George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 19 April 1779

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Camp [Middlebrook] April 19th 1779.


I wrote Your Excellency the 24th of February upon the necessity of enlisting a Corps of Waggoners for the War.1 There is almost two Months elapsed, and nothing decided upon the question. The season is now almost past for engaging this Class of people; the operations of the Campaign near at hand; and the army without Waggoners. What is to be done in this case? is the question. I must beg your Excellency’s advice in the matter; as not a moments time is to be lost in determining decisively upon the affair.

With the utmost exertions; and with the most liberal encouragement, I am persuaded it will not be in our power to procure one half the necessary number, that will be indispensably necessary.

Inclos’d is an estimate of the number that will be wanted to act with the army, besides all those employed in conveying Provisions; Forage and Stores upon the different communications—But these being generally private property Teams, find their own drivers.2

From the different accounts I have had from the Deputy Quarter Masters respecting the wages given for private employ, and from the opinion of the Forage Master, and Waggon Masters General, I don’t think there is the least probability of engaging Waggoners short of, between thirty and forty pounds a month. Wages are rising daily, and the difficulty of engaging men for this business hourly increasing.

The undecided condition that this business has lain in, before Congress and the Board of war, will not only, greatly increase the expence; but multiply the difficulties, as well as disappoint us of getting a proper complement of Waggoners for the various purposes of the Army.

There is nothing now left, but to try to engage as many Waggoners as we can, and upon the best terms we can. I shall set about the business with all immaginable diligence the moment I receive Your Excellency’s Instructions.

I have pointed out the number and expence, and Your Excellency will judge of the expediency.3 I am With due respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant

Nathl Greene Q.M.G.

LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NjP: De Coppet Collection.

1Greene is referring to his letter to GW of 25 February. 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 , 3:298–99, n.1, for a discussion of the background to Greene’s recommendation regarding the enlistment of wagoners for the war and Congress’s actions on this matter.

2The enclosed undated “Estimate of public Teams, which will require Waggoners to drive them—including the Artillery Drivers—necessary to attend with the army,” signed by Greene, is in 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 , 3:418–19.

3GW replied on this date: “I have received your letter of this day containing a representation on the subject of Waggoners—It will be impossible, in the reduced state of the army, that the number required can be furnished by drafts from the line—No alternative therefore remains but to engage them otherwise in the best manner and on the best terms you can; and as the time presses, on account of the early movement of the army which is intended, not a moment is to be lost in setting about it. As you are going to Philadelphia, when you arrive there, you can report to Congress or the Board of war, the measures you are taking and the necessity that dictated them & receive their further directions” (DLC:GW).

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