George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Commanding Officer at Morristown, 30 December 1776

To the Commanding Officer at Morristown

Head Quarters Trenton 30th Decemr 1776


I have the pleasure to acquaint you that the Continental Regiments from the Eastern Governments have to a Man agreed to stay Six Weeks1 beyond their Term of Inlistment which was to have expired the last day of this Month. For this extraordinary Mark of their Attatchment to their Country, I have agreed to give them a Bounty of Ten dollars Man, besides their pay running on.2 I hope this noble Example will be followed by the four Regiments under your command,3 promise them the same Reward and endeavour to work upon them by every Means in your power. let them know the Militia are pouring in from all Quarters and only want Veteran Troops to lead them on. Since our Success at this place on the 26th the Enemy have evacuated all the Country below, they went off in the greatest hurry and Confusion. I beg you will collect all the Men you possibly can about Chatham, and after gaining the proper Intelligence endeavour to strike a stroke upon Elizabeth Town or that Neighbourhood, at any Rate be ready to co operate with me. Let me hear what success you have with your Troops as soon as possible. I am Sir.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1On the draft manuscript Tilghman first wrote “one Month.” He then struck out those words and wrote “Six Weeks” above the line.

2An unidentified sergeant’s account, which apparently was written many years after the event, reads: “While we were at Trenton, on the last of December, 1776, the time for which I and most of my regiment had enlisted expired. At this trying time General Washington, having now but a little handful of men and many of them new recruits in which he could place but little confidence, ordered our regiment to be paraded, and personally addressed us, urging that we should stay a month longer. He alluded to our recent victory at Trenton; told us that our services were greatly needed, and that we could now do more for our country than we ever could at any future period; and in the most affectionate manner entreated us to stay. The drums beat for volunteers, but not a man turned out. The soldiers worn down with fatigue and privations, had their hearts fixed on home and the comforts of the domestic circle, and it was hard to forego the anticipated pleasures of the society of our dearest friends.

“The General wheeled his horse about, rode in front of the regiment, and addressing us again said, ‘My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigue and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay only one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you probably never can do under any other circumstances. The present is emphatically the crisis, which is to decide our destiny.’ The drums beat the second time. The soldiers felt the force of the appeal. One said to another, ‘I will remain if you will.’ Others remarked ‘We cannot go home under such cicumstances.’ A few stepped forth, and their example was immediately followed by nearly all who were fit for duty in the regiment, amounting to about two hundred volunteers. An officer enquired of the General if these men should be enrolled. He replied,—‘No! Men who will volunteer in such a case as this, need no enrolment to keep them to their duty’” (Sergeant R—, “Battle of Princeton,” 515–16; see also Powell, “Bostwick’s Memoirs,” 103; Rau, “Smith’s Diary,” description begins Louise Rau, ed. “Sergeant John Smith’s Diary of 1776.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 20 (1933-34): 247–70. description ends 269–70; Sellers, “Peale’s Journal,” description begins Horace W. Sellers. “Charles Willson Peale, Artist—Soldier.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 38 (1914): 257–86. description ends 278; and “Young’s Journal,” description begins “Journal of Sergeant William Young: Written During the Jersey Campaign in the Winter of 1776-7.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 255–78. description ends 261).

3At this place on the draft manuscript, Tilghman wrote and then struck out the following words: “at least endeavour to do it.”

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