their assistance;1 —would it not be well to employ two or three hundred Indians against General Howe’s army the ensuing campaign? There is a Gentleman now in camp, who would I imagine, be able to bring half that number of Cherokees, and I should think, the Reverend Mr. Kirkland, might be able to influence a like number of the Northern tribes. Such a body of Indians joined by some of our woodmen would probably strike no small terror into the British and foreign troops, particularly the new comers. The good resulting from the measure, if these savages can be kept in the field at so great a distance from their native haunts—would more than compensate for the trouble and expence they might cost us.
Col. Morgan, when he left camp desired to know whether he might engage any good riflemen to serve during the next campaign in the light corps. He thinks he should be able to procure many, under assurances that they would serve with him, and be dismissed at the end of the campaign.
The difficulty of getting waggoners and the enormous wages given them would tempt one to try any expedient to answer the end on easier and cheaper terms. Among others it has occurred to me, whether it would not be eligible to hire negroes in Carolina, Virginia and Maryland for the purpose. They ought however to be freemen, for slaves could not be sufficiently depended on. It is to be apprehended they would too frequently desert to the enemy to obtain their liberty, and for the profit of it, or to conciliate a more favorable reception would carry off their waggon horses with them.
A resolve of Congress, of the 19th instant, provides that all continental officers, prisoners with the enemy either while in confinement with them or on parole among us “so long as they continue officers of the United States,” should be entitled to their pay and rations, liable to a deduction for what they may have received while present with the enemy; and that all flying camp or Militia officers should be entitled to the same while in confinement with them only. This resolve excluded from pay all officers liberated on parole, who have not actual appointments in the Continental Army;—will it not be deemed a hardship and injustice to such officers;—especially to those who merely from their absence have been neglected in arrangements posterior to their capture; as has been too much the case?—While they continue prisoners, whether in possession of the enemy or out on parole, they can have little opportunity of prosecuting any business for a livelihood, and must be in a distressful situation, unless they have a private fortune sufficient to maintain them.—
It has in many instances happened, that officers in captivity have been omitted in promotions made in their absence; upon which a question has arisen whether there should not be a restoration of rank, with respect to those who are men of merit. It seems but reasonable there should.—
Several new regulations will, I imagine be found useful in the articles of war; which the Judge Advocate, from his official experience of the deficiency, can more accurately indicate. One thing we have suffered much from, is the want of a proper gradation of punishments: the interval between a hundred lashes and death is too great and requires to be filled by some intermediate stages. Capital crimes in the army are frequent, particularly in the instance of desertion: actually to inflict capital punishment upon every deserter, or other heinous offender would incur the imputation of cruelty, and by the familiarity of the example, destroy its efficacy: on the other hand to give only a hundred lashes to such criminals is a burlesque on their crimes rather than a serious correction, and affords encouragement to obstinacy and imitation. The Courts are often in a manner compelled by the enormity of the facts to pass sentences of death, which I am as often obliged to remit, on account of the number in the same circumstances, and let the offenders pass wholly unpunished. This would be avoided, if there were other punishments short of the destruction of life, in some degree adequate to the crime: and which might be, with propriety substituted.1
Crimes too are so various in their complexions and degrees, that to preserve the just rule of proportions, there ought to be a gradual scale of punishments; in order to which, whipping should be extended to any number at discretion, or by no means, limited lower than five hundred lashes.
Upon the whole, Gentlemen, I doubt not you are fully impressed with the defects of our present military system, and the necessity of speedy and decisive measures, to put it upon a satisfactory footing. The disagreeable picture, I have given you, of the wants and sufferings of the army, and the discontents reigning among the officers, is a just representation of evils equally melancholy and important; and unless effectual remedies be applied without loss of time, the most alarming and ruinous consequences are to be apprehended. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO SIR WILLIAM HOWE.
Head-Quarters, 30 January, 1778.
I have duly received your letter of the 19th ultimo. It is unnecessary to enter minutely into its contents, since the enclosed resolutions of Congress will show you, that the matter is now put upon a footing different from that mentioned by Mr. Boudinot; which, at the same time, you will be pleased to consider as final and decisive, and to regulate your measures accordingly. I should be glad, as soon as possible, to be favored with your determination in consequence, especially on those parts numbered in the margin of the resolves; to which I must request a speedy and explicit answer.
There is one passage of your letter, which I cannot forbear taking particular notice of. No expression of personal politeness to me can be acceptable, accompanied by reflections on the representatives of a free people, under whose authority I have the honor to act. The delicacy I have observed, in refraining from every thing offensive in this way, entitled me to expect a similar treatment from you. I have not indulged myself in invective against the present rulers of Great Britain, in the course of our correspondence, nor will I even now avail myself of so fruitful a theme.
The quartermasters, permitted to go with the clothing, appeared to me sufficient for the purpose; for, though the prisoners are in different places, yet they lie chiefly on a direct communication. If upon any future occasion you should conceive a greater number requisite, you will inform me of it previously to their coming, and I shall be ready to comply, as far as I think myself justified. Whether your sending out more than one British quartermaster was an encroachment upon the spirit of the agreement between us, shall not now be matter of discussion. But can it be said there is any thing in it, that can reconcile the coming out of Captain McCleod? I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO HENRY LAURENS.
Valley Forge, 31 January, 1778.
I this morning received your favor of the 27th instant. I cannot sufficiently express the obligation I feel to you, for your friendship and politeness upon an occasion in which I am so deeply interested. I was not unapprized, that a malignant faction had been for some time forming to my prejudice; which, conscious as I am of having ever done all in my power to answer the important purposes of the trust reposed in me, could not but give me some pain on a personal account. But my chief concern arises from an apprehension of the dangerous consequences, which intestine dissensions may produce to the common cause.
As I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am unambitious of honors not founded in the approbation of my country, I would not desire in the least degree to suppress a free spirit of inquiry into any part of my conduct, that even faction itself may deem reprehensible. The anonymous paper handed to you exhibits many serious charges, and it is my wish that it should be submitted to Congress. This I am the more inclined to, as the suppression or concealment may possibly involve you in embarrassments hereafter, since it is uncertain how many or who may be privy to the contents.
My enemies take an ungenerous advantage of me. They know the delicacy of my situation, and that motives of policy deprive me of the defence I might otherwise make against their insidious attacks. They know I cannot combat their insinuations, however injurious, without disclosing secrets, which it is of the utmost moment to conceal. But why should I expect to be exempt from censure, the unfailing lot of an elevated station? Merit and talents, with which I can have no pretensions of rivalship, have ever been subject to it. My heart tells me, that it has been my unremitted aim to do the best that circumstances would permit; yet I may have been very often mistaken in my judgment of the means, and may in many instances deserve the imputation of error. I cannot forbear repeating, that I have a grateful sense of the favorable disposition you have manifested to me in this affair, and beg you will believe me to be, with sentiments of real esteem and regard, Sir, &c.
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
Valley Forge, February 1, 1778.
I will just write you a few lines in acknowledgment of your letter of the fourteenth ultimo, which was detained by the posts, not being able to cross Susquehanna, till the evening before last. I congratulate you upon the birth of another daughter, and Nelly’s good health; and heartily wish the last may continue, and the other be a blessing to you.
The money received for your land was, I think, well applied, unless you could have laid it out for other lands more convenient; which method I should have preferred, as land is the most permanent estate we can hold, and most likely to increase in its value. Your mamma is not yet arrived, but if she left Mount Vernon on the twenty sixth ultimo, as intended, may, I think, be expected every hour.1 Meade2 set off yesterday (as soon as I got notice of her intention) to meet her. We are in a dreary kind of place, and uncomfortably provided; for other matters I shall refer you to the bearer, Colonel Fitzgerald,1 who can give you the occurrences of the camp, &c., better than can be related in a letter. My best wishes attend Nelly and the little ones, and with sincere regard I am and shall ever remain, dear Sir, your most affectionate, &c.
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Head-Quarters, 2 February, 1778.
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 26th Ulto.
The recent detection of the wicked design you mention, gives me the most sensible pleasure; and I earnestly hope, that you may be alike successful in discovering and disappointing every attempt, which may be projected against you, either by your open or concealed enemies. It is a tax, however, severe, which all those must pay, who are called to eminent stations of trust, not only to be held up as conspicuous marks to the enmity of the public adversaries to their country, but to the malice of secret traitors, and the envious intrigues of false friends and factions.2
I am obliged to you for the interest you take in the affair of the two Hendricks and Meeker; and I have no doubt that the measures adopted are, considering all things, best.1 You are pleased to intimate, that you would take pleasure in recommending, at the approaching session of your Assembly, any hints from me respecting the army, by which your State can advance the general interest. I should be happy in offering any such in my power; but, as there is now in camp a committee of Congress to confer with me at large on the measures proper to be adopted in every respect for the benefit of the army, whatever shall be thought necessary to this end will, of course, be communicated to you by Congress. I am, &c.
TO PETER COLT.2
[7 February, 1778.]
The present situation of the army is the most melancholy that can be conceived. Our supplies of provisions of the flesh kind for some time past have been very deficient and irregular. A prospect now opens of absolute want, such as will make it impossible to keep the army much longer from dissolution, unless the most vigorous and effectual measures be pursued to prevent it.—Jersey, Pensylvania, and Maryland, are now intirely exhausted. All the Beef and Pork already collected in them, or that can be collected, will not by any means support the army one month longer. Further to the Southward some quantities of salt provisions have been procured; but if they were all on the spot they would afford but a very partial and temporary supply.—The difficulty of transportation is great; the distance will not allow it to be effected by land carriage; and the navigation up Chesapeak bay is interrupted by the enemy’s vessels, which makes it very precarious when we shall get any material relief from that quarter. To the Eastward only, can we turn our eyes with any reasonable hope of timely and adequate succor. If every possible exertion is not made use of there, to send us immediate and ample supplies of cattle, with pain I speak the alarming truth, no human efforts can keep the army from speedily disbanding.1
I have desired Col. Blaine to give you a just state of our situation, and to send an active man in his Department to you to hurry on to camp whatever cattle you may be able to purchase. I cannot forbear, so urgent is the necessity of the case, accompanying his representation by a similar one from myself. You are called upon by every motive, that ought to influence you in your official capacity and as a well wisher to the army, to strain every nerve and exert your utmost activity, towards affording us the assistance we indispensably stand in need of, and without a moment’s loss of time. I persuade myself you will duly consider the infinite importance of leaving nothing undone that may be in your power; and as I know the State of Connecticut abounds in the article we want, I flatter myself we shall not be left to feel the calamitous consequences with which we are now threatened. * * *
I am informed there are considerable quantities of Salt provisions laid up in New England; as it is inconvenient, tedious and extremely expensive to transport them to this army, I have directed General Putnam, to make use of them almost wholly for the troops under his command, and to let all the cattle that can be procured come on to us; which will be equally conducive to dispatch and economy. As far as this may Depend upon you, I should wish the rule to be strictly observed. I am, &c.
TO THOMAS NELSON, JR.
Valley Forge, Feby 8, 1778.
My dear Sir:
I have been favored with your letters of the 24th of Decemr and 20th ulto. and thank you for the several articles of intelligence contained in them. Although it is devoutly to be wished that soldiers could engage for three years or the war, yet I am persuaded it would not be consistent with good policy to attempt it at this time; consequently, that the plan of drafting for twelve months only is a wise measure. If the States would exert themselves, and Congress would bend their whole force to one point, the most satisfactory and decisive effects might I think result from it. But if they go to frittering their army into detachments, for the accomplishment of some local and less important purposes, the campaign will be wasted, and nothing decisive (on our part) attempted. It is our business to crush, if possible the army under Genl. Howe’s immediate command; this once done the branches of it fall of course, and without it the body will always afford nourishment to its members. My fear is, that Virginia, by attempting to do too much will do too little, or in other words by attempting to raise 5000 volunteers (which more than probable will not succeed) the drafts for your regiments will be impeded, and after all unless some vigorous exertions can be used to supply with provisions, men will avail little, for you can have no conception of our deficiency in this article.
It is with pain and grief I find, by your letter of the 20th ulto, that our countrymen are still averse to innoculation, especially when consequences, so apparently ill must result from it. The artillery and other regiments of infantry I was in hopes of seeing here as soon as the roads and weather should be a little settled, as they will want a little disciplining before the campaign opens to fit them for the purposes of it.
You gave me reason, my dear Sir, to believe, I shall see [you] at camp in the Spring. I should rejoice at it, or to hear of your being in Congress again, as I view with concern the departure of every gentleman of independent spirit from the grand American council.
Nothing of much importance has happened since my last. We have lost a good many men and horses by hard fare in our present quarters, but hope we have seen the worst, especially with respect to the first, as most of the men are now in tolerable good huts. Faction had begun to rear its head, but the heads of it unmasked, I believe, too soon. An expedition is also on foot against (rather into) Canada, which I am well persuaded is the child of folly, and must be productive of capital ills, circumstanced as our affairs are at present. But as it is the first fruit of our new Board of War, I did not incline to say any thing against it. Be so good as to present my respectful compliments to your lady, uncle and friends, and believe me to be with perfect esteem and regard, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
I was duly favored with your Letter of the 23d of last month, to which I should have replied sooner, had I not been delayed by business that required my more immediate attention.
It is my wish to give implicit credit to the assurances of every Gentleman; but in the subject of our present correspondence, I am sorry to confess, there happen to be some unlucky circumstances, which involuntarily compell me to consider the discovery you mention, not so satisfactory and conclusive as you seem to think it.
I am so unhappy as to find no small difficulty in reconciling the spirit and import of your different Letters, and sometimes of the different parts of the same Letter with each other. It is not unreasonable to presume, that your first information of my having notice of General Conway’s Letter came from himself; there were very few in the secret and it is natural to suppose, that, he being immediately concerned, would be most interested to convey the intelligence to you. It is also far from improbable that he acquainted you with the substance of the passage communicated to me. One would expect this, if he believed it to be spurious, in order to ascertain the imposition and evince his innocence; especially as he seemed to be under some uncertainty, as to the precise contents of what he had written, when I signified my knowledge of the matter to him.—If he neglected doing it, the omission cannot easily be interpreted into any thing else, than a consciousness of the reality of the extract, if not literally, at least substantially. If he did not neglect it, it must appear somewhat strange that the forgery remained so long undetected, and that your first letter to me from Albany of the 8th of December, should tacitly recognize the genuineness of the paragraph in question; while your only concern at that time seemed to be “the tracing out the author of the infidelity, which put extracts from Genl. Conway’s Letter into my hands.”
Throughout the whole of that letter the reality of the extracts is by the fairest implication allowed and your only solicitude is to find out the person that brought them to light. After making the most earnest pursuit of the author of the supposed treachery, without saying a word about the truth or falsehood of the passage; your Letter of the 23d Ulto. to my great surprise, proclaims it “in words as well as in substance a wicked forgery.”
It is not my intention to contradict this assertion but only to intimate some considerations, which tend to induce a supposition, that though none of General Conway’s letters to you contained the offensive passage mentioned, there might have been something in them too nearly related to it, that could give such an extraordinary alarm. It may be said, if this were not the case, how easy in the first instance, to have declared there was nothing exceptionable in them, and to have produced the letters themselves in support of it? This may be thought the most proper and effectual way of refuting misrepresentation and removing all suspicion.—The propriety of the objections suggested against submitting them to inspection, may very well be questioned. “The various reports circulated concerning their contents,” were, perhaps, so many arguments for making them speak for themselves, to place the matter upon the footing of certainty. Concealment in an affair which had made so much noise, tho’ not by my means, will naturally lead men to conjecture the worst; and it will be a subject of speculation, even to candor itself. The anxiety and jealousy you apprehended from revealing the Letter, will be very apt to be increased by suppressing it.
It may be asked, why not submit to inspection a performance perfectly harmless, and, of course, conceived in terms of proper caution and delicacy? Why supposed that “anxiety and jealousy would have arisen in the breasts of very respectable officers, or that they would have been unnecessarily disgusted at being made sensible of their faults, when related with judgement and impartiality by a candid Observer?” Surely they could not have been unreasonable enough to take offence at a performance so perfectly inoffensive, “blaming actions rather then persons,” which have evidently no connexion with one another, and indulgently “recording the errors of inexperience.”
You are pleased to consider General Conway’s Letters as of a confidential nature; observing that “time and circumstances must point out the propriety or impropriety of communicating such Letters.” Permit me to inquire whether, when there is an impropriety in communicating, it is only applicable with respect to the parties, who are the subjects of them:—One might be led to imagine this to be the case from your having admitted others into the secret of your confidential correspondence, at the same time that you thought it ineligible it should be trusted to those “officers, whose actions underwent its scrutiny.” Your not knowing whether the Letter, under consideration, “came to me from a Member of Congress, or from an officer,” plainly indicates that you originally communicated it to at least one of that honorable body; and I learn from General Conway, that before his late arrival at York Town, it had been committed to the perusal of several of its members, and was afterwards shown by himself to three more. It is somewhat difficult to conceive a reason, founded in generosity, for imparting the free and confidential strictures of that ingenious censor, on the operations of the Army, under my command, to a member of Congress; but perhaps “time and circumstances pointed it out.”—It must indeed be acknowledged, that the faults of very respectable officers, not less injurious for being the result of inexperience, were not improper topics to engage the attention of members of Congress.
It is however greatly to be lamented, that this adept in military science did not employ his abilities in the progress of the campaign, in pointing out those wise measures, which were calculated to give us “that degree of success we might reasonably expect.” The United States have lost much from that unseasonable diffidence, which prevented his embracing the numerous opportunities he had in Council, of displaying those rich treasures of knowledge and experience, he has since so freely laid open to you.—I will not do him the injustice to impute the penurious reserve which ever appeared in him upon such occasions to any other cause than an excess of modesty; neither will I suppose he possesses no other merit than of that after kind of sagacity, which qualifies a man better for profound discoveries of errors, that have been committed, and advantages that have been lost, than for the exercise of that foresight and provident discernment which enable him to avoid the one and anticipate the other.—But, willing as I am to subscribe to all his pretensions and to believe that his remarks on the operations of the campaign were very judicious, and that he has sagaciously descanted on many things that might have been done, I can not help being a little sceptical as to his ability, to have found out the means of accomplishing them, or to prove the sufficiency of those in our possession. These minutiæ, I suspect, he did not think worth his attention, particularly as they might not be within the compass of his views.—
Notwithstanding the hopeful presages, you are pleased to figure to yourself of General Conway’s firm and constant friendship to America, I cannot persuade myself to retract the prediction concerning him, which you so emphatically wish had not been inserted in my last. A better acquaintance with him, than I have reason to think you have had from what you say, and a concurrence of circumstances, oblige me to give him but little credit for the qualifications of his heart; of which, at least, I beg leave to assume the privilege of being a tolerable judge. Were it necessary, more instances than one might be adduced from his behavior and conversation, to manifest that he is capable of all the malignity of detraction, and all the meanessess of intrigue, to gratify the absurd resentment of disappointed vanity, or to answer the purposes of personal aggrandizement and promote the interests of faction. I am, &c.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE.
The good people of the State of Pennsylvania, living in the vicinity of Philadelphia and near the Delaware River, having suffered much by the enemy’s carrying off their property, without allowing them any compensation, thereby distressing the inhabitants, supplying their own army, and enabling them to protract the cruel and unjust war that they are now waging against these States; and whereas, by recent intelligence, I have reason to expect that they intend making another grand forage into this country; it is of the utmost consequence, that the horses, cattle, sheep, and provender, (within fifteen miles west from the river Delaware, between the Schuylkill and the Brandywine,) be immediately removed to prevent the enemy from receiving any benefit therefrom, as well as to supply the present exigencies of the American army.
I do therefore authorize, empower, and command you forthwith to take, carry off, and secure, all such horses as are suitable for cavalry or for draft, and all cattle and sheep fit for slaughter, together with every kind of forage, for the use of this army, that may be found in the possession of any of the inhabitants within the aforesaid limits, causing certificates to be given to each person for the number, value, and quantity of the horses, sheep, cattle, and provender so taken. Notice will be given to the holders of such certificates by the commissary and quartermaster-general when and where they may apply for payment, that they may not be disappointed in calling for their money.
All officers, civil and military, commissaries and quartermasters, are hereby ordered to obey, aid, and assist you in this necessary business. All the provender on the islands between Philadelphia and Chester, which may be difficult of access, or too hazardous to attempt carrying off, you will immediately cause to be destroyed, giving direction to the officer or officers to whom this duty is assigned, to take an account of the quantity, together with the owners’ names as far as the nature of the service will admit. I am, Sir, &c.1
TO SIR WILLIAM HOWE.
Head-Quarters, 10 February, 1778.
I received yesterday the favor of your letter of the 5th instant.1 In answer to whatever it contains concerning General Burgoyne’s army, and the measures adopted relative to it, I have only to inform you, that this is a matter in which I have never had the least direction. It lies wholly with Congress; and the proposals you make on this head must be submitted to them. I have accordingly transmitted a copy of your letter, and shall be ready to forward to you any resolution they may take in consequence.
I shall omit animadverting on your observations with regard to the allowance and treatment to prisoners in your hands. It is a subject, which has been fully discussed in the progress of our correspondence; and the necessity of a further investigation is superseded, by your now meeting me on the ground I have so long wished. The powers under which I act are entirely derived from Congress, and must of course be subject to such modifications, as they may think proper according to circumstances to prescribe. But, holding myself fully authorized, by their instructions and intentions, to avail myself of the reasonable terms, you are at this time willing to adopt for the mutual relief of prisoners, I shall explicitly close with your propositions to the following effect;—“That an exchange of all prisoners now in our possession, officer for officer, soldier for soldier, and citizen for citizen, so far as number and rank will apply,” be carried into execution, as expeditiously as the nature of the case will admit, and without regard to any controverted point, which might prove an impediment to so desirable an end. And here, as I may not clearly understand your meaning, when you say,—“In the mean time I shall wait the arrival of the British officers, whom you have released upon their paroles, and shall without delay send an equal number to you in return,”—I take occasion to request, that you will be pleased to favor me with an explanation; whether you intend to consider such officers, on both sides, as still continuing under the obligation of a parole, or as absolutely exchanged in pursuance of the general cartel.1 I see no reason why an effectual exchange should not at once operate with respect to them.
I also agree, that two commissioners from me shall meet a like number from you, on the 10th day of March in Germantown, at the King of Prussia Tavern, at eleven in the forenoon, to adjust upon equitable terms the difference you mention, and such other matters as they may be severally empowered to determine.
With respect to a general settlement of accounts, as it comprehends points with which I have no authority to interfere, it is not in my power to concur in the measure you suggest for that purpose. I am under the necessity of referring it to the decision of Congress. Considering a general exchange as finally agreed on between us, I shall without delay order the prisoners in our hands to places in the vicinity of your different posts, as their respective situations may render most convenient; and shall give you notice as they arrive, that you may return a number equal to those sent in from time to time. I am, with due respect, Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL McDOUGALL.
Head Quarters,Valley Forge,
The Congress, so long ago as the 30th November last, directed me to have an inquiry into the causes of the losses of Fort Mifflin upon the Delaware, and Fort Montgomery upon Hudsons river. The peculiar situation of the army has hindered me from attending to this matter before this time. As most of the principal officers up the North River were immediately concerned in the defence of Fort Montgomery, or eventually so by being very near it, there cannot in my opinion be a sufficient number proper to compose a Court found upon the spot. It is therefore my intention to send three at least from this Army, and it is my wish that you should be one and act as president upon the occasion, if your health will permit you to attend. I shall therefore be glad to hear from you upon the subject, that, I may either proceed to fill up the commission for you, or appoint another, if your health should not be sufficiently established to go thro’ the Business. It is my wish to have this inquiry carried on, not only in obedience to the Resolve of Congress, but for other reasons, which I need not explain to you. It is besides impatiently expected by the Gentlemen in the State of New York, who are in hopes that some beneficial consequences will result from it. You are particularly well acquainted with many circumstances relating to the situation of matters in that quarter and therefore more capable of conducting the enquiry than any other officer. I shall only add one reason more to induce you to strain a point upon this occasion, which is, that the scarcity of General Officers is already so great, that, supposing one as proper as yourself, I could not spare him without injury to the service. I shall expect an answer by return of the express.1 I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Head-Quarters, 14 February, 1778.
I am favored with yours of the 9th instant, enclosing the proceedings of a general court-martial held by your order. It is a defect in our martial law, from which we often find great inconvenience, that the power of appointing general courts-martial is too limited. I do not find it can be legally exercised by any officer, except the Commander-in-chief, or the commanding general in any particular State. This circumstance would make it improper for me to ratify the sentence against Murray, did the nature of his crime require it; and, if it was thought inexpedient to let him pass unpunished, I should be under the necessity of ordering another court for his trial. But as there are some mitigating considerations, which you mention, it may perhaps be as well to remit the present sentence, without proceeding any further in the affair. I leave it to your judgment, either with my approbation to do this, or to make use of the enclosed order, to bring the offender to a second trial.
