Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - 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 THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I am honored with your letters of the 6th and 8th instant with their inclosures—happy to find, that the late disaster in Carolina has not been so great as its first features indicated. This event, however, adds itself to many others, to exemplify the necessity of an army,—the fatal consequences of depending on militia. Regular troops alone are equal to the exigencies of modern war, as well for defence as offence; and whenever a substitute is attempted, it must prove illusory and ruinous.—No Militia will ever acquire the habits necessary to resist a regular force. Even those nearest the seat of War are only valuable as light troops to be scattered in the woods, and plague rather than do serious injury to the enemy. The firmness requisite for the real business of fighting is only to be attained by a constant course of discipline and service. I have never yet been witness to a single instance, that can justify a different opinion; and it is most earnestly to be wished, the liberties of America may no longer be trusted, in any material degree, to so precarious a dependence.
I cannot but remark, that it gives me pain to find the measures pursuing at the southward still turn upon accumulating large bodies of militia, instead of once for all making a decided effort to have a permanent force. In my ideas of the true system of war to the southward, the object ought to be to have a good army rather than a large one. Every exertion should be made by North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, to raise a permanent force of six thousand men, exclusive of Horse and Artillery. These, with the occasional aid of the Militia in the vicinity of the scene of action, will not only suffice to prevent the further progress of the enemy, but, if properly supplied, to oblige them to compact their force and relinquish a part of what they may now hold. To expel them from the Country intirely is what we cannot aim at, till we derive more effectual support from abroad; and by attempting too much, instead of going forward, we shall go backward. Could such a force be once on foot, it would immediately make an inconceivable change in the face of our affairs,—in the opposition to the enemy, expense, consumption of provision, waste of arms, stores, &c. No magazines can be equal to the demands of an army of militia, and none ever needed economy more than ours.
Speaking of Magazines, I beg leave to observe, that it is of infinite importance to endeavor to establish ample ones in the Southern States. I mean more particularly of provisions, not only with a view to an immediate supply of the troops there, but also with a view to offensive operations in that quarter. A quantity of salt provision would be of great utility. It is deplorable that, if other circumstance suited our wishes, we cannot reasonably undertake any thing for want of provisions. Here the Country might, on an emergency, afford temporary supplies for a much larger force than we have; but, if we should find it eligible to turn our attention to the Southward, we should in all appearance meet with an insuperable obstacle in the want of a sufficiency of provision for the voyage, and for the operations previous to our opening a full communication with the Country. In the course of the present month, the army here has had scarcely one third of the established rations of meat; and our distress continues without prospect of relief.
I have the honor to inform Congress, that tomorrow I shall set out for Hartford, to have an interview on the 20th with the Count de Rochambeau and the Chevalier de Ternay.1 The command of the army in my absence devolves on Major-General Greene. It is with extreme regret that I announce the death of Brigadier-General Poor the 9th instant, an officer of distinguished merit, who, as a citizen and a Soldier, had every claim to the esteem of his Country.
I have just seen a resolution of Congress of the 25th of August declaring the invalidity of all certificates not given by the Quarter Master General and Commissary General. As our situation lays us under an absolute necessity of having recourse to these certificates and as the Quarter Master General is not with the Army I have been compelled to direct Colonel Biddle acting Commissary of Forage to continue giving certificates as heretofore for Ten Days or till the arrival of Colonel Pickering—I hope Congress will approve this step, founded on necessity, and will take the necessary measures to authorise the certificates given by Colonel Biddle till the new Quarter Master General joins the army.
I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. Since writing the above I am honored with your letter of the 12th inclosing Resolutions of the 8th & 11th. It is my duty to inform Congress—that considering the composition of our present force and our present prospects, I do not think it expedient to detach to the Southward from this Army. A little time will explain what we have to expect from abroad—this—the result of the intended conference and the measures Congress take to replace the expiring part of this army will enable me to judge hereafter how far it will be adviseable and practicable to send reinforcements to the Southward.1
[1 ]He did not in reality set out till Monday the 18th, having been delayed one or two days longer than he expected.
[1 ]Read in Congress, September 18th.