Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO BARON STEUBEN, AT PHILADELPHIA. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
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TO BARON STEUBEN, AT PHILADELPHIA. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VIII (1779-1780).
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TO BARON STEUBEN, AT PHILADELPHIA.
I have received your letter of the 26th bro’t down to the 29th of January, with the papers annexed, and have carefully considered the contents, on which I shall give you my sentiments with freedom and confidence. The principal point, on which your memorial to Congress turns, is the force requisite for the next campaign. To determine this on good grounds, we ought first to settle the following question; Will it be in our power to make an offensive, or must we content ourselves with a defensive campaign?
It is not possible to decide this question without a more intimate knowledge of our resources of finance, than I at present possess, and without ascertaining whether our allies can afford a squadron for an effectual coöperation on this continent. I think with vigorous exertions we may raise a sufficient number of men for offensive operations, if we were able to maintain them; but, from the view I have of our affairs, I do not believe the state of our treasury will permit this without assistance from abroad. Whether this is to be obtained, Congress alone can judge. On the other hand, from the particular situation of the enemy’s posts in this quarter, I should not advise to calculate measures on the principle of expelling them, unless we had certain assurances that an adequate naval force will be ready to coöperate with us through all contingencies. If a foreign aid of money and a fleet are to be depended upon, I should then recommend that all our dispositions should have reference to an offensive and decisive campaign; and in this case I should ask at least one third more men than your estimate, to be immediately raised by a general draft.
But as I doubt whether these two preliminaries can be placed upon such a footing of certainty, as to justify our actg. in consequence, I imagine we must of necessity adopt the principle of a defensive campaign, and pursue a system of the most absolute œconomy. On this principle, however, if I understand your estimate, I do not think it will be more than sufficient. I suppose you mean the 23,000 for our total number. When the deductions for unavoidable casualties are made, this number will give us less than twenty thousand for our efficient operating force. This is as little as we can well have to contain the enemy within bounds, and prevent their making any further progress. Including the detachment which lately sailed from New York, they have near 2,000 men fit for actual service in these states; to say nothing of the recruits they will probably send over to complete their battalions, which will be an augmentation of force. For these reasons I approve the estimate you have proposed, as best suited to our present circumstances.
The number of cavalry you propose is in good proportion, and in a military sense necessary. Cavalry, if there is an active scene to the Southward, will be particularly useful there; but the question of expense is a very serious one, and, like the rest, must be referred to those who are acquainted with our money resources. Another point is, whether the regiments had better be incorporated with each other and completed or left as they are and completed to such a standard as will give the number of men required. A Committee of Congress, as you have been informed, sent me a proposal, which has been referred to their consideration, for reducing the number of battalions, and asked my opinion upon it. Though I was fully sensible of the inconveniences, which will infallibly attend a reduction, I did not dissuade from it, principally upon two accounts: one, a conviction that the embarrassments in our finances require every expedient for saving expense: the other, the incompetency of the present number of officers to the present number of corps. But though I do not disapprove, I am far from being much attached to this plan. Congress can best balance the advantages and disadvantages, and determine which preponderate.
I sincerely wish what you recommend with respect to Magazines could be carried into execution, but I fear it will be impracticable in the present extent. Every thing, however, that is possible ought to be attempted. There is no danger of the Magazines exceeding our wants; and we have been under dreadful embarrassments, through the whole course of the war, from temporary and precarious supplies. The arms ought, at all events, to be provided. I have issued an order requiring the returns demanded by the Board of War, to be made out with all despatch. They will be forwarded as fast as they are collected.
There are some points of inferior importance in your memorial which I approve that do not require a particular enumeration. I have the honor to be, &c.1
[1 ]“I had recd. the Resolve of Congress, of which you enclosed me a copy, immediately from the president, and in consequence of it instantly gave the necessary directions for the proper Returns to be brought in, to enable me to furnish the States with an account of the deficiencies of their Quotas of Troops. This, from the dispersed State of several of the independent Corps, the artillery, the Cavalry, and Artificers, will take up a considerable time; and it is very much to be feared that the greatest part, if not the whole of the time allowed for bringing the levies into the field, will elapse before the returns can be collected, digested, and transmitted to the remote States. The returns lately called for by the Board of War are preparing, and those belonging to the army at this cantonment will be forwarded in a day or two; those from the detachments of the army at West point, Danbury, and the Horse in Connecticut, as soon as possible.”—Washington to Baron Steuben, 18 February, 1780.