George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, 20 January 1781

Head Quarters New Windsor Janry 20th 1781


I should have done myself the honor of writing sooner to your Excellency on the late disturbance in the Pennsylvania Line, had I not relied, that General Knox first, and afterwards Count Des Deux Ponts would give you the most accurate account of this affair—and had I not been waiting to hear the event of it and collect the particulars to enable me to give you a more perfect idea of it. The causes of complaint of this Line, mostly composed of Foreigners, and having some British Deserters, must in great part be known to your Excellency. The absolute want of pay & cloathing—the great scarcity of provisions were too severe a trial for men, a great proportion of whom, could not be deeply impressed with the feelings of Citizens. Some cause of complaint as to their inlistments, and perhaps the instigations of internal Enemies added to their discontents, and contributed to bring them to us disagreeable an issue. The beginning of the disturbance you had from General Knox, and the subsequent proceedings have no doubt been related to your Excellency by the Count Des Deux Ponts, who being an eye witness had an opportunity of knowing all circumstances. I shall therefore content myself with adding, that the Civil Authority having undertaken to settle the dispute, there would have been an impropriety in my interfering in their conciliatory Measures, which would not have suited the principles of Military discipline; and that the matter is in a train of being terminated, as well as the manner in which it was taken up, gave us reason to expect.

It is somewhat extraordinary, that these men, however lost to a sense of duty, had so far retained that of honor, as to reject the most advantageous propositions from the Enemy. The rest of our Army (the Jersey Troops excepted) being cheifly composed of Natives, I would flatter myself, will continue to struggle under the same difficulties, they have hitherto endured, which I cannot help remarking, seem to reach the bounds of human patience.

I had last evening the pleasure of seeing at my quarters Count De Charlus, Count De Dillon and Monsr Du Mat. The first of these Gentlemen acquainted me with the object of his Journey to Philadelphia, which he is preparing to pursue agreeable to your desire.

I cannot forbear lamenting, Sir, that the absolute want of Money, an evil too well known in our Army, obliged me to interrupt the chain of communication—But the conveyance by the Post is so dilatory, and it is so important that we should speedily hear from each other, that I am going to renew the chain from this place to Hartford, and propose to you the expediency of having it continued to Rhode Island.

Nothing could give me greater pleasure than to have the honor of waiting on you at New Port, and improving the opportunity to make a more extensive acquaintance with the Troops under your Orders. Besides the satisfaction I should feel in seeing you again, I think it would be very useful that we should have a further conversation on our affairs, in which I might avail myself of your opinion. But our circumstances have been such, that it has hitherto been out of my power to execute this favorite project of mine. The moment I do not think my presence at West Point essential, shall be devoted to a visit to your Excellency.

The reduction of my family by various contingencies, so that I had for some days but a single Aide, and the additional weight of business which of course devolved upon me, have prevented my writing to your Excellency lately as often as I wished.

By intelligence from New York, we hear the Enemy have collected transports in the North River. It is probable that hearing of discontents among our Troops, they mean to be in a situation to improve any opening that may offer.

Lieutenant Colonel Laurens one of my Aides De Camp, having been appointed by Congress to repair to the Court of France to negotiate matters relative to our finances, as well as to other articles of great importance to our Army; they have directed him to confer before his departure, with your Excellency and Monsier Des Touches. In consequence of his instructions, I expect he will be shortly at New Port, where he will both receive your Order for France, and avail himself of any advice your Excellency may be pleased to favor him with. With sentiments of the most perfect regard and attachment I have the honor to be Your Excellencys Most Obedient and Humble Servt

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