George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Massachusetts Council, 28 August 1780

To the Massachusetts Council

Head Quarters near the liberty Pole [N.J.]
August 28th 1780


I have been duly honored with your letter of the 16th.

I am much obliged to the Council for the loan of the Arms, and am persuaded they have spared all that were in their power. I believe they have been misinformed about the number of Arms at Springfield—By the last return there were two thousand muskets capable of repair, and about sixteen thousand Gun barrels, which being mounted would be fit for service—But that fundamental defect in our affairs the want of money prevents our availing ourselves of the resources otherwise in our power and obstructs the activity of every department—A representation is gone to the Board of War entreating them to take every method in their power for having the above Arms put in a condition for service as speedily as possible.1

The late advices from Europe have materially altered the immediate prospects of the Campaign, and placed the probability of any capital operation at a much greater distance than was expected. I have therefore written to General Heath to dismiss all the Militia at Rhode Island as soon as they shall be judged no longer necessary to our allies. The extreme distress we are in on the score of supplies would have compelled us to this, even had not circumstances enabled us to dispense for the present with their services2—Such part of the Militia of your State as had come on to the Army have been stationed at West Point, where their continuance is still necessary; for even with their aid, our force is only equal to the defensive.3

I beg leave to observe that I do not think in ⟨the present posture of our affairs we ought to discontinue our efforts to fill the Continental batalions—we ought to be prepared for events, which without⟩ this we shall not be—and as to the supplies required, they are necessary in all cases to the subsistence of the Army. The letter accompanying this will show how deplorable our situation is in this respect.4 With every sentiment of respect and esteem I have the honor to be Sir Your Most Obedient & hum. Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, M-Ar; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Faded material on the LS is supplied in angle brackets from the draft, which is in the writing of GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton.

1The Board of War compiled a return dated 27 Oct. of “Small Arms” at various posts on 30 Sept.; listed were 4,895 muskets “wanting repairs” at Springfield, Mass., along with “16,839 Gun Barrels, many of which may be made serviceable” (DNA:PCC, item 148; see also Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., to GW, 9 Aug, n.6).

2GW no longer anticipated attacking New York City (see GW to James Bowdoin and to William Heath, both this date).

4See Circular to the States, 27 August.

Massachusetts Council president James Bowdoin replied to GW on 7 Sept.: “Your Letters dated August 27th and 28th Last have been received, and considered by this Board. The Causes that alone have operated to lessen our Quota of Supplies of provision, have been an extreem Drought and want of Cash, however no endeavours have been wanting that then appeared necessary, fully to comply with the requisition of the United States, on this. The most absolute demands on the several Towns in this State, have been made to fill our Battalions in the Continental Army, that perhaps ever was made in a Free State.

“The General Assembly are this Day convened; your Particular requests will be immediately laid before them, and as the first cause abovementioned in some degree ceases, we doubt not, every possible untryed measure will be taken, to fill our Battalions and Compleat our Quota of National Supplies” (LS, DLC:GW; GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman docketed the letter: “recd 24th”). For the quotas, see Circular to the States, 2 June, n.1. Bowdoin also advised the Massachusetts legislature on 7 Sept. about GW’s letters on “the critical situation of the army with respect to provisions … We have reason to be thankfull that thro the indulgent hand of Providence our Country is full of provisions of every kind, nothing but money is wanting, most, if not all our embarrassments originate from this quarter” (“Mass. Council Journal,” Sept.-Oct. 1780 sess.).

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