Had the constitution of the court been entirely regular, I do not conceive I could with propriety alter the capital punishment into a corporal one. The right of mitigating only extends, in my opinion, to lessening the degree of punishment, in the same species prescribed; and does not imply any authority to change the nature or quality of it altogether. I am, sir, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Valley Forge, 14 February, 1778.
I do myself the honor of transmitting you a Letter from the Committee of Congress, now here. These gentlemen have represented the distress of the Army for want of provision so fully and in so just a light, that I shall forbear to trouble you with further observations upon the subject.—I shall only observe, that if the picture they have drawn is imperfect it is because the colourings are not sufficiently strong; it does not exceed our real situation. From your real and earnest wishes to promote the service, I am firmly convinced we shall have every relief in your power to give. I should have troubled you before on this interesting and alarming business—had I not supposed Congress the proper Body to have been informed, and that the means of relief should be under their direction.
Not to mention our distresses the last campaign and that we were supplied from hand to mouth and frequently not at all, from the day Mr. Trumbull left Commissary department, this is the second time in the course of the present year, that we have been on the point of a dissolution, and I know not whether the melancholy event may not take place.
The subject of Horses too is so fully explained by the Committee that it is needless for me to enlarge on that head. The advantages derived from a respectable cavalry will strike you at once, and I have the most entire confidence that you will with pleasure afford any aid in your Power to promote our views in this instance. I have &c.
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE.
Valley Forge, 15 February, 1778.
Your letter of the 2d ultimo, from Chantilly, enclosing Lieutenant-Colonel Frazer’s orders for the management of the grenadiers and light-infantry in an action, and upon a march, came to my hands in the course of last month, and merits my thanks, as it may be of use to such corps, one of which, consisting of light-infantry, we are now forming. The enemy are governed by no principles that ought to actuate honest men; no wonder then, that forgery should be amongst their other crimes. I have seen a letter published in a handbill at New York, and extracts from it republished in a Philadelphia paper, said to be from me to Mrs. Washington, not one word of which did I ever write. Those contained in the pamphlet you speak of are, I presume, equally genuine, and perhaps written by the same author.1 I should be glad, however, to see and examine the texture of them, if a favorable opportunity to send them should present.
Lord Cornwallis has certainly embarked for England, but with what view is not so easy to determine. He was eyewitness a few days before his departure to a scene, not a little disgraceful to the pride of British valor, in their manœuvre to Chesnut Hill, and precipitate return, after boasting their intentions of driving us beyond the mountains.
I am very glad to find, that the Assembly of Virginia have taken matters up so spiritedly; but wish, instead of attempting to raise so many volunteers, they had resolved at all adventures to complete their regiments by drafting. If all the States would do this, and fall upon ways and means to supply their troops with comfortable clothing upon moderate terms, and Congress would make the commissions of officers of some value to them, every thing would probably go well, making at the same time some reform in the different departments of the army; nothing standing in greater need of it, than the quartermasters and commissaries, as no army ever suffered more by their neglect; the consequences of this neglect are much to be dreaded.
I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant.
TO GOVERNOR GEORGE CLINTON.
Head-QuartersValley Forge, 16 February, 1778.
It is with great reluctance I trouble you on a subject, which does not properly fall within your province; but it is a subject that occasions me more distress, than I have felt since the commencement of the war; and which loudly demands the most zealous exertions of every person of weight and authority, who is interested in the success of our affairs; I mean the present dreadful situation of the army for want of provisions, and the miserable prospects before us with respect to futurity. It is more alarming, than you will probably conceive; for, to form a just idea, it were necessary to be on the spot. For some days past, there has been little less than a famine in camp. A part of the army has been a week without any kind of flesh, and the rest three or four days. Naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery, that they have not been ere this excited by their suffering to a general mutiny and dispersion. Strong symptoms, however, of discontent have appeared in particular instances; and nothing but the most active efforts everywhere can long avert so shocking a catastrophe.
Our present sufferings are not all. There is no foundation laid for any adequate relief hereafter. All the magazines provided in the States of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, and all the immediate additional supplies they seem capable of affording, will not be sufficient to support the army more than a month longer, if so long. Very little has been done to the eastward, and as little to the southward; and whatever we have a right to expect from those quarters must necessarily be very remote, and is, indeed, more precarious than could be wished. When the fore-mentioned supplies are exhausted, what a terrible crisis must ensue, unless all the energy of the continent shall be exerted to provide a timely remedy!
Impressed with this idea, I am, on my part, putting every engine at work, that I can possibly think of, to prevent the fatal consequences, we have so great reason to apprehend. I am calling upon all those, whose stations and influence enable them to contribute their aid upon so important an occasion; and, from your well known zeal, I expect every thing within the compass of your power, and that the abilities and resources of the State over which you preside will admit. I am sensible of the disadvantages it labors under, from having been so long the scene of war, and that it must be exceedingly drained by the great demands to which it has been subject. But, though you may not be able to contribute materially to our relief, you can perhaps do something towards it; and any assistance, however trifling in itself, will be of great moment at so critical a juncture, and will conduce to the keeping of the army together, till the commissary’s department can be put upon a better footing, and effectual measures concerted to secure a permanent and competent supply. What methods you can take, you will be the best judge of; but, if you can devise any means to procure a quantity of cattle, or other kind of flesh, for the use of this army, to be at camp in the course of a month, you will render a most essential service to the common cause. I have the honor to be, &c.1
AN ADDRESS TO THE INHABITANTS OF NEW JERSEY, PENNSYLVANIA, DELAWARE, MARYLAND, AND VIRGINIA.1
Valley Forge, 18 February, 1778.
Friends, Countrymen, and Fellow Citizens,
After three campaigns, during which the brave subjects of these States have contended, not unsuccessfully, with one of the most powerful kingdoms upon earth, we now find ourselves at least upon a level with our opponents; and there is the best reason to believe, that efforts adequate to the abilities of this country would enable us speedily to conclude the war, and to secure the invaluable blessings of peace, liberty, and safety. With this view, it is in contemplation, at the opening of the next campaign, to assemble a force sufficient, not barely to cover the country from a repetition of those depredations which it hath already suffered, but also to operate offensively, and to strike some decisive blow.
In the prosecution of this object, it is to be feared that so large an army may suffer for the want of provisions. The distance between this and the eastern States, whence considerable supplies of flesh have been hitherto drawn, will necessarily render those supplies extremely precarious. And unless the virtuous yeomanry of the States of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia will exert themselves to prepare cattle for the use of the army, during the months of May, June, and July next, great difficulties may arise in the course of the campaign. It is therefore recommended to the inhabitants of those States, to put up and feed immediately as many of their stock cattle as they can spare, so as that they may be driven to this army within that period. A bountiful price will be given, and the proprietors may assure themselves, that they will render a most essential service to the illustrious cause of their country, and contribute in a great degree to shorten this bloody contest. But should there be any so insensible to the common interest, as not to exert themselves upon these generous principles, the private interest of those, whose situation makes them liable to become immediate subjects to the enemy’s incursions, should prompt them at least to a measure, which is calculated to save their property from plunder, their families from insult, and their own persons from abuse, hopeless confinement, or perhaps a violent death.
TO WILLIAM DUER.
I am favored with yours of the 16th instant, communicating the intelligence you had received respecting the scheme of investing this camp and cutting off its supplies. Your being unacquainted with our present position and the circumstance you mention of an intimation from General Sinclair of the possibility of such an event, very naturally occasioned Biddle’s insinuation to make the impression it did on your mind. But it is a project which appears to me totally impracticable with the enemy’s present force, or even with one much greater; and I believe the experiment will hardly be made. The extensive line or rather circle they must occupy, to keep up the communication from post to post, necessary to intercept our intercourse with the country, would be very little able to defend themselves at any given point, and would expose them to ruin in case of an attack from us. I am inclined to believe you must be under some misapprehension, with respect to General Sinclair’s observation; and that he alluded to something else than an investiture. I am &c.
P. S. We have one bridge nearly completed. Defects in the Quarter Master’s department have delayed it hitherto.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I am now to acknowledge the honor of your several favors of the 18th, 19th, and 21st Instant, which with their respective Inclosures have been duly received.
In compliance with the resolution of Congress of the 5th instant, transmitted in your letter of the 7th, I was about to take measures for appointing a court-martial and bringing on the trials which they direct. But, on recurring to the papers you were pleased to send me, I do not find that the committee have made any particular charges against the officers, who are to be the subjects of trial. It was probably the intention of Congress, that these charges should be laid by me. But, as I might err in doing it, and not fully correspond with their views in the matter, especially as it would require considerable time and thought to make myself sufficiently acquainted with it from the papers collected, I should think it would be most advisable for Congress to state explictly the charges they wish to have exhibited against the officers respectively; and then the business may be proceeded on with propriety.
Besides the above reasons, which operate generally against my exhibiting the charges, in the particular instance of General Schuyler it is impossible for me to do it, as I do not know what instructions he had received from Congress from time to time as to the objects of his command, nor precisely what these were. These appear to me necessary to be known, and essential to carrying on a prosecution against him. When Congress shall have arranged these points, and are pleased to honor me with them, I will pursue the speediest measures to bring on the trials. The sooner this can be done, the better, as some of the parties are extremely anxious, and strongly importune it.1
Baron Steuben has arrived at camp. He appears to be much of a gentleman, and, as far as I have had an opportunity of judging, a man of military knowledge, and acquainted with the world.2
The enclosed extract of a letter from General Putnam will show how great the distresses are in that quarter for want of money. He has described their necessities so fully, that it is unnecessary for me to add upon the subject. I shall only observe, that his account is more than justified by many other letters, and that I am persuaded the earliest possible supply will be forwarded, and that the very important and interesting works carrying on there may not be the least retarded.1
I am under some embarrassments respecting the thirteenth Virginia regiment. It was raised on the west side of the Allegany and towards Pittsburg, with assurances from the officers, it is said, that the men would not be drawn from that quarter. This circumstance, added to the disturbances by the Indians, and the exposed situation of their families, has been the cause of great desertions, and is at present the source of much uneasiness, and the more so, as part of the regiment was never marched from thence. I think the whole should be united either here or there, and wish Congress to direct me upon the subject. At the same time that their case, if truly represented, seems to be hard, and to merit the indulgence they claim, I would observe, that the twelfth regiment from the western parts of the same State, and the eighth and twelfth Pennsylvania from the frontier counties of this, have similar pretensions, and might become uneasy, and apply for a like indulgence.
Agreeable to the directions of Congress, I shall send a major-general to Rhode Island, though the number of officers here of this rank, from one cause and another, is greatly reduced, and more so than it ought to be in point of policy.1 Our loss of matrosses the last campaign, in killed and wounded, was considerable; and it has not been a little increased this winter by desertions from Colonel Procter’s corps. From these circumstances, we are very weak in this line; and I request that Congress will be pleased to order Colonel Harrison’s regiment of artillery to march from Virginia as early as the roads will admit, and join this army. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO BRYAN FAIRFAX.2
Valley Forge, 1 March, 1778.
Your favor of the 8th of December came safe to my hands, after a considerable delay on its passage. The sentiments you have expressed to me in this letter are highly flattering, meriting my warmest acknowledgments, as I have too good an opinion of your sincerity and candor to believe that you are capable of unmeaning professions, and speaking a language foreign to your heart. The friendship, which I ever professed and felt for you, met with no diminution from the difference in our political sentiments. I know the rectitude of my own intentions, and, believing in the sincerity of yours, lamented, though I did not condemn, your renunciation of the creed I had adopted. Nor do I think any person or power ought to do it, whilst your conduct is not opposed to the general interest of the people, and the measures they are pursuing; the latter, that is, our actions, depending upon ourselves, may be controlled, while the powers of thinking, originating in higher causes, cannot always be moulded to our wishes.
The determinations of Providence are always wise, often inscrutable; and, though its decrees appear to bear hard upon us at times, is nevertheless meant for gracious purposes. In this light I cannot help viewing your late disappointment; for if you had been permitted to have gone to England, unrestrained even by the rigid oaths, which are administered on those occasions, your feelings as a husband, parent &c, must have been considerably wounded in the prospect of a long, perhaps lasting, separation from your nearest relatives. What then must they have been, if the obligation of an oath had left you without a will? Your hope of being instrumental in restoring peace would prove as unsubstantial, as mist before the noon-day’s sun, and would as soon dispel; for, believe me, Sir, Great Britain understood herself perfectly well in this dispute, but did not comprehend America. She meant, as Lord Camden, in his late speech in Parliament, clearly and explicitly declared, to drive America into rebellion, that her own purposes might be more fully answered by it; but take this along with it, that this plan originated in a firm belief, founded on misinformation, that no effectual opposition would or could be made. They little dreamt of what has happened, and are disappointed in their views.1
Does not every act of Administration, from the Tea Act to the present session of Parliament, declare this in plain and self-evident characters? Had the commissioners any power to treat with America? If they meant peace, would Lord Howe have been detained in England five months after passing the act? Would the powers of these commissioners have been confined to mere acts of grace, upon condition of absolute submission? No! surely, no! They meant to drive us into what they termed rebellion, that they might be furnished with a pretext to disarm, and then strip us of the rights and privileges of Englishmen and citizens.
If they were actuated by the principles of justice, why did they refuse indignantly to accede to the terms, which were humbly supplicated before hostilities commenced, and this country deluged in blood; and now make their principal officers, and even the commissioners themselves, say that these terms are just and reasonable; nay, that more will be granted, than we have yet asked, if we will relinquish our claim to independency? What name does such conduct as this deserve? And what punishment is there in store for the men, who have distressed millions, involved thousands in ruin, and plunged numberless families in inextricable woe? Could that, which is just and reasonable now, have been unjust four years ago? If not, upon what principles, I say, does Administration act? They must either be wantonly wicked and cruel, or (which is only another mode of describing the same thing) under false colors are now endeavoring to deceive the great body of the people, by industriously propagating a belief, that Great Britain is willing to offer any, and that we will accept of no terms; thereby hoping to poison and disaffect the minds of those, who wish for peace, and create feuds and dissensions among ourselves. In a word, having less dependence now in their arms than their arts, they are practising such low and dirty tricks, that men of sentiment and honor must blush at their villainy. Among other manœuvres in this way, they are counterfeiting letters, and publishing them as intercepted ones of mine, to prove that I am an enemy to the present measures, and have been led into them step by step, still hoping that Congress would recede from their present claims. I am, dear Sir, your most obedient and affectionate, &c.1
TO THOMAS WHARTON, PRESIDENT OF PENNSYLVANIA.
Valley Forge, 7 March, 1778.
There is nothing I have more at heart, than to discharge the great duties incumbent on me with the strictest attention to the ease and convenience of the people. Every instance, therefore, of hardship or oppression, exercised by the officers of any department under my immediate control, gives me the most sensible concern, and should be immediately punished, if complaints were properly made and supported. That there has been some foundation for such complaints, and that they have affected the service, I cannot doubt, from the great delay and backwardness of the people in forwarding supplies and affording the means of transportation. Until the late wagon law of this State was passed, there being no means of procuring the service of the inhabitants but by military compulsion, quartermasters and commissaries, from the necessity of the case, seem to have been justified in impressing, though in many instances, perhaps, it has been done with circumstances of terror and hardship, which they ought to have avoided. But, when the legislature had by law made an arrangement, and put this important service under the care of their own officers, it was my full determination, by every means in my power, to support the law that had passed, and avail myself of the resources of the State in the mode pointed out, under a full confidence, that the wisdom and forecast, which had marked out such a plan, would be accompanied with proportionate zeal and efficacy to carry it into execution.
Perhaps, Sir, I am not sufficiently informed, to judge properly where the present defect lays, and therefore avoid imputing blame to any; but I would wish you, and the gentlemen in authority with you, to be assured, that nothing would give me more satisfaction, than to see the powers of the government so effectual for the supply and accommodation of the army, as to take away not only the necessity but even pretence of using any other than the ordinary civil authority. Give me leave further to remark, that the army seems to have a peculiar claim to the exertions of the gentlemen of this State, to make its present situation as convenient as possible; as it was greatly owing to their apprehensions and anxieties, expressed in a memorial to Congress, that the present position was had, where with unparalleled patience they have gone through a severe and inclement winter, unprovided with any of those conveniences and comforts, which are usually the soldier’s lot after the dutys of the field are over. * * *
The necessities of the service, Sir, are great; the duty required, I acknowledge, is burthensome and difficult at this inclement season; but it cannot be dispensed with. The army and the country have a mutual dependence upon each other; and it is of the last importance, that their several duties should be so regulated and enforced, as to produce, not only the greatest harmony and good understanding, but the truest happiness and comfort to each. Depending, therefore, upon a due and early attention to this important business, and promising myself no small relief from our present difficulties, I remain, Sir, with due respect and regard, yours, &c. * * *
TO COLONEL GEORGE BAYLOR.
It being adjudged advisable to augment the cavalry in Continental Service by an addition of one Lieut., one Sergeant, one corporal, and twenty two privates to each Troop, and that the States of Virginia and North Carolina should furnish six hundred Horses for this purpose. You will receive from the Comee. of Congress (sitting at Moor Hall) direction respecting the means to obtain these; with which you will repair to Virginia, and as soon as possible consult Colonel Bland, who is requested by Letter to aid you in this business, and to whom you are to participate the means and furnish a copy of these Instructions, on the most effectual mode of accomplishing this purchase with œconomy and dispatch.
In purchasing these Horses you are not restricted to price on the one hand, nor by any means to launch into acts of extravagence on the other—good horses are wanting, and for such the customary prices must be given, take none less than a quarter blooded, nor under fourteen and a half hands high, sound and clean made. They are not to exceed twelve years old, nor be under five, this spring. Any kind of bays would be preferred; but, as the time is short in which they must be procured, and the service without them will suffer, you must not stand upon color. Pacing Horses, Stone horses, and mares must be avoided.
Colo. Bland and yourself will figure upon proper places of rendezvous for the Horses when purchased, where provision is to be laid in for their support; and where every proper means is to be used for the exercise and training of them. You will so concert matters as not to interfere with each other, thereby enhancing the prices of horses and rendering the purchase more difficult and expensive.
You will, each of you, use your best endeavors to obtain saddles and other accoutrements for the number of Horse aforementioned, and procure also as many swords and pistols as you can.—To enable Colonel Bland to perform his part of this business, you are, as before directed, to furnish him with the money and certificates. To add anything with a view of impressing you with an idea of the great importance of this business, and the dispatch necessary in the execution is, I am persuaded, totally useless. Your own observation and judgment will point this out in the fullest and clearest manner, but I am to desire that both you and Colo. Bland will give me early, and regular, information of your proceedings and prospects.
Given under my hand at head Quarters, Valley Forge, this 4th day of March 1778.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 7 March, 1778.
I take the liberty of transmitting to you copies of three letters from General Howe, of the 14th and 21st ultimo, and of the 2d instant, with their enclosures.1 The unhappy violation of the flag of truce has laid us under no small embarrassments, and has afforded the enemy good grounds for complaint and triumph at the same time. This however is the natural consequence, and must ever be the case, where different powers counteract each other in matters of the most delicate importance. There are some circumstances attending this affair, which it may possibly be in the power of Congress to throw light upon. If they can, I shall be obliged by their assistance.
March 8th.—In consequence of the letters, which have lately passed between General Howe and myself, particularly those of the 5th and 10th ultimo, copies of which I had the honor to transmit to you in mine of the 8th, continued to the 14th, I was about to send commissioners to meet those appointed by General Howe for adjusting the disputed points between us, carrying into execution an exchange of prisoners, and improving the old cartel, as far as it might be practicable, for their better accommodation in future. This meeting was to be on the 10th instant; but, yesterday morning, Dunlap’s paper of the 4th being put into my hands, I found that a resolution had been made on the 26th of February, calling for all accounts against prisoners in our hands, and declaring that no exchange should take place, till the balance due thereon to the United States is discharged. Some of the States are not required to exhibit their claims till the 1st of June. The time that would be taken to adjust them, and make a delivery of the prisoners, would more than exhaust all the ensuing summer.
This resolution I cannot consider as an intended infraction of my engagements with General Howe; yet its operation is diametrically opposite both to the spirit and letter of the propositions made on my part, and acceded to on his. I supposed myself fully authorized “by the instructions and intentions” of Congress to act as I did; and I now conceive, that the public as well as my own personal honor and faith are pledged for the performance.
By the direction of Congress, I in the first instance stipulated with General Howe an exchange of prisoners, “officer for officer, of equal rank, soldier for soldier, and citizen for citizen.” This agreement they have ever approved, and repeatedly declared their willingness to carry into execution. Their resolution of the 24th of March last empowered me (on condition of General Lee being declared exchangeable) not only “to proceed” to the exchange of prisoners, according to the principles and regulations of the cartel before agreed on, but also to enter into such further principles and regulations as should appear to me most proper and advantageous. A subsequent resolution of the 6th of June holds forth the same language, sanctions my conduct and reasonings in the negotiations about that time on the subject, and directs an adherence to them. No event has occurred since that period, by which I could conclude there was any alteration in the views of Congress; so far from it, that all my late letters breathing the same spirit with the former, and pointedly signifying my wish to bring about a general exchange, if not with an express, at least met with a tacit approbation. General Howe at length, by profession if not in reality, is willing to perform the agreement on the conditions required by me and confirmed by them.
It may be said, that, with whatever powers I was originally vested to negotiate an exchange, the resolution of the 19th of December last was an abridgment of them, so far as to annex a new condition, the settlement and payment of accounts previous to its taking place. I had no conception of this being the case in the present instance, however the letter may warrant the construction. Besides the common principle of preventing the inconveniences, necessarily resulting from allowing the enemy to make their payments in paper currency, I had reason to imagine that General Burgoyne’s army was more particularly the object of the concluding clause. This interpretation I the more readily adopted, for, exclusive of the affairs of that army, I verily believed, that, from the confused, defective state of our accounts relating to prisoners, there would be a considerable balance in favor of Mr. Howe. Nor was the situation of our accounts the only reason for this belief; the prisoners in our hands, especially those westward of the Delaware, as I am informed, have been in a great measure supported by their own labor, and at the expense of the enemy, who have had agents constantly among us. If this is the case, the reason of the resolve not applying, the effect ought not of course.
But perhaps it may be thought contrary to our interest to go into an exchange, as the enemy would derive more immediate advantage from it than we should. This I shall not deny; but it appeared to me, that, on principles of genuine, extensive policy, independent of the considerations of compassion and justice, we were under an obligation not to elude it. I have the best evidence, that an event of this kind is the general wish of the country. I know it to be the wish of the army; and no one can doubt, that it is the ardent wish of the unhappy sufferers themselves. We need only consult the tide of humanity, and the sympathies natural to those connected by the cement of blood, interest, and a common dread of evil, to be convinced, that the prevailing current of sentiment demands an exchange. If the country, the army, and even the prisoners themselves, had a precise idea of our circumstances, and could be fully sensible of the disadvantages, that might attend the giving our enemy a considerable reinforcement without having an equivalent, they might perhaps be willing to make a sacrifice of their feelings to the motives of policy. But they have not this knowledge, and cannot be entrusted with it; and their reasonings, of necessity, will be governed by what they feel.
Were an opinion once to be established (and the enemy and their emissaries know very well how to inculcate it, if they are furnished with a plausible pretext), that we designedly avoided an exchange, it would be a cause of dissatisfaction and disgust to the country and to the army, of resentment and desperation to our captive officers and soldiers. To say nothing of the importance of not hazarding our national character but upon the most solid grounds, especially in our embryo state, from the influence it may have on our affairs abroad, it may not be a little dangerous to beget in the minds of our own countrymen a suspicion, that we do not pay the strictest observance to the maxims of honor and good faith.
It is prudent to use the greatest caution not to shock the notions of general justice and humanity, universal among mankind, as well in a public as a private view. In a business on the side of which the passions are so much concerned as in the present, men would be readily disposed to believe the worst, and cherish the most unfavorable conclusions. Were the letters, that have passed between General Howe and myself from first to last, and the procedings of Congress on the same subject, to be published with proper comments, it is much to be feared, if the exchange should be deferred till the terms of the last resolve were fulfilled, that it would be difficult to prevent our being generally accused of a breach of good faith. Perhaps it might be said, that, while the enemy refused us justice, we fondly embraced the opportunity to be loud, persevering, incessant in our claims; but, the moment they were willing to render it, we receded from ourselves, and started new difficulties. This, I say, might be the reasoning of speculative minds; and they might consider all our professions as mere professions; or, at best, that interest and policy were to be the only arbiters of their validity.
Imputations of this nature would have a tendency to unnerve our operations, by diminishing that respect and confidence, which are essential to be placed in those, who are at the head of affairs either in the civil or military line. This, added to the prospect of hopeless captivity, would be a great discouragement to the service. The ill consequences of both would be immense, by increasing the causes of discontent in the army, which are already too numerous, and many of which are in a great measure unavoidable; by fortifying that unwillingness, which already appears too great, towards entering into the service, and of course impeding the progress both of drafting and recruiting; by dejecting the courage of the soldiery, from an apprehension of the horrors of captivity; and, finally, by reducing those, whose lot it is to drink the bitter cup, to a despair, which can only find relief by renouncing their attachments and engaging with their captors. These effects have already been experienced in part from the obstacles, that have lain in the way of exchanges; but if these obstacles were once to seem the result of system, they would become tenfold. Nothing has operated more disagreeably upon the minds of the militia, than the fear of captivity, on the footing on which it has hitherto stood. What would be their reasonings, if it should be thought to stand upon a worse?
