George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 27 May 1779

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Camp [Middlebrook] May 27. 1779.


A few days since I was mentioning to your Excellency the impossibility of subsisting the Cattle of the Army in the way now pursued by applying to the Magestrate for pasture ground. The slow progress of the business in this way is totally inadequate to our wants.

The necessity for changing positions and Sudden Marches that frequently take place in the Army, will not admit of the present mode of applications to the Magestrate without producing such tedious delays and interruptions to the service as cannot fail to ruin all our Opperations.

I have inclosed a copy of Colo. Biddles letter to me on this subject which will give your Excellency a pretty full state of our prospect of future supplies of forage both from this State & others.1 From which you will see the necessity of giving your orders to the forage master General to procure forage in the best manner he can for Subsisting the Cattle of the Army. I would wish to make the Laws of the state the rule of my Conduct in all cases where it can be adher’d to without ruin to the service; but a partial evil had much better be endur’d than a general ruin take place. I submit the matter to your Excellencys consideration and shall wait your instructions. I am with great respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble servt

Nath. Greene Q.M.G.


1The enclosed copy of a letter from Clement Biddle to Greene, dated 27 May at Middlebrook, reads: “As it is probable that a movement of the Army will soon take place it is necessary to inform you what we may depend on for supplies of Forage; That we may recieve His Excellency the Commander in Chief’s directions relative thereto.

“The State of New Jersey was much exhausted when the army moved into it last fall, it afforded some supplies of grain and considerable quantities of hay for this Camp, Pluckamin &c. but for near four months past our supplies of grain not only for this Army, but for most of the Teams employed throughout the State have been drawn from Virginia, Maryland and the Delaware States by the way of Trenton.

“The Enemy’s Ships in Chesapeak-bay may put a stop to the supplies we might expect from Maryland and Virginia and render it too precarious to depend on any from thence—What can be drawn from the Delaware State will be hastened forward; but the whole that can be expected from the Southward to Trenton, will not be more than sufficient for the teams that will be employed in hawling provisions, Stores, and their forage from thence to the Army.

“Therefore there cannot be any dependance on supplies of grain except what can be drawn from this State to supply the horses with the Army and there is none to be expected untill the new grain is Cut.

“There will be considerable quantities of hay to be purchased within ten miles of coast from Bonum Town to Newark, if the Inhabitants could be left at home to cut it, and some of them have applied to me to represent to His Excellency the General tha[t] in case they could perform their tours of Militia-duty by guarding the coast from Bonum Town to Rahway, they would undertake it and be enabled to cut their hay & grain which otherwise they could not do.

“I am of opinion that it would be of great service to leave the Inhabitants of Essex & Middlesex counties at their farms for this purpose as we must rely on upwards of One thousand Tons of fresh hay from that district.

“I have ordered all that can be procured to be purchased & removed backwards from the coast & lodged in different places from Quibble Town to Springfield, not too much in one place and three hundred Tons are to be sent to Morris Town to form a Magazine there.

“It will be some weeks before we can depend on this or other supplies of hay and our great dependance must be on pasturage till after harvest. The present mode of procuring pasturage by an application to the Magistrates will by no means answer for the support of the horses of the Army—The inhabitants nor the Magistrates (who are by Law to direct it) will not alot the meadows which are for mowing nor agree to our horses going into them. The upland pasture alone will not keep our horses alive. ’Till grain can be procured it will be necessary to use all the pastures near the Army and to cut the grass and even grain that is ripe (or nearly ripe) to assist in the support of the horses.

“You will please to represent this to His Excellency the General and take his orders in what manner I shall proceed under these circumstances when the Army moves and in case the horses are ordered into Camp & remain at this ground but a few days our situation here will require the same assistance from the meadows.

“Grass scythes are provided to prevent the waste of grass as much as possible and fatigue parties will be necessary to Assist the Forage Masters of each Brigade and those of the extra teams when the meadows are to be taken.

“Pensylvania cannot subsist the Cavalry and spare horses now there and I have representations from several of my Deputies of their inability to keep them longer.

“In case of moving to the State of N. York the mode of aloting pasture by the Magistrates is nearly the same as in this State & will require the same mode of relief” (DLC:GW; for a transcription of the ALS, see Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 4:85–87). For GW’s response to this letter, see his letter to Biddle of 29 May; see also Greene to GW, 30 May.

Index Entries