Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VII (1778-1779).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I was yesterday honored with your favor of the 20th, with its several Inclosures.
Congress will be pleased to accept my acknowledgments for the communication of the treaties between His Most Christian Majesty and the United States. The resolve respecting the exchange of Prisoners has been transmitted to Sir Harry Clinton, and I have appointed commissioners,1 if he thinks proper, to meet his at Amboy the 7th of next month.
I have the pleasure to inform Congress, that the whole army, one brigade and the light corps excepted, is now in motion to the places of the respective cantonments for winter-quarters. I have thought it prudent to delay this event awhile, to give time for the convention troops to make some progress in crossing the North River, to prevent a possibility of accident. The third division passes this day; and, if no unexpected interruption happens, the whole will be over the 30th instant. When their passage is completed, the remaining troops kept in the field will immediately retire to quarters.
The disposition for winter-quarters is as follows. Nine brigades will be stationed on the west side of Hudson’s River, exclusive of the Garrison at West Point; one of which, the North Carolina brigade, will be near Smith’s Clove for the security of that pass, and as a reinforcement to West Point in case of necessity; another, the Jersey brigade, will be at Elizabethtown, to cover the lower part of Jersey; and the other seven, consisting of the Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania troops, will be at Middlebrook. Six brigades will be left on the east side of the river and at West Point; three of which (of the Massachusetts troops) will be stationed for the immediate defence of the Highlands; one at West Point, in addition to the Garrison already there; and the other two at Fishkill and the Continental Village. The remaining three brigades, composed of the New Hampshire and Connecticut troops and Hazen’s regiment, will be posted in the vicinity of Danbury, for the protection of the country lying along the Sound, to cover our magazines lying on Connecticut River, and to aid the Highlands on any serious movement of the enemy that way.
The park of artillery will be at Pluckemin. The cavalry will be disposed of thus; Bland’s regiment at Winchester in Virginia, Baylor’s at Frederic or Hagerstown in Maryland, Moylan’s at Lancaster in Pennsylvania, and Sheldon’s at Durham in Connecticut. Lee’s corps will be with that part of the army which is in the Jerseys, acting on the advanced posts. This comprehends the general distribution of the army, except Clinton’s brigade of New York troops, Pulaski’s corps, and some detached regiments and corps stationed at Albany and at different parts of the frontier, of which Congress have already been particularly advised. Genl. Putnam will command at Danbury, Genl. McDougall in the Highlands, and my own quarters will be in the Jerseys, in the neighborhood of Middlebrook.
This disposition appeared to me the best calculated to conciliate, as far as possible, these several objects: the protection of the country; the security of the important posts in the Highlands; the safety, discipline, and easy subsistence of the army. To have kept the Troops in a collected state would have increased infinitely the expense and difficulty of subsisting them, both with respect to forage and provisions; to have divided them into smaller cantonments would have made it far less practicable to maintain order and discipline among them, and would have put them less in a condition to control and prevent offensive operations on the side of the enemy, or to assemble to take advantage of any favorable opening, which their future situation may offer, should they be obliged to weaken themselves by further detachments, so far as to invite an enterprise against them.
By the estimate of the quartermaster and commissary general, it appears indispensable to have the principal part of the army on the other side of the North River. It was thought impracticable to furnish the necessary supplies of flour for the whole on this side of the river, from the immense difficulty and expense of transportation in the winter season, and from the exhausted state of the country with respect to forage. As this subject has been already fully before Congress, I shall not trouble them with a repetition of the details. In order as much as possible to reduce the demand of forage and facilitate the supplies, I have given directions, when the several divisions arrive at their cantonments, to send away to convenient places, at a distance from them, all the horses not absolutely requisite to carry on the ordinary business of the army.
It is unnecessary to add, that the Troops must again have recourse to the expedient of hutting, as they did last year. But, as they are now well clad, and we have had more leisure to make some little preparations for winter-quarters, I hope they will be in a more comfortable situation, than they were in the preceding winter. With the highest respect and esteem, I have the honor to be, &c.1
[1 ]Sir Henry Clinton had written to General Washington, November 10th, proposing a meeting of commissioners to agree on an exchange of the convention troops. As Washington considered these troops under the exclusive charge of Congress, he forwarded the letter to that assembly, and they passed a resolve authorizing an exchange upon the following principles: namely, that officers of equal rank should be first exchanged; next superior officers for an equivalent number of inferior; and if, after all the officers of the enemy should be exchanged, there should still be American officers in the hands of the British, these should be exchanged for an equivalent number of privates of the convention troops. Colonels Harrison and Hamilton were appointed by Washington as the American commissioners, and they met the British commissioners at Perth Amboy, on the 11th of December. The negotiation was ineffectual. The British commissioners wished to obtain a larger proportion of privates than officers. They proposed to exchange one half of the officers in their hands for those of equal or equivalent rank, and to receive privates, according to such a ratio as should be agreed upon, for the other half. They urged as a reason, that it was unjust and inhuman to separate the officers from the soldiers, whom they had been accustomed to command, and who had been their companions in captivity. This was a doctrine, which, however conformable to military rule, had not before been advanced during the present war; and, on this occasion, neither its equity nor expediency was obvious.
[1 ]Read in Congress, December 3d.