If a present temporary interest is to be a ruling principle, it is easy to prove, that an exchange can never take place. The constitution of our army in respect to the term of service for which our men engage, and the dependence we are obliged to place on the militia, must for ever operate against us in exchanges, and forbid an equality of advantages. Should it be said, there are times when it might be peculiarly unequal and injurious, and that the present is such, on account of the weak condition of our army, I answer, that the delay necessarily involved in the previous negotiation on the subject, in delivering the prisoners from time to time in small numbers, and receiving others in their stead, and the mode of delivery at different places, will nearly bring the matter to the point we could wish, and give us leisure to reinforce this army, if it is to be done at all, so as to obviate in a great measure the ill consequences apprehended.
But if the argument of interest on a partial scale be pursued as far as it will go, not only the general consideration thrown out above, but special ones apposite to every situation will present themselves, that we ought not to exchange. Now we ought not, because our army is weak! When the season is more advanced, and it is time for the campaign to open, we ought not, because our army may be strong, and it will be our business to avail ourselves of our own strength, and the enemy’s weakness, to strike some decisive blow! If they, by the protection of their shipping and impregnable works, should be able to baffle our attempts till the period of reinforcements from Europe arrive, it will surely then not be our interest to add numbers and strength to an enemy already sufficiently numerous and strong! Thus, by a parity of reasoning, the golden era will never come, which is to relieve the miseries of captivity. Our service must become odious; those who are out of it will endeavor to keep so; and those who are in it will wish to get out of it; every prisoner the enemy makes will be his soldier, rather than submit to a rigorous and despairing confinement.
If we do not seize the present propitious moment, when the necessities of the enemy press them to reasonable terms, to form and establish a liberal cartel, it is not impossible, in the vicissitudes and reverses of war, that a time may come when we should wish we had embraced it, and interest may strongly impel the enemy to decline it, except on the most unequal conditions. True policy, as well as good faith, in my opinion, binds us to improve the occasion. There are however some ambiguities in General Howe’s conduct, which require explanation, and ought to put us upon our guard. I determined to make the affair of citizens (namely, to procure an exemption from captivity for them if possible, or, if not, since it cannot now be demanded as a matter of right, to fix their exchangeability upon the easiest and most unequivocal foundation,) an indispensable preliminary to any further procedure; and at the same time to secure the exchange of General Lee, and all other officers, who have been the particular objects of exception.
The interview intended between General Howe’s commissioners and those on our part on the 10th instant is now postponed.1 I cannot doubt that Congress, in preservation of the public faith and my personal honor, will remove all impediments, that now oppose themselves to my engagements, and that they will authorize me, through commissioners appointed for the purpose, to negotiate a more extensive and competent cartel, upon such principles as may appear advantageous and founded in necessity, and resolutions heretofore to the contrary notwithstanding; and I must request, that they will favor me with their answer by the earliest opportunity.
The work, from its nature, will be difficult. Two parties are concerned, whose interests are more than opposite in a common view. We shall endeavor to act for the best, and to promote the public service as far as possible, though we may not be able to answer the expectations of all. But it should be remembered, that, although General Howe’s want of men affords a prospect of favorable terms, yet he will not be disposed to sacrifice to it all considerations of general advantage in a contract of such a nature; and it is not even to be hoped, that it can take place except on principles of mutual benefit. I persuade myself, that the freedom I have taken in delivering my sentiments so fully upon this occasion will readily be excused, as it proceeds from a desire to place the motives of my conduct in a just point of view, and from an opinion of duty, that led me to a free discussion of a subject, which, considered in all its lights, will appear to comprehend consequences of the first delicacy and magnitude. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL PARSONS, AT WEST POINT.
Valley Forge, 8 March, 1778.
Below you will recive a copy of my last dated the 5th, to which I will add a thought, which has occurred since the writing of it; and which, if the scheme is practicable at all, may add not a little to the success; namely, to let the officers and soldiers employed in the enterprise be dressed in red, and much in the taste of the British soldiery. Webb’s regiment will afford these dresses; and it might not be amiss to know certainly the number of some regiment, that is quartered in the city. Under some circumstances, this knowledge may avail them, especially if the number on their own buttons should correspond thereto. I am, &c.
P. S. The official papers would be a vast acquisition and might without much difficulty accompany the person.
COPY OF THE LETTER REFERRED TO ABOVE.
5 March, 1778.
I learn from undoubted authority, that General Clinton quarters in Captain Kennedy’s house in the city of New York, which you know is near Fort George, and, by the late fire, stands in a manner alone. What guards may be at or near his quarters, I cannot with precision say; and therefore shall not add any thing on this score, lest it should prove a misinformation. But I think it one of the most practicable, (and surely it will be among the most desirable and honorable) things imaginable to take him prisoner.
This house lying close by the water, and a retired way through a back yard or garden leading into it, what, if you have whale-boats, (8 or 10), but want of secrecy, can prevent the execution in the hands of an enterprising party? The embarkation might even be (and this I should think best) at King’s Ferry, on the first of the ebb, and early in the evening. Six or eight hours, with change of hands, would row the boats under the west shore and very secretly to the city, and the flood-tide will hoist them back again; or a party of horse might meet them at Fort Lee. I had like not to have mentioned that no ship of war is in the North River; was not, at least ten days ago; nor within four hundred yards of the Point; all being in the East River. I shall add no more. This is dropped as a hint to be improved upon, or rejected, as circumstances point out and justify. I am, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Head-Quarters, 10 March, 1778.
My Dear Marquis,
I have had the pleasure of receiving your two favors of the 19th and 23d of February, and hasten to dispel those fears, respecting your reputation, which are excited only by an uncommon degree of sensibility. You seem to apprehend that censure, proportioned to the disappointed expectations of the world, will fall on you, in consequence of the failure of the Canadian expedition. But, in the first place, it will be no disadvantage to you to have it known in Europe, that you had received so manifest a proof of the good opinion and confidence of Congress, as an important detached command; and I am persuaded, that every one will applaud your prudence in renouncing a project, in pursuing which you would vainly have attempted physical impossibilities. Indeed, unless you can be chargeable with the invariable effects of natural causes, and be arraigned for not suspending the course of the seasons, to accommodate your march over the Lake, the most prone to slander can have nothing to found blame upon.
However sensible your ardor for glory may make you feel this disappointment, you may be assured, that your character stands as fair as ever it did, and that no new enterprise is necessary to wipe off this imaginary stain. The expedition, which you hint at, I think unadvisable in our present circumstances.1 Any thing in the way of a formal attack, which would necessarily be announced to the enemy by preparatory measures, would not be likely to succeed. If a stroke is meditated in that quarter, it must be effected by troops stationed at a proper distance for availing themselves of the first favorable opportunity offered by the enemy, and success would principally depend upon the suddenness of the attempt. This, therefore, must rather be the effect of time and chance, than premeditation. You undoubtedly have determined judiciously in waiting the further orders of Congress. Whether they allow me the pleasure of seeing you shortly, or destine you to a longer absence, you may assure yourself of the sincere good wishes of, dear Sir, &c.
P. S. Your directing payment of such debts as appear to be most pressing is certainly right. There is not money enough to answer every demand; and I wish your supplies of clothing had been better. Your ordering a large supply of provisions into Fort Schuyler was a very judicious measure, and I thank you for it.
TO LIEUTENANT-GENERAL BURGOYNE.
Head-Quarters, 11 March, 1778.
I was only two days since honored with your very obliging letter of the 11th of February. Your indulgent opinion of my character, and the polite terms in which you are pleased to express it, are peculiarly flattering; and I take pleasure in the opportunity you have afforded me, of assuring you, that, far from suffering the views of national opposition to be embittered and debased by personal animosity, I am ever ready to do justice to the merit of the man and soldier, and to esteem where esteem is due, however the idea of a public enemy may interpose. You will not think it the language of unmeaning ceremony, if I add, that sentiments of personal respect, in the present instance, are reciprocal.
Viewing you in the light of an officer, contending against what I conceive to be the rights of my country, the reverses of fortune you experienced in the field cannot be unacceptable to me; but, abstracted from considerations of national advantage, I can sincerely sympathize with your feelings as a soldier, the unavoidable difficulties of whose situation forbid his success; and as a man, whose lot combines the calamity of ill health, the anxieties of captivity, and the painful sensibility for a reputation exposed, where he most values it, to the assaults of malice and detraction.
As your aid-de-camp went directly to Congress, the business of your letter to me had been decided before it came to hand. I am happy that their cheerful acquiescence with your request prevented the necessity of my intervention; and wishing you a safe and agreeable passage, with a perfect restoration of your health, I have the honor to be, very respectfully, &c.1
TO GEORGE WILLIAM FAIRFAX, IN ENGLAND.
Immediately on my appointment to the command of the American army, and arrival at Cambridge, (near Boston,) in the year 1775, I informed you of the impracticability of my longer continuing to perform the duties of a friend, by having an eye to the conduct of your collector and steward; as my absence from Virginia would not only withdraw every little attention I otherwise might have given to your business, but involve my own in the same neglected predicament. What use you may have made of the information, I know not, having heard nothing from you these four years, nor been in Virginia these last three. I have heard, and fear it is true, that your seat (Belvoir) is verging fast to destruction. In what condition, and under what management, your estate in Berkeley is, I know not; and equally ignorant am I respecting the conduct of Peyton, but earnestly advise you to empower some person to attend to these matters, or the consequence is obvious.
Lord Fairfax, as I have been told, after having bowed down to the grave, and in a manner shaken hands with Death, is perfectly restored, and enjoys his usual good health, and as much vigor as falls to the lot of ninety. Your sister Washington1 goes on teeming but cannot produce a boy. Miss Fairfax was upon the point of marriage in December last with a relation of mine, a Mr. Whiting; but her ill health delayed it at that time, and what has happened since I know not. Your nieces in Alexandria are both married; the elder to Mr. Herbert, the younger to Mr. Harry Whiting, son of Frank in Berkeley. Mrs. Cary, her son Colonel Cary, Mr. Nicholas, Mrs. Ambler,1 and their respective families were all well about two months ago. Miss Cary is married to Tom Nelson, second son to the Secretary.
Mrs. Washington, who is now in quarters with me, joins in most affectionate compliments to Mrs. Fairfax and yourself with, dear Sir, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 12 March, 1778.
On Sunday night I had the honor to receive your favors of the 1st and 5th instant with their inclosures. I am happy to find, that my past conduct respecting citizens, in the correspondence between General Howe and myself, is approved by Congress. They may rest assured, that their rights are strongly impressed on my mind; and that, in all my transactions, every support in my power shall be given them. I know their importance; and, in my expected negotiations with General Howe, if possible, I will exempt citizens from captivity. However, I cannot hope to effect it, as I cannot demand it as a matter of right; since Congress themselves, in their original resolve directing a proposition to be made for the exchange of prisoners, mentioned that of citizens, which implied a right of capturing them.
They may also be assured, that General Lee will not be forgotten. He has all along been a principal object in dispute; and, so far from doing any thing injurious to him, his right to be exchanged, and releasement, are intended to be placed upon the most explicit, unambiguous footing. Indeed, from the spirit of General Howe’s letters collectively taken, since his agreement to enlarge the officers on parole in the first instance, and his extension of it in the last to an exchange, (though they are not free from ambiguities,) it may be inferred, that, on sending in Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell and the Hessian field-officers captured at Trenton, an exchange of officers will immediately commence. It seems to be a point with him, that it shall begin with them, as they have been longest in captivity. I have taken the liberty to enclose to you copies of three letters, which have just passed between General Howe and myself, more particularly concerning General Lee, in which I have pushed matters respecting him as far as I thought it prudent at this time. Every precaution will certainly be used to prevent the enemy gaining any advantage in the exchange of prisoners.1
With great deference I would take the liberty to observe, that Congress seem to have carried the preamble of their resolve of the 26th ultimo, prohibiting the enlisting &c of prisoners and deserters, too far; and, through accident, to have recited a fact, that has never happened (at least to my knowledge), and which is injurious to us, namely, that prisoners had been enlisted by us. If any have, it is what I never knew. However, be this as it may, if the resolution has not been published, I could wish the preamble to be altered, and to recite, “that experience, &c. in deserters” only. The resolution itself may stand as it does, comprehending a prohibition against the enlistment of both.
My reason for troubling Congress upon this occasion is, we have always complained against General Howe, and still do, for obliging or permitting the prisoners in his hands to enlist, as an unwarrantable procedure, and wholly repugnant to the spirit at least of the cartel. This preamble seems to admit the practice on our part, which would certainly justify it in him, and is such evidence as must silence us in future (should it stand), and afford him an opportunity for recrimination, though, as I have suggested, I believe no prisoners have ever been enlisted by us; I am sure none have through compulsion.1
I have the pleasure to transmit you an extract of a letter from Captn. Barry, which will inform you of his successes. The two ships he burnt, after stripping them, and he was obliged, it seems, two days after the capture, to ground and abandon the Schooner after a long and severe engagement with some of the Enemy’s Frigates & smaller armed Vessels.—It is said he saved her guns & most of her tackle.
I also take the liberty to lay before Congress copies of letters from Messrs Champion, Wadsworth & Reed. From the uniformity of sentiment held forth by these Gentlemen, it is much to be feared, the measures lately adopted by the Commissioners at New Haven for regulating the prices of provision will have a disagreeable effect upon our supplies of meat.—How far it may be practicable to suspend their operation for a time, I cannot determine—but if it can be done, it appears we should experience many advantages from it.—It is a matter of great importance, and as such is submitted to Congress for their consideration. If any thing can be done to procure supplies of provisions, particularly of the salt kind, I should suppose I am persuaded it will not be omitted. I have the honor &c.
TO ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON.
I should have answered your favr. of the 14th January before this time, had I not have been daily in hopes that I should have been able to have given you a satisfactory account of a change of men and measures in the North River Department. It has not been an easy matter to find a just pretence for removing an officer from his Command where his misconduct rather appears to result from want of Capacity than from any real intention of doing wrong, and it is therefore as you observe to be lamented that he cannot see his own defects and make an honorable retreat from a Station in which he only exposes his own weakness.
Proper measures are taking to carry on the enquiry into the loss of Fort Montgomery agreeable to the direction of Congress, and it is more than probable, from what I have heard, that the issue of that enquiry will afford just grounds for a removal of Genl. P—but whether it does or not, the prejudices of all ranks in that quarter against him are so great, that he must at all events be prevented from returning.1 I hope to introduce a gentleman in his place, if the general course of service will admit of it, who will be perfectly agreeable to the State and to the public. In the mean time I trust that Genl. Parsons will do every thing in his power to carry on the works which from his last accounts are in more forwardness than I expected.
I wish all the men on the upper part of the River had been drawn down to the Highlands instead of being kept to carry on an expedition, in which I never was consulted, but which I saw from the beginning could never succeed, from a variety of Reasons which it would be needless to give you or any man acquainted with the State of the Country thro’ which it was to have passed. Those who were most sanguine I fancy now see the impracticability of it.
Peekskill and the neighboring Posts were, by Resolves of Congress included in the Northern department, and the care of carrying on the Works put under the direction of the Officer Commanding in that district. Genl. Gates being after the Resolve called to the Board of War, he had no opportunity of doing any thing towards it. Whether there will be any alteration in the extent of the command this campaign I cannot tell, but if it falls again into that department more immediately under my particular command you may depend that all the attention due to posts so important shall be paid to them. I am.
TO PHILIP SCHUYLER, JAMES DUANE, AND VOLKERT P. DOUW, COMMISSIONERS OF INDIAN AFFAIRS.
Valley Forge, 13 March, 1778.
You will perceive, by the enclosed copy of a resolve of Congress, that I am empowered to employ a body of four hundred Indians, if they can be procured upon proper terms. Divesting them of the savage customs exercised in their wars against each other, I think they may be made of excellent use as scouts and light troops, mixed with our own parties. I propose to raise about one half the number among the southern, and the remainder among the northern Indians. I have sent Colonel Nathaniel Gist, who is well acquainted with the Cherokees and their allies, to bring as many as he can from thence; and I must depend upon you to employ suitable persons to procure the stipulated number, or as near as may be, from the northern tribes. The terms made with them should be such as you think we can comply with; and persons well acquainted with their language, manners, and customs, and who have gained an influence over them, should accompany them. The Oneidas have manifested the strongest attachment to us throughout this dispute, and therefore I suppose, if any can be procured, they will be most numerous. Their missionary, Mr. Kirkland, seemed to have an uncommon ascendancy over that tribe, and I should therefore be glad to see him accompany them.
If the Indians can be procured, I would choose to have them here by the opening of the campaign; and therefore they should be engaged as soon as possible, as there is not more time between this and the middle of May, than will be necessary to settle the business with them, and to march from their country to the army. I am not without hopes, that this will reach you before the treaty, which is to be held, breaks up. If it should, you will have an opportunity of knowing their sentiments, of which I shall be glad to be informed as soon as possible. I have the honor to be, gentlemen, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, 14 March, 1778.
This will be presented to you by Count Pulaski, who, from a conviction that his remaining at the head of the cavalry was a constant subject of uneasiness to the principal officers of that corps, has been induced to resign his command. Waving a minute inquiry into the causes of dissatisfaction, which may be reduced perhaps to the disadvantages under which he labored, as a stranger not well acquainted with the language, genius, and manners of this country, it may be sufficient to observe, that the degree of harmony, which is inseparable from the well-being and consequent utility of a corps, has not subsisted in the cavalry since his appointment, and that the most effectual as well as the easiest remedy is that, which he has generously applied.
The Count, however, far from being disgusted with the service, is led by his thirst of glory, and zeal for the cause of liberty, to solicit farther employment, and waits upon Congress to make his proposals. They are briefly, that he be allowed to raise an independent corps, composed of sixty-eight horse and two hundred foot, the horse to be armed with lances, and the foot equipped in the manner of light-infantry. The former he thinks he can readily fill with natives of good character, and worthy the trust reposed in them. With respect to the other, he is desirous of more latitude, so as to have liberty of engaging prisoners and deserters from the enemy.
The original plan for the lance-men was to have drafted them from the regiments of horse. But, as this method would produce a clashing of interests, and perhaps occasion new disturbances, the Count prefers having a corps totally unconnected with any other. My advice to him, therefore, is to enlist his number of cavalry with the Continental bounty; and, if it should be found consonant to the views of Congress to allow his raising the number proposed over and above the establishment for the horse, then he would have them on the footing of an independent corps; if not, he might at all events have them as drafts; and in this case there would be no ground for complaint. With regard to the infantry, which the Count esteems essential to the success of the cavalry, I have informed him, that the enlisting deserters and prisoners is prohibited by a late resolve of Congress. How far Congress might be inclined to make an exception, and license the engaging of prisoners in a particular detached corps, in which such characters may be admitted with less danger than promiscuously in the line, I could not undertake to pronounce.
I have only to add, that the Count’s valor and active zeal on all occasions have done him great honor; and, from a persuasion that, by being less exposed to the inconveniences which he has hitherto experienced, he will render great services with such a command as he asks for, I wish him to succeed in his application. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. It is to be understood, that the Count expects to retain his rank as brigadier, and, I think, is entitled to it from his general character and particular disinterestedness on the present occasion.1
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Valley Forge, 14 March, 1778.
I have the honor of yours of the 2d instant; and, I can assure you, I feel myself very sensibly affected by the strenuous manner in which you express the public regard of the State and your personal friendship towards me. I only desire to be the object of both, while in your good opinion and that of the public I continue to merit them.
We seem hitherto to have mistaken each other, in respect to the troop of light-horse. I did not mean to inlist them in the Continental service, but only to engage them for a few months, while the Continental horse were recruiting, upon the same terms that I engaged the Morris County horse last winter. It will be expected, that they provide their own horses, arms, and accoutrements, and be paid accordingly. If Captain Arnold will come into the service upon the above terms, I will immediately take him into employ.
I am exceedingly glad to hear of the response you have already made in the Quarter Master’s and Commissary’s department at Princetown and doubt not, but if you pursue the same line of conduct thro’ the other posts, that the public will not only save immense sum of Money, but be better served, for those supernumeraries, like useless wheels in a machine, only clog and perplex the more essential parts. It is impossible to devise any other mode of disposing of deserters, than to let them go at large among us, provided there is no particular cause of suspicion against them. To confine them would effectually put a stop to a drain, which weakens the enemy more, in the course of a year, than you would imagine. I am pleased with the favorable account which you give of Count Pulaski’s conduct while at Trenton. He is a gentleman of great activity and unquestionable bravery, and only wants a fuller knowledge of our language and customs to make him a valuable officer. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL McDOUGALL.
Head Quarters,Valley Forge, 16 March, 1778.
I was favored with yours of the 17th ultimo in due time, and should have proceeded immediately upon the business of the inquiry, had not General Putnam’s private affairs required his absence for some little time. I have appointed Brigadier-General Huntington and Colonel Wigglesworth to assist you in this matter; and, enclosed, you will find instructions empowering you, in conjunction with them, to carry on the inquiry agreeable to the resolve of Congress. You will observe by the words of the resolve, that the inquiry is to be made into the loss of Forts Montgomery and Clinton, in the State of New York, and into the conduct of the principal officers commanding those forts.
Hence the officer commanding in chief in that department will be consequentially involved in the inquiry; because if he has been deficient in affording the proper support to those posts, when called upon to do it, the commandant and principal officers will of course make it appear by the evidence produced in their own justification. I am not certain whether General Putnam has yet returned to Fishkill; and I have therefore by the enclosed, which you will please to forward to him by express, given him notice that the inquiry is to be held, and have desired him to repair immediately to that post.1 General Huntington and Colonel Wigglesworth will set out as soon as they can make preparations for the journey.
Upon your arrival at the Highlands, you are to take upon you the command of the different posts in that department, of which I have advised General Putnam. Your time will at first be principally taken up with the business, which you now have in hand; but I beg that your attention may be turned, as much as possible, to the completion of the works, or at least to putting them in such a state, that they may be able to resist a sudden attack of the enemy. Governor Clinton has wrote his opinion very fully to Congress upon the propriety of ordering all the troops, except the garrison of Fort Schuyler, down to the Highlands, as all prospects of carrying on the northern expedition seem to have vanished. I have backed his opinion forcibly with my own, and hope, if Congress see matters in the light we do, that those troops may be instantly brought down. I have, &c.
P. S. There has been a resolve of Congress vesting Governor Clinton with the direction of the works erecting for the defence of the river, and requiring the commanding officer at Peekskill to aid him in the execution of the same. Governor Clinton, I understand, from his civil avocations, does not incline to take the immediate direction of the business, and the late commanding officer in that quarter has doubted from that resolve, whether his command or superintendency extended to the forts. To remove difficulties of this kind, by which the public service must suffer, and as I consider it essential to the nature of the command, that one officer should have the general control and direction of all the posts in the Highlands and their dependencies, and be answerable for them, you are to consider yourself as possessed of this general control and direction, and to act accordingly. If the Governor has leisure from his official duties to undertake the more immediate management of the works, it will afford you a very desirable assistance.
I have written to Congress to give you every power necessary to promote the objects of your command; and in the mean time you are to consider yourself authorized, as far as can depend upon me, to take every measure conducive to that end. I am sensible this command will not be in itself the most agreeable piece of service, and that you would prefer a post on the principal theatre of action; but the vast importance of it has determined me to confide it in you, and I am persuaded your object is to be useful to the public. If you get things in a proper train by the opening of the campaign, so as that the prosecution may be assigned to other hands, I shall be extremely happy to avail myself of your services with the main army.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Valley Forge, 16 March, 1778.
I have the honor to transmit to you a letter from Governor Clinton, which he enclosed to me for my perusal and consideration.
The inconvenience he mentions, as resulting from the resolve respecting the appointment of a commandant for Forts Montgomery and Clinton, requires to be obviated. I do not conceive it to have been the design of Congress to make the command of those forts altogether distinct and independent on the general command of the posts in that quarter; but only to designate the rank of the officer, who should have the immediate charge of them. There is such an intimate connexion between the forts and the other posts and passes in the Highlands and their vicinity, that it is necessary for one officer to have the superintendency and control of the whole, and to be answerable for all. If this were not to be the case, but the command were to be divided, there might want that coöperation between the garrisons and the troops without, which might be essential to their preservation and to the common purposes of defence. The assigning a fixed number of men to the garrisons would not remove this inconvenience; for the coöperation would still be necessary. But if it were otherwise, I should not think the measure advisable, because we do not know what number of men we may have in the field next campaign; and the number for the defence of the Highlands must be proportioned to the general strength, and the force of the garrisons to that number.
