George Washington Papers

General Orders, 24 October 1776

General Orders

Head Quarters, White-Plains, Octob: 24th 1776.

Parole: Countersign: 1

Commanding Officers of regiments are immediately to have Necessaries dug, decently covered, at a small distance from their Encampments—They are every day to be covered over with fresh earth, and once a week to be filled up and new ones dug—All bones, meat and other dirt of the Camp, to be carefully gathered up every day—Those regiments who have not appointed Camp-Coulour-Men, are to do it immediately, and it is the duty of the Quarter-Master to see that they do their duty. Two men from every Company to be appointed. If officers would reflect how much cleanliness would conduce to their own health, and that of their men, they would want no inducement to attend to it particularly.

The Brigade Majors of Genl Spencer’s division,2 are immediately to form a Court Martial—A Colonel to preside.

Genl Sullivan’s division to furnish its proportion of the detail made yesterday, for home guards.

Rolls are to be called three times every day, and the General begs the officers to exert themselves, to keep their men from straggling away from the Camp—Officers and men would do well to reflect that their safety, their lives,3 and the liberty of their Country may depend on their being at hand, in case of an Alarm—Any Man who is found half a mile from the Camp, not on Command, will be punished very severly.4

All the officers who have assisted in the Works to meet at Col. Putnam’s Quarters, just above Head-Quarters, at 3 O’Clock this afternoon, in order to lay out a number of works. The Engineers are to proportion the entrenching tools at this place, among the several Grand Divisions, and after to day to apply to each General commanding such division, for such numbers of men, as may be wanted for the several works, who are to begin to work at 9 O’clock in the morning, and continue working till four in the afternoon.5

Brigade Majors are to have their returns completed immediately.

General Heath’s and General Sullivan’s divisions, not having complied with yesterday’s Orders, to furnish 30 Men; they are to do it to morrow without fail, & to be more careful in future.6

It being absolutely necessary, that the Teams should be collected, in order to be arranged by the Quarter-Master General; The commanding Officers of regiments are immediately to send to the parade, at the Court-house, every team, not under an actual Order to march: No officer to take any Team for any use, without an Order from Head Quarters, or the Quarter Master General—The commanding Officers of brigades and regiments, who at any time may be supplied with Teams, are to take particular Care, that the Drivers of Waggons in their employ are regularly supplied with Grain & Hay for their Horses, if such provender can be obtain’d in the neighbourhood of their respective Camps. If the Owners of such Provender refuse to sell, such commanding Officers are to order their Quarter Masters, to collect as much Provender as will be necessary for the public Horses, in their service, and give Certificates to the Owners of the Provender, of what the Quarter Masters may receive, or take.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1“Williams’ Diary,” 49:55, gives the parole as “Carolina” and the countersign as “York.”

2“Williams’ Diary,” 49:55, reads: “the brigade majors of Genll. Spencers & Genll. Sullivans divisions.”

3“Williams’ Diary,” 49:55, reads: “their hopes.”

4Even these measures could not keep free spirited and hungry young soldiers in camp. After the morning roll call in Col. William Douglas’s regiment of Connecticut levies on 28 Oct., the day of the Battle of White Plains, Pvt. Joseph Plumb Martin and a messmate took “a little jaunt into the country” in search of fresh vegetables. They returned to camp later that morning with some plundered turnips and found the whole army in a state of alarm, preparing for battle with Howe’s advancing forces. Throwing the turnips into their tent and hastily packing their few belongings, the two soldiers “fell into the ranks,” and a short time later their regiment marched forward to engage the enemy (Martin, Private Yankee Doodle description begins Joseph Plumb Martin. Private Yankee Doodle: Being a Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier. Edited by George F. Scheer. 1962. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 52–53; see also Robert Hanson Harrison to John Hancock, 29 Oct., n.3).

5At the end of this paragraph, “Williams’ Diary,” 49:55, adds: “500 fatigue men for tomorrow properly officerd to take orders from Colo Putnam chief Engineer.” The Americans constructed two defensive lines at White Plains during the next few days. The main line ran along the heights on the north side of the village extending northeast from the Bronx River across Purdy and Hatfield hills to Merritt Hill. On the plain at the base of those heights, a parallel line of light earthworks was constructed along the roads to Dobbs Ferry and to Connecticut apparently to protect those vital supply and communication routes (see Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 85–86, and Hufeland, Westchester County description begins Otto Hufeland. Westchester County during the American Revolution, 1775–1783. White Plains, N.Y., 1926. In Publications of the Westchester County Historical Society, vol. 3. description ends , 135–36, 138). On 27 Oct. Tench Tilghman wrote to William Duer: “We already make a very respectable figure—our front lined & arbutted & some redoubts well forwarded on our Rear impassable for Horse or Foot but through passes of which we have possession” (MH: Jared Sparks Collection).

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