George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 7 December 1779

To Major General Nathanael Greene

Hd Qrs Morristown 7 Decr 1779


I received your letter of the 6th last night but being engaged with the committee of Congress1 I could not answer it till now.

Should you on a review of the ground think the alteration essentially necessary you may give orders for the connecticut line taking the position you have mentioned, or any other convenient one.2 I am sir &c.

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

1GW is referring to a congressional committee composed of delegates Philip Schuyler and Henry Marchant, who issued a report from Morristown on this date: “The Committee appointed to repair to Head Quarters for the purposes mentioned In the resolutions of Congress of the 30th ult: beg leave to report.

“That having laid before the Commander In Chief the resolutions of Congress they were charged with and the papers referred to In the same. His Excellency was pleased to furnish Your Committee with Copy of a letter he had the honor to Adress Congress on the 29th ult.—that they perfectly agree with his Excellency on the propriety of detatching the Virginia line to reinforce the Forces under the Command of Major General Lincoln, That the reasons given by his Excellency in the letter referred to for Conveying them thither by water appear to Your Committee Conclusive They therefore Intreat permission to Recommend that the Commander of the French fleet now on Cheasapeck Bay Should be pressed to afford Sufficient Convoy and the necessity of It urged on the principles Stated In the Generals letter, and on the recommendation of the Minister of france ‘that the Attention of Congress should be Given to the Overtures made by Don Juan de Miralles.’

“Your Committee beg leave further to Observe that so Capital a detatchment from this Army, Considering the Extensive posts to be maintained & the Enemys position and force, may Induce them to an offensive operation against It, which In the decreased Stretngth of the Army when the virginia troops Shall be detatched, would they Concieve be attended with at least very disagreable If not ruinous Consequences: they therefore humbly recommend that Immediate and decisive measures should be adopted To draw from the Several States in the union their respective Quotas to Compleat the battallions now on the Establishment as they humbly Conceive that the Militia which the Commander In Chief is Impowered by the seventh resolution to Call Into the field is a resource too precarious to be depended upon In the present Situation of Affairs.

“Your Committee beg leave further to report that having conferred with the Commander In Chief on the Subject Matter of the papers transmitted to Congress by the Minister of France & Don Juan de Mirallis, they find his Excellency’s Sentiments perfectly Co-Inciding with theirs on the Subject, to wit. That It would be highly Imprudent to Enter on any Offensive Operation against any of the Enemys fortifications Or forces south of Georgia, previous to the reduction or expulsion of the British Force from that State. It is therefore humbly Submitted that It Should be proposed to their most Christian & Catholic Majestys Ambassadors Agents Governors or Commanders, that a fleet In Such force of both or either of said powers as would in all probability Insure a Superiority on the Coasts South of South Carolina over any british naval force which may reasonably be Expected In that Quarter, should be sent as Early as possible to Charles Town together with five thousand land forces to Operate In Con-Junction with what American force may be In that quarter against the British in Georgia, that after having reduced or expelled the Enemy from that State, the Combined force should proceed to the reduction of the british Garrisons In East or West Florida as should be deemed most Expedient by the Contracting parties, And that having Accomplished this or faild In the operations the American troops Should be reconvoyed to Such of the united States as may be agreed upon.

“Your Committee beg leave to Observe on that part of the paper delivered by Don Juan de Miralles which regards a Supply of provisions for the Inhabitants of the City of Havanna and Isle of Cuba, That It would be Improper to make a pointed promise to furnish Such Supply In part or the whole until It is put beyond all doubt, that there will be a Surplus after the Army and Navy of the united States, and the fleet of our Ally, are amply provided. That nevertheless as an Inducement to procure a Spanish force to Cooperate with our troops In Georgia, If they cannot do It without an aid in point of provision, some risk Should be run and a dependance put on Extraordinary exertions to procure provisions In this Quarter for our own Army. All which Is humbly Submitted” (DNA:PCC, item 33; a copy of this report is in DLC:GW). For the formation of this committee, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 20 Nov., and the source note to that document. For the proposals submitted through Juan de Miralles, see his letter to GW, 29 Nov., and n.2 to that document; see also GW to Miralles, this date.

Schuyler conveyed private observations in a letter to New York delegate Robert R. Livingston written at Morristown on Tuesday, 7 Dec.: “I arrived early on Sunday morning. Mr Marchant didn’t Join me until Yesterday at noon. The General has Confidentially Communicated to me his apprehensions from the distressed State of our public affairs, his army is scantily fed from hand to mouth and Such a Scarcity of Forrage prevails that he has been under the necessity of permitting a very large number of horses to go to such a distance from Camp that a Sudden push of the Enemies unless he Could maintain his Ground would expose him to the Mortification of losing his Stores. The public officers are without money and Incredibly In debt In that Every Specie of distress is Experienced In this Quarter and Confident I am It will Increase to such a degree as will bring on a Seperation of the Army, or the necessity of living on free quarter, unless the most Speedy & Strenous exertions are gone Into to Supply provisions & Cash, For Gods Sake urge that Something be done with the Money, that is to Establish It at some rate of depreciation, that only can and will relieve us.

“Pray let no time be lost In Calling on the States to Compleat their Quotas of troops, but do not ask It as supplicants. Alarm them by a true State of your Situation and Call on them In a tone of authority. …

“If Mr. Blaine does not Accept of the Commissariate pray offer It to Mr. Royal Flint who will be Supported In the duty of office by Wadsworth. G. Greene Informs me that Flint is a man of Business & resource” (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 14:254–55).

Schuyler and Marchant delivered their report to Congress on 11 Dec. (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 15:1368–70). A notation on the docket of the manuscript report indicates that it was referred to delegates Livingston, John Mathews, and Roger Sherman, who formed a committee to draft a response. The committee reported to Congress on 16 Dec. and recommended a resolution that reads: “Resolved, That General Lincoln, or the Commanding Officer for the time being in the Southern Department, be, and he is hereby authorized and empowered, to correspond and concert with the Governour of Havanna, or any other person or persons properly authorized by his Catholick Majesty, such plan as shall in his opinion be best calculated to insure the reduction of the enemy’s force in the State of Georgia; and that the State of South Carolina be requested to afford every assistance in their power for carrying the same into effect” (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 15:1386–88; see also 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 15:1381). Congress approved the resolution on the same date (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 15:1388–89).

2Despite GW’s authorization, Greene did not relocate the winter encampment for the Connecticut troops.

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