George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Nathanael Greene, 21 July 1780

Camp Precaness 21st July 1780.


I have your Excellency’s favor of the 19th containing an account of the arrival of the French Fleet—their Force and the time they will be ready for a co-operation with the American Army—and requiring my opinion of the practicability of conveying the supplies to the seat of action, altogether by a land-transportation, except a contingent one by Water, thro’ the Sound.

Inclosed I send your Excellency, my letter No. 1 upon the subject, to the Committee of Congress, and their answer No. 2—together with General Knox’s Estimate of Ordnance Stores No. 3, and my Estimate of teams for transportation thro’ the State of New-jersey No. 4.

It appears from the Committee’s answer that notwithstanding all the embarrassments and obstacles which lay in our way, they are rather inclined to think that force may effect what ever money and influence falls short.

I have ever been of opinion that the plan of supplying the army thro’ the medium of the States was too precarious and slow to authorize any offensive operations: and I have more and more reason every day to convince me that my conception of the mode and apprehension of the consequences were well founded.

The exertions that will be required upon this occasion, will be very great; and [tho’] I am clearly of opinion that the abilities of the Country in the Quarter Master’s line are equal to the attempt; yet if one part of the community is opposed to the other we may fail in our expectations—not for want of resources but for want of inclination to unite in the same measure. I apprehend no small obstacles from the people’s having been long taught to consider every exertion of force; however pressing the occasion as an unpardonable violence offered to this property.

The time is by far too short to make the necessary preparations for such an important expedition to be complite in ev’ry branch—nor can I tell wh[at] is doing; or how far the means will be proportioned to the end. You must therefore expect great deficiencies.

Things have been so deranged in the Quarter Masters department for many months past—public faith so frequently broken, and public Officers so repeatedly disgusted, that I cannot tell what exertions can be made.

Was my opinion to be [ask]ed whether I would undertake such an expedition upon such a precarious footing before the force was levied—the preparations gone into—or the expectations of the public raised, I should not hesitate a moment to give my sentiments decidedly against the measure. But how far the present preparations lay a necessity to push forward, and which may be productive of the most disagreable consequences—that of relinquishing the project of choice or of necessity, is somewhat difficult to determine—especially as the Eyes of all Europe and America are upon us and as your Excellency observes, there is no other object but this for offensive operations, whereby we can avail ourselves of the benevolent intentions of our great and good Ally, who have been at an amazing expense to equip a Fleet and Army with a view to a co-operation. I am not disposed to over-rate obstacles; nor would I wish to abuse your confidence, by representing things more favorable than they are. I cannot take upon me any responsiblity; because I have not money at command; nor are the officers under my controul on whom every thing depends; which is that of providing forage and teams. I am heartily disposed to do every thing in my power to promote the operations, and to share in common with others the honors or disgrace that shall follow the issue of the Expedition. If every thing can be depended upon to give success to it, but that of transportation, bad as the prospects are, I should not hisitate to prosecute the design—with this determination—to effect by force what cannot be accomplished otherwise.

In such a Seige as the one in contemplation, the forage of a whole province in Germany frequently laid waste to give it success[,] and [   ] are determined to make such sacrifices; and the spirit of the people should rise upon the occasion perhaps the success may far exceed our [present prospects]. I am, with great respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient Humble Servant

Nath. Greene

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Camp Precaness 20th July 1780.


I do myself the honor to inclose you a copy of his Excellency General Washingtons letter to me desiring my opinion of the practicability of furnishing the number of teams necessary to be employed in transporting the Stores that will be requisite to support the operations in the Seige of New York, supposing we are deprived of the benefit of water carriage except in the eastern sound. You have also inclosed an estimate of the numbers of teams that will probably be wanted to perform this service in New Jersey, with observations of the States from which the same may be most conveniently drawn; and I have not the Least doubt, but those States can furnish the proportion alotted to each.

I am to request of the Committee whether they can give me full assurances, that such Aid will be given in the business of transportation, both with respect to teams and forage, and all other matters of Contingency dependant on the same, as will authorise me to engage to the General to perform the transportation required.

