George Washington Papers

To George Washington from a Continental Congress Camp Committee, 10 December 1777

From a Continental Congress Camp Committee

White Marsh [Pa.] Decr 10th 1777


In Consequence of the conferences we have had with your Excellency, and knowing yours and your General Officers opinions on the Subject of our Mission, we have come to the resolution’s contained in the enclosed paper, finding them as far as we can judge most consistent with the Public good.1

Among the many reasons offered against a Winters Campaigne we were sorry to observe one of the most prevalent was a general discontent in the army and especially among the Officers. These discontents are ascribed to various causes and we doubt not many of them are well founded and deserve particular attention, and in the course of the present Winter, will be taken into consideration by Congress, and we hope effectually remedied.

That a reform may take place in the army, and proper discipline be introduced, we wish to see the Military placed on such a footing as may make a Commission a desirable object to the Officer, and his Rank preserved from degradation & contempt, for these purposes we intend to recommend to Congress.2

That an half pay establishment be formed and adopted in the American Service.

That a pensionary establishment take place in favour of Officers Widows.

That a New regulation of Rank confining it as far as possible to the line of the army be adopted.

That an equitable mode of paying for back rations be ordered.

Should these several regulations be approved and established by Congress (and we have reason to suppose they will) We trust the prevailing discontents will subside and a Spirit of emulation take place among the Gentlemen of the army to promote the public service and introduce that order and discipline amongst the Troops so essential to the Military character.

As a further inducement the Committee have it also in Contemplation to propose in Congress that the Officers be permitted to dispose of their Commissions under such regulations as may render the measure eligible. We are Your Excellencys Most Obedt hble servants

Robt Morris

Elbridge Gerry

Jos: Jones


1The camp committee began deliberations with GW on 3 Dec. (see Henry Laurens to GW, 1 Dec., and note 3, and the source note to GW’s Circular to the General Officers of the Continental Army, 3 Dec.). The enclosed undated report, which was read in Congress on 16 Dec., reads: “The Committee of Congress appointed to confer with his Excelly General Washington on the propriety and practicability of a Winter Campaign, and for other purposes, have confered with him on the subject matter of their appointment, and come to the following determination.

“That an attempt on Philadelphia with the present Force under General Washington, either by storming the Lines and Redoubts, crossing the Schuylkill, or by regular approaches to the City is an enterprise, under the circumstances of the Army, attended with such a variety of difficulties as to render it ineligible.

“That the Season is so far advanced as to render very precarious, large reinforcements of the Militia from the distant States to cooperate with the regular Army in any attempt across the Schuylkill, and it is apprehended sufficient reinforcements, for the purpose, cannot be obtained from the neighbouring States.

“That there being time for Congress to determine on the most proper mode of reinforceing the Army before the intended Enterprise can be carryed into execution, it is inexpedient for the Committee to adopt measures for that purpose.

“That untill sufficient reinforcements can be obtained such a post should be taken by the Army as will be most likely to aggrieve the Enemy, afford supplies of provision, Wood, Water and Forage, be secure from a surprize, and best calculated for covering the Country from the Ravages of the Enemy, and prevent their collecting Recruits and supplies for their Army; as well as afford comfortable Quarters for the officers and Soldiers” (DLC:GW; 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 , 9:1029–31).

2Congress on 24 Dec. appointed a committee composed of Elbridge Gerry, Jonathan Bayard Smith, and John Witherspoon “to take into consideration the wants of the army, and the letter from the committee lately sent to camp, directed to General Washington” (ibid., 1052–53). On 5 Jan. 1778 the committee recommended, among other things, half-pay pensions for commissioned officers and pensions for the widows of officers and the sale of commissions (ibid., 10:18–21). Consideration of this report was postponed for the time being, however.

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