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To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 28 March 1780

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Philadelphia 28th March 1780


I got into Town on Saturday Night, but too late to do any business.1 On Sunday nothing was to be done. Yesterday I had a conference with a Committee of Congress.2 The public is insolvent to all intents and purposes. The treasury is without money, and the Congress are without credit. There seems to be so many difficulties laid in the way of settleing accounts, that people begin to be afraid to extend their credit who are in Office. I can see no opening through which the supplies for taking the field can be obtained.

The best people in Congress think the new system for drawing supplies from the States, will be found totally incompetent to the business. There is a new arrangment of the Quarter Masters Department made by Mifflin and others; and now under consideration before Congress for adoption. The scheme is too complex, and tedious, for such heavy and pressing demands as are frequently made upon the Department. I am told it is to be confirmed without alteration.3 General Schuyler and others think it will starve the Army in ten days.4 Some parts of it are the very alterations and plans I was mentioning to your Excellency. It adds greatly to your Excellencys load of business, and reduces the duties of the Quarter Master General to almost nothing. The Board of War are to appoint all Officers except those serving with the Army. All payments with the Army are to be drawn in detail by warrants, and pass your Excellencys hands.

General Schuyler & others consider it as a plan of Mifflins, to injure your Excellencys operation. Mr Shearman and Mifflin are in close league in the business.5 I am now fully convi⟨nc⟩ed of the reallity of what I suggested to your Excellency before I came away.

I shall take no hasty step in the business of the Department, as I think my self in a disagreeable situation.

There is no arrivals for several days, nor news of any kind in town. I am with great respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient humble Servant

Nath. Greene

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

1Saturday was 25 March.

2Congress had ordered this meeting (see 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 , 16:311)

3Congress did not approve the proposal, instead sending a new committee of conference to GW’s headquarters in April (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 3 April, and the source note to that document, and Huntington to GW, 18 April).

4For New York delegate Philip Schuyler’s thoughts on the proposal, see his letter to GW, 5 April.

5GW eventually obtained a copy of the plan to reform the Continental army staff departments. The cover of this lengthy manuscript, dated 27 March and prepared by Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman and commissioners Timothy Pickering and Thomas Mifflin, reads: “Proceedings of Committee of Congress respecting Supplies” (DLC:GW; for the formation of this committee and its draft plan, see Huntington to GW, 25 Jan., and notes 1 and 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 , 16:243–44, 293–311). GW wrote an undated memorandum about this plan, linking his remarks to each page of the manuscript proposal. In the following transcription of GW’s memorandum, the number at the start of each paragraph indicates the manuscript page of the plan:

“Page 1) those houses—or Magazines to be provided at such places as the Com[mande]r in chief shall direct[.] One Store keeper to each Magazine to be appointed by the Board of War. The United States to be laid of[f] in three divisions & a superintendant (to be appointed by Congress[)] in each.

“2. Each Superintendant, with the approbation of the Board of War to app[oin]t a Deputy for each state in his divisn[.] Storekeepers to receive & keep all Stores wch shall be delivered at their Magazines agreably to the Act of Congress of the 25th Feby—first Inspecting, & rejecting such as are of bad quality.

“3. Also to receive stores from other Magazines as occasion may require—giving receipts—Keep two Books—one for receipts—the other for Issues.

“4. Superintendants to visit at the Magazines within his division once in 3 Months to examine into their condition & management—Books &ca.

“5. To corrispond with the Board of War—Qr M. Genl & Comy Genl & furnish them respectively once a month with the rec[eip]t & Issues & Stores on hand at each Magazine in their division. To comply with their requisitions for Stores inform them of all neglects &ca. To inform the Executive of the State of the failure in the purchase of Stores by any of their Com[missione]rs.

“7. Superintendants to be furnished with money, to be by them distributed among the Deputies, to pay for transportation. These Acc[oun]ts to be settled every three Months & the wages of the Deputies & Clerks paid.

“8. The Superintendants to settle with the Treasury board every three Months[.] The Superintendants their Deputies are allowed to appoint one Clerk each & no more without the concurrance of the board of War. None of these to be concerned or interested in any Boat, Vessell, Carriage, Draft or Pack horse employed in the Service of the United States. Salaries to be paid in Spanish Milled Dollars or other money equivalent—in 4 equal quarterly payments.

