George Washington Papers

General Orders, 27 November 1779

General Orders

Head-Quarters Moores House [West Point]
saturday Novr 27th [1779]

Parole Landaff. C. Signs Lexington Leeds.

The Honorable the Congress have been pleased to pass the following proclamation.

Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach Almighty God with gratitude and praise for the wonders which His goodness has wrought in conducting our fore fathers to this western world—protecting them and their posterity & raising us their children from deep distress to be numbered among the Nations of the Earth—for arming the hands of just and mighty Princes in our deliverance and especially that he has been pleased to grant us health and plenty—hath prospered our Arms and those of our Ally—shielded our troops in the hour of danger and led them to Victory—that he went forth with them against the savage tribes—stayed the hand of the spoiler and turned back his meditated destruction—that He hath prospered our commerce, given success to those who have fought the enemy on the face of the deep, and above all that He hath diffused the glorious light of the Gospel; Therefore Resolved—That it be recommended to the several States to appoint thursday the ninth of December next to be a day of public and solemn Thanksgiving to Almighty God for His mercies and of prayer for the continuance of His favor & protection to these United States—to beseech His gracious influence on our public councils—that He would go forth with our hosts and crown our arms with victory—grant the plentiful effusions of divine grace to His Church—bless and prosper the means of education and spread the light of Christianity through the Earth—that He would crown the labor of his people with plenty—that He would take into his holy protection our illustrious Ally—give him Victory over his enemies and render him signally great as the father of his people and the Protector of the rights of Mankind—that He would be graciously pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies and dispense the blessings of peace to contending Nations—that He would in mercy pardon our sins and receive us into His favor and finally that He would establish the Independence of these United-States upon the basis of religion and virtue and support and protect them in the enjoyment of Peace, Liberty & Safety.1

A strict observance to be paid by the Army to this proclamation2 and the Chaplains are to prepare and deliver discourses suitable to it.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW. A notation at the end of this general order explained the absence of general orders between 28 Nov. and 2 Dec.: “The Army marching by Divisions and Brigades into Winter Quarters” (DLC:GW).

Pvt. Elijah Fisher, then with the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, wrote an entry in his diary for 30 Nov., presumably a misdate for 29 Nov., when GW departed West Point: “His Exelency and likewise the guard left West Point and Come to New Winsor and Encampt” (Fisher’s Journal, description begins Wm. B. Lapham, ed. Elijah Fisher’s Journal while in the War for Independence, and Continued Two Years After He Came to Maine. 1775–1784. Augusta, Maine, 1880. description ends 13). For GW’s movements from West Point to Morristown, N.J., see his letters to Samuel Huntington, 29 Nov., and to Nathanael Greene, 30 Nov.; see also GW to Huntington, 2 Dec., n.1. A record in GW’s expense book for 30 Nov. indicates the payment of £8 cash for “1 quarter Venison” (household account book, 11 April 1776–21 Nov. 1780, DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 28).

An undated record in GW’s expense book written just before the entry for 8 Dec. indicates a total outlay of 25 pounds, 10 shillings in cash spent “at sund[r]y places on the March from New Windsor to Morris Town—to quarters” (household account book, 11 April 1776–21 Nov. 1780, DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 28).

GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Kidder Meade prepared a receipt dated 23 Dec. to validate “Expences paid, for the Genls fam[i]ly on the march from West Point.” He expended $40 for accommodations at “Colo. [Gilbert] Drakes”; $40 for accommodations at Suffern, N.Y.; $30 for accommodations at Pompton, N.J.; $60 “at West Point for Bargemen”; and $50 for accommodations at Springfield, New Jersey. His reimbursement totaled $220 (Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1, 1776–1780, DLC:GW, ser. 5).

1In its 14 Oct. session, Congress resolved “to set apart the second Thursday in December next as a day of general thanksgiving” and appointed a four-member committee “to prepare a recommendation” (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 15:1170–71). Congress considered, revised, and adopted the committee’s proposal on 20 Oct. (see 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 1191–93).

2Pvt. Zebulon Vaughan of the 5th Massachusetts Regiment recorded in his diary for 9 Dec.: “no dutey to day one [on] acounte of a geniral thanksgiven this hapned well for poor Solders” (Wood, “Vaughan Journal,” description begins Virginia Steele Wood, ed. “The Journal of Private Zebulon Vaughan, Revolutionary Soldier, 1777–1780.” Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine 113 (1979): 101–14, 256–57, 320–31, 478–85, 487. description ends 329). Pvt. Benjamin Gilbert of the same regiment wrote in his diary entry for that date: “Thanksgiving throughout the United States” (Symmes, Gilbert Diary, description begins Rebecca D. Symmes, ed. A Citizen-Soldier in the American Revolution: The Diary of Benjamin Gilbert in Massachusetts and New York. Cooperstown, N.Y., 1980. description ends 61). Lt. William McKendry of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment, then camped near West Point, recorded in his diary for 9 Dec.: “Thanksgiving-day the Troops drew one Gill of Rum” (Sullivan Expedition Journals, description begins Frederick Cook, ed., and George S. Conover, comp. Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779 With Records of Centennial Celebrations. Auburn, N.Y., 1887. description ends 211). At Morristown, Sgt. Ebenezer Parkman, Jr., who served with the artificers, wrote in his diary entry for that date: “A Continental Thanksgiving” (MWA: Parkman Family Papers). Col. Israel Angell’s diary entry for 9 Dec., however, indicated normal army activities as his command approached their winter encampment at Morristown (see Field, Angell Diary, description begins Edward Field, ed. Diary of Colonel Israel Angell, Commanding the Second Rhode Island Continental Regiment during the American Revolution, 1778–1781. Providence, 1899. description ends 101; see also 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 145).

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