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From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 18 November 1779

To Samuel Huntington

Head Quarters West Point Novemr 18th 1779

Sir,

As the present Campaign is advancing towards a conclusion—and the Councils of the British Cabinet, so far as they have come to my knowledge, are far from recognizing our Independence and pointing to an honourable peace1—I have thought, it might not be amiss for me to lay before Congress a state of the Army, (notwithstanding it is frequently transmitted the Treasury Board, I believe, by a return of the Muster Rolls—and to the War Office Monthly in a more general view) as it is with Congress to decide on the expediency of making it more respectable, or of fixing its amount to any particular point. The return I have the honor to inclose, is an Abstract taken from the Muster Rolls of the Troops of each State taken in Octor (South Carolina & Georgia excepted) and contains a compleat view, not only of the whole strength of the forces of each—and of the Independent Corps &[c]a at that time, but of the different periods for which they stood engaged. I conceived a return of this sort might be material, and accordingly directed it to be made, the better to enable Congress to govern their views and requisitions to the several States.2 They will perceive by this, that our whole force including all sorts of Troops—Non Commissioned Officers and privates—Drummers & Fifers, supposing every Man to have existed & to have been in service at that time, a point however totally inadmissible, amounted to 27,099:3 That of this number, comprehending 410 Invalids,4 14,998 are stated as engaged for the War: that the remainder, by the expiration of Inlistments, will be decreased by the 31st of December 2051—by the last of March 6,426—by the last of April (including the Levies) 8,1815—by the last of June, 10,158: by the last of Septr 10,709:6 by different periods (I believe shortly after) 12,157.7 As I have observed, it cannot be supposed that the whole of the Troops borne upon the Muster Rolls, were either in service—or really in existence; for it will ever be found for obvious reasons—that the amount of an army on Paper, will greatly exceed its real strength. Hence there are other deductions than those enumerated above, and which must equally operate against the Troops of every class; and I must further beg leave to observe, that besides these several deductions—there are of necessity, very considerable and constant drafts of men from the regiments for Artificers—Armourers—Matrosses—Waggoners—the Quarter Masters Department &c. so that we cannot estimate our operating force in the Field, with any propriety or justice, by any means as high, as it may appear at first view on Paper. This point might be more fully illustrated, by referring to the column of present fit for duty, in all general returns—and comparing it with the total amount. Nor is there any reason to expect, that these large and heavy drafts from the regiments will cease, but on the contrary it is much to be feared, from the increased and increasing difficulties in getting men, that they will be still greater.

Having shown what would be the ultimate and greatest possible amount of our force at the several periods above mentioned, according to the Abstract of the Muster Rolls for October, supposing every man borne upon them to have been then—and that they would remain in service, agreeable to the terms noted in the Abstract—which however is by no means supposeable, as already observed—I shall take the liberty with all possible deference, to offer my sentiments on the only mode that appears to me competent, in the present situation of things, to placing and keeping our Battalions on a respectable footing, if Congress judge the measure essential; and I trust in doing this, it will not be deemed that I have exceeded my duty. If it should my apology must be—that it proceeded from a desire to place the business of raising the Levies we may have occasion to employ in future on a more regular and certain system, than has been adopted, or at least put in practice; and from which the Public will derive the greatest benefits from their service.

In the more early stages of the contest, when Men might have been inlisted for the War, no Man, as my whole conduct and the uniform tenor of my letters will evince, was ever more opposed to short inlistments than I was—and while there remained a prospect of obtaining Rec[r]uits upon a permanent footing in the first instance as far as duty and a regard to my station would permit, I urged my sentiments in favor of it.8 But the prospect of keeping up an Army by voluntary inlistments being changed—or at least standing on too precarious and uncertain a footing to depend on, for the exigency of our affairs—I took the liberty in February 1778 in a particular manner, to lay before the Committee of Arrangement then with the Army at Valley Forge, a plan for an Annual draft—as the surest and most certain if not the only means left us—of maintaining the army on a proper and respectable ground.9 And more and more confirmed in the propriety of this opinion, by the intervention of a variety of circumstances unnecessary to detail, I again took the freedom of urging the plan to the Committee of conference in January last;10 and having reviewed it in every point of light and found it right, or at least the best that has occurred to me, I hope I shall be excused by Congress, in offering it to them and in time for carrying it into execution for the next year, if they should conceive it necessary for the States to compleat their Quotas of Troops.