On these considerations, having ordered General McDougall to repair to the Highlands to assume the chief command there, I have comprehended the forts among the other objects of his trust; in the discharge of which I am persuaded he will manifest adequate zeal and ability. But as the resolve in question affords room for doubt, it will be proper to have it explained, so as more explicitly to ascertain the intention of Congress. I am perfectly in sentiment with Governor Clinton, on the propriety of drawing the troops from the northward to reinforce and carry on the works in the Highlands. From every thing I can learn, there seems to be no prospect of prosecuting the intended expedition into Canada. If so, I apprehend it can answer no valuable end to keep a body of troops in and about Albany. In the present circumstances of Canada, little is to be dreaded thence; the enemy, in all probability, will be well satisfied to act on the defensive, without risking the consequences of an attempt against us. A proper garrison at Fort Schuyler, and a small party by way of guard at Albany, with the militia of the country that may be occasionally drawn together, will be a sufficient security against the inroads of the enemy from Canada, or the depredations of the neighboring Indians, supposing there were any of the tribes, whose dispositions were still actively hostile notwithstanding our late northern successes, which is by no means a natural supposition. All the men, more than are wanted for these purposes, would be of the most important utility in the Highlands.
If the arms and stores at Albany should be thought an objection to the plan, I would beg leave to observe, that Albany appears to me a most improper place for stationary arsenals or magazines, and that those which are there at present should be removed without delay. Besides, as they would be in most danger from an incursion up the North River, the best way to counteract that danger is to strengthen the passes in the Highlands, and obstruct the navigation; in order to which the reinforcing them with the troops from the northward would be no inconsiderable step. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO JAMES BOWDOIN, PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF MASSACHUSETTS.
Valley Forge, 17 March, 1778.
It gives me inexpressible concern to have repeated information from the best authority, that the committees of the different towns and districts of your State hire deserters from General Burgoyne’s army, and employ them as substitutes, to excuse the personal service of the inhabitants. I need not enlarge upon the danger of substituting, as soldiers, men, who have given a glaring proof of a treacherous disposition, and who are bound to us by no motives of attachment, to citizens, in whom the ties of country, kindred, and sometimes property are so many securities for their fidelity. The evils with which this measure is pregnant are obvious, and of such a serious nature, as makes it necessary, not only to stop the farther progress of it, but likewise to apply a retrospective remedy, and if possible to annul it, so far as it has been carried into effect. Unless this is done, although you may be amused for the present with the flattering idea of speedily completing your battalions, they will be found, at or before the opening of the campaign, reduced by the defection of every British soldier to their original weak condition; and the accumulated bounties of the continent and of the State will have been fruitlessly sacrificed.
Indeed, Mr. Burgoyne could hardly, if he were consulted, suggest a more effectual plan for plundering us of so much money, reinforcing General Howe with so many men, and preventing us from recruiting a certain number of regiments; to say nothing of the additional losses, which may be dreaded, in desertions among the native soldiers, from the contagion of ill example and the arts of seduction, which it is more than probable will be put in practice. This matter demands your immediate attention, and I flatter myself, that on a due consideration of the mischiefs, which must inevitably flow from the pernicious practice remonstrated against, you will not delay the application of the most extensive and efficacious remedy. I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, Sir, &c.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL JOHN CADWALADER.
Valley Forge, 20 March, 1778.
My Dear Sir,
Your favor of the 12th instant came safe to my hands and gave me sincere pleasure; as it encouraged a hope, which I had before entertained, of seeing you in camp again. Most sincerely do I wish it was in my power to point out some post or place in the army, which would invite you to and fix you in it. We want your aid exceedingly; and the public, perhaps at no time since the commencement of the war, would be more benefited by your advice and assistance, than at the present, and throughout the whole of this campaign, which must be important and critical. One thing certain is; a seat at my board, and a square on my floor, shall always be reserved for you. But this, though it would add to my pleasure, is not the height of my wishes. I want to see you in a more important station.
By death and desertion we have lost a good many men since we came to this ground, and have encountered every species of hardship, that cold, wet, and hunger, and want of clothes, were capable of producing; notwithstanding, and contrary to my expectations, we have been able to keep the soldiers from mutiny or dispersion; although, in the single article of provisions, they have encountered enough to have occasioned one or the other of these in most other armies. They have been (two or three times) days together without provisions; and once, six days without any of the meat kind. Could the poor horses tell their tale, it would be in a strain still more lamentable, as numbers have actually died from pure want. But, as our prospects begin to brighten, my complaints shall cease.
It gives me much pleasure to hear, that the recruiting service in the counties near you is in so hopeful a way; but I despair of seeing our battalions completed by any other means than drafting. The importance of the place you speak of is obvious. It has engrossed much of my thoughts; but in our present situation and under our present prospects it is one of those things, that is more like to become an object of our desire, than attainment.
I have every reason short of absolute proof to believe, that General Howe is meditating a stroke against this army. He has drawn, some say two thousand, and others twenty-five hundred, men from New York, who I believe are arrived at Philadelphia, as a number of transports have just past Wilmington in their way up the Delaware; and reports from Newport say, that the garrison there had orders to be in readiness to embark by the 20th instant. Their invalids had gone off for England, and the women and children for New York. I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have the honor of yours of the 14th & 15th instants.
In consequence of the resolves transmitted to me, I have despatched an express to the Marquis de Lafayette and Baron de Kalb, to recall them from the northward1 ; and, instead of ordering down Hazen’s regiment to rejoin this army, I have ordered Van Schaick’s immediately to the Highlands, where the public works are in a manner at a stand for want of hands. Van Schaick’s is a full and fresh regiment; Hazen’s but weak in point of numbers, and must be considerably fatigued from their late long march.2
Enclosed you have the copy of a letter, which I received a few days ago from Doctor Rush. As this letter contains charges of a very heinous nature against the director-general, Doctor Shippen, for mal-practices and neglect in his department, I could not but look upon it as meant for a public accusation, and have therefore thought it incumbent upon me to lay it before Congress. I have showed it to Doctor Shippen, that he may be prepared to vindicate his character, if called upon. He tells me, that Doctor Rush made charges of a similar nature before a committee of Congress, appointed to hear them, which he could not support. If so, Congress will not have further occasion to trouble themselves in the matter.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO SIR WILLIAM HOWE.
Head-Quarters, 22 March, 1778.
Your several letters of the 15, 19, & 21st. instant have been duly received.
You are under a mistake as to the rank of Mr. Ethan Allen, which is only that of lieutenant-colonel; and as such he has been returned and considered by your commissary, Mr. Loring. The fact truly is, to the best of my information, that, at the time of his capture, he had an appointment as lieutenant-colonel from the State of New York, in a regiment commanded by Colonel Warner. Though he may have been called Colonel in some letters of mine, it was either through misconception at the time, or by a concise and familiar mode of expression, which frequently applies that term to a lieutenant-colonel. I shall, therefore, expect him in exchange for Mr. Campbell.1
I am, by no means, sensible of the propriety of so rigorous a proceeding as you have adopted in the case of Captains Robinson and Galt—especially as it respects the former. Your Letter gave me the first notice, I had, of any circumstance of the affair, and I can, without scruple, assure you, I am not conscious, that they had any sinister view in what they did. It is evident, no deception nor any thing unfair could have been intended by Captain Robinson, as he was previously announced to you and your passport obtained. He was a person too well known in Philadelphia to have hoped to escape detection, under the mask of a fictitious and disguised character. The destruction of the Armed brig he formerly commanded, threw him out of actual employment; and his taking charge of the Shallop, destined to convey relief to the unfortunate, can only be deemed an instance of his condescension. I know nothing of Captain Galt, but it is not improbable he was actuated by similar motives. If the conduct of both or either of them was influenced in part by other incentives, I am persuaded they only related to private and personal concerns and might authorize a charge of indiscretion rather than of ill design. You were expressly told that Captain Isaiah Robinson was to have charge of the Shallop—your own passport ought to have protected him; since it is not pretended, that he committed any act in the execution of his commission, which could have forfeited its protection. I am well aware of the delicacy which ought to be observed in the intercourse of Flags, and that no species of imposition should be practiced under their sanction—But there are some little deviations, which inadvertency or the imprudence of individuals may occasion, which are more properly cause for Remonstrance than punishment. The present event on an impartial consideration will not appear any thing worse, and I think myself fully justified in demanding the immediate restoration of Captain Robinson, and desiring the release of Capt. Galt.
The conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Brooks, in detaining John Miller, requires neither palliation nor excuse. I justify and approve it. There is nothing so sacred in the character of the King’s trumpeter, even when sanctified by a flag, as to alter the nature of things, or to consecrate infidelity and guilt. He was a deserter from the army under my command; and, whatever you have been pleased to assert to the contrary, it is the practice of war and nations to seize and punish deserters wherever they may be found. His appearing in the character he did was an aggravation of his offence, inasmuch as it added insolence to perfidy. My scrupulous regard to the privileges of flags, and a desire to avoid every thing, that partiality itself might affect to consider as a violation of them, induced me to send orders for the release of the trumpeter, before the receipt of your letter; the improper and peremptory terms of which, had it not been too late, would have strongly operated to produce a less compromising conduct. I intended at the time to assure you, and I wish it to be remembered that my indulgence in this instance is not to be drawn into precedent; and that, should any deserters from the American army hereafter have the daring folly to approach our lines in a similar manner, they will fall victims to their rashness and presumption. I shall give orders, as you request for acknowledging the receipt of your letters at the posts where they shall be delivered.
Serjeants McMahon and Cameron were taken at a distance from their party, whither they had straggled, under very exceptionable circumstances, and were confined in Lancaster Jail, on suspicion of their being spies. I have sent directions to have them conveyed to your lines, which nothing but a regard to the promise of my Aid de Camp would induce me to do, the conduct of these men having been so irregular and criminal as to make them justly amenable to punishment. The particulars of this affair shall be the subject of future animadversion.
Before I conclude, I think it proper to inform you, that Colonel Grayson, Lieutenant-Colonels Harrison and Hamilton, and Elias Boudinot, commissary-general of prisoners, are the gentlemen appointed on my part to meet your commissioners.1 I am, Sir, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 24 March, 1778.
Herewith I do myself the honor to inclose copies of a Letter from an officer1 of Militia at Elizabeth Town to me, and an extract of a Letter from one of Mr. Boudinot’s deputies, at Boston, to him; both tending to induce a belief, that the enemy have some enterprize in contemplation. What this is, time must discover. I have, this whole Winter been clearly of opinion that Genl. Howe’s movements would be very early this spring to take advantage of the weak state of our army, or late, if he expected considerable reinforcements from England and meant to avail himself of his full strength.—
If the first takes places, as appearances indicate, it may I think be considered as a proof of one or both of these two things—that he is either well informed (he cannot indeed be otherwise) of the situation and more than probably the strength of our Army, or that he expects no considerable reinforcements this year from Europe.—In either case it is our indispensable duty to reinforce and arrange our army, as speedily as possible, that we may in the first Instance be prepared for defence—In the second take advantage of any favorable circumstances, which may happen, to injure the enemy.—
Whatever may be the designs of Congress, with respect to the establishment of the army, I know not; but I do most earnestly and devoutly recommend a speedy adoption of them, and the appointment of officers, as our present situation at this advanced season is truly alarming, and to me highly distressing, as I am convinced that we shall be plunged into the campaign before our arrangements are made, and the army properly organized.
The numberless disadvantages, resulting from the late appointment of general officers last year, make me look forward with infinite anxiety this; for, after all the wisdom that Congress or their committee can use in the choice of officers, many will be disgusted; resignations of some and perhaps non-acceptance of others follow. Before matters then can be brought to a proper tone, much time will be lost, and a great deal of trouble and vexation encountered; to overcome which, is not the work of a day; and, till they are overcome, confusion, disorder, and loss must prevail. In the mean while, order, regularity, and discipline, which require the vigilance of every officer to establish, and must flow from the general officers in every army, is neglected or not entered upon in time to effect.1 Thus it happened last year; and brigades and divisions became vacant, to the great injury of the service.
As it is not improper for Congress to have some idea of the present temper of the army, it may not be amiss to remark in this place, that, since the month of August last, between two and three hundred officers have resigned their commissions, and many others with difficulty dissuaded from it. In the Virginia line only, not less than six colonels, as good as any in the service, have left it lately; and more, I am told, are in the humor to do so.
Highly advantageous also would it be, if the recruits and draughts from No. Carolina and Virginia were not suffered to halt on their way to camp, (under pretence of getting equipp’d,) but sent forward and incorporated into the different regiments of their respective States, as soon as it could be done. Out of the number of men said to be draughted in Virginia last fall, and others from No. Carolina, very few have joined the army; but, owing to desertion and other causes, have dwindled to nothing; this will always be the case with new recruits, (especially those who are unwillingly drawn forth,) if much time is spent in getting them to their regiments under the care of proper officers. This shows the necessity if the season and other powerful reasons did not loudly call for it of hastening them to the army.
My solicitude for the preservation of the communication of the No. River gives me very uneasy sensations on account of our Posts there, and will excuse my again asking if the troops to the northward, except such as are necessary for the defence of Fort Schuyler, can be so advantageously employed as at the works on that River. A respectable force at those posts would awe New York, & divide Gen’l Howe’s force or expose the city. To depend too much upon militia is, in my opinion, putting every thing to hazard. If I should appear uncommonly anxious, respecting the several matters contained in this Letter, by repeating them, Congress will do me the justice, I hope, to believe, that I am actuated by no views but such as are prompted by circumstances & the advanced season. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. Your Letter of the 21st Inst. is just come to hand containing sevl resolves of Congress.1
TO JOHN TERNANT.1
Knowing it to be the intention of Congress to employ no more foreigners except such as come under special engagements, or whose recommendations and former services speak so powerfully as scarce to leave a choice, I could not undertake to give Mr. T— any assurance of a permanent appointment, much less the promise of Rank without authority of Congress. Nor could I stand justified upon any principle, for employing a stranger without recommendation on any other account than his profound knowledge in the business intended for him to execute. How far this is the case with Mr. T— he alone can tell. If upon trial he should be found deficient, the folly of the undertaking would be charged equally to us both; he for undertaking what he should be found unequal to and me, for employing a Gentn. of whose capacity I had no proofs. Mr. T— informed me that he had never been in any other service than in the Engineering department—If so I think he must be much at a loss in practice, let his theoretical knowledge be what it will; and if this should be the case would lay us both open to censure and give distrust, as it is not a very desirable thing to set aside our own officers, unless there are obvious reasons to justify the measure.
Thus much candor commands me to say, and under its influence Mr. T— should act the duties of the office of Sub-Inspector he (if fit for the place) ought to know the pay will be about 60 dollars.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ARMSTRONG.
Head Quarters,Valley Forge,
I am obliged of your favors of the 8th Feb. & 10th inst.
I fear your apprehensions as to the augmentation of the army, at least in good time, will appear to have been but too well founded. Some of the States have but lately drafted their men, others have proceeded but a very little way in recruiting, and some have not yet fixed upon the mode of completing their regiments. Even those men, that are already drafted or enlisted, are to be drawn together, most of them probably to be inoculated and all of them to be disciplined. By accounts from the eastward, the troops are about evacuating Rhode Island, and two regiments of Hessians and two of British are actually embarked at New York, whether with an intent to form some new expedition, or to reinforce General Howe at Philadelphia, cannot yet be determined, but I think the latter most probable. If General Howe draws his strength together before we have collected ours, nothing can hinder him from moving against us but ignorance of our numbers; and I dont think we have any right to count upon that, considering the knowledge he appears to have had the last campaign.1
I shall say no more of the Canada expedition, than that it is at an end. I never was made acquainted with a single circumstance relating to it.
I do not yet know what provision will be made for the officers who will be supernumerary upon the new arrangement of the army. I am in hopes that there will not be any great number of them, there having been so many resignations of late that the Regiments are in general thinly officered.
I am fully of opinion, that the enemy depend as much or more upon our own divisions, and the disaffection which they expect to create by sending their emissaries among the people, than they do by the force of their arms. The situation of matters in this State is melancholy and alarming. We have daily proof, that a majority of the people in this quarter are only restrained from supplying the enemy with horses and every kind of necessary, through fear of punishment; and, although I have made a number of severe examples, I cannot put a stop to the intercourse. It is plain from several late instances, that they have their emissaries in every part of the country. A lieutenant has been detected in Lancaster county purchasing horses, in conjunction with the inhabitants, one of whom and the lieutenant have been executed. Four fine teams were taken a few days ago, going into Philadelphia from the neighborhood of Yorktown, and I doubt not but there are many more such intentions yet undiscovered. I am convinced that more mischief has been done by the British officers, who have been prisoners, than by any other set of people; during their captivity they have made connexions in the country, they have confirmed the disaffected, converted many ignorant people, and frightened the lukewarm and timid by their stories of the power of Britain. I hope a general exchange is not far off, by which means we shall get rid of that set of people; and I am convinced, that we had better, in future, send all officers in upon parole, than keep them among us.
If the state of General Potter’s affairs will admit of returning to the army, I shall be exceedingly glad to see him, as his activity and vigilance have been much wanting in the course of the winter. The quota of militia, stipulated by the State, has never been above half kept up, and sometimes I believe there has not been a single man. General Lacey has not now above seventy. The country upon the east side of Schuylkill has been by these means exceedingly exposed, as it has not been in my power to cover it with the effective Continental troops, who instead of relaxation have been upon fatigue the whole winter.
When the weather is such, that you think you can take the field without injury to your health, I shall be glad to see you with the army, as I am, with sincere regard, dear Sir, &c.
TO PATRICK HENRY.
Valley Forge, 27 March, 1778.
About eight days ago I was honored with your favor of the 20th ultimo. Your friendship, Sir, in transmitting to me the anonymous letter you had received, lays me under the most grateful obligations, and if my acknowledgments can be due for any thing more, it is for the polite and delicate terms in which you have been pleased to communicate the matter.
I have ever been happy in supposing that I had a place in your esteem, and the proof you have afforded on this occasion makes me peculiarly so. The favorable light in which you hold me is truly flattering; but I should feel much regret, if I thought the happiness of America so intimately connected with my personal welfare, as you so obligingly seem to consider it. All I can say is, that she has ever had, and I trust she ever will have, my honest exertions to promote her interest. I cannot hope that my services have been the best; but my heart tells me they have been the best that I could render.
That I may have erred in using the means in my power for accomplishing the objects of the arduous, exalted station with which I am honored, I cannot doubt; nor do I wish my conduct to be exempted from reprehension farther than it may deserve. Error is the portion of humanity, and to censure it, whether committed by this or that public character, is the prerogative of freemen. However, being intimately acquainted with the man I conceive to be the author of the letter transmitted, and having always received from him the strongest professions of attachment and regard, I am constrained to consider him as not possessing, at least, a great degree of candor and sincerity, though his views in addressing you should have been the result of conviction, and founded in motives of public good. This is not the only secret, insidious attempt, that has been made to wound my reputation. There have been others equally base, cruel, and ungenerous, because conducted with as little frankness, and proceeding from views, perhaps, as personally interested. I am, dear Sir, with great esteem and regard, your much obliged friend, &c.
TO PATRICK HENRY.
Camp, 28 March, 1778.
Just as I was about to close my letter of yesterday, your favor of the 5th instant came to hand. I can only thank you again, in the language of the most undissembled gratitude, for your friendship; and assure you, that the indulgent disposition, which Virginia in particular, and the States in general, entertain towards me, gives me the most sensible pleasure. The approbation of my country is what I wish; and, as far as my abilities and opportunities will permit, I hope I shall endeavor to deserve it. It is the highest reward to a feeling mind; and happy are they, who so conduct themselves as to merit it.
The anonymous letter, with which you were pleased to favor me, was written by Dr. Rush, so far as I can judge from a similitude of hands. This man has been elaborate and studied in his professions of regard for me; and long since the letter to you. My caution to avoid any thing, which could injure the service, prevented me from communicating, but to a very few of my friends, the intrigues of a faction, which I know was formed against me, since it might serve to publish our internal dissensions; but their own restless zeal to advance their views has too clearly betrayed them, and made concealment on my part fruitless. I cannot precisely mark the extent of their views, but it appeared in general, that General Gates was to be exalted on the ruin of my reputation and influence. This I am authorized to say, from undeniable facts in my own possession, from publications, the evident scope of which could not be mistaken, and from private detractions industriously circulated. General Mifflin, it is commonly supposed, bore the second part in the cabal; and General Conway, I know, was a very active and malignant partisan; but I have good reasons to believe, that their machinations have recoiled most sensibly upon themselves. With sentiments of great esteem and regard, I am, dear Sir, your affectionate humble servant.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
It is some time since I have been honored with a letter from you. The sole reason of my taking up your attention at this time is to lay before you a short state of our present situation, the apparent views of the enemy, and from thence to show the absolute necessity which there is for drawing our force together as quick as possible, and being able to take the field before the enemy are in a condition to begin their operations. Notwithstanding the orders I had given last year to have all the recruits inoculated, I found, upon examination, that between three and four thousand men had not had the small pox; that disorder began to make its appearance in camp, and to avoid its spreading in the natural way, the whole army [was] immediately inoculated. They have gone through with uncommon success, but are not yet sufficiently recovered to do duty. All the men of the eastern regiments who were drafted for eight and twelve months were discharged in the winter, and their places have not yet been filled up. Seven of the Virginia regiments had been enlisted for two years; and their time of service expiring about two months ago, they were discharged likewise. Full two thousand men belonging to the different States are returned unfit for duty, for want of clothing, and must consequently be deducted from the effective list, from which also are to be taken the sick present and in hospital. From the above you may form a pretty just estimation of our present force,—I mean with which we should be able to look the enemy in the face.
General Howe has already drawn a body of men, said to be two thousand five hundred, from New York, and several accounts from Rhode Island speak confidently of the intended evacuation of New Port, which I suppose, if it takes place, is also to reinforce Philadelphia. These things indicate the intention of an early movement on the part of the enemy, and indeed, if they have the least penetration, or have profited by past experience, they must know that an early campaign upon their part will be highly advantageous to them. Had they attacked us last spring, in the neighborhood of Morris Town before our levies joined, they would undoubtedly have routed us, and perhaps have hindered us from making a junction of any consequence during the remainder of the campaign.
After the foregoing, little need be said to convince you of the absolute necessity of sending forward your levies with the greatest expedition. They are wanted now to enable us to act merely on the defensive; but would the States exert themselves and send such a body of men into the field, before the enemy are fully reinforced, as would enable us to act upon the offensive, such advantages might be taken of them in their present situation, and such posts occupied as would reduce them to the greatest distress. We may be assured that, notwithstanding the severe blow which Great Britain met with in the loss of Burgoyne’s army, she will exert herself most strenuously to repair her credit this campaign. It is plain that France is playing a politic game, enjoying all the advantages of our commerce without the expense of war. It will probably end in a rupture between the two courts, but perhaps not so speedily as some imagine.
Such of the levies as have not been inoculated need not be detained on that account. We have found it more convenient to inoculate them in and near camp. They can be of service in case of emergency, and are not to be subjected to a long march immediately upon their recovery, which has always been much more fatal than the disorder.
Among the troops returned unfit for duty for want of clothing, none of your State are included. The care of your legislature in providing clothing and necessaries of all kinds for their men is highly laudable, and reflects the greatest honor upon their patriotism and humanity.
I wrote to you the 6th ultimo upon our then want of provisions, to which having received no answer, I am doubtful of the letters getting to hand. We have been since better supplied, and as I am informed that Mr. Wadsworth has accepted of the commissary department, I hope that we shall do better in future. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THOMAS McKEAN.1
I was yesterday favored with your letter of the 13th March—I should be ready to afford every probable means of procuring honest testimony to the two persons now under confinement for passing counterfeit Continental money. But it cannot be supposed that General Howe would permit persons to come out Philada. to give evidence in a matter, which by being traced fairly back would fix the issuing counterfeit money upon some of his own party—a thing which he has affected to treat as not having the least foundation in truth. Besides I very much doubt whether, he would not consider the suffering persons to come out to give evidence in our Courts, as in some measure acknowledging their authority and jurisdiction, which he has ever cautiously avoided.
Upon the whole Sir, I think it will be to no purpose to send in for the evidence required, who if they were permitted to come out would only endeavor to make it appear, that the prisoners did not know the money was counterfeit; whether they did or did not I should suppose the Jury would be able to Judge from circumstances. I am, &c.
TO COLONEL JOSIAS C. HALL.
Head-Quarters, 3 April, 1778.
However painful it is to me to signify my public disapprobation of a sentence solemnly pronounced by a court-martial, it is a disagreeable sensation from which my duty forbids me to exempt myself in particular instances; such a one is that, which makes the subject of your favor of the 26th ultimo. A refusal to obey the commands of a superior officer, especially where the duty required was evidently calculated for the good of the service, cannot be justified, without involving consequences subversive of all military discipline. A precedent manifestly too dangerous would be established, of dispensing with orders, and subordination would be at an end, if men’s ideas were not rectified in a case of this kind, and such notice taken, as has been on my part.
