Head Quarters, New-York, septr 4th 1776.
Parole: America.Countersign: Shelbourne.
It is with amazement and concern, the General finds, that the men of every regiment, are suffer’d to be constantly rambling about, and at such distances from their respective quarters and encampments, as not to be able to oppose the enemy in any sudden approach.1 He therefore not only commands, but most earnestly exhorts the Colonels and commanding officers of Corps, as they value their own reputation, the safety of the Army, and the good of the cause, to put an immediate, and effectual stop to such an unsoldierlike, and dangerous practice; as one step towards the accomplishment of which, he orders and directs that all those who shall be absent without leave be immediately punished.2
The sick of the several regiments of Militia are to be discharged if they are well enough to get home, and choose to be discharged—All the other sick are to be provided for in such a manner, and in such places, as the Director General of the Hospitals & the several regimental Surgeons shall think best for them. In giving these discharges particular care is to be taken by the Colonels and General Walcott to see that none but those who are really sick be dismissed and that the discharges be given in writing by Genl Walcott.
The General does in express and peremptory terms, insist upon exact returns of the several regiments, and other Corps, and the Brigadiers and officers commanding Brigades, are to see that this order is complied with, without delay; as it is essentially necessary for the General to be acquainted with the exact state of the army.
Col. Glover, during the absence of Genl Clinton, is to be considered as Commandant of his Brigade, and to be obeyed accordingly.
The increased number of waggons will in future admit of more regularity in marching the regiments than has yet prevailed—Whenever therefore a regiment is ordered to march they should get their Baggage in readiness, but not move it ’till conveniencies are provided. The Qr Master of the regiment should then overlook it & stop all heavy, useless lumber, and the Commanders of regiments would do well, to take particular Care in this matter. No Colonel is to seize any boat, or waggon, by his own Authority, on Penalty of having his baggage turn’d out and left.
The Brigade Majors are ordered to have their Brigade Returns immediately made, or the General will put the Delinquents in Arrest; unless the Adjutants fail in their duty, and they put such Adjutants in Arrest.
The Brigade Majors both standing and temporary are hereafter punctually to attend at eleven O’Clock at Head Quarters. There has been of late a shameful remissness in some of them.
Varick transcript, DLC:GW; Df, DNA: RG 93, Orderly Books, vol. 15. The last three paragraphs of the general orders in the draft are in Joseph Reed’s writing.
1. The draft reads: “as to render it impossible to collect them under Arms in time to oppose the Enemy in any sudden Approach.” See also Kinnan, Order Book description begins Peter Kinnan. Order Book Kept by Peter Kinnan, July 7–September 4, 1776. Princeton, N.J., 1931. description ends , 97, and “Williams’ Diary,” description begins “Elisha Williams’ Diary of 1776.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 48 (1924): 334–53; 49 (1925): 44–60. description ends 48:338.
2. The draft reads: “he orders and directs that the rolls be called over three times a day, and that all those who shall be absent without Leave be immediately punished.” See also Kinnan, Order Book description begins Peter Kinnan. Order Book Kept by Peter Kinnan, July 7–September 4, 1776. Princeton, N.J., 1931. description ends , 98, and “Williams’ Diary,” description begins “Elisha Williams’ Diary of 1776.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 48 (1924): 334–53; 49 (1925): 44–60. description ends 48:338.
The next day Edward Tilghman wrote General Heath on behalf of Joseph Reed: “It is with infinite Amazement and Concern the General [GW] finds, that Men of almost every Regiment are sufferd to ramble and straggle from their respective Quarters and Encampments, so that in Case of an Alarm, wh. we have great Reason hourly to expect, it will be impossible for them to be so effectually collected, as to be able to repel the crafty and enterprizing Enemy. As it is of the last Importance that so dangerous a Practice should be speedily corrected, he begs of you to bend your Attention to this Subject particularly, and recommends that henceforth the Rolls in each Regiment be called over three Times a day, and the Delinquents instantly punished; that no Soldier be permitted on any Acct to quit his Quarters without Leave, and at any Rate only a few at a Time.
“The daily Complaints of the most unbounded Licentiousness of the Troops, in plundering and destroying every thing they can lay their Hands on, gives his Excellency the utmost uneasiness, and will unless speedily put an End to, prove the disgrace and destruction of the Army. The Genl is surprized that Freemen engaged in the glorious Cause of Liberty, and fighting in Defence of every thing that is dear to them, should inconsiderately plunge into such infamous and atrocious Crimes, while our mercenary Enemy, the tools of Tyranny and Oppression, exhibit almost a perfect pattern of Regularity. You will therefore not only take Care to convince the Soldiers how truly abominable such Behavior is, but by the most steady and regular discipline, prevent these Irregularities in future. “Upon your attention to these Matters the good of the Cause depends, and the Genl rests assured that you will embrace every opportunity of removing the present causes of complaint.
“Tis his Excellency’s order that a copy of this Letter be given to each Brigade Major who is to see that the contents of it are communicated to his Brigade, and at the same time inform the Men from the Genl, that every offender will be certainly and severely punished” (MHi: Heath Papers).