Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES McHENRY. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785)
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TO JAMES McHENRY. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. X (1782-1785).
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TO JAMES McHENRY.
Newburg, 25 January, 1783.
Verplanck’s Point, 17 October, 1782.
My dear Sir,
I was hurt yesterday at the appearance of the Detachment under your Command, as I conceive you must have been, if you viewed and drew a comparison between it and the Regiment on your Left. The Clothes of the latter have been upon the Soldiers backs almost, if not quite, twelve months,—while it is scarce Six since any part of yours has been issued.
In a visit to the Post of Dobb’s Ferry last Saturday, I accidently met with Majr. Lynch at that place, and received from him your letter of the 30th ulto.
Dirt and Trash too, of every denomination was so liberally strewed, even upon your parade, and immediately before the doors of your Hutts, that it was difficult to avoid the Filth.
In a time like this, of general uncertainty, with respect to the designs of the British Court, it is not at all wonderful to find men engineering at every Corner for News—The North sends to the South, and the South to the North, to obtain it.—But at present, all I believe are equally ignorant.—My opinion of the matter is, that you could learn nothing decisive from the Cabinet itself.—I have long thought, and still think, they are trying the Chapter of accidents; and the good or ill success alone of this campaign, will fix their Councils. If they can obtain any advantages at Sea, or in the Indies—East or West, no matter where—I am of opinion they will continue the War—If their affairs on the other hand stand still, or continue to retrograde, their stomachs will come to, & Peace will be seriously thought of—
The true distinction, Sir, between what is called a fine Regiment, and an indifferent one will ever, upon investigation, be found to originate in, and depend upon the care, or the inattention, of the Officers belonging to them.—That Regiment whose Officers are watchful of their men, and attentive to their wants, who will see that proper use is made, and a proper account taken, of whatever is drawn for them; and that Regimental and Company Inspections are frequent in order to examine into the state of their Arms, ammunition, Clothing, and other necessaries, to prevent loss or embezzlement;—who will see that the Soldiers Clothes are well made, kept whole, and clean; that their Hutts are swept and purified; that the Trash, and all kinds of Offal is either burnt or buried; that Vaults or proper necessaries are erected and every person punished who shall on those occasions go elsewhere in the Camp; that their Provision is in good order well cooked and eat at proper hours;—those Officers, I say, who attend to these things—and their duty strictly enjoins it on them—give health, comfort, and a Military pride to their Men, which fires and fits them for every thing great and noble. It is by this means the character of a Regiment is exalted while sloth, inattention, and neglect produce the reverse of these in every particular and must infallibly lessen the reputation of the Corps.
From a letter I had from Marqs. De la Fayette of the 29th of June, nothing more could be collected than that doubts & darkness prevailed—that the business of Grenville, seemed to be that of procrastination.—In a word, that nothing was fixed; and that the cause of his stay was to see matters in such a train as to find the way clear before he left France.—In New Yk. they are as impatient as us for News—expecting the August Packet will remove all doubts, but herein they will be mistaken—later acc’ts than the Packet can bring, leave the negotiations at Paris in as doubtful a state as ever—A Letter which I have just received from Boston gives me the inclosed as an extract of a Letter from Mr. Adams (as this is a private letter, Mr. Adams’s name had better be withheld) of the 20 of Augt. from the Hague.—The Boston Gazette says, that the Combined Fleets had left the Channel, and that the Jamaica Fleet got in four days afterwards.—It also gives an acct. of an Action in the East Indies between the French & British Fleets, in which, after a hard fought action, they say victory inclined to the latter but that the Ships of Admiral Hughes were so much damaged he could not pursue—this is such an acknowledgment (from a British acct.) as to leave little to be apprehended from it.
I observed with concern that none of your officers had espontoons; that some of them were even without side arms; and of those that had, some were so remiss in their duty as not to know they were to salute with them. From these considerations I am led to point you to the Genl. Orders of the 9th of August and 1st of September, and to recommend in pointed terms to your Officers the necessity and advantage of making themselves perfectly masters of the Printed “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.” Ignorance of them cannot, nor will it be any excuse, while it may bring disgrace on the Corps they belong to and produce much confusion in the army if they should form and manœuvre with it.—
You will recollect the opinion I gave you upon the receipt of Carleton’s letter of the 2d of August to me. Subsequent events, as far as they have come to my knowledge prove it was well founded—& I wish future ones may not evince that to gain time, was all that the British ministry had in view—The impolicy therefore of suffering ourselves to be lulled by expectations of Peace, because we wish it, & because it is the Interest of G. Britain to hold up the ideas of it, will, more than probably, prove the ruin of our cause & the disbanding of the Army; for it should seem from the conduct the States are pursuing—that they do not conceive it necessary for the Army to receive any thing but hard knocks—to give them pay, is a matter which has long been out of the question; and we were upon the point of trying how we could live on without subsistence (as the superintendent was no longer able to fulfil his Contract with the Victualers of the Army, & they relinquishing it) when fortunately for us we met with Gentlemen, who, for an advanced price pr Ration, has saved us from starvation, or disbandment by giving a credit—Our horses have long been without everything which their own thriftiness could not procure.
As it is the first time I have seen them under Arms, and some allowance is to be made for the rawness of the Corps, I will substitute admonition in place of reprehension—but it is my desire that you should inform the officers I shall expect to see a very great alteration in the police of the Corps and appearance of the Men before the next Inspection.
Let any man who will allow reason fair play, ask himself what must be the inevitable consequence of such policy.—Have not military men the same feelings of those in the Civil line?—why then should one set receive the constant wages of service—and the other be continually without them?—do the former deserve less for their watchings and toil—for enduring heat & cold—for standing in sunshine & in rain—for the dangers they are continually exposed to for the sake of their Country; by which means the man in Civil life sits quiet under his own Vine & Fig tree—solacing himself in all the comforts—pleasures—& enjoyments of life, free & unrestrained? let impartiality answr. the question.
The Soldiers of your detachment, with a few exceptions, would look very well in the line of the Army if their Clothes were in good order, well fitted, and the Men made to appear neat and clean. I am, &c.
These are matters worthy of serious consideration—The patience—the fortitude—the long, & great suffering of this army is unexampled in history; but there is an end to all things & I fear we are very near one to this.—Which, more than probably will oblige me to stick very close to my flock this winter, & try like a careful physician, to prevent, if possible, the disorders getting to an incurable height.