To John Jay
Head Quarters West Point 24[–27]th Augt 1779
Since I wrote to your Excellency yesterday,1 I have been honored with your letter of the 18th instant with the papers mentioned in it.
I am much indebted to your Excellency, for the Copy of your circular letter to the States,2 and I sincerely wish it may have the desired effect—or at least, that the Battalions, in consequence, may be made more respectable than they are at present.
The Act of the 16th is certainly founded in equity3—for, if the Soldiers cannot be supplied with the Articles of Cloathing which made a part of the terms of their inlistment—they ought to receive the value of the deficiency. But I will take the liberty to suggest, that it is of the highest importance that they should receive the specific Articles—and I should hope every exertion will be made that circumstances will admit to procure them. A pecuniary compensation will, in some measure, and possibly may fully satisfy the Soldiers; but, it will by no means put them in a condition to perform the duties essential to the public Service. It should be considered as a secondary expedient—only to be practiced after every effort to obtain supplies of Cloathing had failed. The expences to the Continent will be the same in either case, but the advantages produced will widely differ.4 These considerations lead me to trust—that those employed in the Cloathing department will5 use their greatest exertions to procure supplies, and that they will not too easily give into the Idea of pecuniary compensations.
As the Battalions apportioned on the States are generally arranged, and all new appointments and the filling of Vacancies are with them, I would submit it to Congress, from the almost infinite perplexities and difficulties which have attended the Business, whether it may not be expedient for Copies of the Arrangement to be transmitted to the respective States, with a Copy of the Act of the 24th Novr last, so far as it recommends the mode of promotion.6
I transmit your Excellency a Copy of a letter from General Sullivan of the 15th which will inform Congress, if they have not received a letter from him, of his movements to that time.
In a letter of the 11th which I had the honor of addressing to your Excellency—I communicated the information I had recd from Colo. Wadsworth, with respect to the difficulties he met with in obtaining supplies of Flour for the Army. I have received a letter from him of this date, of which I inclose a Copy, which places the matter in a very serious point of light. I should hope that some releif may be immediately had from Pennsylvania—and that an application to His Excellency Governor Johnson would be attended with further immediate good consequences, as the Harvest in Maryland is pretty early, and a part of the new Crop, admitting the whole of the old should be exhausted, may be already at the Mills.7
I transmit your Excellency a New York paper of the 24th from which there is reason to conclude that Admiral Arbuthnot has arrived before this. Besides the foregoing I have this minute received a letter from Major Genl Howe, of which an extract is inclosed, which places his arrival beyond doubt.8
Before I conclude—I would beg leave to inform Congress that in consequence of their Act of the 3d June, authorising parole Exchanges9—the Commissaries of the two Armies had a meeting at Elizabeth Town on the 20⟨th⟩ July, when it was agreed among other exchang⟨es⟩ of this nature, that those of Majors General Philips and Reidhesel should take place.10 As Generals Thompson and Waterbury were two of the officers to be benefitted by the indulge⟨nce—⟩and were already released and with their frien⟨ds—⟩I wrote to Colo. Bland on the 11th instant that General Philips and General Riedhesel and the Gentlemen of their families had permission to go to New York on parole. Since this, Mr Duane, in a visit he did me the honor of making a day or two ago,11 mentioned the subject so far as General Phillips was concerned, and added that the Treasury Board had sent a Gentleman to adjust with him the accounts of the Convention Troops, which were now very considerable—and seemed to doubt the expediency of permitting Genl Phillips to go in till the same were at least liquidated.12 These were circumstances of which I was intirely ignorant before—and I have just made a summary state of facts that Congress may direct in the matter as they may think most proper.13 I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect & Esteem Yr Excellency’s Most obt humble Servt
LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: PCC, item 169; copy (extract), enclosed in Board of War to John Jay, 4 Sept., DNA:PCC, item 147; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The text in angle brackets is taken from the draft. Congress read this letter on 2 Sept. and referred it to the committee for superintending the departments of the quartermaster and commissary general (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 15: 1016–17); on 3 Sept. Congress referred the part of the letter relating to prisoner exchanges and clothing to the Board of War (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 15:1018).
1. GW wrote two letters to Jay on 23 August.
4. Harrison crossed out the words “almost as widely as two extremes” at the end of this sentence on the draft.
5. The words “be most pointedly required to” are marked out at this place on the draft.
7. The next day, GW addressed a circular to the executives and governors of six states—including the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania and Maryland governor Thomas Johnson—on the subject of flour supplies for the main army (see Circular to the States, 28 Aug.).
8. See Robert Howe to GW, 27 August. On 27 Aug., GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison wrote Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne a letter reading, in part: “Robinson’s York paper of the 24th mentions the arrival of the Russel Man of War of 74 Guns the preceding night at the Hook—and says she parted with Arbuthnot three days before—The more sport & all for the best” (PHi: Wayne Papers). The 23 Aug. entry in a journal kept by a British officer in New York—most likely either Maj. Gen. James Pattison or one of his staff officers—reads: “The Russel of 74 Guns, one of Admiral Arbuthnot’s Fleet, arrived off Sandy Hook in the Evening” (Ritchie, “New York Diary,” description begins Carson I. A. Ritchie, ed. “A New York Diary [British army officer’s journal] of the Revolutionary War.” New-York Historical Society Quarterly 50 (1966): 221–80, 401–46. description ends 434).
For GW’s defensive preparations for the long-expected arrival of the British army reinforcements, convoyed by the squadron under the command of Vice Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot, which arrived in New York harbor on 25 Aug., see GW to John Jay, 11 Aug., n.5.
9. See 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 14:679; see also GW to John Beatty, 25 June.
11. New York delegate James Duane had left Philadelphia on 16 Aug. to return home (Smith, Letters of Delegates, description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends 13:353, 386).
12. Before his departure from Charlottesville, Va., Maj. Gen. William Phillips had been unable to settle the accounts of the Convention Army to the satisfaction of the Board of Treasury; however, Congress, despite investigation into the affair, issued no orders to countermand either the journey or parole of Phillips and Major General Riedesel, who both continued on to Elizabeth, N.J. (see 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 14:996 and 15:1031). For Congress’s later decision to bar the generals’ parole on account of the military situation in late September, see Samuel Huntington to GW, 28 Sept.; see also Phillips to GW, 30 Sept., and n.1 to that document. For Phillips’s explanation of the difficulties in the settlement of the Convention Army accounts, see Phillips to GW, 10 Oct. (first letter). In January 1780, the Board of Treasury informed GW that they considered the settlement of the accounts an object of “magnitude and national Concern” (Board of Treasury to GW, 14 Jan. 1780, DLC:GW).
13. Harrison crossed out the following text at the end of this paragraph on the draft: “I shall take occasion when circumstances will permit to send Congress a Copy of my instructions to Congress in consequence of the Act of the 3d of June—and of his proceedings.” Harrison’s second reference to “Congress” probably was a mistake. For GW’s instructions, see his letter to Beatty of 25 June.