George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Phillips, Jr., 12 September 1780

Head Qrs near Hackensac Bridge Sepr 12. 1780


Notwithstanding the second division expected from France has not arrived, we have good reason to think it will make it’s appearnace before it is long upon our coast, or that the Chevalier de Ternay will receive, at any rate, reinforcement which will give him a naval superiority in those seas. If this should be the case, the delicate and pressing situation of our affairs will require, that we avail ourselves of the succour if it shall be practicable, in some way or other. The Circumstances of the season may be such possibly, as to prevent any operation in this quarter, but still perhaps something may be attempted elsewhere with a good prospect of success and advantage. But this will depend on the means we have of subsisting our Troops. At present, unfortunately for us, were we in the fullest possession of a naval superiority and the fairest opportunities were to present themselves for striking a stroke, we could not transport even a small body of troops to any point, however interesting & certain the Object, for want of Salt provisions. From these considerations, it is a matter of the greatest importance that we should have a supply immediately procured if it is possible. Every thing may depend upon it, and must, so far as any Enterprise is attempted, except against New York. I have heard that a very considerable quantity of beef & Pork was captured in the Quebec fleet. If this is the fact, it seems to be the only source from which we can hope to obtain a supply—and from the necessity of the case I take the liberty to entreat You will endeavour to secure it. I would wish, at least, Four Thousand barrels to be provided, if it be by any means practicable, and I am certain the Council will render the States the most essential service by the measure. But if after all events should occur to make this supply unnecessary—the provision will not prove an incumberance on their hands—and will always bring it’s cost. I confide in the goodness of the Council to excuse this freedom and persuade myself, that they will most readily place the application to the motives which have really produced it.

I am pained to inform Your Honourable body that our distresses for meat still continue pressing & alarming. The Supplies we have received, including the Cattle which have been exacted from the Inhabitants of this state and in many instances to their entire ruin & which have made no inconsiderable part, have been little more than sufficient to satisfy a third of our necessary demands. The Troops on some occasions have been even four & five days without a mouthful of meat. Complaints & murmuring—a relaxation of discipline—marauding—robbery and desertion are the consequences; and indeed it is to be wondered at, that they have not prevailed to a much greater extent. I am satisfied things cannot continue long in their present situation. I have the Honor to be with the most perfect respect Gentm. Your Most Obed. Sert

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PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection.

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