George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski, 19 December 1777

From Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski

[19 December 1777]


In my preceeding representations I have been particular respecting the present State of the Cavalry, the means by which it may be augmented & compleated1—but on this head I must necessarily know your Excellencys determination—The advantages that would arise from a Superiority in Cavalry are too obvious to be unnoticed—It may be further observed that during this war, the Country will daily become more open & Clear of woods & fences Consequently better adopted to the manoevres & Service of the Cavalry.

While we are superiour in Cavalry the enemy will not dare to extend their force, and, Notwithstanding we act on the defensive we Shall have many Opportunitys of attacking & destroying the enemy by degrees, whereas if they have it in their power to augment their Cavalry & we Suffer ours to diminish & dwindle away. It may happen that the loss of a Battle will terminate in our Total defeat—Our Army once dispersed & pursued by their Horse will never be able to rally. thus our retreat may early be Cutt off, our baggage lost, our principal Officers taken & many other events occur not less Fatal.

Your Excellency must be too much Occupyed, to take Cognizance of the detail of every department—a workman requires proper Tools to Carry on his business & if he does not use them in their place he Can never be perfect. Your Excellency is undoubtedly acquainted with yours, therefore, a person possessing your Confidence & properly authorised is essentially necessary to answer decisively Such proposals as I have made in my late representations respecting the Cavalry.

I must not omitt to mention here the dissatisfaction you have expressed at my seemingly inattention to your orders2—Your Excellency may be assured that the good of the Service is my Constant Study but the Weak State of the Corps I command renders it impossible to perform every Service required Nay my reputation is exposed as being an entire Stranger in the country the least accident would suffice to injure me but Notwithstanding, I Cannot avoid hazarding every thing that is valuable in life.

C. Pulaski Gl of Cavaly

If you think that my request is important & Right and that You Would before expect the Resolution of Congress; I Would be glad to be the bearer of Your letters, to Congress I hope to obtain sooner by that way ther Resolved as we want So many things ther is not time to be lost.

LS, DLC:GW. The date of this letter is taken from a heading written at the top of the manuscript, “Pulaski’s Memorial Dec. 19. 1777,” and from the docket on Pulaski’s enclosed proposal for a cavalry corps (see n.1).

1Pulaski is referring to his proposal for a cavalry corps, written on a separate leaf and docketed “Decr 19. 1777 Count Pulaski’s Estimate & requisitions for the Corps of Cavalry.” The proposal reads:

“1st  Let all detachments be called in, and a General review of the whole Horse Arms and accoutrements be appointed, and the Adjutant General or Majr of Brigade inspect into the state and Condition of the Horses and arms, A Qur Mastr Genl into that of the accoutrements, let this review be continued from day to day untill an exact return can be taken under the inspection of the Genl & Col’s of the Condition of the Cavalry.

“2d  this being done let all the Horses to be branded numberd & sized; the men also be numberd & sized, and all their arms & accoutrements have the No. of the Regt troops & Men.

“3  Let the Regts be divided into Squadrons, the Squadrons into troops & the troops into Squads.

“4th  Let it be ascertaind what number of men detachd constitutes such a command & when any such number of men is detachd from the whole or a Single Regt let the Brigade Majr or the adjutant be obliged to keep an exact Roster; & detach every officer in Tour according to the strength of the Command.

“5th  Let no party of those be detach’d except by order of the Commander in cheif, or the Commander of a division or Wing of the Army; and that through the order of the Genl of Horse or in his absence the commanding officer of horse present. when the Brigade Majr or orderly adjut[an]t shd keep a regular detail of the Parties detached, the service they go on; and be answerable to the commander of Horse, that he be regularly apprized of the time for their releif.

“6th  That all Guards & Pickets be relieved every 24 Hours if within five miles, or every 48 if within ten & above five, & every four days if within twenty & above ten.

“7th  that all Parties be considerd as relieved when they return to the Regt or Camp and go on from that time in Roster with the others but if it shd be necessary to keep out flying parties that they be relieved once a week, & that the officer commanding them before the time expires send an orderly man to Hd Quars of Cavalry with information where he is in order to his being releived.

“8th  That when the Cavalry are not divided into Wings but remain in one body, that a Picket from the whole be regularly mounted every day in the front of the Army, for releiving the Videttes, Patrolls &c. and that the brigade Majr of the day deliver to the officer of the Picket of Horse in writing the names of the posts to be releived & a description of the situation & route.

“9th  That besides the Picket for relieving Videts & Patrolls There shall be a Certain proportion of the whole for doing the incidental duty, of carrying intelligence, reconnoitring parties &c.

“10th  When the Horse are divided on the wings the Picket for each wing and incidental Guards, to mount in front of their respective wing & be under the command of the officer commanding the Horse of their respective wing who shall appoint an officer of the day, adjutant of the day &c. & conduct the detail as above. The commanding officer of the Horse of each Wing to order out such Patrolls, & post such Videttes as the Genl officer of the Wing shall think proper, or he may find necessary [to] receive and Convey intelligence to & from the commander in Chief &c.

“11th  That all the Horse for Picket be warnd the day before they mount, and that every Col: be obliged to see that the men, have at least one days Provision cooked and forage for one day, or assign the reason to the Genl of Horse through the Brigade Majr or the Commr of Horse through the adjutt of the day, when the officer through whose neglect it happend shd be immediately called to acct & dealt with according to the nature of the offence.

“12th  That Such Horses as are found unfit for service be weekly reported, sold, or sent to recruit, & others purchased in Lieu of such as are beyond recovery for service, & that some person be appointed to purchase horses for the use of the dismounted dragoons in Lieu of those that are lost.

“That Armorers & Saddlers be provided for the Horse, to keep their arms and accoutrements in order” (DLC:GW).

2No written complaints by GW concerning Pulaski’s military service have been identified.

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