As far as the matter personally regards you, I feel additional concern; but I can by no means discover that necessity of retiring from the service in support of a mistaken opinion, which you remotely hint at. On the contrary, from the crisis at which our affairs have arrived, and the frequent defection of officers seduced by views of private interest and emolument to abandon the cause of their country, I think every man, who does not merely make profession of patriotism, is bound by indissoluble ties to remain in the army. My advice, in which I flatter myself you will coincide, after a dispassionate review of this matter, is, therefore, that differences may be mutually forgot, and that the whole may subside; to which your love of the service will I hope in no small degree contribute, and I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have now the honor to acknowledge your several letters of the 21st, 29th, and 30th ultimo, with their enclosures, which have been duly received. It gives me pain to observe they appear to contain several implications by which my sensibility is not a little wounded. I find myself extremely embarrassed by the steps I had taken towards an exchange of prisoners, and the formation of a general cartel making more ample provision for their future accommodation and relief. The views of Congress seem to be very different from what I supposed them, when I entered into my late engagements with General Howe. Their resolution of the 30th ultimo, pointedly requiring a strict adherence to all former ones upon the subject, will in all probability render them impracticable. I considered some of their resolutions as dictated on the principle of retaliation, and did not imagine the terms they contained would be insisted upon in negotiating an agreement calculated to remedy the evils which occasioned them. In most respects they might be substantially complied with; but there are some points to which an exact conformity must of necessity destroy the idea of a cartel. One is the obliging of the enemy to pay gold and silver on equal terms for Continental currency, estimating the articles supplied them at their actual prices with us, as seems to be the design of the resolve of the 19th of December; another is, that, subjecting the inhabitants of these States, taken in arms against them, to trial and punishment, agreeable to the resolve of the 30th of the same month.
I am well aware that appearances ought to be upheld, and that we should avoid as much as possible recognising by any public act the depreciation of our currency; but I conceive this end would be answered, as far as might be necessary, by stipulating, that all money payments should be made in gold and silver, being the common medium of commerce among nations, at the rate of four shillings and six pence for a Spanish milled dollar; by fixing the price of rations on an equitable scale relatively to our respective circumstances; and providing for the payment of what we may owe, by sending in provision and selling it at their market. The rates of money, and the prices of provisions and other commodities, differ everywhere; and, in treaties of a similar nature between any two States, it is requisite, for mutual convenience, to ascertain some common ratio, for both the value of money in payments, and for the rates of those articles on which they may arise.
It was determined on mature consideration not to conclude any thing expressly, that should contradict the resolution of the 30th of December; but at the same time, if it is designed to be the rule of practice, it is easy to perceive it would at once overturn any cartel that could be formed. General Howe would never consent to observe it on his part, if such a practice were to exist on ours. Though the law ought not to be contravened by an express article admitting the exchangeability of such persons, yet, if it is not suffered to sleep, it is in vain to expect the operation of it will be acquiesced in by the enemy.1
The measures I have taken must evince, that it is my determination to pay the fullest attention to the interests of citizens, and to the rights of General Lee, in the treaty; and I think it but justice to the gentlemen appointed to negotiate it to declare, that I know them to be so fully impressed with the importance of both those objects, as to make them cheerfully observant of the injunctions of Congress, so far as not to conclude any agreement, of which the exchange of General Lee and the alternative respecting citizens are not essential parts. These points have been early determined on.
It is with no small concern, that I have been obliged to trouble Congress upon the subjects of this letter; and, should they appear to them in the same light they do to me, and they should think proper to remove the obstacles, which now oppose the business in hand, I must request they will be pleased to communicate their determination as expeditiously as possible, that the commissioners may govern themselves accordingly, and either proceed to forming a cartel, or put an end to the negotiation. Before the resolves of the 30th came to hand, they had met, and been in treaty two days, with a prospect of a favorable accommodation.
I am happy to inform Congress, that General Lee will be out on parole to-morrow in place of General Prescott; and I have every reason to expect, if the negotiation can be continued upon admissible terms, that his exchange will immediately follow the releasement of Colonel Campbell and the Hessian field-officers. It is agreed, that Lieutenant-Colonel Allen shall be exchanged for Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell.
The importunate applications of Colo. Lee1 and Maj: Swazey2 to leave the Service oblige me to lay the matter before Congress. Colo. Lee’s letter upon the subject was transmitted me the 25th of January, but hoping he might change his mind I deferred writing to Congress upon his request. He has renewed it again in urgent terms thro’ General Heath, and I have only to observe that it is a painful circumstance to see officers of their merit leaving the Service. It is the case every day. I shall be obliged by Congress informing me of the dates of the Resignations of the Colonels in the Virginia line. I have only received the date of Colo. Lewis’s.
Inclosed is a letter from Capt. Cottineau of the Ship Ferdinand with an Invoice of her cargo. The letter only came to hand yesterday, and as it is of an old date it is highly probable that the goods are sold. If they are not, from the Captain’s desire to give the public a preference in the Sale, Congress will have an opportunity of directing them to be purchased. Most of them would be proper for the Army. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 10 April, 1778.
I had the honor of receiving your favor of the 4th Instant, enclosing a resolve of Congress of the same date, empowering me to call forth five thousand militia from the States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. I thank Congress for the power; at the same time it is incumbent on me to assure them, that, granting the practicability of collecting such a number, it would prove a work of time, difficulty, and expense; to evince which, I need only recur to the experience of last campaign on similar occasions, and to remind you that it was not possible to obtain 1,000 men, nor sometimes even one hundred, from this State, altho’ the former number was required and promised, for the purpose of covering during the winter the country between Schuylkill & Delaware.
As this resolve appears to have been made in consequence of my Letters of the 24th and 29th Ulto. which were founded on conjecture, and in some degree misinformation, and as the execution of it would, exclusive of the inconveniences above mentioned, I am persuaded, have a tendency to injure the completion of the Continental Regiments, I shall call for a small part only of the number allowed; but could wish that Hartley’s Regiment were ordered immediately to camp, and the duties of it performed by militia—In like manner I would propose that all remote guards should be composed of militia—and that the several purposes for which men are drawn from the Continental Troops should be answered by them. This would be a means of drawing together a considerable number of men, who are in a manner lost to the Army; and of employing the militia to the best advantage possible—
The great end of my letter to Congress, of the 24th ultimo, seems to have been mistaken. My views were not turned to reinforcements of militia. To know whether the old establishment of the army, or the new as agreed upon by the committee, is the choice of Congress, and in what manner the regiments of this State and the additionals are to be reduced, officers for the whole appointed, &c, were my objects. These are objects of the greatest moment, as they may, in their consequences, involve the fate of America; for I will undertake to say, that it is next to impossible, when the season is so far advanced, properly to accomplish those changes, appointments, and the dependent arrangements for the ensuing campaign. Should any convulsion happen, or movement take place, they will be altogether impracticable. Justice to my own character, as well as duty to the public, constrain me to repeat these things; their consequences are more easily conceived than described.
It may be said by some, Sir, that my wish to see the officers of this army upon a more respectable establishment is the cause of my solicitude, and carrys me too far. To such I can declare, that my anxiety proceeds from the causes above mentioned. If my opinion is asked with respect to the necessity of making this provision for the officers, I am ready to declare, that I do most religiously believe the salvation of the cause depends upon it, and, without it, your officers will moulder to nothing, or be composed of low and illiterate men, void of capacity for this or any other business. To prove this, I can with truth aver, that scarce a day passes without the offer of two or three commissions; and my advices from the Eastward and Southward are, that numbers who had gone home on furlough mean not to return, but are establishing themselves in more lucrative employments. Let Congress determine what will be the consequence of this spirit.
Personally, as an officer, I have no interest in their decision, because I have declared, and I now repeat it, that I never will receive the smallest benefit from the half-pay establishment; but, as a man who fights under the weight of a proscription, and as a citizen, who wishes to see the liberty of his country established upon a permanent foundation, and whose property depends upon the success of our arms, I am deeply interested. But, all this apart, and justice out of the question, upon the single ground of economy and public saving, I will maintain the utility of it; for I have not the least doubt, that, until officers consider their commissions in an honorable and interested point of view, and are afraid to endanger them by negligence and inattention, that no order, regularity, or care, either of the men or Public property, will prevail. To prove this, I need only refer to the General Courts-Martial, which are constantly sitting for the trial of them, and the number who have been cashiered within the last three months for misconduct of different kinds.
By officers who are just returned from Massachusetts bay, I learn that there is not the least prospect of getting men from thence before the Month of June—if then—and indeed, that there is no reason to expect any number that will deserve the name of re-inforcement for the Continental Regiments this Campaign; the Towns being only called upon to furnish the deficiency of their last years quota, so that all subsequent casualties are disregarded, and the fifteen Regiments of that State which may now perhaps want 4000 men to compleat them, will receive only 500 if the Towns came within that number of their complement last year—What change the requisition of Congress of the—Feby. may effect I shall not undertake to say—if it has not a speedy and powerful operation our prospects in that quarter will be exceedingly unpromising—A Gentleman from New Hampshire some little time since informed me that matters were nearly in the same train there, notwithstanding a resolve for the completion of their Battalions—and, the Inclosed copy of a Letter No. 1 from General Putnam, whom I have desired to remain in Connecticut for some time in order to forward the Recruits from that State conveys his Ideas of what may be expected from thence.—What New York, New Jersey, No. Carolina have done, or are about to do, I know not. Pennsylvania and Maryland have tried the effect of voluntary inlistments to little purpose and the first, in direct contradiction to the most pointed injunctions laid on the officers, have their Recruits composed chiefly of Deserters who will embrace the first opportunity of escaping with our Arms—Virginia, it is true, has proceeded to a draught; but the number, besides being in itself inadequate, has been lessened by desertion and the deficiency of the Regiments on the other hand, being increased by death and desertion, their strength will probably fall very far short of the new establishment.
This Sir is not a flattering Picture of our affairs, but the representation is just, and it is incumbent on me to exhibit it in my own defence, as notwithstanding all these unfavorable circumstances (and what is to me a certain prospect of being plunged into the campaign before our arrangements are made—Officers appointed, &c?) great matters I perceive are expected from our activity this Spring—in proportion therefore will the disappointment be felt, by those who are sanguine—For want of the ratification of Congress, the horse establishment—companies of Sappers, Provost Marshalsey &c. &c. as agreed to by the Committee, and recommended for their consideration, are entirely at a stand, at a time when we ought to be deriving benefits from their execution. At no period since the commencement of the war have I felt more painful sensations on account of delay, than at the present; and, urged by them, I have expressed myself without reserve.
By a letter just received from General Weedon, I am informed of his intention to resign, if General Woodford should be restored to his former Rank, which he had not then heard. General Muhlenberg is now balancing on the same point. One, therefore, if not two brigadiers, will be wanted for that State. The disadvantages resulting from the frequent resignations in the Virginia Line, the change of commanding officers to the regiments, and other causes equally distressing, have injured that corps beyond conception, and have been the means of reducing very respectable regiments in some instances to a mere handful of men; and this will ever be the case, till officers can be fixed by something equivalent to the sacrifice they make. To reason otherwise, and suppose that public virtue alone will enable men to forego the ease and comforts of life, to encounter the hardships and dangers of war for a bare subsistence, when their companions and friends are amassing large fortunes, is viewing human nature rather as it should be, than as it really is.
The clothier-genl of the army, as well as the heads of every other department, should be in camp near the Com’r-in-chief; otherwise it is impossible that the operations of war can be conducted with energy and precision.1 I wish most sincerely that this, as not the least essential part of the business settled with the committee, were decided, and a thorough investigation were had into the conduct of this department, as it is a matter of universal astonishment that we should be deficient in any article of cloathing when it is commonly asserted that the Eastern States alone can furnish materials enough to cloath 100,000 men—If this be fact there is a fatal error somewhere, to which may be attributed the death, & desertion, of thousands.
I shall make no apology for the freedom of this letter. To inform Congress of such facts as materially affect the service, I conceive to be one great and essential part of my duty to them and myself. My agreement with the committee entitled me to expect upwards of forty thousand Continental troops, exclusive of artillery and Horse, for the Service of the ensuing campaign, including those to be employed in the defence of the North River. Instead of these, what are my prospects?
Major-General the Marquis de Lafayette is arrived at camp, and will resume the command of his division. The Baron de Kalb is expected in a few days. * * *1
TO COLONEL MATHIAS OGDEN.
Valley Forge, 13 April, 1778.
I received your favor of the 9th Inst, by Colo. Barber.
The liberation of our Officers from their confinement, is certainly a desirable object, yet I am not satisfied, that we could fully justify our conduct in effecting it in the manner proposed. But, be this as it may, it appears to me, that the attempt, supposing it to succeed, would not be founded in principles of a large and general expediency.—It would afford relief to a few men, and subject a far greater number, perhaps ten times as many, to the inconveniences of a stricter and much more limited confinement, than they now experience. Our officers in the hands of the enemy, are permitted to be on Long Island thro’ favor, and for their better accommodation. If we, by an attempt, should release twenty or thirty, every indulgence would be withdrawn from those remaining and they, and all future Prisoners would be so closely and uncomfortably placed, that they would not be liable to the same accidents. Besides, a breach of Honor would certainly be objected against the officers released; for it would be said, right or wrong, that they, at least, had consented to the measure, if not planned it. These considerations, without taking into view how far the proceeding would be justifiable, are opposed to the scheme and induced me to decline it. Were it to be prosecuted, I certainly should have no objections to your conducting it. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 18 April, 1778.
On Thursday evening I had the honor to receive your two letters of the 14th instant. I am much obliged by the fresh assurances, which Congress are pleased to make me of their confidence; and they may be satisfied that I wish nothing more ardently, than that a good and perfect agreement should subsist between us. The negotiation between the commissioners is ended without effecting a cartel; nor do I suppose, from the information I have received on the subject, that there is any good prospect that one will ever be formed, or at least for a great while, on a liberal and an extensive plan. A report of the proceedings of the commissioners on our part, at their several meetings, I take the liberty to enclose. * * * The old agreement, I presume, continues; and under it we must carry on exchanges.1
General Muhlenberg has communicated his determination to resign, but has promised not to leave his brigade till Congress shall appoint another general in his room, provided it is done in any reasonable time. By postponing my call upon the militia, as mentioned in my last of the 10th, I did not mean to decline it altogether. I did not see the necessity of calling out five thousand for the sole purpose of defence; and in the present situation of things, I cannot perceive my way sufficiently clear for offensive measures, as I do not know when to expect the recruits from the different States, nor what prospect the commissary has of provision; as we only get it yet from hand to mouth, assembling the militia, unless for the purpose of defence, should be the last thing done, as they soon become impatient, and are very expensive in the articles of stores, camp utensils, provisions, &c.
The enclosed draft of a bill was brought to headquarters yesterday afternoon, by a gentleman who informed me, that a large cargo of them had been just sent out of Philadelphia. Whether this insidious proceeding is genuine, and imported in the packet, which arrived a few days ago, or contrived in Philadelphia, is a point undetermined and immaterial; but it is certainly founded in principles of the most wicked, diabolical baseness, meant to poison the minds of the people, and detach the wavering at least from our cause.1 I suppose it will obtain a place in the papers, and am not without anxiety that it will have a malignant influence. I would submit it, whether it will not be highly expedient for Congress to investigate it in all its parts, and to expose in the most striking manner the injustice, delusion, and fraud it contains. I trust it will be attacked, in every shape, in every part of the continent.1 I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO THE GENERAL OFFICERS IN CAMP.
Head-Quarters, 20 April, 1778.
There seem to me but three general plans of operation, which may be premeditated for the next campaign; one, the attempting to recover Philadelphia and destroy the enemy’s army there; another, the endeavoring to transfer the war to the northward by an enterprise against New York; and a third, the remaining quiet in a secure, fortified camp, disciplining and arranging the army till the enemy begin their operations, and then to govern ourselves accordingly. Which of these three plans shall we adopt?
If the first, what mode of execution shall we pursue, and what force will be requisite, estimating the present numbers of the enemy in Philadelphia to be ten thousand men, exclusive of marines and seamen, whose aid may be called in? Shall we endeavor to effect the purpose by storm, by regular approaches, or by blockade, and in what particular manner?
If the second, shall we attempt to take New York by a coup de main with a small force, or shall we collect a large force, and make an attack in form? In either case, what force will be necessary, estimating the number of the enemy in and about New York at four thousand men, and what disposition shall we make so as to effect the enterprise, and at the same time to protect the country here and secure our stores?
If the last, what post shall we take, so as to keep the army in a state of security, to afford cover to the country and to our magazines, and to be in a situation to counteract the future motions of the enemy?
The Commander-in-chief thinks it unnecessary to make any comments on these questions, as the general officers will no doubt fully weigh every circumstance proper to be considered, and, sensible of the importance of the objects, to which their attention is called, will make their opinions the result of mature deliberation.
I am, &c.1
TO JOHN BANISTER, DELEGATE IN CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 21 April, 1778.
On Saturday evening I had the pleasure to receive your favor of the 16th instant.
I thank you very much for your obliging tender of a friendly intercourse between us; and you may rest assured that I embrace it with cheerfulness, and shall write you freely, as often as leisure will permit, of such points as appear to me material and interesting. I am pleased to find, that you expect the proposed establishment of the army will succeed; though is it a painful consideration, that matters of such pressing importance and obvious necessity meet with so much difficulty and delay. Be assured, the success of the measure is a matter of the most serious moment, and that it ought to be brought to a conclusion as speedily as possible. The spirit of resigning commissions has been long at an alarming height, and increases daily. Applications from officers on furlough are hourly arriving and Genls. Heath at Boston—McDougall on the north River and Mason of Virginia are asking what they are to do with the appliants to them.
The Virginia line has sustained a violent shock in this instance. Not less than ninety have already resigned to me. The same conduct has prevailed among the officers from the other States, though not yet to so considerable a degree; and there are but too just grounds to fear, that it will shake the very existence of the army, unless a remedy is soon, very soon, applied. There is none, in my opinion, so effectual as the one pointed out.1 This, I trust, will satisfy the officers, and at the same time it will produce no present additional emission of money. They will not be persuaded to sacrifice all views of present interest, and encounter the numerous vicissitudes of war, in the defence of their country, unless she will be generous enough on her part to make a decent provision for their future support. I do not pronounce absolutely, that we shall have no army if the establishment fails, but the army we may have will be without discipline, without energy, incapable of acting with vigor, and destitute of those cements necessary to promise success on the one hand, or to withstand the shocks of adversity on the other. It is indeed hard to say how extensive the evil may be, if the measure should be rejected, or much longer delayed. I find it a very arduous task to keep the officers in tolerable humor, and to protract such a combination in quitting the service, as might possibly undo us for ever.
The difference between our service and that of the enemy is very striking. With us, from the peculiar, unhappy situation of things, the officer, a few instances excepted, must break in upon his private fortune for present support, without a prospect of future relief. With them, even companies are esteemed so honorable and so valuable, that they have sold of late from fifteen to twenty-two hundred pounds sterling; and I am credibly informed, that four thousand guineas have been given for a troop of dragoons. You will readily determine how this difference will operate; what effects it must produce. Men may speculate as they will; they may talk of patriotism; they may draw a few examples from ancient story, of great achievements performed by its influence; but whoever builds upon them, as a sufficient basis for conducting a long and bloody war, will find themselves deceived in the end. We must take the passions of men as nature has given them, and those principles as a guide, which are generally the rule of action. I do not mean to exclude altogether the idea of patriotism. I know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest. But I will venture to assert, that a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward. For a time it may, of itself, push men to action, to bear much, to encounter difficulties; but it will not endure unassisted by interest.
The necessity of putting the army upon a respectable footing, both as to numbers and constitution, is now become more essential than ever. The enemy are beginning to play a game more dangerous, than their efforts by arms (though these will not be remitted in the smallest degree), and which threatens a fatal blow to the independence of America, and to her liberties of course. They are endeavoring to ensnare the people by specious allurements of peace. It is not improbable they have had such abundant cause to be tired of the war, that they may be sincere in the terms they offer, which, though far short of our pretensions, will be extremely flattering to minds, that do not penetrate far into political consequences; but, whether they are sincere or not, they may be equally destructive; for, to discerning men nothing can be more evident, than that a peace on the principles of dependence, however limited, after what has happened, would be to the last degree dishonorable and ruinous.1 It is however much to be apprehended, that the idea of such an event will have a very powerful effect upon the country, and if not combated with the greatest address will serve, at least, to produce supineness and disunion. Men are naturally fond of peace, and there are symptoms which may authorize an opinion, that the people of America are pretty generally weary of the present war. It is doubtful, whether many of our friends might not incline to an accommodation on the grounds held out, or which may be, rather than persevere in a contest for independence. If this is the case, it must surely be the truest policy to strengthen the army, and place it upon a substantial footing. This will conduce to inspire the country with confidence; enable those at the head of affairs to consult the public honor and interest, notwithstanding the defection of some and temporary inconsistency and irresolution of others, who may desire to compromise the dispute; and, if a treaty should be deemed expedient, will put it in their power to insist upon better terms, than they could otherwise expect.
Besides the most vigorous exertions at home to increase and establish our military force upon a good basis, it appears to me advisable, that we should immediately try the full extent of our interest abroad, and bring our European negotiations to an issue. I think France must have ratified our independence,1 and will declare war immediately, on finding that serious proposals of accommodation are made; but lest, from a mistaken policy or too exalted an opinion of our power from the representations she has had, she should still remain indecisive, it were to be wished, proper persons were instantly despatched, or our envoys already there instructed to insist pointedly on her coming to a final determination.2 It cannot be fairly supposed, that she will hesitate a moment to declare war, if she is given to understand, in a proper manner, that a reunion of the two countries may be the consequence of procrastination. A European war and a European alliance would effectually answer our purposes. If the step I now mention should be eligible, despatches ought to be sent at once by different conveyances, for fear of accidents. I confess, it appears to me a measure of this kind could not but be productive of the most salutary consequences. If possible, I should also suppose it absolutely necessary to obtain good intelligence from England, pointing out the true springs of this manœuvre of ministry; the preparations of force they are making; the prospects there are of raising it; the amount, and when it may be expected.
It really seems to me, from a comprehensive view of things, that a period is fast approaching, big with events of the most interesting importance; when the counsels we pursue, and the part we act, may lead decisively to liberty or to slavery. Under this idea, I cannot but regret that inactivity, that inattention, that want of something, which unhappily I have but too often experienced in our public affairs. I wish that our representation in Congress was complete and full from every State, and that it was formed of the first abilities among us. Whether we continue to war or proceed to negotiate, the wisdom of America in council cannot be too great. Our situation will be truly delicate. To enter into a negotiation too hastily, or to reject it altogether, may be attended with consequences equally fatal. The wishes of the people, seldom founded in deep disquisitions, or resulting from other reasonings than their present feelings, may not entirely accord with our true policy and interest. If they do not, to observe a proper line of conduct for promoting the one, and avoiding offence to the other, will be a work of great difficulty.
Nothing short of independence, it appears to me, can possibly do. A peace on other terms would, if I may be allowed the expression, be a peace of war. The injuries we have received from the British nation were so unprovoked, and have been so great and so many, that they can never be forgotten. Besides the feuds, the jealousies, the animosities, that would ever attend a union with them; besides the importance, the advantages, we should derive from an unrestricted commerce; our fidelity as a people, our gratitude, our character as men, are opposed to a coalition with them as subjects, but in case of the last extremity. Were we easily to accede to terms of dependence, no nation, upon future occasions, let the oppressions of Britain be never so flagrant and unjust, would interpose for our relief; or, at most, they would do it with a cautious reluctance, and upon conditions most probably that would be hard, if not dishonorable to us. France, by her supplies, has saved us from the yoke thus far; and a wise and virtuous perseverance would, and I trust will, free us entirely.
I have sent Congress Lord North’s speech, and the two bills offered by him to Parliament. They are spreading fast through the country, and will soon become a subject of general notoriety. I therefore think they had best be published in our papers, and persons of leisure and ability set to work to counteract the impressions they may make on the minds of the people.
Before I conclude, there are one or two points more, upon which I will add an observation or two. The first is, the indecision of Congress and the delay used in coming to determinations on matters referred to them. This is productive of a variety of inconveniences; and an early decision, in many cases, though it should be against the measure submitted, would be attended with less pernicious effects. Some new plan might then be tried; but, while the matter is held in suspense, nothing can be attempted. The other point is, the jealousy, which Congress unhappily entertain of the army, and which, if reports are right, some members labor to establish. You may be assured, there is nothing more injurious, or more unjustly founded. This jealousy stands upon the commonly received opinion, which under proper limitations is certainly true, that standing armies are dangerous to a State, and from forming the same conclusion of the component parts of all, though they are totally dissimilar in their nature. The prejudices in other countries have only gone to them in time of peace, and these from their not having in general cases any of the ties, the concerns, or interests of citizens, or any other dependence, than what flowed from their military employ; in short, from their being mercenaries, hirelings. It is our policy to be prejudiced against them in time of war; & though they are citizens, having all the ties and interests of citizens, and in most cases property totally unconnected with the military line.