The plan I would propose, is, that each State be informed by Congress annually, of the real deficiency of its Troops—and called upon to make it up—or such less specific number, as Congress may think proper—by a draft. That the Men drafted join the Army by the 1st of January—and serve till the first of January in the succeeding year: That from the time the drafts join the Army—the Officers of the States from which they come, be authorised and directed to use their endeavours to inlist them for the Wa⟨r⟩ under the bounties to the Officers themselves—and the recruits—granted by the Act of the 23d of January last—Viz. Ten Dollars to the Officer for each recruit—and Two hundred to the recruits themselves:11 That all State—County & Town bounties to drafts—if practicable, be intirely abolished, on account of the uneasiness and disorders they create among the Soldiery—the desertions they produce—and for other reasons which will readily occur; That on or before the first of October annually, an Abstract or return similar to the present one, be transmitted to Co⟨n⟩gress to enable them to make their requisit⟨i⟩ons to each State with certainty & precision. This I would propose as a general plan to be pursued—and I am persuaded it is, or one nearly similar to it will be found, the best now in our power—as it will be attended with the least expence to the Public—will plac⟨e⟩ the service on the footing of order & certainty and will be the only one that can advance the general interest to any great extent. If the plan is established, besides placing the service on the footing of more order and certainty; than it will ever otherwise be, we shall I should hope, by the exertions of the Officers, be able to increase the number of our Troops on permanent engagements for the War—especially if we should be so fortunate as to be in a condition to hold out to the drafts, that would engage, a certainty of their receiving the bounty Cloathing stipulated by the Public to be furnished their Troops, and which is so essential to the interest of both. Cloathing is now become a superior temptation—and if we were in circumstances to hold it out, and the drafts were sure that they would obtain it, as they inlisted, & that it would be regularly furnished as it became due—there are good grounds to believe from what has been experienced, and the reports of the Officers—that many would readily engage for the War. From these considerations—and as it is so highly essential to the advancement of the Public interest, both as we regard the issue of the contest—and œconomy in Men & money—I would hope, that every practicable measure will be pursued to get ample and compleat supplies of Cloathing. And I will take the liberty to add, that the diminution of the Army, by the expiration of the inlistments of a part of the Troops, according to the foregoing state, should not in my opinion, lessen the calculations & estimates of supplies in any degree; but that they should be made under the idea of the whole of the Battalions being complete. When this is done, events may and some probably will occur, by which the supplies, as they do not depend upon internal manufactures may be diminished—and scarcely any can arise, which can make them burthensome on our hands. A want will & must from the nature of things, be attended with very injurious consequences at least—A full quantity with none at all, but with almost innumerable interesting benefits. Besides the prospect we should have of gaining recruits for the War by having good supplies of Cloathing, which as already observed, is become a first inducement to service—We shall as has ever been the case, be obliged to make some issues to the drafts—as well from principles of humanity—as to get their service. I have been thus long on the subject of ample supplies of Cloathing—as it is scarcely to be conceived the distresses and disadvantages—that flow from a deficiency. For instance, nothing can be more injurious or discouraging, than our having only four thousand nine hundred Blankets to distribute to the whole Army—and so of many other Articles in but little better proportion.

