George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 7 May 1779

From Major General Horatio Gates

Providence [R.I.] 7th May 1779.


I am sorry to be Obliged to acquaint Your Excellency with the great Distress of the public Af⟨fairs⟩ in this Department; First for want of Bread, & next for want of Money to pay the Troops, who have now more than Six Months Arrears due to them. The Arrival of some Flour lately has relieved us in a degree from the Complaints occasion’d by the total want of that article, but not before three dangerous Mutinies had broke out, occasion’d by the Deficiencies here mentioned. These have happily been Suppress’d; but I dread the Consequence, should a Fourth take place for the want of Money, The Troops having become Clamarous for Their pay—a few days ago I dispatch’d the D.P.M. General from hence, with Orders not to Return without The Money; as yet, I have no Tidings of That, or Him, I beg Your Excellency will Instantly forward the inclosed packet to Congress. I will not by my Silence become responsible for Misfortunes that do not Originate From my neglect to exercise the powers of my Command.1 I am Sir Your Excellencys most Obedient Servant

Horatio Gates

P.S. I entreat Your Excellencys immedia⟨te⟩ Direction in regard to the inclosed Letter from Commissary Waterman, and the papers herein contain’d; The Same Money demanded, is more than the ammount of the Soldiers daily pay. By This, I do not mean to blame Gen. Sullivans proceedings. I only want to be Justifyed as to my Own.2

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NHi: Gates Papers.

1The contents of the enclosed packet to Congress have not been identified, but probably included letters from Gates enclosed in William Heath to GW, 8 May, and Royal Flint to GW, 10 May. On 23–24 April, the 2d Rhode Island Regiment mutinied at Warren, R.I., demanding pay, as Ens. Jeremiah Greenman described in his diary entry for that date: “this Evening about ten oClock the biger part of the Regt. turn’d out in Muterny under arms / paraded & took Comm’d of the artillery ware they stayed about two Hours / gitting No Answer from the Colo. to satisfy them thay push’d off for providance / marcht within two milds of the ferry ware they halted & sent to Genl. Gates. Genl. Glover came to them / Sum Incurrigement being given them thay return’d back to warren in the morning at Nine oClock and disband’d / thay informed us that had sent a Commity to Providance to make a proper Complaint.” The committee to Providence returned on the following day bearing promises that pay would arrive by 1 May, and Gates wrote to Congress on 27 April asking for an immediate outlay so that he could pay off the troops. The money did not arrive by the end of the month, however, and the troops evidently resumed their mutinous behavior before Congress resolved on 11 May to issue $33,333 to Gates; two months would pass before they mutinied again (see Greenman, Diary description begins Robert C. Bray and Paul E. Bushnell, eds. Diary of a Common Soldier in the American Revolution, 1775-1783: An Annotated Edition of the Military Journal of Jeremiah Greenman. DeKalb, Ill., 1978. description ends , 135, 138; 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 , 14:569–70; and Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 12:451–52).

2The enclosed letter from assistant commissary Asa Waterman to Gates, dated 4 May at Providence, R.I., reads: “I Inclose Extract of Majr Genll Sullivan Orders of Septr 13th 1778 for Your Considaration Conserning parts of Rations to be Delivered The Army, Wherein he orders in lue of peas Milk & Beer as Allowed by Congress in June 1777 being 3/10 of A Ration which is now Estimated at 1/6 L[awful] M[one]y they will have the same Value in Potatoes & Onions Delivered to them Daily.

“Agreeable to the Above Order I procured all the Above Articals to be had in my District And Larg Quantities of Onions brought from Connecticut & have Delivered them to the Issuing Commissaries, the Deficiencies I have paid Regular Every Month by the Certificates of the Issuing Comys of the sums due, by Genll Sullivan Order in the Accounts, and as the ⟨same⟩ Cannot be Had, and Your Honor now being Appointed to the Command of this Department, & Several Certificats Yet Unpaid should be Glad of your Honors Orders Conserning the payment for The same if Allowed” (DLC:GW).

Gates also enclosed extracts from Maj. Gen. John Sullivan’s orders of 10 and 13 Sept. 1778, as mentioned in Waterman’s letter. The orders of 10 Sept. read: “‘Congress having by resolve the 26th last Month empowered the Commander in Cheif of this Department to determine the Rations to be Issued to the Troops from Time to Time Giving of [ ] in lieu and in full Satisfaction of such that are scarce and not to be had and which have been heretofore being deemed part of the Rations.’ The Genl requests Genl Glover and the Officers commanding Corps in his Brigade & Col. Jacksons Detachment to meet tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock and fix upon what in their opinion will be the most suitable and Just Rations Delt out to the Troops.”

The orders of 13 Sept. read: “The Commissary will deliver the troops the following Rations each day ⅌ Man (Vizt) one Pound and an half of Beef or in lieu thereof Eighteen ounces of Pork one Pound of Bread five days in a week or flour and Two days Equivalent in Rice—in lieu of Pease Milk or Beer as allowed by Congress in June 1777. being three tenths of a Ration which is now Estimated at one shilling & six pence Lawful Money—They will have the same value in potatoes and Onions deliverd to them dailey—The Soap and Rice making 1 Tenth to be delivered according to the above mentioned Resolve” (DLC:GW; another copy of these orders is in DLC:GW).

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