George Washington Papers

General Orders, 30 November 1777

General Orders

Head-Quarters, White Marsh [Pa.] November 30th 1777.

Parole NorthamptonC. Signs Greenland. Portsmouth.

On the 25th of November instant, the Honorable Continental Congress passed the following resolve—vizt.

“Resolved. That General Washington be directed to publish in General orders, that Congress will speedily take into consideration the merits of such officers as have distinguished themselves by their intrepidity and their attention to the health and discipline of their men; and adopt such regulations as shall tend to introduce order and good discipline into the army, and to render the situation of the officers and soldiery, with respect to cloathing and other necessaries, more eligible than it has hitherto been.1

“Forasmuch as it is the indispensible duty of all men, to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligations to him for benefits received, and to implore such further blessings as they stand in need of: and it having pleased him, in his abundant mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of his common providence, but also, to smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defence of our unalienable rights and liberties”—It is therefore recommended by Congress, that Thursday, the 18th day of December next be set apart for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise, that at one time, and with one voice, the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor; and that, together with their sincere acknowledgements and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their sins; and supplications for such further blessings as they stand in need of2—The Chaplains will properly notice this recommendation, that the day of thanksgiving may be duly observed in the army, agreeably to the intentions of Congress.

After Orders. The whole army are to be under arms to morrow morning, at five o’clock, if it should not rain or snow—Lord Stirling’s division are to lay upon their arms and be ready to turn out at a minute’s warning.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Muhlenberg’s orderly book omits the after orders but includes the following additional order at the end of this day’s general orders: “The Regimental Pay Masters are to call upon the Pay Master Genl Tomorrow & Receive Pay for the Month of Septembr. Those who have acknowledged their abstracts for the Month of October may Receive for that month also” (“Muhlenberg’s Orderly Book,” description begins “Orderly Book of Gen. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, March 26–December 20, 1777.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 33 (1909): 257–78, 454–74; 34 (1910): 21–40, 166–89, 336–60, 438–77; 35 (1911): 59–89, 156–87, 290–303. description ends 35:291; see also Weedon’s Orderly Book description begins Valley Forge Orderly Book of General George Weedon of the Continental Army under Command of Genl George Washington, in the Campaign of 1777–8: Describing the Events of the Battles of Brandywine, Warren Tavern, Germantown, and Whitemarsh, and of the Camps at Neshaminy, Wilmington, Pennypacker’s Mills, Skippack, Whitemarsh, & Valley Forge. New York, 1902. description ends , 145).

A council of general officers was held on this date to consider the subject of quartering the army for the winter season, but no minutes of the meeting have been identified. Brig. Gen. John Cadwalader, who was present, discusses the meeting in a letter to Joseph Reed of this date: “We were consulting about winter quarters when your letter came to hand. I detained your servant, in hopes of giving you their determination, but the General has required the opinions of his officers in writing at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning. I showed your letter to the General. Many of the officers are for going into winter quarters on the line from Lancaster towards Easton. If this is attempted, I am sure the army will march there only to be disappointed. By the best information, those towns are crowded with inhabitants from the city, and little shelter can be found there. The general officers will set the example of going home. The field officers will follow their example. Captains and subalterns will expect the same indulgence, and the soldiers will apply for furloughs, and if refused will desert. By these means, the army will be dispersed through the different colonies, and it will be impossible to collect them in time to open an early campaign. The country on every side will be left to be plundered, and vast numbers will apply for protection. The inhabitants will be dispirited, the credit of our money ruined, the recruiting service at an end, and inevitable ruin must follow. It has been proposed to take post at Wilmington and the little towns in that neighbourhood, and build huts for those who cannot be provided with quarters. If we do not do this, the enemy may take possession of that post with 2000 men or three, which they can easily spare, and by this means secure the lower counties on the Eastern Shore. By taking possession of this strong post, and bringing down the gondolas, we may annoy the navigation, and by being on the spot in the spring, take such measures as may oblige the enemy to come out and attack us in the field” (Reed, Joseph Reed description begins William B. Reed. Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, Military Secretary of Washington, at Cambridge; Adjutant-General of the Continental Army; Member of the Congress of the United States; and President of the Executive Council of the State of Pennsylvania. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1847. description ends , 1:348–49). For the various opinions submitted, see the letters to GW from generals Armstrong, Duportail, Greene, Irvine, Kalb, Knox, Lafayette, Maxwell, Muhlenberg, Poor, Pulaski, Scott, Smallwood, Stirling, Sullivan, Varnum, Wayne, Weedon, and Woodford, all 1 Dec., Henry Emanuel Lutterloh to GW, also 1 Dec., and Robert Hanson Harrison’s undated “Opinions summed up,” in GW to Joseph Reed, 2 Dec., n.1. Cadwalader apparently did not submit a written report to GW.

1A copy of this resolution was enclosed in Henry Laurens’s letter to GW of 26 November.

2This extract is taken from a committee report presented to Congress on 1 Nov. concerning the choice of a day of thanksgiving, a copy of which Laurens sent to GW on 7 November. Much of the rest of the paragraph is paraphrased from the report as well (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 , 9:854–55).

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