The advantages of a well digested, general Uniform system for levying recruits & bringing them to the Army at a particular time, to serve to a fixed period are obvious. We may then form our plans of operation with some degree of certainty—and determine with more propriety and exactness, on what we may or may not be able to do; and the periods for joining & serving, which I have taken the liberty to mention, appear to me the most proper for a variety of considerations. It being in January when it is proposed that the recruits shall join, & when the Enemy cannot operate, they will get seasoned and accustomed in some measure to a Camp life before the Campaign opens—and will have four or five Months to acquire discipline and some knowledge of Maneuvres, without interruption; and their service being extended to the same time in the succeeding Year, the Public will have all the benefits, that can be derived from their aid, for a whole Campaign. According to the plan on which the business has been conducted, the Public incurs a very heavy expence, on account of the recruits (all that the one proposed is liable to) and scarcely receives any benefit from them. The Levies that have been raised, have come to the Army so irregularly, that the aid they were intended to give, has never been received, or at least but to a very limited and partial extent; and the time for which they were engaged, has been spent in gaining a seasoning to Camp—& discipline, when they ought to have been in the field, or they must have been sent there raw and untutored (a circumstance which may lead in some critical moment before an Enemy to most fatal consequences) and the greater part of it has been spent in Winter Quarters. The Abstract with its remarks, will show Congress when the recruits for this Campaign joined—and of what little importance their aid could have been, if the Enemy had not been prevented by the occurrence of a variety of distant events—as providential as they were fortunate for us—from pursuing the vigorous measures there was but too much reason to believe they would have otherwise been capable of—and on which it seemed they had determined. I have the honor to be With the highest respect & esteem Yr Excellency’s Most Obet servt.

P.s. From several parts of my letter Congress will conclude, that it must have been intended to have reached them before this. The fact was so, the greater part of it having been drafted early in Septr—but unfortunately from the dispe⟨r⟩sed situation of the Troops—I could no⟨t⟩ obtain the Abstract of the Muster Roll⟨s⟩ to shew their state, with any degree of precision, till within these four days.12

Go: Washington

LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Congress read GW’s letter on 26 Nov. and referred it to a committee of five delegates—John Mathews, Philip Schuyler, Roger Sherman, Elbridge Gerry, and William Churchill Houston (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 15:1312). For subsequent actions of this committee and Congress in response to GW’s proposals on recruiting and an annual draft, 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 15:1376, 1385–86, 1393–96; Gerry to GW, 12 Jan. 1780 (DLC:GW); and GW to Gerry, 29 Jan. (NNFTM); see also GW to Huntington, 18 Jan. (DNA:PCC, item 152), Huntington to GW, 10 Feb. (DLC:GW), and Circular to the States, 20 Feb. (Ct: Trumbull Papers).

1GW perhaps knew about King George III’s speech to Parliament on 3 July from its being printed in The Royal American Gazette (New York) for 23 September. The speech reads: “I have seen, with entire approbation, the zeal you have manifested for the support and prosecution of the just and necessary war in which I am engaged. …

“Hitherto the events of war have afforded the Court of France no reason to triumph on the consequences of their injustice and breach of public faith; and I trust, that by a spirited and prosperous exertion of the force you have put in my hands, that ambitious power may be brought to wish they had not, without provocation or cause of complaint, insulted the honour and invaded the rights of my crown. …

“I consider it as a happy omen of the success of my arms, that the increase of difficulties serves only to [a]ugment the courage and constancy of the nation, and to animate and unite my people in the defence of their country, and of every thing that is dear to them. …

“It is impossible to speak of the continuance of the rebellion in North America without the deepest concern; but we have given such unquestionable proofs of our sincere disposition to put an end to those troubles, that I must still hope, that the malignant designs of the enemies of Great Britain cannot long prevail against the evident interests of those unhappy provinces, and that they will not blindly persist in preferring an unnatural and dangerous connection with a foreign power to peace and re-union with their mother country.” The Royal American Gazette copied this speech from the London Gazette for 3 July.

2Joseph Ward, commissary general of musters, prepared the enclosed return, which he signed at “Camp” on 15 Nov. (DNA:PCC, item 152). The enclosed return begins: “A General Return of the Men in the Army of the United States of America, who are enlisted to serve during the War. The number whose time of service will expire by the Last day of December 1779. The number whose time will expire by the last day of March; and by the last day of June: and by the last day of September 1780. The number of New Levies that have joined the Army this Campaign. The number of new Recruits for the War that have lately joined. Abstracted from the Muster Rolls taken in October 1779.”

