George Washington Papers

To George Washington from a Board of General Officers, 7 August 1777

From a Board of General Officers

Camp [Smith’s Folly, Pa.] Augt 7 1777

We the Subscriber beg leave to represent to your Excellency that all Regimental Officers conceive themselves greatly oppress’d by a Resolve of Congress which obliges them to draw their Provision with the men. The Resolve deprives them of the few conveniences which might be had without any disadvantage to the Publick from the Commissaries Store besides it oppresses the men, the officers picking out all the best bits for their own consumption.1

We cannot conceive the little inconvenience the Commissary will be subject to in opening Mess accounts is a Sufficient reason for depriving the Officers the advantage and comforts that may be had from the Commissaries Store when at liberty to draw as their necessaties may require.

We beg your Excellency to recommend a repeal of that Resolve of Congress and direct the Regiments to form themselves into Messes2—no one Regiment to consist of more than twelve & as many less as the Regiment can render convenient and that each Mess be at liberty to draw at all time such Articles from the Commissaries Store, as are provided for the Use of the Army and that every thing so drawn be charged to the head of the Mess. The Mess accounts to be settled once a month and the ballance to be paid either from the Commissary to the Mess or the Mess to the Commissary as appears due upon ballancing the Ration accounts.

We also beg leave to acquaint your Excellency that there is a general complaint for want of a settlement of the back Rations.

Nath. Greene M. G.

DS, DLC:GW. Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene signed for all the officers.

The board of general officers also sent GW the following report, apparently made on 7 and 8 Aug., concerning its meeting of this date:

“Board of General Officers setting for hearing and Regulating sundry matters agreeable to the General orders of yesterday. Present Major General Greene[,] Major General Stephens[,] Brigr Genl Maxwell[,] Brigr Genl Knox[,] B—r Genl Muhlenberg[,] Brigr Genl Weedon[,] Brigr Genl Scott[,] Brigr Genl Woodford. Colonel Thornborough Waggon Master General appeared before this board and represented the dificulties of executing his trust for want of those acting under him properly understanding the nature of their duty, the orders they were subject to, and that if confign’d in the common Guard, for any offence, few if any would be connected with the department, that can be depended on; to remedy both evils, we beg leave to recommend the following General Orders. The Waggon Master General and all those acting in the department, under the Waggon Master General, are for the future to govern themselves agreeable to the Rules and Regulations of the Army, conformable to all General Orders, to division Orders to which they belong; To Brigade Orders to which they are connected, and those belonging to Brigades to be subject to the verbal orders of the Field Officer of the Brigade appointed to the charge and direction of the line of March for the day; for any offence to be confign’d to their Quarters, and tryable by such Court Martial as shall be appointed to hear and determine the same. If any Officers in the department misbehaves, either on the March, or in Camp, complaint is to be made to the Field Officer superintending the line of March for the day, or to the Brigadier or Major General, either of whome may order the person to confine himself to his Quarters as above.

“The names of the deputy Waggon Master Genl appointed to the direction of the Waggons of the Division, to be inserted in the Division Orders, those belonging to Brigades, in the Brigades Orders, and those Officers to have recourse to the General Orders, for the better regulation of their conduct. [signed] Nath. Greene M.G. President of the board.

“The Board being directed to receive the Reports of the Field Officers and Captains of the different Brigades, respecting the quantity of Soap to be allowed, are of Opinion, that five Ounces to each man per Week, will be absolutely necessary to keep the soldiers decent and Clean, but that no equivelent be given for the Soap allowed and not drawn, but to reimburse the Commanding Officer of the Regiment such sums as he may have expended for that article for the use of his Regiment, when it was not to be had at the Commissary Store; and that no Soldier shall be allow’d to sell his soap; and if detected in doing it to be severely punished. [signed] Nath. Greene M.G. President of the board.

