George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Israel Putnam, 10 February 1779

To Major General Israel Putnam

Head Quarters Middlebrook 10th Febry 1779.

Dr Sir

Your several favors of the 25th and 26th Ultimo met me in Philadelphia.1

To give a just decision in Captain Scudders affair, a more perfect knowlege of the subject is necessary than what I have yet acquired, and perhaps an acquaintance with circumstances which it may be difficult if not impossible to obtain. It appears to me a mixed case, and such a one as may be better decided by Governor Clinton and those on the spot.2

You need not be told of the disadvantages attending leaving a post of importance, even at a time, when we may suppose the season and other causes would check or prevent any operations of the enemy—But there are other considerations; which respect the discipline, the order, and, particular gover[n]ment of the command, and which require the constant attention of a superior officer. However as you think it adviseable to throw out a sheet anchor I could wish to accommodate matters to your request. You will therefore on Genl Parsons and General Huntingtons return, (which you think will be some time in march,) if you find the service will then admit of your going home, use that opportunity. But you will make your stay as short as possible, as it is altogether uncertain when you may be wanted.

The absence, at this time, of Gen. Parsons and Genl Huntington, is matter of some surprise. The intervals which the former in particular has already enjoyed and lately too, one would have thought sufficient for the purpose of settling every thing of a private or domestic nature.3 We should not suffer ourselves to be led from the line of our service by A mere desire to see our friends, or to arrange affairs, not really of the last importance.4

I would just add in addition to what I have said in my lettre of the 8th of last month dated Philadelphia on the subject of the distribution of cloathing a copy of a letter written to General Huntington while the army lay at Fredericksburgh. This will serve to shew you more fully that the discrimination complained of was not of my making—but in consequence of the earnest solicitations of those who have since undertaken to complain.5 Am d. Sir &c.

P.[S.] You have herewith the general order of the 7th Instant for recruiting or reinlisting. Money is expected momently from Philadelphia when it arrives I shall immediately send over your proportion that you may be enabled to put the order into execution.6

Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The contents of this letter indicate that GW is responding to Putnam’s letters of 24 and 25 January. No letter of 26 Jan. from Putnam to GW has been found.

2GW continued to avoid entanglement in the case of William Smith Scudder, a privateer captain (see GW to Putnam, 9 and 21 March; George Clinton to GW, February; Putnam to GW, 2 March).

3Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons apparently secured leave during October 1778 (see Parsons to GW, 26 Oct. 1778). For Brig. Gen. Jedediah Huntington’s return from leave in early March and Parsons’s return in early April, see Putnam to GW, 4 and 28 March and 1 April, and Parsons to GW, 29 March.

4At this place on the manuscript, McHenry wrote and then struck out the following two sentences: “By attending too much to ourselves the public may be injured in a very capital degree. We should never forget that our own property as well as that of the publics depends on individual exertions.”

5This enclosure, which has not been found, probably was a copy of GW’s letter to Jedediah Huntington of 19 Nov. 1778.

6For the sending of recruiting money, see GW to Alexander McDougall and Putnam, 14 February.

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