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To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 1 January 1778

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Camp Valey Forge January the 1st 177[8]1

Dr Sir

It gives me the greatest pain to hear the murmurs and complaints among the officers for the want of spirits—they say they are exposd to the severity of the weather subject to hard duty and nothing but bread and beef to eat morning, noon, and night, without vegetables or any thing to drink but cold water—this is hard fare for people that have been accustomd to live tolerable—The officers observes however disagreeable their situation they would patiently submit to their hard fortune if the evil in its own nature was incureable—but they think by a proper exertion spirits may be procurd to alleviate their distress until they have an opportunity to provide for themselves.

Lord Sterling was mentioning yesterday that he had made a discovery of a considerable quantity of spirits—sufficient to supply all the Officers—Supposeing His Lordships information to be true—will it not be consistent with good policy to sieze it, and distribute it among the Regiments for the use of the Officers about thirty or forty Gallons for each Regiment—this would give a temporary releif—and the present dissatisfaction seems to be so great—it is absolutely necessary to take some measures if possible to silence as many of the complaints as may be—Col. Abeel has just returnd from Bethlehem and sais there is 16 hogsheads of spirits at that place belonging to the old Commisary department2 it is in the hands of Mr Oakley and was sent there by Mr Ervin3—Col. Abee⟨l⟩ thinks it will be disposd on for private property if not sent for immediately. Col. Abeel also observes there is great quantities of Whiskey sent into the Jerseys at Easton and that a full supply might be had for the use of the Army if some person was sent there to sieze it.

I have got a very disagreeable pain in one of my Eyes, or else I should have waited upon your Excellency. I am with great respect your Excellences Obedient Sevt

N. Greene

ALS, DLC:GW; copy (fragment), CSmH.

1Greene inadvertently wrote “1777” on the manuscript.

2Congress had created a “new” commissary department in June 1777 by enacting reforms that resulted in its substantial reorganization.

3John Okely (1721–1792) was born in Bedford, England, and emigrated to America in 1742, serving as an itinerant minister and then as a scrivener and conveyancer in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In 1774 Okely was appointed a justice of the peace for Northampton County, and he acted for some time during the Revolutionary War as an assistant commissary. “Mr. Ervin” is Matthew Irwin, the quartermaster general for Pennsylvania.

An unsigned copy of a letter, apparently from John Chaloner, dated 4 Jan. and addressed to “Mr Fuller,” reads: “Information is given to his Excellency The Commander in Chief that there are in the hand of Mr Oakley at Bethlehem belonging to the late Commissary 16 hhds of Rum & in the hand of Mr Gordon 6 hhds Rum also that there is at Easton a quantity of Whiskey. The two first you are immediately to seize and the latter to purchase at the prices regulated by the State—and forward immediately to Head Quarters” (Ephraim Blaine Papers, DLC: Peter Force Collection).

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