George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Richard Peters, 14 December 1777

To Richard Peters

Head Quarters Gulf Creek [Pa.] 14th Decemr 1777


Your several favs. of the 28th Novemr and 4th and 5th instants came duly to hand, but the constant motion which the Army has been in since the Rect of them has prevented me from answering them before this time.1

Nothing but the absolute necessity which the Army lay under for want of Cloathing induced me to send out Officers to make collections, the Cloathier General represented it to me as impossible for him to procure what Articles were in the hands of private persons and I therefore by virtue of the powers with which I was vested by Congress granted Warrants to different Officers to impress what the holders would not willingly part with,2 but I at the same time directed them to give orders upon the Cloathier General to be paid for at a reasonable Rate. Since the State of pennsylvania have undertaken to collect what things are proper for the Army by Commissioners of their own, I have recalled all the Officers sent out by me.3

I shall direct Genl Armstrong who remains upon the East Side of Schuylkill to endeavour to find out what Leather is tanned in & about Germantown and to have it removed. I am informed that it will be needless to remove what is half tanned, for if it freezes it will be spoiled.4

I have directed the Muster Master General to take the first Opportunity of mustering Colo. Nicola’s Corps of Invalids, which he promises to do.5 Docr Shippen has requested me to allot them to Guard the Hospitals, and if there is no other duty assigned to them I dont know how they can be better employed.6

Colo. Richardson has gone to Maryland for the benefit of his Health and I am constrained to mention the impossibility of sparing the Battalion at present, Most of the Men of the Nine eldest Virginia Regiments whose times would have expired in February have been permitted to go home upon Furlough to induce them to reinlist for the War upon the common Terms and a considerable Number of the Troops of Connecticut and Massachusets who were drafted for eight Months will leave us the last of this Month.7 These will weaken us more than is proper considering the Resolution of taking a position for the Winter near the Enemy for the more effectual covering the Country.

I have ordered a return to be made of the exact Number of the men in the Eastern Regiments whose times will expire with this year.8 They were not inlisted upon the Continental Bounty, but drafted by different Townships to make up their Quota of Continental Troops.

I will send up a proper Officer to train and take the command of the Recruits at York Town.

The Judge Advocate has gone to visit his family and I send you the Copies of a Number of proceedings of Court Martials which he left to be forwarded. I cannot say whether all that you call for are among them, but I know that of Genl Stephen’s is. I had ordered him to transmit Copies of all proceedings to the Board of War and I imagine he has done it, in all instances prior to the present.9

Lt Colo. Nevil is not out with the present Classes of pennsylvania Militia neither do I know where he is to be found. I do not know any person qualifyed for the Business for which he was wanted.10

I am very sensible that vast quantities of public Arms and stores are carried off by the Militia. But such an Officer as you recommend would not remedy it in the least. The Mischief is not done by those who are regularly discharged, but by those who desert before the Expiration of their time and carry away their Arms &c. privately, now except an Inspector General could prevent desertion, he woud do nothing. I think I can recommend a much more effectual Method and that is for the States to pass laws, imposing a certain penalty upon any Man who shall have any Arms, Accoutrements or other Stores branded with the Continental Brand found in his House.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1These letters have not been found.

2For the powers vested in GW by Congress in its resolutions of 17 Sept. and 14 Nov., see John Hancock to GW, 17 Sept., and note 1, and Henry Laurens to GW, 13–15 Nov., and note 6 (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 , 8:751–52, 9:905). For examples of GW’s warrants, see GW to David Forman, 6 Oct., source note, and GW’s Authority to Collect Clothing, c.1 November.

3For the appointment of these commissioners by the Pennsylvania council of safety in October and November 1777, see General Orders, 18 Nov., and note 1 (see also Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:339–40). The commissioners who visited GW between 4 and 6 Dec. had been directed by the council of safety in a resolution of 28 Nov. to “remind his Excellency that by our order a Collection of Cloathing for the Army is now making in this State” (DNA:PCC, item 69; see also ibid., 350–51). GW mentioned the recall of the officers in his letter to Thomas Wharton, Jr., of 19 Jan. and to Horatio Gates of 10 Feb. 1778.

4No written orders to Maj. Gen. John Armstrong on this subject have been found, but Armstrong did mention the subject in his letters to GW of 19 and 26 December.

5No written orders to Mustermaster Gen. Joseph Ward on this subject have been identified.

7GW elsewhere gives the number of Connecticut and Massachusetts troops whose enlistments were expiring as 363 and 240, respectively (see GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 15 Dec., and to William Heath, 17 Dec.). Jedediah Huntington wrote his brother Jabez on 29 Dec. that “the Men from Connecticut engaged for Eight Months set out this Day in a Body under the Conduct of some Officers for Home” (Huntington Papers description begins Huntington Papers: Correspondence of the Brothers Joshua and Jedediah Huntington during the Period of the American Revolution. Hartford, 1923. In Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, vol. 20. description ends , 390).

8Neither an order to this effect nor a resulting return has been identified.

9Neither the enclosures nor any written orders to Judge Advocate Gen. John Laurance have been identified.

10Lt. Col. John Nevill of the 8th Virginia Regiment was promoted to colonel on 11 December.

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