George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 14 November 1778

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Camp fredericksburg [N.Y.] 14 Novembr 78


Inclosed is Colo. Biddles Letter to me upon the distressed state of the Forage Department.1 Our Cattle for this ten days past have not had one half the necessary allowance of Forage. The Resolution of Congress prohibiting the use of Wheat and the Restrictive Laws in the several States, in the Neighbourhood of Camp, renders it impossible to subsist the Cattle, unless some further aid can be given to the Forage Master General and his Deputies.2

The Law of this State, appointing certain Persons in every Town to collect Forage and to say how much every Farmer shall spare, is not attended with that advantage that the Legislature designed in passing the Law3—Men judge so differently from one another, and many from motives of tenderness to their Neighbours take so sparing from the People, that our supplies are very deficient notwithstanding we see the Country full of Forage. I am therefore under the necessity to call upon your Excellency for a Warrant to impress such Quantities of Forage from Time to Time as we find ourselves dificient in obtaining in the regular modes pointed out by Law.4 I have the Honor to be Your Excellencys respectful Humble Servt

Nathl Greene Q.M.


1The enclosed letter from Clement Biddle to Greene, dated 13 Nov. at Quaker Hill, N.Y., reads: “Since the Arrival of the Troops at Fredericksburg I have used my utmost Endeavours to provide Forage for the horses from the Vicinity of Camp, that I might collect some stock beforehand for our winter magazines at other places—I have hitherto in a great measure succeeded, but am now under the necessity of drawing supplies of Grain from whence it will be much wanted, unless some method can be fallen on to oblige the Farmers to part with a reasonable share of their Forage.

“The Resolve of Congress prohibiting the use of Wheat for Forage, even in the neighbourhood of the Army, will make it extremely difficult to provide a sufficiency of Forage, and we should have every aid that the Country Can give, of Grain of other kinds and of Hay—but my purchasers complain that the people in general keep back their Grain and hay in hopes of higher prices, tho’ they now receive very exorbitant rates, and when I have directed them to apply to the magistrates throughout this state, to impress Forage agreable to Law, it has not answerd our purpose, as we get but a small part of what we want and it is attended with much Delay.

“The person who purchases in the district round here assures me there are considerable quantities of Hay & Grain yet to spare, but the Neighbours judging for each other, do not direct a sufficient share to be spared for the Army and they will not part with more.

“Unless some remedy is found immediately I must draw Forage from a distance to this place if we remain here and it is equaly necessary to fall on some for the supply of Fish Kill, where we can not get any Quantity of Grain beyond the present Consumption there.

“As I am of Opinion the Country round us may yet subsist us for some time I request you will obtain such warrant or Orders from his Excellency Genl Washington as may answer the purpose or favour me with your Orders herein” (DLC:GW; see also Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 3:68–69).

2The resolution of Congress, dated 26 Oct., is in 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 , 12:1064.

3Greene is referring to “An Act for regulating Impresses of Forage and Carriages, and for billeting Troops within this State,” passed by the New York general assembly on 2 April 1778 (New York Assembly Journal, 2 April 1778, 105).

4GW did not comply with this request until 20 Nov.; see his letter to Greene of that date in Greene to GW, 20 Nov., n.2.

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