The return then presented a table with eight columns of information for eleven states:

“Number of Men enlisted for the War” showed New Hampshire, 371; Massachusetts, 1,228; Rhode Island, 366; Connecticut, 1,475; New York, 1,320; New Jersey, 914; Pennsylvania, 2,790; Delaware, 273; Maryland, 1,561; Virginia, 1,066; and North Carolina, 409.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of December 1779” showed New Hampshire, 231; Massachusetts, 634; Rhode Island, 40; Connecticut, 88; New York, 177; New Jersey, 69, Pennsylvania, 10; Delaware, blank; Maryland, 222; Virginia, 213; and North Carolina, 75.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of March” showed New Hampshire, 305; Massachusetts, 1,730; Rhode Island, 35; Connecticut, 482; New York, 104; New Jersey, 21; Pennsylvania, 31; Delaware, blank; Maryland, 269; Virginia, 775; and North Carolina, 71.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of June” showed New Hampshire, blank; Massachusetts, 623; Rhode Island, 20; Connecticut, 654; New York, 15; New Jersey, blank; Pennsylvania, 22; Delaware, blank; Maryland, 188; Virginia, 58; and North Carolina, 160.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of September” showed New Hampshire, blank; Massachusetts, 68; Rhode Island, 11; Connecticut, 29; New York, 5; New Jersey, blank; Pennsylvania, 13; Delaware, blank; Maryland, 75; Virginia, 128; and North Carolina, 64.

“Remainder for different periods, after the la[s]t day of Sept. 1780” showed New Hampshire, 23; Massachusetts, 82; Rhode Island, 20; Connecticut, 101; New York, 34; New Jersey, 16; Pennsylvania, 65; Delaware, blank; Maryland, 228; Virginia, 157; and North Carolina, 24.

“Number of New Levies that have joined the Army this Campaign” showed New Hampshire, 183, Massachusetts, 1,202; Rhode Island, blank; Connecticut, 285; New York, 84, New Jersey, 1; Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, all blank.

“Number of New Recruits for the war, lately joined” showed New Hampshire, 24; Massachusetts, 5; Pennsylvania, 2; Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, all blank.

The return then presented a table with the same eight columns of information for the Continental light dragoon regiments (colonels Stephen Moylan, George Baylor, Elisha Sheldon, Henry Lee, Jr., and Bartholomew von Heer).

“Number of Men enlisted for the War” showed Moylan, 51; Baylor, blank; Sheldon, 177; Lee, 121; Heer, 1; for total, 350.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of December 1779” showed Moylan, 12; all others, blank; for total, 12.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of March” showed Moylan, 32; Sheldon, 9; all others, blank; for total, 41.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of June” showed Moylan, 16; all others, blank; for total, 16.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of September” showed Moylan, 14; all others, blank; for total, 14.

“Remainder for different periods, after the la[s]t day of Sept. 1780” showed Moylan, 64; Baylor, blank; Sheldon, 11; Lee, 20; Heer, 50; for total, 145.

“Number of New Levies that have joined the Army this Campaign” showed all blanks.

“Number of New Recruits for the war, lately joined” showed Sheldon, 9; all others, blank; for total, 9.

The return then presented a table with the same eight columns of information for the Continental artillery organizations (colonels John Crane, John Lamb, Charles Harrison, Thomas Proctor, and independent companies).

“Number of Men enlisted for the War” showed Crane, 236; Lamb, 278; Harrison, 271; Proctor, 168; independent companies, 58; for total, 1,011.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of December 1779” showed Crane, 20; Lamb, 14; Harrison, 24; Proctor, blank; independent companies, 12; for total, 70.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of March” showed Crane, 64; Lamb, 29; Harrison, 84; Proctor and independent companies, blank; for total, 177.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of June” showed Crane, 49; Lamb, 28; Harrison, 7; Proctor and independent companies, blank; for total, 84.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of September” showed Crane, 4; Harrison, 15; all others, blank; for total, 19.

“Remainder for different periods, after the la[s]t day of Sept. 1780” showed Crane, 29; Lamb, 13; Harrison, 55; Proctor, blank; independent companies, 2; for total, 99.

