George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 5 August 1780

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Camp Verplanks point [N.Y.] August 5th 1780.


The time for which I engaged to act in the Qr Masters department at the request of the committee of Congress for cooperation is almost expired, and as I can not exercise the Office any longer consistant with my own safety; I am to request your Excellency will take measures for relieving me as soon as possible from the disagreeable predicament I am in.1 In the mean time I shall be exceedingly obliged to your Excellency for the sense you entertain of my conduct and services since I have been in the department, as you alone are the best judge of the propriety of one and merit of the other.2 The business is truly disagreeable and distressing, and has been so for a long time: notwithstanding, if it had been possible for me to have got through it this Campaign consistant with my own safety and the public good, upon the plan which Congress proposed, I would readily have done it. But from the knowledge I have of the department, I know it is utterly impossible to follow the system and answer the demands of the service; and to attempt it at this critical season, will most assuredly defeat our plan of operations and bring the Army into the greatest distress.

It would be a folly for me to attempt to combat the prejudices of public bodies with hopes of success; time alone can convince them that their measures are destructive of their true interest, as well as highly injurious to some of their most faithfull servants.

I am sensible my conduct has been viewed by many in a very improper light, and I am persuaded many think the business can be done with more method and at a less expence than it has been. I wish it may be the case; but am much mistaken if the nature of the business is capable of more system or will admit of less expence; if the plan of the war continues upon the present scale, and the Army on it’s present footing.

I have endeavoured to the utmost of my power to enter into the spirit and intention of your Excellencys measures and if my conduct has not been satisfactory to Government and to yourself, it has been owing to a want of abilities and not inclination. I am with great respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant

Nath. Greene M. General

LS, DLC:GW; DfS, NjP: De Coppet Collection; copy, CSmH: Greene Papers.

GW replied from Peekskill on 6 Aug.: “I have received Your Letter of Yesterday. When You quit the Department, I shall be happy to give You my sense of your conduct and I am persuaded it will be such, as will be entirely satisfactory. I cannot however forbear thinking that it will be u⟨na⟩dvisable in you, to leave the Department before the success of the Letters written from paramus by the Committee & Myself to Congress is known, and I entreat You to wait the issue of the application” (LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, MiU-C; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). For the letters to Congress, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 30 July, and n.1 to that document.

1For Greene’s resignation as quartermaster general, see his second letter to GW of 27 July. In his letter of 28 July to the Committee at Headquarters, Greene agreed to continue in the office for ten days (see 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 , 6:163; see also Committee at Headquarters to Greene, 28 July, in 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 , 15:516–17).

Index Entries