George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 25 May 1777

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Bound Brook [N.J.] May 25th 1777

Dear Sir

I find a great want of Tents in several Brigades—General Maxwell sais he has none neither has he had it in his power to get any. I shall endeavor to get a more particular state today and will notify your Excellency upon the subject. A small detachment of Col. Lewis Regiment came in last Evening without Blankets or Tents and sais there were none to be had at Philadelphia.1 If that be true we shall be miserably off.

Upon enquiry I find the Camp feever begins to prevail among some of the Troops. Nothing will correct this evil like the free use of Vinegar—the men feed principally upon Animal food, which produces a strong inclination to putrefaction—Vegetables or any other kind of food cannot be had in such plenty as to alter the state of the habit—Vinegar is the only sovereign remidy. Cost what it may I would have it in such plenty as to allow the men a Gill if not a half Pinte a day. If cyder Vinegar cannot be had in such plenty as the State of the Army requires—Vinegar can be made with Molases Water & a little flour—to produce a fermentation one Hogshead of Molases & one Barrel of Rum will make Ten hogsheads of Vinegar.

Vinegar can be made from the simple state of the materials fit for use in a fortnights time—I think it my dear General an object of great importance to preserve the health of the Troops. What can a sickly army do, they are a burden to themselves & the State that employs them—All the accumulated expence of raising & supporting an Army is totally lost—unless you can find means to preserve the health of the Troops—No General however active himself or what ever may be his knowledge or experience in the Art of War, can execute any thing important while the Hospitals are crowded with the Sick—Besides such a spectacle as we beheld last Campaign is shocking to the feelings of humanity, distressing to the whole Army to accomodate the Sick—but above all the Country is robd of many useful Inhabitants and the Army of many brave Soldiers.

Your own reputation, the protection of the Country and the success of the Campaign are dependant upon the health of the Army. Objects so important in their consequences demands your Excellencies serious attention.

Inclosd is an account of the state of things in Brunswick yesterday2 Col. Broadheads Piquet was attackt yesterday the Enemy took one foot centry and one Vidett—the latter was lost by attempting too rashly to recover the foot Soldier which however was recoverd but wounded in a most shocking manner.

The Troops are encamping as fast as possible. With love and esteem believe me to be your Excellencies Obedient Servt

N. Greene.


1Charles Lewis (1730–1779) of Albemarle County, Va., had served as captain of the Albemarle Independent Company from April to July 1775, lieutenant colonel of the Buckingham District Minute Battalion from September 1775 to May 1776, and colonel of the 2d Virginia Minute Battalion from May to November 1776 before being appointed colonel of the 14th Virginia Regiment on 12 Nov. 1776. Lewis resigned his Continental commission in March 1778 over GW’s objections, giving his wife’s illness and personal financial problems as reasons for so doing (see GW to Lewis, 21 Mar. 1778, NNPM, GW to Henry Laurens, 24 Mar. 1778 [first letter], DNA:PCC, item 152, Lewis to Laurens, 26 Mar. 1778, DNA:PCC, item 78, and JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:292). Returning to Virginia, Lewis served from December 1778 to March 1779 as colonel of the state regiment that guarded the Convention Army prisoners at the Albemarle Barracks.

2This enclosure has not been identified.

Index Entries