George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 12 November 1779

To Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.

Head Quarters West-point 12th Novr 1779.

Dr Sir

I have been honored with your Excellency’s favor of the 5th.

The operations to the Southward have been of so much longer duration, than was at first apprehended, and no certain accounts being yet received, that have come to my knowlege, induces me to think, that the probability of an attempt against the enemy in this quarter, more especially considering the advanced state of the season, is a matter of the greatest uncertainty. Under these circumstances, and desirous to avoid every possible expence, I would not wish, that the required number of militia, should at this time be drawn to their places of rendezvous. Their being held in readiness, will be in my opinion sufficient to answer the purpose of the expected co-operation.1 How far it may be advisable on other accounts, I must leave to your Excellencys determination.

Besides what I have mentioned, there are other reasons, why the militia should not be assembled, without an absolute occasion. I allude in particular to the condition of our magazines of flour.2 The uncommon drought, (not to hint at circumstances which must be well known to your Excellency) has affected us exceedingly in this article. A considerable quantity of wheat now lies in the mills in this State unmanufactured for want of water, and the same cause produces the same effects in some of the neighbouring States.

I need not take notice to your Excellency of my intention to afford every protection to your State, which our strength—a proper dependence on our supplies—and the situation of things in general, will submit. Our arrangements for the winter shall be directed by these objects. But should the enemy keep themselves united, as at present, and make no considerable detatchments, we may find it absolutely expedient to observe a similar conduct, that the common cause may not encounter the greater evil, while we attempt to avoid the lesser. I am Dr Sir, with the greatest regard, your Excellency’s obedt & hble servt

Go: Washington

LS, in James McHenry’s writing, Ct: Trumbull Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The docket of the LS indicates that Trumbull received the letter on 14 November.

Trumbull and the Connecticut Council of Safety held a special meeting in Lebanon on 16 Nov. to discuss this letter from GW: “The affair of dismissing the militia according to Gen. Washington’s proposition considered. …

“On further consideration resolved, that the march of the 4000 militia order’d to join Gen. Washington &c. by the Assembly &c. be suspended till further orders. And the orders are sent out accordingly to all save the 2 western brigadiers: they not stop’d” (Conn. Public Records, description begins The Public Records of the State of Connecticut . . . with the Journal of the Council of Safety . . . and an Appendix. 18 vols. to date. Hartford, 1894–. description ends 2:441).

1The same determination that the season had gotten too late for combined operations spurred other letters to curtail preparations (see GW to Duportail and Alexander Hamilton, 11 Nov., and to Henry Knox, this date; see also Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 Oct., editorial note). Official notice from Congress that Vice Admiral d’Estaing would not come north with his French fleet prompted GW to write Trumbull again on 16 Nov. (see also Samuel Huntington to GW, 10 Nov., and GW to Huntington, 20 and 24 Nov.).

2For the flour shortage, see Jeremiah Wadsworth to GW, 8 Nov., and the source note and n.1 to that document.

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