George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 20 December 1779

To Major General Nathanael Greene

Morris Town Decr 20th 1779.

Sir,

The distress of a great part of the troops for want of Cloathing, particularly in the essential article of shoes, which would render them useless, should circumstances require the activity of the army, induces me to request your exertions to give the Clothier the assistance he may stand in need of for bringing on his supplies—These have been delayed much longer than I expected for want of the means of transportation;1 and it is certainly of very great importance in the present posture of things that we should have it in our power to avail ourselves of the whole of our small force on an emergency. I am Sir Your most Obedt servant.

The Cavalry will be ordered to Colchester.2

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Writing from Morristown on 19 Dec., Greene had directed William Stephens, assistant deputy quartermaster at Sussex Court House, N.J., to provide teams to transport clothing and shoes (DNA:PCC, item 173). To urge on Stephens, Greene wrote Maj. John Story from “Camp” on 22 Dec.: “You will immediately repair to Sussex and enquire whether Mr Stevens the A.D.Q.M.G. there has forwarded the Teams agreeable to my application, a few days since to bring on the Clothing at Newbourg & Shoes from Chester; and if he has not You will represent the distressed situation the Army is in, not an half of them being fit for Duty for want of Clothing” (DNA:PCC, item 173). Severe winter weather prevented the teams from reaching their destination, and the desired clothing could not be delivered during the first weeks of winter (see Stephens to Greene, 14 Jan. 1780, 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 5:272).

In a letter to Jeremiah Wadsworth written at Morristown on 19 Dec., Greene reviewed discussions with GW over supply shortages. “Flour and Forage,” Greene wrote, “are exceding scarce, and what renders the latter so very scarce is the difficulty of transportation.

“I have had frequent conversations with the commander in Chief. He seems to think there is a great blame some where, but dont care to fix, and yet I can plainly see we are not altogether exempt, altho I told him of these misfortunes two months ago. A man when he is brought into a state [o]f distress, blames every body, both innocent and guilty; he blends them altogether. From what he said I am fully convinced [it] is his opinion you ought not to quit the Department [w]hile the storm rages and the Ship upon a lee shore. I took [s]ome pains to sift out his opinion in order to give you timely [i]nformation” (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 5:187–88). Wadsworth replied to Greene from Philadelphia on 23 Dec.: “I am sensible the innocent and guilty are blended together and a man distressed has some excuse for being angry with every body when matters go wrong. Such is humane nature and we cant help it, but thier is certainly a want of candor in any man who censures before he hears, yet I expect that will be the case. Mrs Washington is here on her way to Camp” (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 5:199–201).

2GW wrote Col. Stephen Moylan from Morristown on this date: “On a representation of Mr Hubbard that the difficulty of obtaining Forage & other supplies for the two regiments of Horse at Middle Town and Weathersfield would be very difficult and productive of an enormous expence, I am to desire you will remove them to Colchester, where a Magazine of Forage is laid in, & a sufficient quantity of Stable room can be provided” (LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DLC:GW, ser. 9; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW signed the cover of the LS, which also includes a note: “Mr Hubbard is desir’d to forward this by Express.”). Moylan answered GW on 4 Jan. 1780 (DLC:GW).

For Greene’s disagreement with the choice of Colchester, Conn., for the cavalry’s winter encampment, see his letter to GW, 24 Dec.; see also GW to Wadsworth, 25 Nov., and to Moylan, 27 November. GW refused to modify his order (see GW to Moylan, 25 Dec.).

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