If we would pursue a right system of policy, in my opinion, there should be none of these distinctions. We should all be considered, Congress and army, as one people, embarked in one cause, in one interest; acting on the same principle, and to the same end. The distinction, the jealousies set up, or perhaps only incautiously let out, can answer not a single good purpose. They are impolitic in the extreme. Among individuals the most certain way to make a man your enemy is to tell him you esteem him such. So with public bodies; and the very jealousy, which the narrow politics of some may affect to entertain of the army, in order to a due subordination to the supreme civil authority, is a likely mean to produce a contrary effect; to incline it to the pursuit of those measures, which they may wish it to avoid. It is unjust, because no order of men in the Thirteen States has paid a more sanctimonious regard to their proceedings than the army; and indeed it may be questioned whether there has been that scrupulous adherence had to them by any other, for without arrogance or the smallest deviation from truth it may be said, that no history now extant can furnish an instance of an army’s suffering such uncommon hardships as ours has done, and bearing them with the same patience and fortitude. To see men, without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie on, without shoes, by which their marches might be traced by the blood from their feet, and almost as often without provisions as with them, marching through the frost and snow, and at Christmas taking up their winter-quarters within a day’s march of the enemy, without a house or hut to cover them, till they could be built, and submitting to it without a murmur, is a proof of patience and obedience, which in my opinion can scarce be paralleled.
There may have been some remonstrances or applications to Congress, in the style of complaint, from the army, and slaves indeed should we be, if this privilege were denied, on account of their proceedings in particular instances; but these will not authorize nor even excuse a jealousy, that they are therefore aiming at unreasonable powers, or making strides dangerous or subversive of civil authority. Things should not be viewed in that light, more especially as Congress in some cases have relieved the injuries complained of, & which had flowed from their own acts. I refer you to my letter to yourself and Colo. Lee which accompanies this upon the subject of money for such of the old Virginia troops as have or may reinlist.
In respect to the volunteer plan, I scarce know what opinion to give at this time. The propriety of a requisition on this head will depend altogether on our operations. Such kind of troops should not be called for, but upon the spur of the occasion, and at the moment of executing an enterprise. They will not endure a long service; and, of all men in the military line, they are the most impatient of restraint and necessary government.
As the propositions and the speech of Lord North must be founded in the despair of the nation of succeeding against us; or from a rupture in Europe, that has actually happened, or certainly will happen;1 or from some deep political manœuvre; or from what I think still more likely, a composition of the whole, would it not be good policy, in this day of uncertainty and distress to the Tories, to avail ourselves of the occasion, and for the several States to hold out pardon &c. to all delinquents returning by a certain day?1 They are frightened, and this is the time to operate upon them. Upon a short consideration of the matter, it appears to me, that such a measure would detach the Tories from the enemy, and bring things to a much speedier conclusion, and of course be a mean of saving much public treasure.
I will now be done and I trust that you excuse, not only the length of my letter, but the freedom with which I have delivered my sentiments in the course of it upon several occasions. The subjects struck me as important and interesting, and I have only to wish, that they may appear to you in the same light.
I am, dear Sir, with great regard, &c.2
TO MAJOR-GENERAL McDOUGALL.
I am perfectly satisfied with your delay of the enterprise proposed by you, as I am certain it has been founded upon substantial reasons. Congress having, by their resolve of the 15th instant, directed General Gates to resume the command of the northern department, and to repair forthwith to Fishkill for that purpose, I imagine he will proceed immediately thither. Upon his arrival there, I must desire you to return to this army and take the command of your division.1 As Colonel La Radière and Colonel Kosciuszko will never agree, I think it will be best to order La Radière to return, especially as you say Kosciuszko is better adapted to the genius and temper of the people.
It is painful to reflect upon the number of valuable officers, who have been obliged to quit the service on account of the disproportion between their pay and every necessary of life. I do not yet know what Congress will determine, as to the new arrangement and provision for the army; but if the gentlemen mentioned by you are such as will be an acquisition to the service, I would wish you to endeavor to persuade them to remain until they see what Congress will do. If they cannot be prevailed upon to wait till that time, you will see that they are not indebted to their regiments or to the public, and give them discharges. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL CHARLES LEE.
Valley Forge, 22 April, 1778.
Mr. Boudinot, at Commissary Loring’s request, met him at Germantown yesterday; from whence he is just returned, after having agreed on a final exchange of yourself and other officers, with that gentleman. That delay may not produce danger, I shall send in a flag to-morrow for your parole; when obtained, I shall most cordially and sincerely congratulate you on your restoration to your country and to the army. I could not however refrain, till the happy event should take place, rejoicing with you on the probability of it, nor from expressing my wish of seeing you in camp, as soon as you can possibly make it convenient to yourself, after you are perfectly at liberty to take an active part with us; of which I shall not delay giving you the earliest notice. I have received your favor of the 13th instant from Yorktown. The contents shall be the subject of conversation, when I have the pleasure of seeing you in circumstances to mount your hobby-horse, which, I hope, will not on trial be found quite so limping a jade, as the one you set out to York on. I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 23 April, 1778.
I take the liberty to transmit to you a letter, which I received yesterday from Governor Tryon, enclosing the drafts of the two bills I forwarded before, with his certificate of the manner in which they came to his hands, accompanied by his more extraordinary and impertinent request, that, through my means, the contents should be communicated to the officers and men of this army. This engine of the ministry, from Governor Livingston’s account, is very industriously circulating copies of these drafts, in obedience to their and his royal master’s mandates. The letter which I enclose, and a triplicate, came to hand at one time; some future conveyance, it is probable, will present me the duplicate.1
I would also take the liberty to enclose to you the “Evening Post,” No. 475, which Governor Livingston was so obliging as to send me yesterday. Were we not fully satisfied, from our experience, that there are no artifices, no measures too black or wicked for the enemy or their adherents to attempt, in order to promote their views, we might be astonished at the daring confidence, in defiance of the opinion of the world, manifested in a publication of this paper, purporting a resolution of Congress, of the 20th of February. This proceeding is infamous to the last degree, and calculated to produce the most baneful consequences by exciting an opposition in the people to our drafting system, and embarrassing at least the only probable mode now left us for raising men. I think it of great importance, that the forgery should be announced in the most public manner, and am the more induced to this opinion from Governor Livingston’s account of the disagreeable operation it has had, and is still likely to produce, if not contradicted. If it is, and with a few strictures, I should hope that it will excite in the breasts of all our countrymen a just and generous contempt of the enemy for such a dirty, wicked proceeding.
I was last night honored with your favor of the 18th instant, with the proceedings alluded to. A general plan of operations for the compaign is indispensably essential to be settled. I have thought much upon the subject; and some propositions respecting it were put in the hands of all the general officers here on Tuesday evening for their consideration. I also intended to send a messenger this day to meet General Gates, supposing him to be on his way to Hudson’s River, and to request his call at this camp, that we might enter into a full and free discussion of the point. There is not a moment to be delayed in forming some general system, in my opinion; and I only wait the arrival of Generals Gates and Mifflin to summon a council for the purpose. I have the honor to be, &c.
P.S.—It is confidently reported, and I have little doubt of the truth of it, that Sir William Howe is recalled, and that General Clinton is to succeed him in the command.1 I have also the pleasure to transmit a list of sundry officers exchanged on the 21st instant.1
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, IN CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 25 April, 1778.
I received your obliging favor of the 18th instant yesterday evening. I thank you much for the explanatory hints it contains, and could have wished it had come to hand a little sooner. I have many things to say to you, but as the express, who will deliver you this, is going with despatches, that will not admit of delay, I shall content myself with taking notice of one matter, that appears to me to require immediate remedy.2
The resolution of Congress directs the council to be formed of major-generals and the chief engineer, who, you say, is to be a member officially. By this the commanding officer of artillery is negatively excluded, who, by the practice of armies, and from the very nature of his appointment, is more officially a member than the other. According to my ideas, both or neither ought to be there; or, if an official preference is due to one more than the other, it is to the commander in the artillery line. I do not know what motives induced the discrimination in this instance; but I should suppose it will at least be felt; and I will further add, though prejudices may be entertained by some against General Knox, there is no department in the army, that has been conducted with greater propriety, or to more advantage, than the one in which he presides, and owing principally if not wholly to his management. Surely whatever plans may be come into, the artillery will have no small share in the execution.
You say, All will yet be well. I wish it heartily; but am much mistaken, if there are not some secret and retrograde springs in motion to disprove it. I wish you could announce the provision for officers concluded. It seems to me the basis of all our operations. Resignation after resignation is taking place; not here only, but of officers acting east of Hudson’s River.
I am, with great esteem and regard, dear Sir, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 25 April, 1778.
I beg leave to inform Congress, that the report of the commissioners coming, according to intelligence received yesterday by a person of Philadelphia, is confidently believed; and it is there thought, that they will very soon arrive.1 I think it almost certain that the matter will not be delayed, as the conduct of the ministry, in not sending them immediately after their former propositions, has been much reprobated, and as it may be of much importance to improve the first impressions of the people upon the occasion. Lord Amherst, Admiral Keppel, and General Murray, are said to be the persons appointed2 ; and it is likely they are vested with both civil and military powers. The information was through the channel of a sensible, intelligent man, well known, and of esteemed credit. He is connected with the British army, having two or three brothers in it. I shall transmit the earliest accounts I receive from time to time on this very interesting subject. I have the honor to be, &c.3
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Valley Forge, 26 April, 1778.
I received yesterday your favor of the 15th instant with the papers alluded to.
Your reasoning, upon the subject of deserters attending flags, is certainly right, and not to be disputed. Their appearing in that character is an additional crime, and it is the practice of war, in such instances, founded in principles of common reason and the delicacy of truces, to execute them immediately. This is the custom in general cases. How far the circumstances, which attended the enlistment of Job Hetfield, require a discrimination in his favor, is a point perhaps of some difficulty. I find, by inquiry of General Maxwell, that he was enlisted and sworn; but that there was a sort of coercion, which might distinguish it from an act perfectly free and voluntary. Upon the whole, I think his detention and confinement justifiable, which I would prefer to capital punishment. At the same time, you will permit me to observe, that, from the expediency of flags, and the necessity of such an intercourse between warring powers, it is the constant usage for the party detaining, executing, &c., to inform the other side of the reasons.
I have taken the freedom to commit to your care a letter for Major-General Tryon, which you will be pleased to send by a flag to Staten Island, or to such other post as you may deem most proper. I transmit you a copy of our correspondence, which on his part is pretty similar, it is probable, to his addresses to your officers. Determined that I should get some of his obliging letters, he made out a first, a second, and a third, all of the same tenor and date. I am persuaded you will be under some difficulty, which to admire most, his impertinence or his folly.
I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 27 April, 1778.
I had the honor yesterday afternoon to receive your letter of the 24th, continued to the 25th, with its important enclosures. Congress will be pleased to accept my sincere thanks for the fresh instance of confidence manifested in their resolution of the 23d, and other proceedings; and they may rest assured, that whatever powers are trusted to me shall be invariably directed to promote the interests of these States. If in any case there should be a misapplication or a failure in the execution, it will be the effect of mistake and not of design. I shall take measures for distributing the report of the committee on Lord North’s bills, and the resolution of the 23d, inviting delinquents to return to their allegiance and to the protection of these States.1 This proceeding appears to me founded in great good policy; and I should hope, that it will be attended with many valuable consequences; but this can only be proved by the event.
Though I wish most heartily for the aid of General Lee in council and upon every other occasion, yet, as the time of his return is uncertain, or at least it will be several days before it takes place, and as it seems to me, that there is not a moment to lose in forming some general system for our operations, I should think it inexpedient for General Gates to delay coming to camp till his arrival.1 After a plan is digested, there will be a great deal of time expended before things will be in a proper train for execution. The season is fast advancing and the period, which may be most favorable for any designs we may form, will presently arrive.
I take the liberty to transmit an Extract of a Letter from Genl. Heath, which will shew Congress, that he is pressed on all sides for money. Governor Livingston too is apprehensive, he will be under embarrassments on account of the purchase of Horses, in consequence of the recommendation of the Committee. Their Letter to him, by some means, has been mislaid in the Assembly, and he does not know exactly, the mode prescribed for the payment. I cannot inform him myself, or do what perhaps is more necessary, furnish him with money, and therefore hope that Congress or the Committee will. I have written Major-General Tryon a few lines in answer to his letter, a copy of which is enclosed. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
Valley Forge, 29 April, 1778.
Your two favors of the 6th & 13th instant have been duly received.
I am glad to hear that General Burgoyne is gone, and I wish his departure had been much earlier. At the time of his capture, he certainly must have entertained very favorable impressions of our force, and perhaps in point of good policy he should have been allowed to depart, before they were in the smallest degree done away, and before he could have obtained any accurate ideas of our affairs. He must yet, in vindication of his conduct, speak largely of our powers. * * *
It is astonishing that officers will, in direct violation of the resolution of Congress, my recruiting instructions, and the most evident principles of policy, founded in experience, persevere in enlisting deserters from the British army. Supposing it might be done in any case, yet there is every possible objection to the measure in the instance of deserters from General Burgoyne’s army. These troops did not originally come into our hands through choice; they were conquered, brought to our possession by compulsion. Those apprehensive of punishment, in case of return, which may operate on the minds of deserters, they feel nothing of. So far from the most distant chance of punishment, they will be applauded by the commander of the British army for their fidelity and attachment to their prince, and their enlisting with us will be considered as a high stroke of policy, and the only probable mode they could adopt to effect their escape. We are counting on men, who cannot be confided in, and who will embrace the earliest opportunity to leave us and strengthen the enemy, at the expense of arms, clothes, and bounty on our part.1
But very few if any of those, who deserted from General Burgoyne, and who came on with the two detachments under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, now remain with him; they are gone. In like manner, a detachment from Colonel Henley,2 which marched from Boston sixty strong, arrived here two or three days ago with thirteen men only; and, had it not been for a detachment of New Hampshire troops, it is highly probable, one of them would not have been seen. Thirty of the sixty are now in Easton jail, having formed a plan at that place to go off in a body. The rest, except thirteen, had escaped before. If we would wish to reinforce the enemy with the whole of Mr. Burgoyne’s army, we cannot pursue a mode, that will be more effectual or more certain, than to enlist it into our service; but it may be done with less injury by sending them the men, unarmed, without paying them an exorbitant bounty. If nothing else will restrain officers from pursuing such a pernicious, ruinous practice, they must be made to pay for all expenses and losses occasioned by it. Indeed there is nothing that can compensate for the injury. * * *
I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, 30 April, 1778.
The extensive ill consequences, arising from a want of uniformity in discipline and manœuvres throughout the army, have long occasioned me to wish for the establishment of a well organized inspectorship; and the concurrence of Congress in the same views has induced me to set on foot a temporary institution, which, from the success that has hitherto attended it, gives me the most flattering expectations, and will, I hope, obtain their approbation.
Baron de Steuben’s length of service in the first military school in Europe, and his former rank, pointed him out as a person peculiarly qualified to be at the head of this department. This appeared the least exceptionable way of introducing him into the army, and one that would give him the most ready opportunity of displaying his talents. I therefore proposed to him to undertake the office of inspector-general, which he agreed to with the greatest cheerfulness, and has performed the duties of it with a zeal and intelligence equal to our wishes. He has two ranks of inspectors under him; the lowest are officers charged with the inspection of brigades, with the title of brigade-inspectors; the others superintend several of these. They have written instructions relative to their several functions; and the manœuvres, which they are to practise, are illustrated by a company, which the Baron has taken the pains to train himself.1
The brigade-inspectors were chosen by the brigadier and commanding officers of regiments in each brigade. The inspectors are Lieutenant-Colonels Barber1 of Jersey, Brooks2 of Massachusetts, Davis3 of Virginia, and Monsieur Ternant, a French gentleman. The reason for employing him, apart [from] his intrinsic merit and abilities, was his possessing the French and English languages equally, which made him a necessary assistant to Baron de Steuben. He is content to serve without rank, until, after an experiment of his abilities, Congress shall determine what he is entitled to.
Upon the arrival of Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury in camp, as he was unemployed, and had exercised the office of aid-major in France, the Baron proposed to have him employed as an inspector; in which I readily acquiesced, as Congress had given him the rank and pay of lieutenant-colnel. There may be other foreign officers in Continental pay, idle for want of being attached to some corps, of whose services we might avail ourselves in this way, which is the only method of disposing of them, unless they could be formed into a distinct corps. From the extraordinary fatigue and close attention required of the officers employed in the inspectorship, I did not think it amiss to let them entertain hopes, that Congress would allow some addition to the pay, which they derive from their rank, and I take the liberty of recommending the measure. I would propose twenty dollars per month for the brigade-inspectors, and thirty for the inspectors, in addition to their pay in the line.
I should do injustice if I were to be longer silent with regard to the merits of the Baron de Steuben. His knowledge of his profession, added to the zeal which he has discovered since he began upon the functions of his office, leads me to consider him as an acquisition to the service, and to recommend him to the attention of Congress. His expectations with regard to rank extend to that of major-general. His finances, he ingenuously confesses, will not admit of his serving without the incident emoluments; and Congress, I presume, from his character, and their own knowledge of him, will without difficulty gratify him in these particulars.
The Baron is sensible, that our situation requires a few variations in the duties of his office from the general practice in Europe, and particularly that they must necessarily be more comprehensive; in which, as well as in his instructions, he has skilfully yielded to circumstances. The success, which has hitherto attended the plan, enables me to request with confidence the ratification of Congress, and is I think a pledge of the establishment of a well combined general system, which insurmountable obstacles have hitherto opposed. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO HENRY LAURENS.
Valley Forge, 30 April, 1778.
I thank you much for your obliging favor of the 27th. I think with you, that a most important crisis is now at hand, and that there cannot be too much wisdom in all our counsels for conducting our affairs to a safe and happy issue. There should, in my opinion, be a full representation of the States in Congress, which I have often regretted has not been the case for a long time past. I also concur with you in sentiment, that gentlemen any where, whose abilities might be of essential service, in case of treaty with the British commissioners, ought to be called forth for the purpose. It will be a work of infinite importance, and the result may lead to happiness or to misery, to freedom or to slavery. The enemy are determined to try us by force and by fraud; and while they are exerting their utmost powers in the first instance, I do not doubt but they will employ men in the second, versed in the arts of dissimulation, of temporizing negotiating geniuses. It appears to me, that nothing short of independence can possibly do. The injuries we have received from Britain can never be forgotten, and a peace upon other terms would be the source of perpetual feuds and animosity. Besides, should Britain, from her love of tyranny and lawless domination, attempt again to bend our necks to the yoke of slavery, and there is no doubt but she would, for her pride and ambition are unconquerable, no nation would credit our professions, nor grant us aid. At any rate, their favors would be obtained upon the most disadvantageous and dishonorable terms.
I sincerely wish the provision for officers, so long the subject of discussion, was established. It is certainly equitable, and in my opinion essential. Day after day and hour after hour produce resignations. If they were confined to bad officers, or to those of little or no character, they would be of no consequence. But it is painful to see men, who are of a different cast, who have rendered great services to their country, and who are still and may be most materially wanted, leaving the army, on account of the distresses of their families, and to repair their circumstances, which have been much injured by their zeal and the part they have taken in the defence of common rights. The provision, if adopted, would not produce present relief, nor a present expense; yet it would be a compensation in future for their misfortunes and their toils, and be some support to their injured constitutions.
I will be done after observing, if the measure is to be submitted to the legislatures of the several States for their concurrence, the delay, supposing it should be assented to, will I fear be attended with effects, that will only be regretted when too late. But the chance in such case will be rather against the adoption; for there are but few of the legislatures, who are impressed with the real state of things, or who can without difficulty be fully informed of them; and while this matter is held in suspense, every thing is at a stand, and the most fatal consequences may result from it. I do not to this hour know whether, (putting half-pay out of the question,) the old or new establishment is to take place; how to dispose of the officers in consequence; whether the instituting several other corps, as agreed to by the committee and referred by them to Congress, is adopted or not. In a word, I have no ground to form a single arrangement upon, nor do I know whether the augmentation of the cavalry is to take place or was rejected, in order that I may govern myself thereby. Equally unable am I to answer the incessant applications of the officers of the Pennsylvania and Additional Battalions, who, knowing the intended reduction of some of these corps, are held in suspense, uncertain what part to act. In short, our present situation (now the first of May) is beyond description irksome and dangerous. But I will trouble you no further, than to assure you, that I am, dear Sir, &c.
end of vol. vi.
[1 ]“I am obliged to you for your promise of the prize wine. I do not imagine you will find more liquor on board than will be sufficient for your little garrison, but if the quantity should be any thing considerable, you must not be forgetful of the poor fellows who are exposed to the severity of the weather in very indifferent houses, indeed many of them are not yet under cover.”—Washington to General Smallwood, 3 January, 1778. The name of the vessel was Symmetry.
[1 ]P. 144 of this volume.
[2 ]Read in Congress, January 7th. Referred to the Board of War.
[1 ]“Unwilling as I am to add anything to the multiplicity of matter that necessarily engages the attention of Congress, I am compelled by unavoidable necessity to pass my answer to Genl Gates through their hands.—
[* ]One of whom, by the bye, he was.—Note by Washington.
[1 ]As soon as it was determined, that the army would go into winter-quarters at Valley Forge, Congress directed General Washington to inform the officers and soldiers, that, in consequence of “their soldierly patience, fidelity, and zeal in the cause of their country,” one month’s pay extraordinary would be given to each.—Journals, December 30th.
[2 ]Read in Congress, January 13th. Referred to the Board of War.
[3 ]Hitherto the Commander-in-chief had been allowed three aids-de-camp. He was now authorized to appoint as many as he should think proper. In cases where much service was required, it had been his custom to appoint extra aids, but no more than three could be entitled to pay and rank.
[1 ]Burgoyne had complained to Gates of the treatment accorded the convention troops in Boston, and charged that “the publick faith is broke.” This letter was called for by Congress and that body asserted that Burgoyne’s charge was “not warranted by the just construction of any article of the convention,” and interpreted it as a “strong indication of his intention, and affords just grounds of fear that he will avail himself of such pretended breach of the Convention in order to disengage himself and the army under him of the obligations they are under to these United States; and that the security which these States have had in his personal honor is hereby destroyed.” A resolution was prepared, based upon this belief, suspending the embarkation of Burgoyne and his troops until a “distinct and explicit ratification of the Convention of Saratoga shall be properly notified by the Court of Great Britain.” Although brought into Congress on January 3d, this resolution was not formally adopted till the 8th (see Journals of Congress), and was not communicated to Burgoyne until February 4th. “General Burgoyne and his officers appear much disappointed, and exhibit an appearance rather of concern and uneasiness than sulkiness or resentment, and endeavor to palliate their former expressions and conduct.”—Heath to the President of Congress, 7 February, 1778. To Congress he offered new pledges of good faith, but could not effect a change in its position.
[1 ]Read in Congress, January 13th. Referred to the Board of war.
[1 ]“If the coats should not be cut out before this reaches you, instead of the usual regimental coat, I would recommend a garment of the pattern of the sailors for jacket. This sets close to the body, and by buttoning double over the breast adds much to the warmth of the soldier. There may be a small cape and cuff of a different color to distinguish the corps. I have consulted most of the officers of the army, and they all seem to think that this kind of coat will be much the best, at least, till we can fall upon means of procuring full supplies of complete uniforms. We cannot spare tailors to go from hence; therefore, if you cannot get all the clothes readily made up, I think you had better send part of the cloth here, with all kinds of necessay trimmings, and the regimental tailors will soon make them up, under the inspection of their officers. As the overall is much preferable to breeches, I would recommend as many of them as possible.”—Washington to Governor Trumbull, 24 January, 1778.
[2 ]Washington had ample reason to complain of the inactivity of Pennsylvania at this juncture. When he went into winter quarters it had been arranged with General Armstrong that one thousand of the State militia should be maintained in the country between the Schuylkill and Delaware to check incursions of the enemy and cut off supplies. Instead of this number, there were on February 12th only between sixty and one hundred men under General Lacey, so that there were “no guards within 20 miles of the city on the East side of the Schuylkill, but a few patrols of light horse, who being unsupported by foot dare not go near the enemy’s lines. Owing to this, the intercourse of all the country between Schuylkill and Delaware, is open and uninterrupted with Philadelphia as ever it was, and must continue so, unless a sufficient number of militia are immediately ordered out.”—Washington to Governor Wharton, 12 February, 1778.
[1 ]General Arnold and General Lincoln were at this time in Albany, not having yet sufficiently recovered from their wounds to be removed from that place.
[2 ]“From your peculiar situation, and being one of the officers within the operation of the resolves, I have been induced to communicate the matter to you. I am too sensible, my dear Sir, of your disposition to justice and generosity, of your wishes to see every man in the possession of his rightful claim, not to be convinced, that you will cheerfully acquiesce in a measure calculated for that end. In this instance General Arnold is restored to a violated right, and the restitution I hope will be considered by every gentleman concerned, as I am sure it will by you, as an act of necessary justice.”—Washington to Major-General Lincoln, 20 January, 1778.
[1 ]Thomas Eyre.
