George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Benjamin Lincoln, 21 March 1782

Philada 21st March, 1782


In conformity to a Resolve of Congress of the 19th of December last I am to make known to you the number of General Officers which I shall judge necessary to be in the Field in the Main and separate Armies and in different parts of the United States.

This at the present moment considering the uncertainty of the operation of the Campaign which will depend not only upon the dispositions of the enemy but upon the advices which we may expect from our Ally in Europe is a matter of no small difficulty. I shall however proceed upon a supposition that we shall continue to keep two Armies in the Field—That under my own immediate command and that under Major Genl Greene to the Southward; And in making my present arrangement I shall confine myself to the Army under my immediate command, because I am not fully enough acquainted with the nature of the southern service to determine what General Officers are requisite and because some of these States, which now have few or no Men in the Field, may, by calling out temporary Bodies of Men in recruiting their continental lines, make up commands for the General Officers belonging to them.

The Infantry under my immediate command consists of the Battalions of the States from New Jersey to New Hampshire both included which, with Hazens Regt, compose Eight Brigades; and which, under the mode in which the Army has been heretofore formed would require Eight Brigadiers and Six Majors General. Four for the Divisions and two for the Wings: But as the Resolve referred to seems to have been founded upon a desire to oeconomize as much as possible and as the Wings of the Army will be so contracted as not absolutely to require more than one Major General to each—I will call for only Three Majors General for the Main Body of the Army Two for the Wings and one for the Reserve or second Line.

We are already deficient in Brigadiers and therefore the Duties which I shall now point out must be performed by Majors General and if any reform takes place it must be among the Officers of that Grade.

The Light Corps will require a General Officer.

West point from its importance can never be left without a General Officer, and one in whose Ability the utmost confidence may be placed.

And from the difficulties which we have good reason to expect upon the Northern Frontier a General Officer should be reserved for that contingency.

Upon the preceding arrangement we shall want

Majs. Genl Brigs. General
For the Brigades 0 8
For the Wings 2 0
For the second Line 1 0
For the Light Corps 1 0
For West point 1 0
For Northern Frontier 1 0
6 8

Should we carry on an offensive operation a very considerable Body of Militia must be called in upon the occasion, and as it would be necessary, to make them useful, to put them under the command of General Officers of experience, we ought to endeavour to reserve one or two for such an event. I know it may be said, in answer to this, that the General Officers, who may be deranged at present, may, under the Resolve, be called again into service, if wanted: But upon considering that matter properly we shall find that no great dependance can be put upon the services of an Officer for the remainder of the Campaign who has been deranged at the commencement of it—He will have retired home— He may have made dispositions for remaining at home, and he might think it hard to be called off suddenly from plans which he may have entered upon upon a supposition that his services would not be again required, at least for the Campaign.

Let us now, upon a comparative View of the number of General Officers not assigned already to particular duties, with the number required upon the lowest calculation, see whether any reform can be admitted and whether, if any, it will not be so small as not to merit the public attention.

Majors General
Putnam Incapable of service on acct of
Lincoln Secretary at War
Steuben Inspector General
Du Portail Command of Engineers
St Clair Included here because it is
probable that he will come to the
Brigadiers General.
Knox Commanding Artillery
Hand Adjt General
James Clinton

From the foregoing it appears that for the Army under my command Six Majors General and Eight Brigadiers are wanting upon the lowest Calculation and that we have Eight Majors General and six Brigadiers not already attached to particular duties—Whether therefore, all circumstances considered, the two supernumerary Majors General may be dispensed with is left with you to determine. I have the honor to be &c.

P.S. Brigadier Genl Irwine commands at Fort Pitt by order of Congress.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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