“9 Owners of Teams & Pack Horses employed in transporting Stores from the Magazines to furnish forage & provisions for themselves & be answerable for the safe conveyance of the Stores.

“10 All Issuing Posts where there are no Troops in Continental Service are to be discontinued (except at the Magazines) unless the Board of War, Comr in chief or Commander of a seperate Army shall think it indispensably necessary.

“11. Teams when detained may be supplied with Prov[isio]ns & Forage from the Public Magazines.

“12 The occasional provision for the March of Troops—Detachmts—Parties &ca out of the Rout of the Magazines is so slow & tedeous in its operation that the end of every march must be defeated.

“13. The mode of paying for it too is equally exceptionable.

“14. One Quarter of a Cord of Wood for 60 Men including Officers & 20 lbs of Straw—is not this too small?

“15. One Qr Mr Genl—One D[eput]y for the main Army & one for each seperate Army. The Q.M.G. & each of his Dy to be allowed one Clerk. Is this suff[icien]t? When one or more Regts March a Captn to be app[ointe]d by the Q.M.G. to do the Duty of Q.M. pro tempore & recd pay for it—Why confind to a Cap[tain]? A Forage Mastr G. & a Dy for the Main Army a Dep. for each seperate Army—& a forage Master to each Brigade—One for head Qrs (Including every body) one for the Com[missar]y Genl Dept—& one for the field Comy of Mil[itar]y Stores.

“16. All Officers in the Forage Dept. are to be appd by the Q.M.G. for the Main Army & by his D[eputy] in each seperate Army. One W[agon] M[aster] Genl & D. for the Main Army—One D. for each seperate Army—One Conductor for Hd Qrs—one to the Staff—one to each Brigade—& one for each Brigade of 12 teams in the staff. appointed in the same manner as the Forage Masters.

“17. After [ ] day of [ ] all other Officers in the Q.M.G. Departmt to be discont[inue]d excepting the Reg[imenta]l Artificers. Q.M. Gl Is to have full power to dismiss (with the consent of the C. in chief) any Person in his D[epartment] for Neglect [of] order. Deputies the like power with the cons[en]t of the G[eneral] Com[mandin]g. Q.M.G. & D[eputies] to employ with the cons[en]t &ca any Artif[ice]r & labourers. Monthly returns of Forage rec[eive]d & Issued & on hand to be made to the D[eputy] Q. Mrs & of the Persons employed in that business.

“18. The Waggon M. Gl & his Dys to make like returns of all persons, Horses, Carriages &a employed under them. Genl return of all these to be made by the Q.M.G. Monthly to the B[oard] of War & C. in chief.

“19. Q.M.G. to furnish the Bd of War from time to [time] with estimates of all supplies wanting mark[in]g the time with[i]n wch they will be wanted. Further arrangements to be made by the Q.M.G. with the approbation of the C. in chief not inconsistent with these regulations as shall appear necessary. No Houses, Stables, Barracks, &ca to be built without a written Order from Con[gress] the Bd of War, Comr in Chief or Genl Comg a Sep[arat]e Army[.] No Military, or Staff Off[ice]r shall own or be concerned in Vessells, Waggons or Horses employed in the public Service.

“20 Pay of all Persons in the Q.M.G.—Forage & Waggon Departmt—to be drawn by warrants on the Military Chest.

“21. All other Acct[s] in this Dept. to be Audited & p[ai]d in like manner by warr[an]t. Pay of Officers in the Q.M. Gls dept. be in Spanish Milled Dollars or other money equivalent as follows.

“22 Q.M.G. to collect all Hors[e]s Wagns & Teams by the Opening of the Campaign & apply to the B. of War for the dep[ut]y who is to employ one or more Persons to purchase them. N.B. This is making other persons (after travelling through two or three Stages) do what the Qr Mr should do in the first Inst[anc]e. Horses teams & carriages to be furnished by hire or Contract if possible.

“24 Allowance of Waggons in some instances are too small.

“25 For the Carriage of Stores, Provisions, Forage & the Flying Hospital as many as are necessary be allowed.