[1 ]In the draft of a letter to Governor Trumbull was written a paragraph that was afterwards stricken out. “To submit to the unjust claims of General Howe, would relieve those at present in captivity; but it would in my opinion afford him too much encouragement, if he should ever again get a large number of our men in his possession, first to reduce them to death’s door, and then turn them out upon parole in such a condition that few would ever reach home, and none ever recover.”
[1 ]The forts and other works in the Highlands were entirely demolished by the British, and it now became a question of some importance, whether they should be restored in their former positions, or new places should be selected for that purpose. About the beginning of January the grounds were examined by General Putnam, Governor Clinton, General James Clinton, and several other gentlemen, among whom was Radière, the French engineer; and they were all, except Radière, united in the opinion, that West Point was the most eligible place to be fortified. Radière opposed this decision with considerable vehemence, and drew up a memorial designed to show, that the site of Fort Clinton possessed advantages much superior to West Point. As the engineer was a man of science, and had the confidence of Congress and the Commander-in-chief, it was deemed expedient by General Putnam to consult the Council and Assembly of New York, before he came to a final determination. A committee was appointed by those bodies, who spent three days reconnoitring the borders of the river in the Highlands, and they were unanimous in favor of West Point, agreeing herein with every other person authorized to act in the affair, except the engineer. It was accordingly decided, on the 13th of January, that the fortifications should be erected at West Point.—Putnam’s MS. Letter, January 13th.—Radière’s Memorial.
[1 ]“This evening I have received a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Smith at Lancaster, advising me of the confinement of the British officers, who were going with the clothing and medicine for the prisoners in our hands. This measure I consider rather unfortunate, as they came out by my permission, and in consequence of a stipulation between myself and General Howe. The officers are a Hessian and British regimental quartermaster, and a doctor and two mates. They had passports signed by one of my aids, who met them at our most advanced post, and were attended by a captain and lieutenant of our army.
[1 ]On January 22d Congress had adopted a proposition from the Board of War for an irruption into Canada under general officers appointed by Congress. The following day, the Marquis de Lafayette, Major-General Conway and Brigadier-General Stark were elected to conduct the expedition.
[1 ]In that letter General Lee wrote: “I have the strongest reason to flatter myself, that you will interest yourself in whatever concerns my comfort and welfare. I think it my duty to inform you, that my condition is much bettered. It is now five days that I am on my parole. I have the full liberty of the city and its limits; have horses at my command furnished by Sir Henry Clinton and General Robertson; am lodged with two of the oldest and warmest friends I have in the world, Colonel Butler and Major Disney of the forty-third regiment; with the former I was bred up from the age of nine years at school; the latter is a commilito from the time I entered the service in the forty-fourth. In short, my situation is rendered as easy, comfortable, and pleasant as possible, for a man who is in any sort a prisoner. I have nothing left to wish for, but that some circumstance may arise, which may make it convenient for both parties, that a general exchange may take place, and I among the rest reap the advantage. Give my love to all my friends, particularly to Greene, Mifflin, Reed, and Morgan, and be persuaded that I am most sincerely and devotedly yours.”—December 30th.
[1 ]This important paper was drawn up for the use of the Committee of Congress mentioned on p. 283. It is based upon the suggestions and recommendations of the leading officers of the Continental army, called out by some inquiries by Washington, and is exhaustive on the subject, affording an almost fully drawn picture of the army at this, one of the crucial periods of the war. A part of this statement has already been printed, from imperfect drafts, in the Works of Alexander Hamilton (Edition, 1850), ii., 138, and the drafts are among the Hamilton MSS. in the Department of State, at Washington. The original, from which the paper is now printed, is in Hamilton’s writing, as aide-de-camp, but, as the drafts show, was prepared by the Commander-in-chief, and for some cause was returned to him by the Committee. For this reason, the paper was not found among the MSS. of the Continental Congress, but among the drafts of Washington’s military correspondence, an endorsement proving that it had passed through the Committee’s hands.
[* ]Since writing the above, I hear, the assembly of this state have passed a law, to draft men for their battalions, and I have arranged the army, accordingly in a schedule hereunto annexed.—Note by Washington.
[1 ]Resolve 22d Nov.
[1 ]The difficulty encountered in completing the Continental army suggested to General Varnum the propriety of raising a battalion of negroes to make up the proportion of Rhode Island in the Continental army. He submitted the suggestion to Washington, January 2, 1778, who sent it to the Rhode Island Executive without a word of approval or disapproval. The Legislature of that State at once passed a law, not without some opposition being made, allowing any able-bodied negro, mulatto, or Indian man-slave in the State to enlist in the two battalions raising for Continental service, and the act of enlisting should liberate a slave from any kind of servitude, while entitling him to all the wages, bounties, and encouragements given by Congress to a white soldier enlisting into their service. The Governor hoped to enlist three hundred slaves, and in August the “newly raised black regiment,” under Col. Greene, did good service at the battle of Rhode Island.
[1 ]This question of punishment was not acted upon by Congress, and on 24 August, 1778, there being eleven prisoners under the sentence of death, and the same objections as are mentioned in this letter existing against such wholesale examples, a council of the general officers recommended that “severe hard labor” be made the intermediate punishment between one hundred lashes and death, and such labor to be expended in repairing roads, fortifications, and other necessary public works.
[1 ]“A letter from Congress will accompany this, containing two resolutions relative to prisoners. You will perceive by them, that Congress go upon the presumption of our furnishing our prisoners in the enemy’s hands wholly and entirely with provisions. Their fixing no rule for liquidating and accounting for the rations heretofore supplied by the enemy is a proof, that they do not intend them to continue, but expect our prisoners will hereafter be altogether victualled by ourselves. This is a matter, to which it will be necessary to attend carefully, both that a competent supply may be immediately ready for the purpose, and that there may be no deficiency in future; otherwise the consequences may be dreadful, for the past conduct of the enemy gives too much reason to apprehend, that they would not be very apt to relieve wants, to which we had undertaken wholly to administer.”—Washington to Boudinot, 3 February, 1778. “As to clothing, I have no doubt but General Howe has denied us the liberty of purchasing. This is now a subject of difference between us, and the design of our insisting that he shall victual his troops in our hands by a certain day is to oblige him to consent to that measure.”—Washington to Gates, President of the Board of War, 26 January, 1778.
[1 ]Mrs. Washington arrived in camp a day or two after this letter was written. She wrote to Mrs. Warren: “The general is in camp in what is called the great valley on the Banks of the Schuylkill. Officers and men are chiefly in Hutts, which they say is tolerable comfortable; the army are as healthy as can well be expected in general. The General’s apartment is very small; he has had a log cabbin built to dine in, which has made our quarter much more tolerable than they were at first.”
[2 ]Richard K. Meade of the General’s family.
[1 ]John Fitzgerald, also one of Washington’s aides.
[2 ]The draft contains the following through which the pen has been run:
[1 ]John and Baker Hendricks and John Meeker had been employed by Col. Dayton in the summer of 1777, under Washington’s directions, to procure intelligence from the enemy. They were allowed to carry small quantities of provisions into New York and to bring back a few goods, the better to cover their real designs. Being arrested on a charge of carrying on an illegal correspondence with the enemy, Washington interposed and explained the matter to Govr. Livingston. “You must be well convinced,” he wrote, “that it is indispensably necessary to make use of these means to procure intelligence. The persons employed must bear the suspicion of being thought inimical, and it is not in their powers to assert their innocence, because that would get abroad [and] destroy the confidence which the enemy puts in them.”—Washington to Governor Livingston, January 20, 1778.
[2 ]Purchasing Commissary in Connecticut.
[1 ]“The occasional deficiences in the Article of provisions, which we have often severely felt, seem now on the point of resolving themselves into this fatal crisis—total want and a dissolution of the Army. Mr. Blaine informs me, in the most decisive terms, that he has not the least prospect of answering the demands of the army, within his district, more than a month longer, at the extremity. The expectations, he has from other quarters, appear to be altogether vague and precarious; and from anything, I can see, we have every reason to apprehend the most ruinous consequences.
[1 ]The first official note from Gates as a member of the Board of War was dated 24 January, 1778. Washington’s first letter to Gates as President of the Board of War was dated 26 January, 1778.
[1 ]“I yesterday received your favor of the 19th inst.
[1 ]After executing these orders, Wayne passed over for a similar purpose into Jersey, where he was joined by Pulaski with a party of horse. Pulaski was stationed for the winter at Trenton. The British followed Wayne into Jersey, crossing the river in two divisions, one landing at Billingsport, and the other at Gloucester, amounting in all to more than three thousand men, with eight field-pieces. They attempted to surround Wayne in the night at Haddonfield, being in force vastly superior; but he received timely intelligence of their design, and retreated in the evening a few hours previously to the arrival of the enemy. After making a rapid incursion into the country, and collecting forage and cattle, the British returned to Philadelphia; but they were harassed by Wayne and Pulaski while debarking at the ferry, and a smart skirmish ensued. Pulaski exposed himself with his usual bravery. His horse was wounded. On the 14th of March, Wayne recrossed the river with his detachment at Burlington, and proceeded to destroy the forage accessible to the enemy in Philadelphia county and a part of Bucks, and to drive off the horses and cattle. He thus made a circuit quite round the city.—Wayne’s MS. Letters, March 5th, 14th.
[1 ]“By advices received from Rhode Island, transmitting to me a copy of a letter from General Heath to Lieut-General Burgoyne, a copy of which is inclosed, I am informed that it is determined to detain General Burgoyne’s troops in New England until all demands for their provisions and other necessaries are satisfied, and that this determination is grounded, not only upon a requisition of mine for provisions to be sent in for the subsistence of the prisoners in my possession, and for the purchase of other necessaries, but upon a forgery by my agents, emissaries, and abettors, of what are called continental bills of credit. This last allegation is too illiberal to deserve a serious answer.
[1 ]Howe replied that the exchange of commissioned officers must be governed by the release of the Hessian field-officers taken at Trenton, and Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, “who have not only been longest confined, but have hitherto been the objects of particular exception.” The convention troops Howe also regarded as subjects of exchange.
[1 ]“With respect to Fort Mifflin, the inquiry involves very extensive considerations, and more or less affects almost all the General Officers in this army, whose advice or concurrence in the measures taken, make them in some degree parties. The mode in my opinion most unexceptionable to be pursued is for Congress to authorise a Committee of their own body, or to delegate any other persons they may chuse to intrust, not connected with the operations of this army, to go into the business.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 8 February, 1778.
[1 ]“You mention some scruples, as to the operation of our articles of war, with regard to intentional, or attempted desertion, cases of mere intuition, unexpressed in any act, notwithstanding the confession of the criminals, I do not conceive, to fall within the meaning of that article, which particularly relates to desertion, or to be susceptible of capital punishment; but where intention and any acts, expressive of it, correspond, I think there can be no doubt of the propriety of construing it into desertion, and inflicting the sentence of the law. When a man is found at an improper distance from the camp, or in circumstances that indicate an attempt to desert, he is certainly to be considered and treated as a deserter. If not, the attempt, or nothing but the full execution of his design, were to be deemed desertion, the crime would never, or very rarely be ascertained; for, in order to that, it would be necessary the soldier should have been actually with the enemy and afterwards recovered. When difficulties occur, the spirit rather than the letter of the law is to be consulted, and this appears clearly to be intended by that part of the oath prescribed to Courts Martial, which declares, ‘that when any doubt shall arise which is not explained by the articles, the court is to determine, according to conscience, the best of their understanding, and the custom of war in like cases.’ ”—Washington to General Smallwood, 21 February, 1778.
[1 ]“The arts of the enemies of America are endless, but all wicked as they are various. Among other tricks, they have forged a pamphlet of letters, entitled ‘Letters from General Washington to Several of his Friends, in 1776.’ The design of the forger is evident, and no doubt it gained him a good beefsteak from his masters. I would send you this pamphlet, if it were not too bulky for the post, as it might serve to amuse your leisure hours during the inaction of winter.”—Richard Henry Lee to Washington, 2 January, 1778. The letters referred to are those printed as spurious in Vol. IV. of this collection.
[1 ]The following extract from a letter written in camp by General Varnum, as brigadier of the day, to General Greene, not only presents a vivid picture of the distresses of the army, but shows the difficulties with which the Commander-in-chief had to contend, as well in witnessing the scenes of suffering among the soldiers, as in controlling the discontent and opposing opinions of his officers.
[1 ]The draft of this address is in the MS. of Gouverneur Morris.
[1 ]“I am exceedingly sorry to hear that a difference between the officers and men of the Continental troops and those of the militia should damp the exertions of the latter. It has been my constant endeavor since I had the honor to command the forces of the United States to prevent all animosities and jealousies between the troops of different States, whether regular or militia, by exercising the most impartial line of conduct towards all. I very well know that except there is a mutual confidence and good understanding between all the component parts of an army, that the service must be manifestly injured, and therefore you may depend that I will take particular care, when the army takes the field in the spring, and when we shall more than probable be obliged to call upon the Militia to act in conjunction with us, to endeavor to remove the causes of complaint. I hope the unhappy dispute that arose at the Sign of the Compass between a few officers of the Continental army and the Militia, will rather be looked upon as an accidental matter, than the effect of a general and fixed hatred between those two bodies of men imbarked in the same cause, and who ought to afford a mutual support to each other and to turn their arms against the common enemy rather than upon one another. I do hope that all prejudice upon the part of the country may be laid aside upon this occasion, and the most impartial enquiry made into this matter.”—Washington to Governor Wharton, 23 February, 1778.
[1 ]“Ordered, that so much of General Washington’s letter of February the 27th as relates to the court-martial on the officers in the northern department, be referred to a committee of four.” Ellery, James Smith, Dyer, and Lovell composed the committee.—Journals of Congress, 6 March, 1778.
[2 ]Congress had conferred on Steuben the rank of captain, “granted by a brevet commission at the Baron’s special instance, in order to guard against inconveniences which might attend him, if he should without any commission in his pocket be made a prisoner. Upon the arrival of this illustrious stranger at York Town, Congress ordered a committee consisting of Mr. Witherspoon, Mr. McKean, Mr. F. L. Lee and Mr. Henry to wait upon and confer with him, to pay the necessary compliments on his appearance in America and to learn explicitly his expectations from Congress, and the committee were directed to deliver me the substance of their conference in writing.”—Laurens to Washington, 19 February, 1778. The conference report was: “The Baron Steuben, who was a lieutenant-general and aid-de-camp to the King of Prussia, desires no rank; is willing to attend General Washington, and be subject to his orders; does not require or desire any command of a particular corps or division, but will serve occasionally as directed by the general; expects to be of use in planning encampments, &c., and promoting the discipline of the army. He heard, before he left France of the dissatisfaction of the Americans with the promotion of foreign officers, therefore makes no terms, nor will accept of any thing but with general approbation and particularly that of General Washington.”
[1 ]“I wish a supply of money to be sent as soon as possible. Our distresses for want of it are not easily to be described. What Mr. I’alfrey brought with him was not sufficient to pay the troops for November by 250 or 300,000 dollars. The demands were immense, most of the eastern troops having had four or five months’ pay due ’em and some more. The army now in general has three months’ pay in arrear, exclusive of the month’s extra pay, and besides this the Quarter Master is pressing for large drafts for the purposes of his Department, though he has received a large proportion of the money which came with Mr. Palfrey.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 3 February, 1778.
[1 ]“However inconvenient and distressing to the service in this quarter it may prove, to part with another Major General, yet, in obedience to a resolve of Congress, I must do it, if neither General Putnam nor Heath in the Judgment of the Committee will answer the purposes of the command at Rhode Island.
[1 ]Read in Congress, March 5th.
[2 ]An early and intimate friendship subsisted between Washington and Bryan Fairfax, which does not appear to have been at any period of their lives interrupted, although they differed widely in their political sentiments. Mr. Fairfax, differing from the majority of his countrymen and from his friends, thought it his duty to go to England and remain there during the contest. With this aim he repaired to New York, having obtained a passport from the Commander-in-chief. But when he arrived there, he was diverted from his purpose by having certain oaths prescribed to him, which his conscience would not allow him to take, being afraid they might prevent him from ever again seeing his wife and children. This hesitancy excited a prejudice against him, which he thought unreasonable, and he obtained permission from the British commander to return to his family. On his journey he again visited General Washington, and was received by him with so much kindness, and such marked civilities, that he wrote him a letter of acknowledgments and thanks soon after he reached Virginia, to which the above is a reply. In that letter he said:
[1 ]The allusion here is to Lord Camden’s remarks, in the debate respecting the reply to the King’s Speech at the opening of Parliament, November 18, 1777. The debate turned on American affairs, the causes of the dispute, and the mode in which the war had been conducted. Lord Camden, referring to some of the preliminary steps in the contest, said: “The people of America showed great dissatisfaction, but that did not fully answer the intentions of government. It was not dissatisfaction, but rebellion, that was sought; dissatisfaction might furnish a pretence for adding to the intolerable oppressions, that those people had for a series of years groaned under; but nothing short of something in the shape of rebellion, or nearly approaching to it, could create a decent apology for slaughter, conquest, and unconditional submission.” Again, in regard to the address declaring Massachusetts Bay to be in rebellion, Lord Camden continued: “But all this did not do; the New Englanders were resolved not to verify the address; they were determined not to be rebels; but only to prepare, should the worst happen, to be in a situation to defend themselves. Something more was still wanting, and that was obtained. Our troops were ordered to act effectively; and self-defence was styled actual and declared rebellion.”—Almon’s Parliamentary Register, vol. x., pp. 30, 31.
[1 ]“The Commander in Chief again takes occasion to return his warmest thanks to the virtuous officers and soldiery of this army, for that persevering fidelity and zeal which they have uniformly manifested in all their conduct. Their fortitude, not only under the common hardships incident to a military life, but also under the additional sufferings to which the peculiar situation of these States has exposed them, clearly proves them worthy of the enviable privilege of contending for the rights of human nature, the freedom and independence of their country. The recent instance of uncomplaining patience during the scarcity of provisions in Camp, is a fresh proof that they possess in an eminent degree the spirit of soldiers and the magnanimity of patriots. The few refractory individuals who disgrace themselves by murmurs, it is to be hoped have repented such unmanly behavior, and resolved to emulate the noble example of their associates upon every trial which the customary casualties of war may hereafter throw in their way. Occasional distress for want of provisions and other necessaries, is a spectacle that frequently occurs in every army, and perhaps there never was one which has been in general so plentifully supplied in respect to the former as ours. Surely we who are free citizens in arms, engaged in a struggle for everything valuable in society, and partaking in the glorious task of laying the foundation of an empire should scorn effeminately to shrink under those accidents and rigors of war which mercenary hirelings, fighting in the cause of lawless ambition, rapine and devastation, encounter with cheerfulness and alacrity. We should not merely be equal, we should be superior to them in every qualification that dignifies the man or the soldier, in proportion as the motives from which we act and the final hopes of our toils are superior to theirs. Thank Heaven, our country abounds with provisions and with prudent management, we need not apprehend want for any length of time. Defects in the commissary’s department, contingencies of weather, and other temporary impediments, have subjected, and may again subject us to a deficiency for a few days, but soldiers, American soldiers, will despise the means of repining at such trifling strokes of adversity, trifling indeed when compared with the transcendent prize which will undoubtedly crown their patience and perseverance—Glory and freedom, peace and plenty to themselves and the community, the admiration of the world, the love of their country and the gratitude of posterity. Your general unceasingly employs his tho’ts on the means of relieving your distresses, supplying your wants, and bringing your labors to a speedy and prosperous issue. Our parent country, he hopes, will second his endeavors by the most vigorous exertions, and he is convinced the faithful officers and soldiers associated with him in the great work of rescuing our country from bondage and misery, will continue in the display of that patriotic zeal which is capable of smoothing every difficulty and vanquishing every obstacle.”—Orderly Book, 1 March, 1778.
[1 ]Laurens wrote on March 21st, that these letters were in a committee “from whom may be expected a special report respecting the many opprobrious terms and epithets scattered throughout the papers from Sir William Howe, applied to the good people of these United States, and to the representatives in Congress, which were heard by the House with great indignation. From expressions of sentiment by members on all sides it appears to be the general opinion, that such papers should have been marked with the contempt of an immediate return.”
[1 ]“I have your letters of the 14th and 21st of February, and the 2d of March, of all which due notice shall be taken. Particular circumstances make it inconvenient for my commissioners to meet yours at the time appointed. I must, therefore, beg to have the meeting deferred till the 31st of March.”—Washington to Sir William Howe, 9 March, 1778. Sir William wrote, March 24th, to Lord George Germaine: “The time appointed for the meeting of the commissioners being postponed by General Washington to the 31st of this month, without assigning any satisfactory reason, leads me to believe that neither he, nor those under whose authority he acts, are sincere in their professions to carry an exchange into execution at this time.”
[1 ]Read in Congress, March 16th.
[1 ]“Mrs. Washington has received the miniature, and wishes to know whether Major Rogers is still at York. The defects of this portrait, I think are, that the visage is too long, and old age is too strongly marked in it. He is not altogether mistaken with respect to the languor of the general’s eye; for altho’ his countenance when affected either by joy or anger, is full of expression, yet when the muscles are in a state of repose, his eye certainly wants animation. My proficiency in this kind of drawing never went beyond sketching a profile. I never attempted to paint a miniature likeness of a full face. There is a miniature painter in camp who has made two or three successful attempts to produce the general’s likeness.”—John Laurens to his father, 9 March, 1778. Mr. W. S. Baker says in his Engraved Portraits of Washington, that Charles Willson Peale completed in December, 1777, a miniature for Mrs. Washington. It was begun at the close of October. “An engraving by Dr. Mare from this miniature, or from a copy made by Peale himself, is published in Irving’s Life of Washington, without being ascribed to the painter, and with the erroneous title ‘Washington at the age of twenty-five.’ ” The painter mentioned by Laurens may have been Peale.
[1 ]A diversion upon New York.
[1 ]General Burgoyne wrote in reply: “I beg you to accept my sincerest acknowledgments for your obliging letter. I find the character, which I before knew to be respectable, is also perfectly amiable; and I should have few greater private gratifications in seeing our melancholy contest at an end, than that of cultivating your friendship.”—April 4th.
[1 ]Hannah Fairfax, who married Warner Washington.
[1 ]Miss Mary Cary, who married Edward Ambler.
[1 ]“Mr. Boudinot, who has lately returned to camp from New York, informs me, that notwithstanding Major-General Prescott has been several weeks in the city, in pursuance of our agreement for the liberation of officers on parole, General Lee is not permitted to come out; and that orders had been received from you to send him round to Philadelphia by water, that you might take his parole in person. There can be no reason to prevent his parole being taken where he is; and I must consider his being required to expose himself to the inconveniences of a sea-voyage at this season as altogether unnecessary. I had a right to expect, that he would have been released as soon as General Prescott went in; and must request, you will accordingly give immediate orders for it. If you will be pleased to transmit your directions through me for that purpose, I will carefully forward them. This would obviate the uncertainty and possible delay of a conveyance by water.”—Washington to Sir William Howe, 9 March, 1778. “I wish, Sir, I was not obliged to say there are some ambiguities still characterizing the measures taken concerning General Lee, which justify alarming surmises, notwithstanding all that has passed to the contrary. I have now been as explicit as you can desire on the subject of Col. Campbell and the Hessian gentlemen, and I hope to find you as explicit on the subject of General Lee; by giving directions without farther delay to liberate him in place of General Prescott. General Lee’s request mentioned by you, to be permitted to come by land to Philadelphia, can be no objection to this requisition; it was founded upon your order to send him round by water to that place; and, conceiving it would be insisted on that he should pass to Philadelphia, he preferred the mode of going by land as the least inconvenient alternative. But the measure appears to me wholly improper, and a departure from our late stipulation, calculated to impose unnecessary hardships on that unfortunate gentleman, and to produce needless procrastination, at least, in allowing him the common benefit of a general agreement.”—Washington to Sir William Howe, 12 March, 1778.
[1 ]The preamble and resolve had probably been published before the above letter was received by Congress, since they both now stand in the Journals as they were originally passed. “Whereas experience has proved, that no confidence can be placed in prisoners of war or deserters from the enemy, who enlist into the Continental army, but many losses and great mischiefs have frequently happened by them; therefore, Resolved, that no prisoners of war or deserters from the enemy be enlisted, drafted, or returned, to serve in the Continental army.”—February 26th.
[1 ]Putnam is referred to in these sentences. To Governor Clinton, Washington wrote on the 12th: “The hints which you were pleased to give of mismanagement in the North River command came also from several other hands, and did not a little embarrass me, as they contain charges rather resulting from want of judgment than any real intention to do wrong. It is much to be lamented that we should have officers of so high a rank as to entitle them to claim separate commands with so moderate a share of abilities to direct them in the execution of those commands.” For an extreme view of Putnam’s abilities, see Dawson, Major-General Israel Putnam.
