George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 3 September 1780

From Brigadier General Anthony Wayne

Camp Liberty Pole [N.J.] Sepr 3rd 1780

Dear sir

When I was first informed of the discontent that pervaded the whole of the Field Officers of the Pennsa line on acct of the appointment of Major Macpherson to a Command in the Light Infantry—it gave me much pain, but when I found the effect it had on their minds was such as would probably produce a General resignation, I felt every sensation that could possibly take place in a breast, Interested—deeply Interested in the fate of this Country1—I saw the train of evils which would inevitably follow—I dreaded the dissolution of a line upon which the fate of America in a great degree depended. I looked forward to an other Campaign—I reviewed this Army in the State it would be reduced to by the middle of January, when the mass of people who now compose it would return to their respective States2—except those engaged for the War—among’t whom—few very few of the Pennsa line would remain—having no local attatchment to detain them after the dissolution of a Corps of Officers with whom they had so often fought & bled—& who they loved & Esteemed.

but when in Idea I saw your Excellency at the head of a Debilitated Corps, obliged to give way before a powerful & Dessolating Army, experiencing the most poignant distress at the Devestation which you could not prevent.

these considerations gave a sensation which the nicest feelings—& truest friendship only knows the force of, the agitation in which you must have seen me—The Indifatigable pains I took to divert the Gentlemen from their purpose, Genl Irvine’s & my own letters to you, & the Inclosed to the field Officers, must convince your Excellency that we did not at this alarming crisis—remain Idle, torpid unconcerned spectators.3

Yet there has not been wanting Invidious Incendiaries; capable of Insinuating (even to some of your Excellency’s family) that from being disappointed in a Command I was fond of4—I had (in place of preventing a most fatal disaster) endeavoured to lay a train which in it’s consequences might porcepitate this Country into ruen.

I don’t know whether most to pity or detest, the weakness of the head—or the badness of the heart—of that man who knowing me—could be capable of sporting so base an Idea.

a Conduct of this nature is only suited to those whose Condition in Domestick life can not be worsted by any change of fortune, this is not my Situation. I have with your Excellency & many others every Inducement to wish a happy & speedy termination of this contest and now anxiously wait for—& will with avidity seize the moment in which I can (with safety to my Country) return to Domestick life—a life that I am fond of—& where I shall be free from, & escape those Invidious Innuendo’s, that I have ground to believe have in other Quarters—& upon other Occations been lately practiced with too much success.

will you have the goodness to pardon this Intrusion & attribute it to the feelings of a Soldier jealous—very jealous of his honor—and who experiences some consolation by communicating them to his General & his friend, which is all the relief that Circumstances will admit of until fortune will be so kind as to unmask the man5—who in the Dark—& by the darkest Innuendo’s has stabed at the Character of your Excellency’s Most Obt & Affectionate Huml. Sert6

Anty Wayne

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NjP: De Coppet Collection; copy, NHi: Reed Papers.

1For this controversy, see Wayne and William Irvine to GW, 10 Aug.; see also GW to the Board of War, 29 March 1779, and n.2 to that document.

3The enclosure was Wayne and Brig. Gen. William Irvine’s letter to Pennsylvania’s Continental field officers written at Tappan on 12 Aug.: “Let us intreat you by the sacred ties of honor, friendship & Patriotism—well to consider the measure recommended by us last evening, & however your feelings may be wounded—reflect that ages yet to come may owe their happiness, or misery—to the dicission of this hour.

“Your own fate is so Involved with that of your Country’s—that the same cause which hurts the one, will mortally Wound the other.

“for god’s sake be as a band of brothers & rise superior to every Injury—whether real or Imaginary—at least for this Campaign, which probably will produce a Conviction to the World—that America owes her freedom to the temporary sacrifise you now make.

“You will also reflect that this is a favor solicited by men, who would bleed to Death drop by drop—to defend your honor. … N.B. at all events do not come to a final decission (should it be contrary to this request) before 7. OClock in the morning when we may have something to offer that may meet your Approbation” (DLC:GW).

Also enclosed was Irvine’s letter to Wayne written at 2:00 P.M. on the same date: “I have this moment received information (in confidence) that the Captains & Subalterns have caught the flame—and say they are determined not to rise on the ruin or disgrace of the Field Officers—should their resignations be accepted, but will soon follow them—Pray should not His Excellency be privately Acquainted with this additional distressing circumstance—something however ought to be done instantly—but what that something is I know not—my mind is at present so agitated I have scarce a single Idea left—for Gods sake—but I need not urge you I know how you also feel & how you have already exerted your abilities” (DLC:GW; Irvine wrote “Private” on the cover).

4Wayne likely refers to Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair’s selection as the Light Infantry’s temporary commander (see General Orders, 3 Aug.; see also Wayne to GW, 10 Feb. 1779).

5Wayne wrote “Caitiff” rather than “man” in the draft.

6GW replied to Wayne from headquarters in Bergen County on 6 Sept. 1780: “I have received your letter of the 3d and return you my warmest thanks for your professions of friendship. These are the more pleasing as I am convinced they are founded in the strictest sincerity—and I hope it is needless for me to tell you at this time, that an equal regard for you, prevails on my part. I am concerned however, that you should have given yourself the trouble of writing me on the subject of your Letter. I did not want any assurances or any proofs upon the point, because I entertain no idea, that you encouraged the unhappy measure, to which you allude, and which I wish to be buried in oblivion. Your former assurances—your anxiety to which I was a witness—the interesting part you took to compromise & settle the matter were sufficient to remove every belief of the sort.

“I do not know with certainty the person to whom you allude, as having attempted to injure you; but from what I have heard and not without much pain, it is probable I could conjecture who it is. If I am not mistaken with respect to the person I mean, I can with the greatest truth assure you, that he never mentioned a syllable to me in his life injurious to you in the least possible degree, nor have I any reason to believe that he ever did to any Gentn of my Family.

“The bare report of a coolness which is said to subsist between you & the Gentn I have in view, has given me great concern, because I have a warm friendship for both & consider harmony essential to our interest. There is nothing if he is the person, which would give me more pleasure than to hear that you were in perfect amity again.

“Let it be the case—let all differences subside—the situation of our affairs never required it more—and in the emphatical terms of your and General Irvine’s letter of which you inclosed a copy—Let all be as a band of Brothers & rise superior to every injury whether real or imaginary and persevere in the arduous but glorious struggle in which we are engaged, till peace & Independence are secured to our Country. I am certain you will do it” (ALS, NNGL, on deposit at NNPM; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

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