“There has not appeared any Officer before the Board, to shew cause, why, the Abstracts cannot be made out, agreeable to General Orders; some reasons have been offered why they could not hereafter, which accompanies this report. [signed] Nath. Greene M.G. President.

“The Board are of Opinion upon the subject of Cloathing, that the Honble Continental Congress intended to furnish each Soldier with a proper Suit of Cloaths, suitable to his condition and service, and that the valuation of the Articles to compose that suit for the time was calculated at the current prices things were then sold at, It wou’d not be consistent with the dignity of Congress or the principles of Justice, to take advantage of the fluctuating State of the Markets, and refuse the Soldier the Articles of Cloathing at the moderate prices things were sold at, at the time the Resolution of Congress took place, and offer him as an equivelent only the twenty Dollars; Therefore it is our Opinion that each Soldier ought of right to have liberty to draw upon the Continental Store annually for one compleat suit of cloathing. It appears to us that the allowance of twenty dollars in lieu of the Cloathing was a priviledge granted to those that could with convenienter furnish themselves rather than to exclude the Soldiery from the first conditions of being furnished with the cloaths—It is our opinion also that all such articles of Cloathing as are drawn for the use of the Troops ought to be charged in a Regimental account, agreeable to the stated prizes fixed to the annexed inventory, untill a Regiment has drawn its proportion, then to be accountable to the Cloathier General at such Rates as he and the Commanding Officer can agree, and every officer to account at this rate that draws more than he has a right to.

2 Hunting Shirts at 12/6 £1. 5.0
2 pair of Overalls @ 7/6 .15. 
1 Leather or Woolen Jack coat .12.6
1 pr Breeches .12.6
1 Hat or Leather Cap . 8.0
2 Shirts @ 10/ 1. 0.0
2 pr Stockings @ 6/ .12.0
2 pr Shoes @ 7/6  .15.0
Dollars at 6/ 6. 0.0
Nath. Greene M.G.”

Parts of the above report were incorporated into the general orders of 9 August.

The enclosure respecting pay abstracts referred to by Greene in the above report is a letter of 8 Aug. 1777 that was written to him by Col. Richard Humpton of the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment: “The 11th Pens. Regt had not a Pay Master appoint’d ’till late in the Spring; and the Regt from their first establishment was greatly dispersed which made it impossible to reduce their accts to a regular mode of Payment; Yesterday the pay Master finish’d their Accts the Regiment is paid & their Assignments taken to the first of May—The Muster Pay Rolls & Abstracts for May June & July are ready agreeable to Genl Orders of Yesterday, & the reason why they were not given in Sooner, was on Acct of the Pay-Master being fully employ’d in opening Separate Accounts for each Soldier for the Payment of the Regt to the first of May—’till that Period all his department pass’d thro’ My Hands and could only be Settled in my presence Which has been frequently retarded on Acct of the movement of the Army. It was the Opinion of the Officers of the 2d Brigdr G. Lincolns Division that 20 lb of good Soap would not be More than Sufficient to wash 100 Soldiers Linnen &c Pr week” (DLC:GW).

1The board is referring to article 24 of Congress’s resolution of 10 June 1777 reorganizing the commissary department, which placed restrictions on the issuing of provisions (see 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 , 8:443).

2GW relayed the board’s concerns to the Continental Congress in his second letter to Hancock of 9 Aug., and Congress referred the matter to committee on 11 Aug. (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 , 8:629). The committee apparently failed to act and Congress on 4 Sept. appointed a second committee to consider the matter, ordering a resolution to lie on the table authorizing GW to order the officers of the “several Regiments to receive their Rations in Messes, notwithstanding any Resolutions of Congress to the Contrary” (ibid., 710–11). The committee wrote GW on the subject on 6 Sept., enclosing a copy of its proposed report and resolution on the subject, which Congress referred to another committee on 11 Sept. (see A Committee of the Continental Congress to GW, 6 Sept.; see also 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 , 8:732–33). The third committee apparently failed to bring in a final report, however.

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