George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 2 March 1778

From Major General John Sullivan

Camp Valley Forge March 2d 1778

My Dear General

Nothing can be more painful to me than the Repetition of a request which is known to be Disagreable to a Commander to whom America in General & myself in particular Stand So much indebted—after So polite a Refusal as I have once had I Should have Remained forever Silent upon the Subject: did not pure necessity which knows no Law Compell me to repeat my request1—I Sincerely Lament my being Compelld ⟨to d⟩iscover my Situation & my feelings & hope that ⟨my⟩ Long Silence upon the Subject will be Look⟨ed upon⟩ by your Excellency Rather as Evidence of pati⟨en⟩ce ⟨than⟩ as a mark of my having the gift of Complaining without Cause—I Shall Repeat Facts. when Britain First begun to Send Troops to Boston I began at great Expence to Maneuvre Troops as well in the Eastern part of Massa. as in our own State This not only occasioned a Loss of Time but The Loss of money was Enevitable I then Served the publick part of Two years in Congress: between the Sessions of Congress I undertook to Dismantle the Fort at Pescataway The Continent have Received & used the Cannons Small Arms Powder &ca which were at my Expence Removed into the Country at the Distance of a number of miles for which I have never had the Least Reward or have I the Least probability of it2—Since I have been in the Service I have been rather unfortunate. I have been Robbd at Long Island Newyork New Rochell & at Peaks Kill. The Last of those Losses I never Suspected till I was on my Return from New England & had arrived within a mile of the place—I Lost at those Several times Ten Suits of Cloathes Compleat A Large Quantity of Linnen all my Camp Equipage a valuable Military Library &ca &ca I have notwithstanding weathered out the Campaign but have neither Cloathes or Equipage to begin another or money to purchase. I have Lost three horses in the Service which I am not able to Replace & though one of them was killd in Action & the others in Different Service Congress will make me no Recompence. under those Circumstances I have but two ways Left one is to Quit the Service Entirely & the other to Quit it for a Season to prepare myself for greater Fatigues & Losses—I need not mention to your Excy how inadequate The Eight pences allowed by Congress is to the Support of an officer3 my first Letter has hinted it I am Sure your Excy can See the Justice of the hints. I have mentioned two ways of Relief for myself—my first Letter has Shown the necessity as well as a Letter I wrote to Colo. Harrison from Princeton in June Last4—could I be permitted to have my Choice it would be the former as I have Suffered too much & Received too Little for the Fatigue I have Endured if This Licence can be procured without Trouble to your Excellency & without my Incurring yr Excys Censure it will much oblidge Dr General him that is with Every Sentiment of Gratitude & Respect yr Excys most obedt Servt

Jno. Sullivan

ALS, DLC:GW. What is apparently an earlier, unsent version of this letter, dated February 1778, is printed in Hammond, Sullivan Papers description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends , 2:20–21.

2Sullivan represented New Hampshire at the Continental Congress during the sessions of Sept.–Oct. 1774 and May–Aug. 1775. On 14 and 15 Dec. 1774, Portsmouth, N.H., citizens seized military stores and cannon from Fort William and Mary at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. Sullivan played a significant role in the events of 15 Dec. and was primarily responsible for securing the stores seized (see Sullivan to New Hampshire Senate, 14 Feb. 1785, in N.H., Provincial and State Papers description begins New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers. 40 vols. 1867–1943. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 18:748–50).

3Sullivan’s “Eight pences” was figurative. For discussion of the pay of major generals and Sullivan’s complaints thereon, see his letter to GW of 14 Feb., and note 2 to that document.

4Sullivan is referring to his letter to GW of 14 Feb. 1778, not to his other letter of this date. Sullivan’s letter to Robert Hanson Harrison of June 1777 has not been identified.

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