George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 30 May 1779

From Major General Horatio Gates

providence 30th May 1779


The Deputy Q. M. General in This Department, Colonel Bowen, who was Absent in the Country upon the Duty of his Station when the Express arrived from Head Quarters, sent me late last Night Your Excellencys Letter of the 21st Instant, it being inclosed in His packet from General Green.

As it will now be too late for any of the Army with your Excellency, to Disappoint the Enemys immediate Views in Virginia, a Glorious Opportunity at This Instant presents itself for attacking New York with the Fairest prospect of Advantage—Sixteen Thousand of The Enemys Troops, having most undoubtedly been Detach’d from that City since October last.1

I shall carefully attend to what Your Excellency is pleased to direct in respect to the Demands for parts of Rations, but it will be extreamly dangerous to set a precedent of One payment of Those referr’d to; If it is ever done in One In[s]tance, the Demands will be too importunate to be resisted in every One.

Though the Rice Vessel mention’d is taken by The Enemy, so many have lately arrived from Charles Town as to make me somewhat easy upon the Score of provisions at least until the New harvest is Gather’d; provided some Supply of Flour is continued to be sent forward. but I cannot say how Satisfied Our Troops, will be with Rice alone. in all Other Armies under the Sun, Rice would be consider’d as no bad Substitute for wheat Bread. Ours should upon Necessity think likewise.

Inclosed is an Extract of a Letter Just received from Mr peter Colt.2 I am Sir Your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servant

Horatio Gates

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NHi: Gates Papers; copy, DNA:PCC, item 154; copy, DNA:PCC, item 171.

1GW declined this proposition with a certain degree of sarcasm in his letter to Gates of 11 June (NHi: Gates Papers).

2The enclosed extract copy of a letter from Peter Colt to Gates, dated 23 May at Wethersfield, Conn., reads: “The real Scarcity of Flower, and the present ample Supply of Rice, induceth me to request your Honour’s Orders to the Issuing Department under your Command, to Issue three Days in a Week of Rice, in lieu of Flower, until we can get a stock of the latter on hand—or be able to Determine of our abilities to feed the Troops until the New Harvest is got in. I much fear, that notwithstanding the severe Laws in this state, & New York, made to enable us to feed the Army, Bread will be wanting; & that the Army must eat 2 days in 7 of Rice until next November, or perhaps more” (DLC:GW).

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