To John Cadwalader
Valley-forge Mar. 20th 1778.
My dear Sir,
Your favor of the 12th Instt came safe to my hands & gave me sincere pleasure; as it encouraged a hope I had before entertained of seeing you in Camp again—most sincerely do I wish it was in my power to point out some post or place in the army that would invite you to, & fix you in it. We want your aid exceedingly; & the public perhaps at no time since the commencement of the War would be more benefitted by your advice and assistance than at the present, & throughout the whole of this Campaign which must be important & critical. One thing certain is—a seat at my board, & a square on my Floor shall always be reserved for you. but this, though it would add to my pleasure, is not the height of my wishes. I want to see you in a more important Station.
By death & desertion, we have lost a good many men since we came to this ground,1 and have encountered every species of hardship that cold, wet, & hunger, and want of Cloaths were capable of producg—notwithstandg & contrary to my expectations we have been able to keep the Soldiers from Mutiny or dispersion, althô in the single article of Provisns they have encountered enough to have occasiond one or the other of these in most other armies; as they have been (two or three times) days together without Provisions; & once Six days without any of the Meat kind—could the poor Horses tell their tale it would be in a strain still more lamentable, as numbers have actually died from pure want. but as our prospects begin to brighten, my complaints shall cease.
It gives me much pleasure to hear that the recruiting Service in the Counties near you is in so hopeful a way; but I despair of seeing our Battalions compleated by any other means than drafting. The importance of the place you speak of,2 is obvious—it has engrossed much of my thoughts; but in our present situation, & under our present prospects, it is one of those things that is more like to become an object of our desire than attainment.
I have every reason, short of absolute proof, to believe that Genl Howe is meditating a stroke against this army—He has drawn, some say two thousand, & others 2500 Men from new york, which I believe are arrived at Phila. as a number of Transports have just past Wilmington on their way up the Delaware; & reports from Newport say, that the Garrison there had orders to Be in readiness to embark by the 20th Instt—their Invalids had gone off for England—& the women and Children for New York.3 I am &ca
ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
1. The Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775–1783, in DNA: RG 93 allow an approximation of deaths and desertion at Valley Forge by subtracting data for the two Maryland brigades detached to Wilmington from the totals reported. The monthly return for December 1777, which includes the twenty days before the army’s arrival at Valley Forge, reports 90 dead and 137 deserted since the first of the month. No monthly report of the dead and deserted for January 1778 has been identified, but weekly returns for 12, 19, and 24 Jan. report a total of 179 dead and 181 deserted. The monthly return for February 1778 reports 254 dead and 159 deserted during the month. The March 1778 return shows 440 dead and 204 deserted, but the artillery portion of that return was evidently mislabeled, and the corrected numbers should be 417 dead and 218 deserted (see Lesser, Sinews of Independence description begins Charles H. Lesser, ed. The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army. Chicago, 1976. description ends , 60–62). With only the period from 24 Jan. to 1 Feb. unaccounted for, the losses by death and desertion from 1 Dec. 1777 to 31 Mar. 1778 approach 1 percent of the total force and are slightly fewer than the number of men reported discharged in that time.
2. GW is referring to Billingsport, New Jersey.