The Committee have already been informed with respect to the difficulty of obtaining the smallest supply of money for the most pressing emergencies, they are also sensible that the present mode of drawing out teams and providing of forage is no ways dependant on me or my Agents, nor are those employed for either purpose accountable for any neglect of duty except to the State by which they are appointed. I wish the Committee not to loose sight of these circumstances in their answer.

Unless the Committee can provide ways and means of furnishing the carriages and the forage necessary for them the operations which the General has in contemplation cannot be prosecuted, without we have recourse to military force for obtaining them, and even this would be precarious and uncertain, as well as unequal and distressing to those who lay most within reach of the Army.

The Committee are already possessed of my sentiments respecting the policy as well as utility that would result from giving the present public creditors some Assurances respecting their demands, in order to quiet their apprehensions and prepare their minds for a further confidence in public faith. Was this measure taken and proper supplies of money furnished I imagine the people could be engaged voluntarily to perform the greater part of the service that would be necessary on this important occasion. I have the honor to be Gentlemen Your most humble Servt

Nath. Greene

No. 1



Estimate of Teams necessary for transportation between Trenton and Dobb’s Ferry.

c.20 July 1780

Four horse Teams.

8.500 barrels Flour pr mo’ require daily 486
225 hhds Rum Do Do do 45
41.666 lbs. Bacon Do Do do 11.
500 Bushels salt do do do 7
63.998 Bushels Grain- do do
forage supposing each team to deliver 30 bushels
of grain. The whole of the teams to carry their
own Grain forage beside their Loads 853.
Hospital Stores 12
Quarter Master Generals Stores 30.
State Stores 10.
Clothier’s Stores 12.
Ordnance Stores—founded on Brigadier General Knoxes
Estimate—having deducted for the Lumber to be
procured near to Camp by the army-teams 500

In the above estimate, no deduction is made for the flour and rum to be provided and sent on by the Merchants of Philadelphia, as the carriage thereof will be required from the different States,tho’ the expence will be paid by the Merchants.

N.B. 12 days allowed for a four horse team to make the journey from Trenton to Dobb’s ferry and to return with an average load of 15 Cwt of provisions—Grain &c.—and 16 Cwt for ordnance Stores.

The said 1.966 Teams to be furnished in the following proportion—Maryland to furnish for the transportation from Elk to Christiana

Delaware 200
Pennsylvania 1.066
Jersey 700

New-Jersey, in cases of emergencies, can supply two or three hundred more teams than are included in this estimate.

Nath. Greene

No. 4



20 July 1780

An undecided estimate of the weight of the Cannon and stores intended to be employed in the siege of New York, calculated upon a scale of sixty days—20th July 1780.

30,000 ten inch shells at 70 lbs. each 2,100,000
18,000 eight do @ 40 lbs. 720,000
72,000, 18 pound shot 1,296,000
72 000, 12 do 864,000
5 or 600 Tons of powder say 1,100,000
20, 18 pounders with carriages at
three tons each 120,000
20, 12, do do 2 1/2 110 000
20 Mortars different sizes averaged
at 1 Ton each 40,000
6 Howitzers 8 Inch 3 tons each 36,000
Timber plank and other materials of which no
particular estimate can be made 400,000
lbs. 6,776,000
Tons 3 388

The above is agreeable to the estimate which I have formed for the siege of New York; but it is probable that the different species of Cannon and what may be changed for others, although the aggregate may remain nearly the same.

Possibly one half of the aforegoing Cannons, shot and Shells are to be expected from Pena 400 Tons of the Shells and shot from this State—and the remainder from West Point[,] Providence, and Boston.

It is impossible at this moment when the greatest part of the cannon and stores are unfurnished, to say decidedly from what places they will be drawn and whether by water or land; but the above are the points from which they are expected.

H. Knox

Brgir Genl Artillery

No. 3



In Committee of Congress Camp Precaness July 21st 1780.


We are honored with your letter of yesterday’s date covering an estimate delivered you by General Knox, stating the weight of ordinance stores for which he requires the means of transportation, with one of yours exhibiting what number of carriages will be necessary to move those stores and others you mention from Trenton to Dobb’s ferry.

