From Brigadier General William Woodford
Camp [Whitemarsh, Pa.] 1st Decemr 1777.
Upon considering the several places purposed for the winter Cantoonments of the army, I think the Villages from Reading to Lancaster with the addition of some Hutts, the most Eligable position for the Troops in their present situation.
Were the Men warmly clad, I should give it as my Opinion that Willmington, or some post nigher the Enemy should be taken in preference to the above, where we might annoy them in their Forrageing &c. in the course of the winter.
But upon considering our present circumstances & looking forward to the opperations in the Spring, I think the advantages we should give them of possessing a part of this state & the Lower Countys, would be over ballanced by our having a Vigorous army ready to take the Field early in the next Campaign, with sufficient Magazines of provision & Forrage laid up in the course of this winter.
If the Range of Cantoonments I purpose should meet the approbation of your Excellency (after hearing the sentiments of the Genl Officers) I would purpose that as much Forrage & provisions as possible (of every kind) be immediately drawn from the Country between our Quarters & the Enemy, & that such as we had it not in our power to remove be distroy’d (saveing a bare sufficiency for the subsistance of the Inhabitants) & that the Country in our Rear be kept as a Reserve.
previous to the removal of the army, I would recommend that one or more Genl Officer go with the D. Qr Master Genl to view the cover that can be procured for the Troops, & make their Report to your Excellency as speedily as posible.
If these Villages are found too much crouded with the Refugees from Philadelphia & its neighbourhood, I should think it no great hardship for them to be obliged to remove to the Farm Houses contiguous, & that the D. Qr Master Genl (after having assertain’d their numbers) be order’d to assign them Quarters at a distance that it would be unsafe to squander the Troops in, & that the publick Waggons remove their affects. I am with much respect your Excellencys Most obedt humble Servt
ALS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
GW had solicited opinions from his generals on the subject of this letter at the council of general officers held on the evening of 30 Nov. (see the source note to General Orders, that date).