“Number of New Levies that have joined the Army this Campaign” showed all blanks.

“Number of New Recruits for the war, lately joined” showed independent companies, 16; all others, blank; for total, 16.

The return then presented a table with the same eight columns of information for the “Battalions raised at large, and commanded by” colonels Moses Hazen, Oliver Spencer, Samuel Blachley Webb, Henry Sherburne, Henry Jackson, Nathaniel Gist, Seth Warner, James Livingston, Armand, and Lewis Nicola. This table also included the commands of Lt. Col Ludwig Weltner and Maj. Caleb Gibbs.

“Number of Men enlisted for the War” showed Hazen, 460; Spencer, 166; Webb, 129; Sherburne, 15; Jackson, 53; Gist, 68; Warner, 59; Livingston, 132; Weltner, 142; Gibbs, 54; Armand, 120; Nicola, 410; for total, 1,808.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of December 1779” showed Hazen, blank; Spencer, 19; Webb, 25; Sherburne, 31; Jackson, 38; Gist, blank; Warner, 48; Livingston, blank; Weltner, 40; Gibbs, 9; Armand and Nicola, blank; for total, 210.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of March” showed Hazen, blank; Spencer, 56; Webb, 38; Sherburne, 40; Jackson, 50; Gist, 57; Warner, 27; Livingston, 4; Weltner, 30; Gibbs, 32; Armand and Nicola, blank; for total, 334.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of June” showed Hazen and Spencer, blank; Webb, 11; Sherburne, 25; Jackson, 40; Gist, 28; Warner, 6; Livingston, 4; Weltner, 10; Gibbs, 13; Armand and Nicola, blank; for total, 137.

“Number whose time will expire by the last day of September” showed Hazen, blank; Spencer, 2; Webb, 18; Sherburne, 30; Jackson, 20; Gist, 28; Warner, 3; Livingston, blank; Weltner, 12; Gibbs, 2; Armand and Nicola, blank; for total, 115.

“Remainder for different periods, after the la[s]t day of Sept. 1780” showed Hazen, blank; Spencer, 32; Webb, 60; Sherburne, 105; Jackson, 190; Gist, 6; Warner and Livingston, blank; Weltner, 14; Gibbs, 10; Armand, 37; Nicola, blank; for total, 454.

“Number of New Levies that have joined the Army this Campaign” and “Number of New Recruits for the war, lately joined” both showed all blanks.

The totals for the eight columns of information showed “Number of Men enlisted for the War,” 14,942; “Number whose time will expire by the last day of December 1779,” 2,051; “Number whose time will expire by the last day of March,” 4,375; “Number whose time will expire by the last day of June,” 1,977; “Number whose time will expire by the last day of September,” 541 (mistakenly summed as “551” on the return); “Remainder for different periods, after the la[s]t day of Sept. 1780,” 1,448; “Number of New Levies that have joined the Army this Campaign,” 1,755; and “Number of New Recruits for the war, lately joined,” 56. The total for all troops, excluding the “lately joined” new recruits, numbered 27,089 (mistakenly summed as “27,099” on the return).

The return then concludes: “Colonel Baylor’s Regiment of Light Dragoons is with the Southern Army, from which no muster Rolls have been received for several months. The 8th Pennsylvania Battalion being at Pitt[s]burgh, the Muster Rolls are not received, and therefor it is not included in this Abstract The muster Rolls of the Troops at Rhode Island, and a few other Corps that are on the frontiers, not being received in due time, their Abstract was taken from Rolls of an earlier date than those for October.

“Ninety one men in Colonel Harrison’s Regiment of Artillery, belong to a Company raised in the State of Maryland, and late[l]y joined. The new Recruits for the War (excepting a very few) enlisted out of the new Levies, and are included in their number The new Levies are not comprehended with those men whose time of service will expire at the different periods mentioned. Their time of joining the Army, on an average, was about the tenth of August. Exclusive of the new Levies, invested in this Abstract, there were about twelve hundred men raised in the Eastern States that joined the Army at Rhode Island; three hundred of which were raised for one year, and about nine hundred for six months. The proportion of these men, which each State raised, cannot now be ascertained, as their muster Rolls for October, by some misfortune have not come to hand.”

