George Washington Papers

Circular to Seven General Officers, 14 October 1778

Circular to Seven General Officers

Head Quarters Fredericksburg 14th October 1778


I have been waiting impatiently for the movements of the enemy to come to an issue that might ascertain their intentions for the Winter, which has hitherto prevented my taking the present step; but the uncertainty in which they still continue involved, and the advanced Season of the year, will no longer admit of delay in fixing upon a plan for the general disposition of the Army in winter quarters. In determining this, it will readily occur to you that the following particulars are to be considered. The security of the Army itself—its subsistence and accommodation—the protection of the Country—the support of our important posts—the relation which ought to be preserved with the french Fleet should it remain where it is, depending on the degree of probability of a Winter operation against it, and the succour it may derive from the troops under Genl Sullivan and the Militia of the Country. After a full consideration of these points, and of any other matters requiring attention, you will be pleased to favr me with your opinion as speedily as possible—The main Questions to be decided are—whether the Army shall be kept in a collected State and where—whether it be distributed into Cantonments and in what manner and places—how soon it shall enter into quarters—and what precautions shall be used in respect to covering provisions and Forage. I am Sir Your most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, addressed to James Clinton, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, PPRF; LS, addressed to Stirling, sold by Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, sale no. 2216, item 396, 22 Oct. 1963; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. In addition to Brig. Gen. James Clinton and Major General Stirling, the draft and the Varick transcript are addressed to Major Generals Israel Putnam and Johann Kalb, and Brigadier Generals William Woodford and Peter Muhlenberg. Brig. Gen. William Maxwell’s letter to GW of 21 Oct. indicates that he also was a recipient of this circular. GW franked the addressed cover of the LS to Clinton.

GW also asked these questions regarding winter quarters—along with a question about detaching troops toward Boston—at the council of war that met on 16 October. Of this circular’s seven recipients, only Kalb attended that council of war. GW posed the question about the troop detachment toward Boston to Stirling, Woodford, and William Maxwell in his letter to them of 15 Oct., but no evidence has been found that he posed it to James Clinton, Putnam, or Muhlenberg.

Replies to this circular have been found from Muhlenberg, 16 Oct., Putnam, 20 Oct., Maxwell, 21 Oct., and Stirling, 17 and 26 October. Kalb replied on 19 Oct. to the questions posed at the council of war.

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