[1 ]A short time before Congress passed the resolve, conferring the authority described above, the subject had been vehemently discussed in the British Parliament, (February 6th,) on a motion of Mr. Burke to call for the papers which had passed between the ministry and the generals commanding in America, relative to the military employment of Indians. The act was denounced as criminal, and the ministers were censured with much asperity by the prominent opposition members for abetting and approving it. Mr. Burke said: “No proof whatever had been given of the Americans having attempted offensive alliances with any one tribe of savages; whereas the imperfect papers now before that House demonstrated, that the King’s ministers had negotiated and obtained such alliances from one end of the continent of America to the other; that the Americans had actually made a treaty on the footing of neutrality with the famous Five Nations, which the King’s ministers had bribed them to violate, and to act offensively against the colonies; that no attempt had been made in a single instance on the part of the King’s ministers to procure a neutrality; that if the fact had been, that the Americans had actually employed those savages, yet the difference of employing them against armed and trained soldiers, embodied and encamped, and employing them against the unarmed and defenceless men, women, and children of a country, dispersed in their houses, was manifest, and left those, who attempted so inhuman and unequal a retaliation, without excuse.”
[1 ]The rank of brigadier-general was continued to Count Pulaski, and he was authorized to raise and command an independent corps, to consist of sixty-eight horse and two hundred foot. The latter were to be equipped in the manner of light-infantry, and the former to be armed with lances. The mode of raising and organizing the corps was left to the direction of General Washington.—Journals, March 28th.
[1 ]“The Congress having, by a resolve of the 28th of November last, directed that an inquiry be made into the loss of Forts Montgomery and Clinton, and into the conduct of the principal officers commanding those forts, I have appointed Major-General McDougall, Brigadier-General Huntington, and Colonel Wigglesworth, to carry the resolve into execution. It is more than probable, that the conduct of the officer commanding at the time in that department will be involved in the inquiry, and I therefore desire, that you would repair immediately to Fishkill upon the receipt of this, to meet General McDougall and the other gentlemen.
[1 ]There had been a series of misapprehensions on the subject of constructing military works in the Highlands, as well as a train of obstacles to their progress. On the 5th of November, Congress had appointed General Gates to command in the Highlands, or rather had connected that post with the Northern Department, and invested him with ample powers to carry on the works; but, as he was made President of the Board of War, he never entered upon these duties. Again, on the 18th of February, Governor Clinton was requested to take the superintendence of the works; but the multiplicity of his civil employments made it necessary for him to decline the undertaking. Meantime General Putnam went to Connecticut, and left the post in charge of General Parsons. Unfortunately this officer conceived the notion, that he had no control over the works in the Highlands; that the resolve of Congress in regard to Gates and Clinton were personal, and not designed to apply to any one else; and that, having no direct instructions, he could not rightfully assume any authority in the matter. By the judicious advice of Governor Clinton, however, he was prevailed upon to exercise a proper supervision, till General McDougall arrived. When these doubts in regard to the extent of command are considered, and also the tardy movements of the engineer in executing a plan which he did not approve, the extreme fatigue of the service in the midst of winter, the privations and sufferings of the men, and the want of teams and other necessary aids, it is not surprising that very slow progress had been made. General McDougall took the command on the 28th of March. Two days previously Kosciuszko arrived, who had been appointed engineer in the place of Radière. From that time the works were pressed forward with spirit. To the scientific skill and sedulous application of Kosciuszko, the public was mainly indebted for the construction of the military defences at West Point.—Sparks.
[1 ]In consequence of this letter the Congress decided that all the troops in the State of New York, including the whole Northern Department, should be under one general officer, and that he should be authorized to draw together at the Highlands such parts of them as he should deem expedient. To supply the place of those at Albany, the Governor of New York was requested to furnish such a number of militia as would be sufficient to protect the arsenal and magazines at that place, till the progress of the obstructions at the Highlands should put them out of danger of any sudden attempt from the enemy.—Journals, March 31st.
[1 ]“The evil which I apprehended from the inlistment of deserters, . . . has already made its appearance. One of the colonels informs me that every British deserter sent to his Regiment except one, has already gone off. One of these people a few nights ago took off a light horse with his accoutrements from an advanced picket. I hope upon this proof of the infidelity of the above described class, that a total stop will be put to the hiring them. It is now prohibited by an express resolve of Congress passed a few weeks ago.”—Washington to Governor Bowdoin, 31 March, 1778. Journals of Congress, 26 February, 1778.
[1 ]“Sunday next being the time on which the Quakers hold one of their general meetings, a number of that society will probably be attempting to go into Philadelphia. This is an intercourse that we should by all means endeavor to interrupt, as the plans settled at these meetings are of the most pernicious tendency. I would therefore have you dispose of your parties in such a manner as will most probably fall in with these people.”—Washington to General Lacey, 20 March, 1778.
[1 ]The Canada expedition having failed, from the want of proper means and suitable preparations for carrying it into effect, the Marquis de Lafayette and Baron de Kalb were directed by Congress to repair to the main army.—Secret Journals, vol. i., p. 65. Conway was left with the command at Albany, but he remained only a short time, when by order of Congress he joined the army under General McDougall in the Highlands.
[2 ]They had marched from Wilmington in Delaware, during the severe season of winter.
[1 ]Read in Congress, April 3d. Referred to Mr. Drayton, Huntington, and Banister.
[1 ]This conjecture, as to Ethan Allen’s rank, is not precisely accurate. He was not commissioned in the regiment of Green Mountain Boys, as it was called, which was raised by the authority of New York, in the summer of 1775, and commanded by Seth Warner, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. The only commission, which Ethan Allen had received, was that conferred upon him by the committees of Bennington and the adjoining settlements before the war, when the people of the Green Mountains resolved to take up arms in defence of their rights against what they deemed the unjust encroachments of the New York government, in claiming and seizing their lands. He was then made their military leader, with the rank of colonel-commandant.—See Sparks’ Life of Ethan Allen, in The Library of American Biography, vol. i., pp. 246, 291.—Sparks.
[1 ]“Whereas a proposition was made by me, on the 30th. day of July 1776, to His Excellency, General Sir William Howe, and acceded to by him, on the 1st. day of August following, stipulating an exchange of Prisoners ‘officer for officer of equal rank, soldier for soldier, and citizen for citizen’; And whereas differences have arisen on the construction and execution of this agreement; and it has been found by experience to be inadequate to all the desirable purposes for which it was intended, not being sufficiently extensive and definite to comprehend the diversity of circumstances incident to the State of Captivity, or to ascertain the various modes of relief applicable to all:
[1 ]Colonel Seely.
[1 ]“With a view of establishing uniformity of discipline and manœuvres in the army, it is in agitation to form an inspectorship distributed among different officers. The Baron Steuben, a Gentleman of high military rank, profound knowledge, and great experience in his profession, is placed at the head of this department. As assistants to him, four subinspectors are to be appointed, who will be charged each with the superintending a considerable part of the army. Officers to each brigade, under the title of Brigade-Inspectors are already in the execution of their office, preparing the way for ulterior instructions by perfecting their men in the first and most simple elements.
[1 ]Read in Congress, March 24th. Referred to the Board of War.
[1 ]This is in Washington’s handwriting, but gives only the “substance” of the letter.
[1 ]“A French gentleman of the name of Ternant with whom I was slightly acquainted at the Cape François, is arrived in camp, and offers himself as one of the subinspectors. His talents qualify him in a superior degree for the office. He has travelled so much as to have worn off the characteristic manners of his nation, and he speaks our language uncommonly well. The baron is very desirous of having him as an assistant, and says he is persuaded he will be an acquisition to the States. The only thing against him is, that he comes without recommendatory letters. The Congress have I think very wisely resolved against employing any more foreigners unless they are forced to it by the special contracts of their embassadors, or very pointed recommendations. On this account the General has, in order that the baron might not lose so good an assistant, put the matter upon this footing: that Mr. Ternant may exercise the office of sub-inspector without rank for the present; and that when his practical abilities are as well known as his theoretical, Congress will determine a rank suitable to his merit.”—John Laurens to his father, 25 March, 1778.
[1 ]In view of this transfer of troops from New York, Washington conceived that an attack upon that city by the troops under McDougall would be feasible and promise success. On consulting with Governor Clinton and General Parsons, it was the opinion of General McDougall that the enterprise was not practicable. “The condition and strength of these posts,” he replied, “utterly forbid it, especially when the consequence of a misfortune in the attempt is duly considered, as it may affect the supplies to your army, and the general influence such an event may have on the operations of the campaign.”—Fishkill, April 13th.
[1 ]Chief-Justice of Pennsylvania.
[1 ]Colonel Hall had written: “Whatever your Excellency’s determination may be, I shall submit to it without repining, because it will be dictated by candor, and calculated for the benefit of the service. If I should be under the necessity of retiring, though confined to a narrower sphere of action, still a deep sense of duty, and a warm attachment to the liberties of my country, shall be my leading principles, and no personal injury shall ever induce me to forget the great obligations due to society.”
[1 ]This point is so clear, that the ground taken by Congress, and adhered to with pertinacity, seems very extraordinary. By the resolution of the 30th of December, all loyalists, or Americans in the British service, who should be taken in arms, were to be sent to the respective States to which they belonged, and suffer the penalties inflicted by the laws of such States upon traitors. Such a resolution was an effectual bar to any agreement for a general exchange. The British commander was as much bound in honor and justice to protect these persons, as he was to protect the British officers or soldiers; and in some respects more so, inasmuch as they had made greater sacrifices in supporting the cause of the king.—Sparks.
[1 ]Col. William R. Lee.
[2 ]Major Joseph Swasey.
[1 ]To a draft of a letter addressed to James Mease, Clothier-General, Washington added the following in his own hand:
[1 ]Read in Congress, April 13th. Referred to Duer, Chase, and Dana.
[1 ]The commissioners met again April 6th, at Newtown, in Bucks County. A difficulty arose at the outset concerning the nature of the powers contained in General Howe’s commission. It was given on no other authority than his own, whereas the commission from General Washington expressly specified, that it was “in virtue of full powers to him delegated.” This defect was objected to by the American commissioners, and the subject was referred to General Howe, who declined altering the commission, declaring at the same time, “that he meant the treaty to be of a personal nature, founded on the mutual confidence and honor of the contracting generals, and had no intention, either of binding the nation, or extending the cartel beyond the limits and duration of his own command.” As this was putting the matter on a totally different footing from that contemplated in General Washington’s commission, by which Congress and the nation were bound, and as General Howe’s commissioners refused to treat on any other terms, the meeting was dissolved, without any progress having been made in a cartel. It was intimated by the British commissioners, as a reason why General Howe declined to negotiate on a national ground, that it might imply an acknowledgment inconsistent with the claims of the English government. The papers, which passed between the commissioners of the two parties, were published by order of Congress.—See Remembrancer, vol. vi., p. 315.
[1 ]“When I addressed you on the 18th, I was doubtful whether the draft of the bill then transmitted was not spurious and contrived in Philadelphia; but its authenticity, I am almost certain is not to be questioned. The information from Philadelphia seems clear and conclusive, that it came over in the packet, with Lord North’s speech on the introduction of it into Parliament. I enclose a paper containing his speech, which just came to hand. This bill, I am persuaded, will pass into a law. Congress will perceive by the minister’s speech, that it aims at objects of the greatest extent and importance, and will no doubt in one way or other involve the most interesting consequences to this country.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 20 April, 1778.
[1 ]The paper here referred to contained a draft of Lord North’s Conciliatory Bills, as they were called. They had made their way with quick despatch to General Washington’s camp. They arrived in New York on the 14th of April, and were published on the 15th by Governor Tryon, accompanied by a declaration certifying that they were genuine copies of the drafts sent to him by Lord George Germaine. He added: “To prepare the way for the return of peace, the above bills were read in the House of Commons on the 19th day of February last, in pursuance of unanimous resolve of the House on the 17th of the same month; and I have his Majesty’s command to cause them to be printed and dispersed, that the people at large may be acquainted with their contents, and with the favorable disposition of Great Britain towards the American colonies.” Lord North’s speech, on presenting the bills to Parliament, was likewise published at the same time. None of these particulars had come to General Washington’s knowledge, when he wrote the above letter. From the manner in which he speaks of the bills, as well as from his next letter to Congress, it is evident that he considered them a forgery at the time he was writing. Nor was he singular in this opinion. Mr. Laurens, President of Congress, in a letter to Governor Clinton, said: “I differ from gentlemen, who suppose the performance originated under authority in England. It appears to me to be destitute of the most essential marks. I believe it to be of Philadelphia manufacture, probably under hints from the other side of the water.”—MS. Letter, April 20th.
[2 ]Read in Congress, April 20th. Referred to G. Morris, Drayton, and Dana.
[1 ]Each of the officers sent a written reply to the above queries. They differed widely in opinion. Wayne, Paterson, and Maxwell recommended an attack on Philadelphia. Knox, Poor, Varnum, and Muhlenberg were in favor of an attack on New York. Greene thought it best for the main body of the army to remain at Valley Forge, but that an attack should be made on New York by a detachment of four thousand regulars, joined to the eastern militia; that General Washington should command this expedition in person, and leave General Lee to command in Pennsylvania. Lord Stirling was for operating against both New York and Philadelphia. Lafayette, Steuben, and Duportail had doubts as to the expediency of any attack upon the enemy, till the army should be strengthened and put in a better condition; and they were inclined to adopt the third plan suggested by the Commander-in-chief.
[1 ]That is, an establishment of half-pay for the officers after the termination of the war. A plan for this purpose had been agreed upon by the committee in camp, and was now under debate in Congress. It was thought extremely important by General Washington, as appears by some of his preceding letters, and he used his utmost endeavors to promote it; but there was a division in Congress. Some of the members were wholly opposed to it, particularly a majority of the members from the Eastern States, as encouraging too far the idea of a standing army; others were of opinion, that Congress had no power to act in the matter, without special instructions from the States; and others were for limiting the time. This variety of opinion caused embarrassment in Congress, and delay in adopting the report of the committee for the new arrangements of the army. For other particulars respecting the subject of half-pay, see Sparks’ Life of Gouverneur Morris, vol. i., p. 152.
[1 ]There was at this time in Parliament a small party in favor of granting independence to America, and of instructing the commissioners to make a treaty on that footing. Governor Pownall held out this idea, and enforced it with strong arguments, in the debate on the address to the king, in reply to his message accompanying the declaration of the French ambassador, which gave notice of the treaty between France and the United States. “This treaty,” said Governor Pownall, “does not alter my idea of the probability of our having even yet peace with America, if we will but take the way that leads to it, and the only one that is open. Nothing but the perverseness of our own conduct can cross it. We know that the Americans are and must be independent; and yet we will not treat with them as such. If government itself retains the least idea of sovereignty, it has already gone too far for that; if it entertains the least hope of peace, it has not gone far enough; and every step we shall take to put the Americans back from independency, will convince them the more of the necessity of going forward.”—Parliamentary Debates, March 17th, 1778.—Sparks.
[1 ]This was true, although the fact was not yet known in America. The treaties of commerce and alliance between France and the United States were signed on the 6th of February. The first meeting between the French minister and the American commissioners, for the purpose of negotiating a treaty, was held at Versailles on the 12th of December. It was stated, in an article of the treaty of alliance, to be its direct end, “to maintain effectually the liberty, sovereignty, and independence, absolute and unlimited, of the United States, as well in matters of government as commerce.”—See Diplomatic Correspondence, vol. i., pp. 355, 364.
[2 ]It seems there were some fears at this moment as to the effect which might be produced on the American people by the advances of the British ministry in Lord North’s propositions. In a reply to General Washington’s circular letter, asking the advice of the general officers respecting a plan of the campaign, the Marquis de Lafayette stated, as reasons for vigorous measures, the expected reinforcements of the enemy, and the approaching arrival of three commissioners, “whom I fear,” said he, “more than ten thousand men.”—MS. Letter, April 25th.
[1 ]This conjecture was well founded. There is no room to doubt that, when the Conciliatory Bills were brought before Parliament by Lord North, the ministry were convinced a negotiation was pending between the French court and the American commissioners. During the debate (February 17th), and in reply to Lord North’s speech, Mr. Fox affirmed, upon information on which reliance might be placed, that a treaty had already been signed; and when the question was pressed by Mr. Grenville upon Lord North, he answered, “that he could not say from authority that the treaty alluded to was signed; that, indeed, it was possible, nay too probable, but not authenticated by the ambassador.”—Almon’s Parliamentary Register, vol. viii., pp. 385, 389. The question how the British were informed of the signing of the treaty before the formal notice of the French minister, led to a serious dispute among the American commissioners at Paris.
[1 ]This measure was adopted by Congress two days after the above letter was written.—Journals, April 23d.
[2 ]“With respect to your future treatment of the Tories, the most effectual way of putting a stop to their traitorous practices will be shooting some of the most notorious offenders wherever they can be found in flagrante delicto. This summary punishment inflicted on a few traitors will probably strike terror into others and deter them from exposing themselves to a similar fate.”—Washingington to Joseph Kirkbride, Lieutenant of the County of Bucks, 20 April, 1778.
[1 ]On being re-appointed to this command, General Gates was invested with extensive powers for completing the works on the North River, and was “authorized to carry on operations against the enemy if any favorable opportunity should offer.” For effecting these purposes, he could call for the artificers and militia of the State of New York and the Eastern States. It was enjoined upon him, however, in his instructions, “not to undertake any expedition against New York, without previously consulting the Commander-in-chief.” The instructions were drawn up by a committee of Congress, of which Gouveuneur Morris was chairman; and caution seems to have been used to guard against a revival of the difficulties which had recently threatened the peace of the army, if not the safety of the country.
[1 ]General Lee had written: “I have reason to hope, that Congress will unembarrass the negotiation of the commissioners, with respect to a general exchange of prisoners, of all matters which I myself think foreign to the purpose, and that I shall soon be at liberty to take an active part; but I could wish that they would be a little more expeditious. I perhaps ought to make an apology to you for a liberty I have taken; but if it is regarded in a proper point of view I am in hopes it can neither be considered a step of indelicacy towards you, nor by General Howe as any violation of the parole I have given.
[1 ]“Having been honored with his Majesty’s instructions to circulate the inclosures, I take the liberty to offer them to you, for your candid consideration, and to recommend that through your means, the officers and men under your command may be acquainted with their contents.”—William Tryon to Washington, 17 April, 1778.
[1 ]Lord George Germaine’s letter to General Howe, signifying his Majesty’s acquiescence in his request to be relieved from the command, was dated February 4th. He was directed at the same time to deliver up his orders and instructions to Sir Henry Clinton as his succeesor. The letter was received by Sir William Howe on the 9th of April.
[1 ]Read in Congress, April 25th. Referred to Drayton, Morris, and Dana.
[2 ]From Gouverneur Morris’ Letter.—“We have determined to send Gates to Hudson’s River, where he is to command very largely. But he is to receive instructions, which shall be proper. You are directed to call a council of major-generals, in which the chief engineer is officially to be a member, and to which, by a subsequent resolution, Generals Gates and Mifflin were ordered to repair. As these gentlemen ought not to receive orders immediately from Congress, they are, as you will see, permitted to leave the Board of War upon your order. This amendment was therefore acquiesced in unanimously.
[1 ]Mr. Morris wrote in reply: “Knox will attend the Council. Conway has resigned, and his resignation has heen accepted. The affairs of the army are necessarily delayed by the foreign affairs, which have broken in upon us. As to the half-pay, matters stand thus. The questions have been carried; but by an entry on the minutes there is an agreement, that a final question shall be put, whether it be finally determined in Congress, or sent to the several States. When a motion is made for the purpose, the yeas will be Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Jersey, and South Carolina; the nays will be New York, Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia. Pennsylvania is in a mighty flimsy situation on that subject, having indeed a mighty flimsy representation. I wish Boudinot were here. Delaware is absent, who is with us; as is North Carolina, also absent. New Hampshire is absent, who is against us.”—MS. Letter, May 1st.
[1 ]Commissioners for effecting a reconciliation with the Americans, according to the tenor of Lord North’s bills for that purpose.
[2 ]This information, in regard to the names of the commissioners, proved to be erroneous.
[3 ]Read in Congress, April 26th. The expectations of the British ministry, in regard to what they called the Conciliatory Propositions, may be inferred from Lord George Germaine’s letter on the subject to Sir Henry Clinton, in which he says:
[1 ]“The practice of seizing and confining the friends to America in the civil line, however barbarous it may be, is a favorable engine of policy with the enemy; from which I believe it will not be easy to make them depart. Their object is to deter men from taking an active and leading part in our governments, the firm establishment of which they foresee will be fatal to their views. Whether the measure of securing their friends with us, to redeem ours in their power, would put a stop to the practice, is extremely doubtful. There are few persons among us whom they esteem of sufficient importance to desist on their account from anything which they look upon as advancive of their interest.”—Washington to Samuel Chase, 27 April, 1778.
[1 ]The draft of the Conciliatory Bills, communicated to Congress in General Washington’s letter of the 18th, was referred to a committee of three, consisting of Gouverneur Morris, Drayton, and Dana. The bills were regarded as genuine by the committee, analyzed, examined in their various parts, and censured throughout as totally inadequate to the expectations of the Americans, and as affording no solid basis for a reconciliation. The report, expressing these sentiments, was discussed by Congress, and unanimously adopted. It contains the declaration, “that these United States cannot with propriety hold any conference or treaty with any commissioner, on the part of Great Britain, unless they shall, as a preliminary thereto, either withdraw their fleets and armies, or else in positive and express terms acknowledge the independence of the said States.” The report was drawn up by Gouverneur Morris.—Journals, April 22d.
[1 ]“It being indispensably necessary, that some general plan of operation should be settled for the present campaign, and perceiving that Congress have been pleased to appoint you to command on the North River, I am to request you, if you should not find it too inconvenient, that you will make a digression from your route thither, and favor me with a call at this camp, that we may enter upon a discussion of the point, and form some general system. The propriety of this measure, particularly at this advanced period, will be so obvious to you, that it is unnecessary to add upon the subject.”—Washington to Major-General Gates, 24 April, 1778. A similar invitation was sent to Mifflin.
[1 ]Read in Congress, April 29th.
[1 ]“I am exceedingly concerned to learn that you are acting contrarily both to a positive resolve of Congress and very express orders, in engaging British prisoners for your Legionary Corps. When Congress referred you to me on the subject of its composition, to facilitate your raising it, I gave you leave to enlist one third deserters in the foot, and was induced to do even that from your assuring me that your intention was principally to take Germans, in whom you thought a greater confidence might be placed. The British prisoners will cheerfully enlist as a ready means of escaping, the continental bounty will be lost, and your corps as far as ever from being complete. I desire therefore that the prisoners may be returned to their confinement, and that you will for the future adhere to the restrictions under which I laid you. The horse are to be without exception natives who have ties of property and family connections.”—Washington to Brigadier-General Pulaski, 1 May, 1778.
[2 ]David Henley.
[1 ]“I have had several long conversations with the Baron Steuben, who appears to me a man profound in the science of war, and well disposed to render his best services to the United States. In an interview between him and the general, at which I assisted in quality of interpreter, he declared that he had purposely waved making any contract with Congress, previous to his having made some acquaintance with the Commander in chief, in order that he might avoid giving offence to the officers of the army, and that the general might decide in what post he could be the most useful. If I have conceived rightly of his character and abilities, he would make us an excellent quarter master general, in the military part of the department; his office being confined to the choice of positions, regulation of marches, etc. But as the civil and military duties with us are blended, he can’t be disposed of in this way; his being a foreigner, unfitting him totally for the latter. I think he would be the properest man we could choose for the office of inspector general, and there are several good assistants that might be given him. I have the highest opinion of the service he would render in this line, as he seems to be perfectly aware of the disadvantages under which our army has labored from short enlistments and frequent changes; seems to understand what our subjects are capable of, and is not so staunch a systematist as to be averse from adapting established forms to stubborn circumstances. He will not give us the perfect instructions, absolutely speaking, but the best which we are in a condition to receive. We want some kind of general tutoring in this way so much, that as obnoxious as Conway is to most of the army, rather than take the field without the advantages that might be derived from a judicious exercise of his office, I would wish every motive of dissatisfaction respecting him for the present to be suppressed. The Baron proposes to take the rank of major general, with the pay, rations, &c. He does not wish for any actual command, as he is not acquainted with our language and the genius of our people.”—John Laurens to his Father, 28 February, 1778.
[1 ]Francis Barber.
[2 ]John Brooks.
[3 ]William Davis.
[1 ]“I had received the resolution of Congress of the 23d. extending my former powers. From your representation of the character of John Derrick, he seems a proper object to make an example of. You will be pleased to transmit me the proceedings of the court martial against him, that I may determine upon them. This I do not desire from the smallest doubt of the most conscientious rectitude and propriety of conduct on your part, being satisfied that this will be the case, but from an idea, and on reconsideration of the matter, that the powers delegated to me by Congress are of a personal nature, and should according to common usage in similar cases, at least in instances where life is concerned, be exercised and carried into execution by a personal decree. You are not to infer from hence that you are not to order court martials for the trial of offenders in the predicament of John Derrick &c, who have or may violate the resolutions you mention; but only that the proceedings in such cases, where capital punishments are denounced, must be sent to me for approbation or disapprobation.”—Washington to General Smallwood, 30 April, 1778.