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To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 22 March 1780

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Morristown 22d March 1780

Sir

I shall set out early in the morning for Philadelphia;1 but can plainly see, little is to be expected from it; unless it is dismissing my self from the Department;2 which I most devoutly wish, as well from what I discover from General Schuylers letter to your Excellency, as from what he relates to Doctor Cochran.3

I am very confident there is a party business going on again; and as Mifflin is connected with it, doubt nothing of its being a revival of the old s[c]heme: And the measures now taking is, to be prepard to take advantage of any opening the distresses of the Army may introduce. I wish I may be mistaken, but symtoms strongly indicate such a disposition.4

From the present temper of Congress, I dont think it will be worth while to mention the matter of Waggoners, as there is not the least probability of obtaining an order for the purpose; and if I should, I have not the means to execute the business.

I propose to take Col. Biddle to Philadelphia with me, that a clear, full, and particular representation may be made, of every branch of the Quarter Masters Department; and the whole be brought to a speedy issue.5 I am with great respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient humble Ser.

Nath. Greene

ALS, DLC:GW. Greene wrote “private” on the cover of this letter.

1GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison wrote Greene on this date: “By the Resolution of the 25th of last month apportioning certain quantities of provision & Forage on the respective States, the places of Deposit are to be assigned by His Excellency. This remains to be done and as Colo. Blane is now here the General wishes to avail himself of the present opportunity to fix upon the places—and requests that You will defer your Journey to philadelphia and call upon him at 9 OClock to morrow morning. … P.S. Colo. Biddle also desired to meet” (DLC:GW; see also Samuel Huntington to GW, 29 Feb., and n.2 to that document, and 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 , 16:196–97). GW explicitly had encouraged Greene to consult with Congress (see GW to Philip Schuyler, this date). Greene finally reached Philadelphia on the evening of 25 March (see Greene to GW, 28 March).

2Greene probably is alluding to his earlier proposal to resign as quartermaster general (see Greene to Samuel Huntington, 12 Dec. 1779, in Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 5:164–69; see also n.5 below, and Robert R. Livingston to William Livingston, 20 March, and John Collins to Greene, 21 March, in 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 , 14:523, 526).

3Greene apparently is referring to a letter that has not been identified from New York delegate Philip Schuyler to his brother-in-law John Cochran (see also Schuyler to GW, 7 March 1780).

Cochran, surgeon general for the middle department whose home was in Morristown, regularly saw senior officers during the winter encampment. He wrote Jonathan Potts, hospital director for the middle department, on 18 March about the dismal state of medical finances and the lack of supplies for sick troops: “I flatter myself you have no blame in this matter, but curse on him or them by whom this evil is produced. The vengeance of an offended Deity must overtake the miscreants sooner or later. … I shall wait on his Excellency, the Commander-in-Chief and represent our situation, but I am persuaded it can have little effect, for what can he do? He may refer the matter to Congress, they to the Medical Committee, who would probably pow-wow over it for a while, and no more be heard of it. Thus we go before the wind” (Saffron, Cochran description begins Morris H. Saffron. Surgeon to Washington: Dr. John Cochran, 1730-1807. New York, 1977. description ends , 227; see also Cochran to GW, 13 April).

4Greene worried about Thomas Mifflin’s role as a commissioner considering reforms in the army’s supply departments (see Huntington to GW, 25 Jan., and notes 1 and 2 to that document; see also Charles Pettit to Greene, 26 Jan., in Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 5:314–16). Greene likely also recollected Mifflin’s involvement in the so-called “Conway Cabal,” which attempted to undermine GW as commanding general and effect his replacement during the fall and winter of 1777–78 (see GW to Horatio Gates, 4 Jan. 1778, and n.3 to that document; see also GW to Patrick Henry, 28 March 1778).

5While in Philadelphia, Greene, having grown impatient with waiting for a response from Congress, wrote that body’s president, Samuel Huntington, on 3 April: “Immediately on the close of the last Campaign I communicated to Congress my inclination to decline the management of the Quarter Masters Department, and at the same time made a pretty full representation of some new regulations necessary to take place for the well conducting of the business. …

“The business by this had got so deranged, and the opening of the Campaign so near at hand, that his Excellency the Commander in Chief urged the necessity of my repairing immediately to Congress, and to endeavour to bring the several subject matters which had been laid before them respecting the Department to a full explanation and conclusion.

“On my arrival in this City I requested a conference with a Committee of whom I communicated the injury I felt by the late appointments of Superintendants of the Staff Departments; and requested to know whether there was that real want of confidence either in my integrity or ability which those appointments but too strongly indicated, and urged this as a necessary step to a further explanation.

“I have been waiting a whole week for an answer, but as I find I am not likely to obtain one, and as I concieve my attendance is no longer necessary here I purpose to sett out for Camp the next day after tomorrow and there wait the issue of the business” (Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 5:503–5). Congress read Greene’s letter on 4 April (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 , 16:326; see also Philip Schuyler to GW, 5 April, and n.6).

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