“26. No Horses belonging to the United States shall be allowed to Officers for rid[in]g or Batt-Horses, but in lieu thereof shall be paid in Spanish Milled Dollars or &ca equivalent—To a P[ay] M[aster]—Adj[utan]t—Q.M. each [ ] Dollars—To a Field Cond[ucto]r of M[ilitary] S[tores] [ ] Dollars—To a Conductor of Baggage & P[rovision] Waggons [ ] Dollars—To a Pro[vos]t M[arsha]l [ ] Dollars—N.B. Why an allowance to these & not to other Officers? These are obliged to keep an able Horse[.] In ad[ditio]n to the Forage necesy for Waggon Horses &ca there shall be allowed to[o:] To a M[ajor] Genl for self & Family—7 Rations[;] B[rigadier] Genl [for self & Family]—6 [Rations;] Colonel—2 [Rations;] Lt Colo.—2 [Rations;] To a Majr—2 Rations[;] Captn—1 [Ration;] Surgeon—1 [Ration;] Paymaster—1 [Ration;] Adjutant—1 [Ration;] Qr Master—1 [Ration;] To the Q.M. Gl in add[itio]n to his allowance in the line—2 [Rations;] To a D.Q.M. Genl [in addn to his allowance in the line]—1 [Ration.] N.B. Many of these allowances are too low.

“29 Forage to be Issued by the Forage Mr with exactness by Rations—Ration to riding Horses is 8 Q[uar]ts of Grain—& 14 lbs of Hay p[er] Day—or d[ou]ble of either if single. Forage to Issue for Wag: Horses on the returns of the Conductors Countersigned by the W.M.G. or his D[eputy]—& for other Horses on the orders of the Officers who have a right to draw. No more to Issue under severe penalties[.] For sudden demands of Horses the Q.M.G. or his D[eputy]—or Off[ice]r Com[mandin]g Detach[men]t New levies or &a to hire or Contract for Teams. As this may not be accomplished—It is recommended to the States to pass Laws to aid[.] N.B. While this is doing, & under these circumstances Detachmts &ca will be unable to move & every end & design of detaching will be defeated.

“32 recommended that one of the State Commissioners attend the Army to secure the Forage & Pasturage in the Vicinity for the use of the Forage master.

“34. None to be taken in any other way but in cases of necessity by order of the Com[mandi]g Genl. In the meantime the Forage Mr Genl to execute this business & give certificates for the value after appraisement. These certificates to be paid by the States as soon as possible & considered as part of the state quota.

“35. To prevent waste, & unequal distribution of Forage, the Forage Master Genl is to take pos[sessio]n of what is found at the Qrs of Genl Officers &ca & regularly appropriate the same to the genl use of the Army. States to authorize & requiere their Com[missione]rs to procure more than their quota of particular Articles at the requisition of Congress or the Comr in chief.

“36. Such Articles of additional supplies shall be paid for in Spanish Milled Dollars or Paper equivalent at the rates fixed by the resolve of the 25th of Feby with 6 pr C[en]t Interest. Camp Equipage, Ammunition waggons, Intrenching Tools, & other Tools & materials heretofore provided by the Qr Mr G. is to be furnished by the Com[missar]y Genl of M[ilitar]y Stores under the direction of the Bd of War.

“37. Such of them as are carried into the field shall be und[e]r the care of field Comy who shal⟨l⟩ keep the Acct of them[.] Timber Boards & other articles wch are to be found in the vicinity of the Army to be provided by a Contracter to be app[ointe]d for that purpose by the Qr M. G. & Comg Offr of Artillery out of the Offr[s] of the Artillery Artificers or Q. Mrs Artificers who shall supply both departments—agreeably to orders from the H[ea]d of them[.] Money’s for these Contracts to be drawn from the Military Chest on the app[licatio]n of the Q.M.G. & Comg Offr of Artill[er]y respectively—The Acct to be examined by [the auditors of accounts] once in every three months. N.B. It is difficult to see into the policy or Œconomy of this” (AD, DLC:GW; filed with documents dated 27 March 1780; for the act of Congress of 25 Feb. 1780, see 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 , 16:196–201, and Huntington to GW, 29 Feb., and n.2 to that document).

GW drew pointing fingers, called manicules, to emphasize certain of his observations (see Fig. 1). The manicules flag his remarks regarding items on pages 12, 14–15, 22, 26, 29, and 36–37. Greene added critical comments on the committee’s plan in his letters to GW of 31 March and 3 April; see also Greene to GW, 22 March.

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