George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 2 November 1778

From Major General Horatio Gates

Springfield [Mass.] 2d November 78


The inclosed Letters from The Generals Heath, & Sullivan, clearly shew, that The Enemy do not meditate any Attack to the Eastward;1 it is now too Late: I also send Your Excellency a Memorial from the Offi cers of the three Brigades here.2 it is matter, which they seem exceedingly Anxious may be reconsider’d—Major Mesam has got the Orders he required, and Assures me General pattersons Brigade are not forwarder in their receipt of Cloathing than the rest; he therefore, has got his Order with the Others3—I shall be at Worcester tomorrow and shall be happy to receive your Excellencys Commands either there or at Boston. I am Sir Your Excellencys most Obedt Servant

Horatio Gates


1The enclosed copy of a letter from Maj. Gen. John Sullivan to Gates, dated 27 Oct. at Providence, R.I., reads: “I had the Honor of your Favor of Yesterday enclosing Copy of General Washington’s Letter to you, and a Letter from His Excy to me. I shall with Pleasure give you the earliest Intelligence of every important Matter which may turn up in this Quarter. At present there is no Appearance of the Enemy’s Design to quit Rhode-Island, nor do they seem to expect the British Fleet this Way; they seem to agree that one Division of the Fleet is bound to the West-Indies, the other to Halifax. But least they should make an Attempt this Way would it not be necessary to forward our Flour & other Necessaries for the Army the Magazines are all exhausted in this Department, and should a larger Force be called out they cannot subsist” (DLC:GW).

Gates also enclosed a copy of a letter to him from Maj. Gen. William Heath, dated 28 Oct. at Boston: “I am this moment honored with Your’s of the 26th, inclosing Copy of a Letter from His Excellency General Washington.

“You may be assured, Sir, that the earliest information shall be given you, should the Enemy make an Appearance in this Neighbourhood. You will please to Accept my thanks for Your Assurance of transmiting me such pieces of Intelligence as may be depended upon.

“I purpose putting the Troops of Convention on their March on Wednesday next, for Virginia, if nothing extraordinary prevents, agreeable to the late Orders which I have received for that purpose.

“As they will pass near you, you will, perhaps, have one more view of them” (DLC:GW).

2The enclosed, undated memorial to Gates from Brig. Gens. Enoch Poor and John Paterson; Cols. Moses Hazen, Joseph Cilley, Gamaliel Bradford, and Thomas Marshall; Lt. Cols. James Mellen, George Reid, Burwell Bassett, and Noah Moulton Littlefield; and Majs. Jeremiah Gilman, Joseph Torrey, Benjamin Titcomb, and Samuel Tubbs, reads: “We the Brigadier Generals and Field Officers of your Honor’s Division beg Leave to offer a few Remarks on a Late order from his Excellency the Commander in Chief with respect to Cloathing that part of the Army now under your Command, which order you have been pleased to Communicate to us.

“That when the army was raised in the latter end of the Year 1776 and the Begining of 1777—it was then Stipulated and Clearly understood, by those who entered into the army—that the soldiers were to receive the Bounty, Pay, and Clothing then specified, as an Encouragement to enter, as well as a reward to continue in the Service of their Country for the term agreed.

“That by the great Depreciation of the Continental Currency, the army have only received a part of the Pay for their services pr Agreement.

“That the Publick have been greatly Deficient in point of Cloathing the Army, that what Cloathing the troops now under your Immediate Command have received from the Publick, is only a part of what was promised, and really due to them by Contract.

“That a considerable part of the Cloathing which the Troops of your Division, have at Present, was either Purchased with their own money, Donations from Particular States, given them by their Relations and Friends, or otherwise saved by great care and œconomy from that which they have recieved from the Publick in part of the Compensation for their services by Agreement and therefore we Humbly concieve the little Cloathing which the Troops of your Division are in possession of, is really and truly as much their own as the money in their pockets, saved by prudence from the little part of their wages Received.

“That returning the old rags, and Cloaths of the soldiers, at this period, in order to obtain new, would not only in many respects be taking away the Private Property of Individuals without their Consent, but would in other cases put the soldiers on a very unfair, and unequal footing; and in its consequences naturally tend to destroy one of the greatest Virtues in a soldier—for it is a general rule and a known fact, that those who have received the most Cloaths from the Publick, have now the least to return—However strange this may appear to some, yet the many Reasons in support of it are too obvious to Trouble yr Honour with.

“That if the army are to be cloathed by, and at the expence of the publick, such articles as are allowed the soldiers ought to be ascertained, all Deficiencies made up and all surpluss Charged & stop’d from their wages, in a word Publick faith must be supported or otherwise it is to be feared the army will Disband itself.

“Your Honor is not unacquainted with the Difficulties attending the Officers in a Dissatisfied Army which is really the case in your Division, you are likewise sensible of the great Hardships and suffering of the American army (in the course of this Violent Contest) which we think has been kept together by the great care goodness and Popularity of the Commander in Chief, as well as by the Vigilance activity and spirit of the Generals and Officers under him.

“That at this time of General Complaints, Ordering the soldiers to give up their old Cloaths, which they Concieve to be thier own property, would add to their present List of Grievances and might be productive of very bad Consequences.

“Having the cause of our country most sincerely at Heart in common justice to the soldiers under our care, we do most earnestly entreat your Honor to order that the Troops under your Command may be Cloathed without Delay, that the soldiers may be allowed to retain their old Cloaths. that you will use your Endeavours to obtain for them all Deficiencies of Cloathing, or some suitable Compensation in Lieu thereof, and that the Contracts or agreements made between the Publick and the army may in every respect be Fulfill’d” (DLC:GW). The officers wrote this memorial after reading GW’s letter to Gates of 27 Oct. ordering that “All the old cloathing is to be returned to the Clothier”; GW responded by letting the matter drop (see GW to Richard Peters, 11 Nov.).

3George Measam wrote to Gates on 28 Oct. thanking him for forwarding a copy of GW’s letter to Gates of 27 Oct. and informing him that “I will be with you tomorrow night, God willing” (NHi: Gates Papers; see also Gates to GW, 28 Oct., and Measam to GW, 30 Oct.).

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