George Washington Papers

General Orders, 6 February 1779

General Orders

Head-Quarters Middle-Brook Saturday Feby 6th 1779.

Parole Leyden—C. Signs Kendal. Jago.

The Commander in Chief approves the orders issued by Major General Lord Stirling during his command at this camp1 and thanks him for his endeavours to preserve order and discipline and the property of the Farmers in the Vicinity of camp: He doubts not but—the officers of every rank from a just sense of the importance of securing to others, the blessings which they themselves are contending for, will use their utmost vigilance … to maintain these privileges, and prevent abuses as nothing can redound more to their personal honor and the reputation of their respective corps.

The views of Congress founded on the disadvantages which have arisen from the number of Purchasers or Contractors of hide and the absolute propriety of reducing the business of Contracts to a settled system for the sake of regularity in accounts, and equal justice to the troops, make it necessary to suspend the order of the 1st of January so far as it respects the distribution of hides; But the General will thank any officer for informing the Commissary of hides of the names of such persons as are willing to give shoes in exchange for raw hides and the Commissary is hereby ordered to contract for them accordingly and see that they are delivered to the Clothier General or his deputy for the use of the Army.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Adj. Gen. Alexander Scammell’s orderly book entry for this date includes the following additional general orders: “The Brigade Majors are to attend at the New Orderly Room precisely at Eleven OClock A.M. for orders.

“The Regimental Pay Masters are to call on the Pay Master Genl for Novembers pay.” (orderly book, 22 Dec. 1778–26 June 1779, DNA: RG 93, Orderly Books, 1775–1783, vol. 28).

After completing his trip from Philadelphia, GW again took up residence in the Wallace House, where he had established his headquarters on 11 Dec. 1778 (see GW to Nathanael Greene, 4 Dec. 1778, and n.2). The two-story house had four bedrooms on the upper floor. GW and Martha Washington occupied one room; GW’s aides-de-camp and secretaries took another; their hosts, John Wallace and his wife, Mary, filled a third; and the mother-in-law of Wallace, Mary Maddox (c.1681–1783), stayed in the fourth. (For Maddox’s obituary, see The Freeman’s Journal: or, North-American Intelligencer [Philadelphia], 27 Aug. 1783.) A room on the first floor served as a somewhat cramped office for GW and his staff. Situated just south of a main route, the Old York Road, that roughly paralleled the north bank of the Raritan River, the Wallace House was within six miles of the primary encampments at Middlebrook. John Wallace wrote a receipt at Raritan, N.J., on 4 June 1779, that reads: “Received of Major Gibbs one thousand dollars for the use of my house Furniture &c. &c. which His Excellency General Washington had for his Head quarters” (Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1, 1776–1780, DLC:GW, Ser. 5). In an entry also dated 4 June, GW’s secretary Caleb Gibbs described the payment to Wallace as being for “winter quarters” (Revolutionary War Household Expenses, 1776–1780, DLC:GW, Ser. 5).

GW’s principal subordinate generals occupied other private homes in the vicinity during the winter encampment. Q.M. Gen. Nathanael Greene was at the Derrick Van Veghten House about one mile east of the Wallace House. Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne and his staff occupied the Abraham Van Nest (Van Neste) House, and verbal confrontation between these officers and the homeowners caused a legal incident with local officials that eventually came to GW’s attention (see William Livingston to GW, 9 March; GW to Livingston, 23 March; GW to Anthony Wayne, 16 March; and Wayne to GW, 23 March). Major General Stirling stayed at the Philip Van Horne House at Phil’s Hill, roughly two miles east of the Wallace House. Major General Steuben lodged in the Abraham Staats House located about four miles east of the Wallace House. Brig. Gen. Henry Knox established his headquarters in the Jacobus Van Der Veer House approximately six miles north of the Wallace House.

GW had selected Middlebrook as an appropriate winter camp during the previous fall (see Greene to GW, 18 Oct. 1778; GW to Stirling, 24 Oct. 1778 [second letter]; and GW to Greene, 29 Oct. 1778). GW was familiar with the location from the Continental army’s encampment there between May and July 1777 (see Greene to GW, 24 May 1777, and n.4, and General Orders, 29 May 1777, and n.1 to that document). The position’s advantages were its defensibility amidst the Watchung Mountains that rose sharply from the level ground to the east, a distance close enough to New York City to monitor the British garrison at that place but far enough away (more than a day’s march) to essentially eliminate a surprise attack, and a road network that provided ready access north toward Morristown, south toward Princeton, or east toward New Brunswick or Elizabeth, all places where there were American units, installations, or magazines. To facilitate movement of a significant force in any direction and to avoid competition for wood and water, the troops at Middlebrook were camped in three distinct areas. The Pennsylvania camp was south of the Raritan River just west of the road to Princeton. The Virginia and Maryland camps on the other side of the Raritan River were about four miles to the northeast and within easy reach of roads leading toward New York City and the New Jersey coast. Just north of the crossroads village of Pluckemin, about seven miles from the Virginia and Maryland camps, an artillery park was erected under the Knox’s command. The troops camped at Middlebrook lived in tents until they could build wooden huts—or in the case of the artillery park, much more substantial barracks—that were completed by the early part of February 1779. For details on the Middlebrook encampment, and especially the artillery park, where workshops were constructed for artificers and armorers as well as an academy building for educational lectures, see Peter Angelakos, “The Army at Middlebrook, 1778–1779,” in Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, 70 (April 1952): 97–119; Carl E. Prince, Middlebrook–The American Eagle’s Nest, Somerville, N.J., 1958; Clifford Sekel, Jr., “The Continental Artillery in Winter Encampment at Pluckemin, New Jersey: December, 1778–June, 1779,” M.A. thesis, Wagner College, 1972; and John Lewis Seidel, “The Archaeology of the American Revolution: A Reappraisal & Case Study at the Continental Artillery Cantonment of 1778–1779, Pluckemin, New Jersey,” Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1987; see also the map of the Middlebrook encampment in this volume.

Responsibilities did not prevent GW from socializing while in camp. In a letter written at Middlebrook on 19 March, Greene informed Col. Jeremiah Wadsworth that there was “a little dance at my quarters a few Evenings past. His Excellency and Mrs [Catharine] Greene danced upwards of three hours without once sitting down. Upon the whole we had a pretty little frisk” (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 , 3:352–54). For GW’s attendance at an elaborate entertainment held on 18 Feb. at the artillery park to celebrate the first anniversary of the French alliance, see GW to William Maxwell, 16 Feb., and n.3. For an account of GW making a condolence visit about five miles from his headquarters to the home of a widow whose husband, Lt. John Brokaw (Brocaw), had been killed on 4 Oct. 1777 at the Battle of Germantown, see Snell, Hunterdon and Somerset description begins James P. Snell, comp. History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia, 1881. description ends , 686–87.

1Stirling had taken command of the Middlebrook encampment on 21 Dec. 1778 when GW had left it for Philadelphia. GW returned to Middlebrook some time on 5 Feb. (see GW to Patrick Henry, 7 Feb., and GW to Philip Schuyler, 11 Feb.). In a ledger entry for this date, GW charged an expenditure of $990 “To my Exps. in Phila to wch place I was called by Congress, & remained from the 22d of Decr to this date” (Revolutionary War Expense Account, 1775–1783, DLC:GW, Ser. 5).

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