Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN SULLIVAN, IN CONGRESS. 1 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
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TO JOHN SULLIVAN, IN CONGRESS. 1 - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. IX (1780-1782).
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TO JOHN SULLIVAN, IN CONGRESS.1
Hd.-Qrs., Passaic Falls, 20 November, 1780.
You have obliged me very much by your friendly letter of the 12th, and I can assure you that I shall be very happy in a continuation of them. You are too well acquainted with my course of business to expect frequent or long letters from me, but I can truly say that I shall write to none with more pleasure, when it is in my power to write at all, than I will do to you. The determination of Congress to raise an army for the war, and the honorable establishment on which the officers are placed, will, I am persuaded, be productive of much good. Had the first measure been adopted four, or even three years ago, I have not the smallest doubt in my mind but that we should at this day have been sitting under our own vines and fig-trees in the full enjoyment of Peace and Independence; and I have as little doubt, that the value which I trust officers will now set upon their commissions will prove the surest basis of public œconomy. ’T was idle to expect, that men who were suffering every species of present distress, with the prospect of inevitable ruin before them, could bear to have the cord of discipline strained to its proper tune; and where that is not the case, it is no difficult matter to form an idea of the want of order, or to convince military men of its consequent evils.
It is to be lamented, that the call upon the States for specific supplies should come at this late hour, because it is much to be feared that, before those at a distance can be furnished with the resolves and make their arrangements, the season for Salting Provision will be irretrievably lost; and this leads me to a remark, which I could wish never to make, and which is, that the multiplicity of business, in which Congress are engaged, will not let them extend that seasonable and provident care to many matters, which private convenience and public œconomy indispensably call for, and proves, in my opinion, the evident necessity of committing more of the executive business to small boards or responsible characters, than is practised at present; for I am very well convinced, that, for want of system in the execution of business, and a proper timing of things, that our public expenditures are inconceivably greater than they ought to be.
Many instances might be given in proof, but I will confine myself to the article of cloathing, as we are feelingly reminded of it. This, instead of being ready in the Fall for delivery, is then to be provided, or to be drawn from the Lord knows whither; and, after forcing many Soldiers from the field for want of it, is eked out at different periods, as it can be had through ye winter, till spring, and in such a piecemeal way, that the Soldr. derivg. little comfort from it, is hurt both in appearance and pride, while the recruiting Service is greatly injured by it. Were this the result of necessity, not a word would be said; but it is the effect of a dividd. attentn., or overmuch business; for, at the periods of the extreme suffering of the army, we can hear of cloathing in different places falling a prey to moths, and canker-worms of a worse kind; and I am much mistaken, too, if the cloathing system (if ours can be called a system) does not afford a fruitful field for stockjobbing, &c.
It may be asked what remedy I would apply to these evils? In my opinion there is a plain and easy one. It will not, I acknowledge, give relief to our immediate and pressing wants, no more than order can succeed confusion in a moment; but, as both must have a beginning, let Congress without delay (for this is the season to be lookg. forwd. to the supplies for another year) employ some eminent merchant of approved integrity and abilities, to import, (in his own way,) materials for the annual cloathing of officers and men, agreeably to estimates to be furnished by the Cloathier-General. Or, if they prefer it, let these imports be made by a committee of their own body. When a stock is once obtained, discontinue all Continental agents and State agents for Continental purposes, and confine the business of cloathing the army wholly to the Importer, Clothier-Genl., and regimental cloathiers. This would be easy and simple, and would soon extricate that department from those embarrassments and impositions, which have a tendency to distress individuals and load the public with an enormous expense. At present we do not know where or to whom to apply. I have made the distresses of the army known to Congress, the Board of War, and the States individually, without learning from whence the supplies are to come, and can without the aid of a perspective see a very gloomy prospect before us this Winter on the score of cloathing.
I have two reasons for preferring the materials for cloathing to ready made cloathes; first, because I think we can have them made by the regimental Taylors to fit each man, and to suit the fashion of each Regimt.; and, secondly, because the materials will always be a more ready sale, if Peace takes place and the Troops are disbanded, than ready-made cloathes. They wd. attract less notice, too, at the places of Export. Another question may arise here; Where are the means? Means must be found, or the Soldiers must go naked. But I will take the liberty in this place to give it as my opinion, that a foreign loan is indispensably necessary to the continuance of the war. Congress will deceive themselves, if they imagine that the army, or a State that is the theatre of war, can rub through a second campaign as the last. It would be as unreasonable as to suppose, that, because a man had rolled a snow-ball till it had acquired the size of a horse, that he might do so till it was as large as a house. Matters may be pushed to a certain point, beyond which we cannot move them. Ten months’ pay is now due to the army. Every departmt. of it is so much indebted, that we have not credit for a single Express; and some of the States are harassed and oppressed to a degree beyond bearing. To depend, under these circumstances, upon the resources of the Country, unassisted by foreign loans, will, I am confident, be to lean on a broken Reed.
The situation of the southern States is very embarrassing, and I wish it were in my power to afford them relief in the way you have mentioned, but it is not. The very measure you suggest, I urged as far as decency and policy would permit me to do at the Interview at Hartford, but to no effect.1 I cannot be more particular on this subject, and what I now say is in confidence.
The report of Sir Henry Clinton’s going to the southward was groundless, and I believe few Troops have left New York since those under Leslie. I set out with telling you that I could not write long letters, but have ended with a flat contradiction of it. I am, with much esteem and regard, dear Sir, &c.2
[1 ]General Sullivan, having resigned his commission in the army, and been appointed a delegate to Congress from New Hampshire, took his seat in that body on the 11th of September.
[1 ]General Sullivan had suggested the expediency of ordering the French fleet from Newport to Boston, where it might remain secure till reinforced, and of calling the French troops to head-quarters. Such an arrangement would excite Sir Henry Clinton’s fears for the safety of New York, and prevent his sending detachments to the southern States. This measure was pressed upon the French officers at the conference in Hartford, and it would seem to have been the best that could be adopted, for the troops, who were detached from New York during the winter, constituted an essential part of the British southern army.
[2 ]On the 21st of November Washington had matured his plans for an attack upon New York, and began to issue the orders necessary to effect it. Colonel Gouvion was directed to reconnoitre the enemy’s works from Fort Washington upwards, and make every observation essential for forming a plan for surprising them by a night attack. (21 November.) Moylan was ordered to parade his regiment at Totawa Bridge, at nine o’clock on the morning of the 24th, detaching parties to secure all the crossing-places on the Hackensack River, and preventing any person from going with intelligence to the enemy. Major Goetschius was to patrol from the New Bridge downwards, for the same purpose (21 November.) Brigadier-General Wayne was to march on the same day to a mile below Acquaquenoc Bridge, advancing a regiment towards Newark, halting in about that position for further orders, but in the meantime foraging. (21 November.) To Pickering was intrusted the task of transporting boats from the Notch to Acquaquenoc Bridge, and his personal attention enjoined. (22 November.) Lieutenant-Colonel Humphreys was despatched to West Point to inform Heath of the intended movement, and thence to White Plains, where a detachment lay that was to move “precisely at four o’clock, and commence a slow and regular march towards Kingsbridge,” until preconcerted signals should direct them to press forward with “the greatest rapidity.” Knox was to have his park of artillery ready on Friday “to cover a body of troops in their passage across a river,” while Sheldon’s regiment and the Connecticut State troops were to cut off Frog’s Neck, and the refugee corps at Morrisania. To Major Crane was suggested the possibility of throwing a body of troops undiscovered on the island.