You wish to be informed "Whether the Committee can give you" full assurances that such aid "will be given in the business of transportation, both with respect to teams and forage, and all other matters of contingency dependant on the same, as will authorise," you "to engage to the General to perform the transportation." Convinced of the impracticability of prosecuting extensive military operations without ample means of transportation, the Committee have long since recommended it to the attention of the States individually. New Jersey Pena and Delaware seem to be the only States from which carriages can be drawn for what stores may be moved from Trenton to Dobbs ferry, and any intermediate or adjacent places South of the Highlands, and West of Hudson’s river. The Government of this State has empowered the Majistrates to empress teams when required, but on a recent occasion, they could not be procured in that manner[;] the Government has not advised us of their intention on this or any other subject: the Governor of Delaware has promised that the State will exert itself to the utmost, generally to comply with the requisitions of this Committee, hence we are not sufficiently informed to decide what reliance can be made on their aid, or how far the Governments of those States will interpose to procure it. The Committee in a late letter to Congress, have been very explicit on the subject of the various supplies requisite to put the Army in a state of activity, and impressed as that body undoubtedly is with the importance of having matters of such high moment to the weal of their constituency ascertained with every possible degree of precision, they will probably come to an ecclaircisment with the States, and it seems impossible that the latter should not be impelled to adequate exertion, when they shall be convinced that the General cannot avail himself of any advantage which may offer, or commence an operation, whatever his force may be, unless supplied with the requisite Stores, and that an inactive campaign will involve the States in a series of distress, which no friend to his Country can contemplate without the deepest anxiety; nor will the Committee fail to reiterate their observations on the subject. But should those States in whom a reliance must be more immediately placed for this aid, and which you assure us they are competent to be capable of a measure so injurious as to withold it, we shall certainly not hesitate to advise and request that the Military be [e]mployed to assist you in obtaining the necessary carriages, persuaded that men who have entered into that profession to preserve their dearest rights as citizens, will execute the disagreeable duty with every possible degree of tenderness, and relying that we shall stand justified with the virtuous part of the community, who, whilst they with us, lament the necessity of the measure, will decide that of the two evils, we had avoided the greater.

The Committee, Sir, are sensible that providing the arms and forage under the present plan of procuring supplies and aid, through the medium of State Agents not immediately dependant on your [de]partment as Qr Mr General, does not render you accountable for their mal-conduct. We consider it however your duty to make the requisitions to the States, and to prosecute every means in your power, to obtain both.

The Committee see, with anxious concern, the embarrassments which incessantly arise from such extensive dependance on the States for every supply. That it is productive of partial burthens on particular States from their local situation. That it will forever create a reluctance in the individuals of such States to the public service. That whilst a want of money compels Government to commit their affairs to persons not accountable to those whose reputation, in a great measure depends on the conduct of such persons, it is impossible business should be prosecuted with either propriety or oeconomy. And persuaded that nothing can remedy this evil and confine business to its proper channel, unless the confidance of the inhabitants regained by adequate [assurances] that the debts due, or such as may become due, will be discharged without loss to the creditors; and unless the Qr Mr Generals department be supplied with money to pay for the necessary contingencies thereof—Under this persuasion, the Committee will earnestly entreat Congress to turn their attention to both.

As many of the Stores included by General Knox’s estimate are at West Point, and places east of Hudson’s river, and others much nearer to Dobb’s ferry than Trenton, and as the whole quantity required will not be pro[cu]red in time on this side of Hudson’s river[,] we concieve the calculation of carriages on his estimate very considerably too high. We also believe a diminution might take place in the others, as the whole quantity of forage will not be carried on to Hudson’s river, that of Virginia being directed another way, and that a substitute for it will in all probability be drawn from New York and the more eastern States, we wish you to reconsider the estimate that the application may be the least that will effectually suffice, as it will diminish the difficulty in obtaining them, and evince that every attention is paid to the ease and convenience of the States. We are Sir, with great respect Your most Obedt Humble Servts

Ph: Schuyler

Nath. Peabody

No. 2

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