Ward subsequently wrote GW from “Camp New Windsor” on 21 Nov.: “Having received an abstract of the muster Rolls of the Troops at Rhode Island, and also of the 8th Pennsylvania and 9th Virginia Regiments, at Fort Pitt, I beg leave to present your Excellency with a second General Abstract, containing all the Troops in the Armies of the United States, excepting those in Georgia and South-Carolina.

“Through the inattention of the Officer at Rhode Island, to my particular directions, he inserted only the total number of the New Levies, and omitted to mention the number that were raised in the respective States. But I conceived this was a circumstance not of sufficient importance to delay the General Abstract.

“I have been very unhappy in not being able to complete this Abstract as early as your Excellency wished. By the date of the Return from Rhode Island, it appears to have been forwarded too late, and by some unaccountable cause was twenty seven days on its way, and not received until the 19th Instant.

“As it is my pride and pleasure to pay punctual attention to your Excellency’s commands, it gives me pain when I cannot accomplish your wishes, and thereby contribute to lighten the vast weight of business and cares which are ever accumulating and pressing upon your Excellency’s mind” (ADfS, ICHi: Joseph Ward Letterbook). The enclosed abstract has not been identified.

3This is an inaccurate sum because of an addition error on the return (see n.6 below). The correct sum is 27,089.

4Nicola commanded the Corps of Invalids.

5This figure adds the 1,755 troops represented in the enclosed table in the column headed “Number of New Levies that have joined the Army this Campaign.”

6This is an inaccurate sum because of an addition error on the return for the total of the column headed “Number whose time will expire by the last day of September.” The correct sum is 10,699.

7The correct sum is 12,147 (see n.6 above).

8See, for example, GW to John Hancock, 9 Feb. 1776.

9GW is referring to his long letter to a Continental Congress Camp Committee prepared at Valley Forge, Pa., and editorially dated 29 Jan. 1778.

10See GW to the Continental Congress Committee of Conference, 13 Jan. 1779.

11See 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 13:107–9; see also GW to John Jay, 27 Jan., and n.1 to that document.

12GW’s earlier, undated draft of this letter reads: “It is with Congress to decide upon the expediency of rendering the Continental Battalions more compleat either to continue the War or to obtain an honourable Peace—With me it only remains to give the present strength—point out the difficulties, expence, and indeed impracticability of obtaining Men by voluntary enlistment unless Congress would at once offer a bounty which shall exceed all State, Town, and individual bounties—the policy of which lyes with them to determine. and to suggest the only expedient which to me appears competent to the end of keeping our Battalions respectable—If in offering this state of the matter, and delivering my Sentiments thereon I shall have exceeded the bounds of my duty I can urge with truth, that I have no other motive than the public good, and an earnest desire of rescuing the Service from the uncertain & expensive mode of recruiting the army by reducing the future manner of doing it to some kind of System & order.

“By the inclosed estimate, whic⟨h⟩ is confined to that part of the Army under my immediate command Congress will see the number of Men that stand engaged for the War and every period short of it. They will (as far as it is in my power to give it) also see what each State has done towards compleating their respective quotas in the cou⟨r⟩se of this year. Which when compared to the exertions of the Enemy to assemble a capitol force for a vigorous & as they termed it a decisive campaign must fill the Mind with very disagreeable sensations except such as result from a grateful reflection on the interposition of Providence in decreeing events which seems to have disconcerted the whole British system for carrying on the War this Campaign.

