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From George Washington to Brigadier General James Clinton, 12 February 1780

To Brigadier General James Clinton

Morris Town Feby 12th 1780


In a circular letter of the 22d of Jany—in your absence—I transmitted the Inspectors reports of december to the Commandant of your Brigade delineating several defects and abuses there pointed out and exhorting to effectual measures for remedying them.1 This letter I presume you have since your return received; if not you will be pleased immediately to call for it, and have the objects contained in it properly attended to—I am chagrined to observe that the subsequent reports of Jany afford fresh matter for animadversion—In particular The waste and destruction of arms ammunition and accoutrements since the last inspection exceed all reasonable bounds.2 The 4th and 5th Regiments (and the first more than the last) have been in this respect singularly delinquent. My duty to the service and my regard to the Gentlemen themselves oblige me to declare that your own reputation and that of the officers commanding the regiments demand a speedy reform.

I also observe that there are arms and accoutrements in the possession of the respective regiments not in the hands of the men. This would not be the case if the regulations were complied with, for according to them all such articles are to be l⟨odg⟩ed with the Brigade conductors—These also prescribe penalties for unnecessary loss and waste which if carefully inflicted would correct the evil.

I request to be informed whence proceeds so great and general a deficiency of arms ammunition and accoutrements as appears upon the face of these reports.

There are several men reported unfit for service.3 You will have them examined by the Surgeon General and either transferred to the invalid corps or discharged—as their cases may respectively require.

You will be pleased to examine how it happens that four men are reported waiters to the Colonel in the 3d regiment, three of whom have been absent such a length of time, and have the matter rectified without delay.

What is the reason the Col. himself has made so long a stay from his Regiment?4

In all the weekly returns many men are returned unfit for duty wanting cloaths and yet in these reports there appears to be more or less cloathing in each regiment undistributed—This seems not to be perfectly consistent but to require explanation—As fast as the cloathing is received it ought to be issued to the men who are most in want.

I inclose you the last reports for your examination.5 When this is done you will return them with the others. I shall flatter myself that the next inspection will exhibit a more favourable picture of the state of the Brigade.6 I am &c.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing with the dateline and closing in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1See Circular to Major Generals and Officers Commanding Brigades, 22 January. Clinton commanded the New York brigade.

2At this location on the draft, Hamilton marked out the words “and admits of no excuse.”

3At this point on the draft, Hamilton lined out the following text: “These ought not to encumber our muster rolls.”

4For Col. Peter Gansevoort’s explanation of his absence and the number of his waiters, see his letter to GW of 7 March.

5These reports have not been identified.

6No written reply from Clinton has been found, but he probably discussed these issues with GW in person. GW had recently recalled Clinton to his brigade (see GW to Clinton, 24 Jan.). On this date, Clinton, at “Camp Near Morris Town,” wrote to Gansevoort at Albany: “By the Last Reviewing Return of Your Regt Appears that You have four Men of Your Regt Returned with You as Waiters three of them being Absent fifteen Months And by A Letter which I Received this Day from His Excellency Genl Washington he Requests to know the Reason of it and Likewise the Reason of Your being so Long Absent Yourself I Assure You he is much Displeased with officers Staying from their Regts And keeping Soldiers As Waiters with them which is Now Contrary to Orders If Your Health Permits You to Return with these Men Pray Do it without Delay Otherwise Send the Men” (NN: Gansevoort Lansing Collection: Gansevoort Military Papers).

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