George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Elbridge Gerry, 25 December 1777

To Elbridge Gerry

Valley Forge 25th Decr 1777.

Dear Sir

Notwithstanding my last Letters to Congress were very explicit, and expressive of the wants of this Army—the necessity of arranging many matters in it—and making the necessary appointments without a moments loss of time,1 yet, when I consider the advanced Season, and consult my past experience of delay, I am induced to take the liberty of claiming your particular attention to this business; hoping thereby, that the method suggested by you, of having a Comee of Congress, or from the board of War, sent to Camp to consult with me, or a Comee of my appointing (for it would be impossible for me to give that close attention which the nature of the thing would require) on the best regulations, arrangements, and Plans for the next Campaign will be approved.2

If this method should be adopted by Congress, I would feign hope that the powers of their Comee might not be confined to particular matters, but generl and extensive; Congress reservg to themselves the right of approving or disapproving the proceedings. Our whole Military system might then be considered, and such alterations as should be found necessary & benefecial, & that circumstances would admit of, be adopted.

If this Comee should happen to be composed of Members from the board of War, they could fix many matters at the same time with Genl Knox in the Ordnance department, which requires as close attention & dispatch, as any thing whatever—in short I can foresee many great advantages which would result from it, without one possible evil.

I shall be obliged to you for recollecting what I mentioned respecting some additional Aids; I find, especially at times, the multiplicity of writing, & other business too great for those I have.3 Congress may be assured I do not want to run the public to any unnecessary expence on this Acct and that I shall be as sparing as possible in my appointments under the Indulgence they may give. I am Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt H. Ser.

Go: Washington

P.S. If Congress mean to adopt the half pay establishmt &ca much good would result from anouncing it soon; that all Officers who should be retaind, under the New regulations, may know at once what they have to trust to—this would, probably, begin the desired reformation in the Army whereas, under uncertainty & doubt, things at best, will jog on as usual.4

G. W——n


2Gerry presumably made this suggestion while he was visiting GW as a member of the camp committee that met with GW between 4 and 10 December. Congress appointed a committee to consult with GW about the next campaign on 10 Jan. 1778 (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 , 10:39–41).

3GW apparently mentioned his need for additional aides-de-camp during Gerry’s visit as a member of a camp committee to the camp at Whitemarsh in early December. Congress on 3 Jan. 1778 resolved that “General Washington be authorized to appoint such a number of aids de camp, as he may, from time to time, judge necessary” (ibid., 15).

4After much debate Congress on 15 May 1778 resolved to grant half-pay to all commissioned officers for seven years following the cessation of hostilities. Soldiers and noncommissioned officers were to receive $80 with the coming of peace for their role in winning American independence (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 , 11:502–3).

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