“No man (as the whole tenor of my letters, & conduct in the early stages of the contest when men might have been engaged for the War will evince) was ever more opposed to short enlistments than I—nor no person ever experienced more difficulties & distress on that acct than myself. but circumstanced as we are at present; and in the temper which pervades the minds of that class of people which compose the bulk of an army, I see nothing else left for it. Nor (considering the number of men which we have engaged for the War which affords a good stamina for an Army) will the same inconveniences follow as did the total dissolutions and even these may be lessened by the adoption of some system which will have a genl operation in all the States to the exclusion of that complex & inefficateous modes wch are now practiced at a most enormous expence as will evidently appear by an appeal to our public expenditures in a thousand ways; some of which without the smallest hope of deriving much, if any benefit, thô a great & certain expence is incurred—such being the case of those states which depend upon voluntary inlistments & have drawn a number of Officers from the Army to the detriment of their Regiments without obtaining (comparatively speaking) a man while the charges attending this measure is certain and great. and in this place it may not be amiss perhaps to shew how unseasonably the little aid we have derived by any and all these modes would have arrived if the measures of G. Britain had not been disconcerted by events as fortunate as (to me) unexpected. Our re-inforcements then, except abt 150 wch joined the Army under Genl Sullivan from the State of New York in the Month of May, or June did not begin to appear till sometime in August and are but at this moment coming in. the consequences of which are that you have not a single moment to train & discipline them. & so much of the season as remains fit for the field is wasted in inureing them to the Camp life (as almost all Recruits have their seasoning)—this puts an end to the Campaign but not the expence attending those measures for in addition to the cost of bringing them to the Army, they are after having passed through the Campaign without rendering perhaps a single days Service to be Cloathed—fed through the Winter—and just before the opening of the next Campaign & by which time they have acquired the habits of Soldiers, & know some thing of the duties—their term of Service is expired and they are discharged so that in fact at the end of one Campaign we get a small reinforcement & discharge it at the opening of the next. by which means as I have observed before we incur an expence and derive no benefit.

“To enumerate all the disadvantages which result from this indeterminate mode of compleating the Battalions not only with respect to the manner, but time, would greatly exceed the bounds of a letter; but I cannot help observing that the manner opens a door to such error & imposition in the article of expence, in a variety of ways, which it is scarce possible for any checks to prevent public abuses—while the consequences of mixing raw & untutored men (before they obtain some knowledge in manœuvreing) with disciplined Troops may in some critical moment before an enemy prove fatal—and this if there is not time to train them must be the case or they in a manner become useless.

“I have been thus particular in order to shew the necessity there is—in my judgment—of adopting in future some systematical plan for the completion of our Battalions annually—while Congress shall deem it expedient to do this—and at such fixed periods as will allow the operating for the greatest possible advantages which is to be derived from the term of their Services, & that must be by obtaining the Recruits in the Winter allowing them time to get a little accustomed to a soldiers life and inured to that change & hardship which seldom fails to sicken young Soldiers—& withal to acquire that knowledge of their duty which is to fit them for the Services of the Campaign.

“Early as Feby 1778 I was convinced that it was no longer in our power to compleat the Battalion’s by voluntary enlistment, & took the liberty of laying before the Committee of arrangement then with the Army at Valley-forge a plan for an annual draft—Time, circumstances, & experience confirming me in the opinion I had conceived on this head I again took the freedom of urging the measure to the Committee of conference in Jany last—and I hope to be excused for offering it once more, & in time for the next year if Congress should conceive it necessary to require a completion of the quota’s of the States. I am perfectly convinced of the impractacability of doing this by voluntary enlistments, in the usual mode and that while a great & unnecessary expence is incurred in the attempt the officers of the Army who are employed in this Service are loosing the oppertunity for instruction & acquiring a habit of idleness & dissipation in the Country which induces them to return reluctantly to the army in some instances & to be more dissatisfied in others, when they are there. When I say that men are not to be had by voluntary enlistment in the usual way I do not mean that men cannot be obtained with their own consent—this I am perswaded may be done—and there are enough (mostly old Soldiers) who are ready to hire themselves as substitutes and are only laying by to make good bargains—Every State, County, or Town therefore has enough of these, or such kind of Men, to compleat their quota. let there be an indiscriminate Draft & such as rather choose to give their money than personal Services will easily obtain a Man. the consequence will be that instead of taxing the public with heavy bounties & thereby increasing the demand for fresh loans or new emissions you will find a new demand for what is in circulation and of course enhance the value of that which is already in circulation” (ADf, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 31530; see also GW to Ward, 22 and 25 Sept.).

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