George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Read, 19 January 1778

To George Read

Head Quarters Valley Forge 19th Jany 1778.


I am in hopes that the legislature of your State have fallen upon some mode to fill up the Battalion allotted to it, against the ensuing Campaign. If they have not, I beg leave to remind you how short the time is from hence, to that, in which we ought to be in the Feild. The Advantages, that will arise from our being able to begin our operations before the Enemy are reinforced, are too obvious to need recapitulating, and I have therefore wrote, in the most pressing manner, to every State, to endeavour to send their Quota of Men as nearly compleat and as early as possible.1

The Regiment of your State is at present with Genl Smallwood at Wilmington, and you will therefore be pleased to apply to him for a Return, from which you will see the deficiency in point of Numbers. If you should not have already adopted some mode of raising your men, I think you will find it in vain to attempt to do it by any other means than those of drafting. I am told that the State of pennsylvania have passed a law to draft their men. I have not seen it, but I am convinced if the practice was universal that the people would not complain.2

It has been recommended, by Congress, to every State to cloath their own quota of Troops as far as they may be able, and make it a continental Charge.3 I am certain that, with proper exertions, it may be done by the middle and northern States very nearly by their own internal manufacture; but lest that should not be sufficient, the continental Agents will continue to import and to purchase from private Adventurers all kinds of Goods proper for the use of the Army. Considering the many impediments that lay in the way of foreign importations we ought to put as little dependance as possible upon that source, especially for the Articles of Shoes and Stockings of which there is the greatest consumption and for the want of a regular supply of which our Soldiers suffer amazingly.

I shall be glad to hear from you as soon as convenient upon the above subjects4 and have the honor to be Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, NjP:De Coppet Collection; Df, DLC:GW; copy, De-Ar; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW signed the addressed cover of the LS, which he enclosed with a return of the Delaware Regiment in his letter to William Smallwood of 23 January. The draft is dated 18 January.

2On 22 Jan., Thomas Wharton, Jr., forwarded to GW an act passed by the Pennsylvania general assembly on 26 Dec. 1777 imposing an additional tax on those not performing military duty (see Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council to GW, 22 Jan., n.3). This did not, of course, constitute the draft that GW had come to believe was necessary, and on 10 Feb. he wrote Wharton expressing his doubts that the measure would be effectual. The Pennsylvania general assembly did not enact a recruiting law permitting drafts until 1 April (see Pa. Minutes of the General Assembly description begins Minutes of the Second General Assembly of the Common-wealth of Pennsylvania, Which Met at Lancaster, on Monday, October Twenty-seventh, A.D. One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven. Lancaster, Pa., 1778. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , Oct. 1777–Sept. 1778 sess., 72–73; Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:454–55).

3See the congressional resolutions of 20 Dec. 1777 in 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 , 9:1043–44.

4Read replied on 5 Feb. that for a variety of reasons the state legislature had not yet undertaken any measures to fill up the Delaware Regiment. He laid GW’s letter before the privy council, however, and called the general assembly to session on 17 February. On 21 Feb., Read addressed the general assembly, laying GW’s letters of 19 Dec. 1777 and 19 Jan. 1778 before it and suggesting actions to be taken in response (Delaware Archives description begins Delaware Archives. 5 vols. 1911–19. Reprint. New York, 1974. description ends , 2:827–28). On 25 Feb. the legislature approved resolutions providing additional bounties to recruiting officers and to soldiers enlisting in the Delaware Regiment and seeking additional funds from Congress or private donors to finance the measure (Delaware Proceedings description begins Delaware Archives. 5 vols. 1911–19. Reprint. New York, 1974. description ends , 366–67).

Index Entries