George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 9 September 1780

To Samuel Huntington

Head Quarters Bergen County 9th Sepr 1780


I have been informed that large quantities of Goods, proper for the use of the Army, have lately arrived to the Eastward, in the prizes captured out of the Quebec Fleet.1 The disappointment of not receiving the Cloathing expected from France by the Alliance Frigate, and the uncertainty of the safe arrival of the Ariel, on board of which it is said it was afterwards to have been shipped, (but which by some mischance may be again neglected,)2 would make a purchase of part of the goods abovementioned, a most desirable object.3 I cannot just now obtain a⟨n⟩ exact return of the woolen Cloathing in the public Magazines, but to the best of my recollection it does not amount to three thousand compleat suits including what came in the Alliance, and I am inclined to think that the greater part of our old stock is of a very inferior quality, and scarcely worth wearing.

Your Excellency will perceive from the above state, what will be our situation the ensuing Winter, should we again meet with a disappointment, or should the quantity fall short of our expectations. It is a matter so extremely important, that I cannot help taking the liberty of submitting to Congress the expediency of immediately securing as much Cloth and linen as will be adequate to the wants of the Army. Should a sufficient stock afterwards arrive, and should it be found inconvenient, on account of the state of our finances, to keep this purchase, I should suppose the Goods might be easily disposed of without loss to the public.

I have the honor to transmit your Excellency a letter I received yesterday from Majr Genl Howe inclosing one from Brig. Genl Nixon, upon the subject of the latters resignation, which can only be accepted by Congress. I should hope they will indulge General Nixon in his request.4 I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect Sir Yr Excellency’s most obt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. I have received information of an intended embarkation of troops from New York, said to be bound to the southward—but matters were not in sufficient forwardness to ascertain the number,5 the destination, or whether there was any real foundation for the repo⟨rt⟩.6

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 12 Sept. and ordered that “so much of General Washington’s letter as relates to cloathing be referred to the Board of War” (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 , 18:819).

1See William Heath to GW, 13 Aug., and n.5 to that document.

3GW wrote Huntington from headquarters near New Bridge, N.J., on 10 Sept.: “In the letter which I did myself the honor of writing to you yesterday (respecting the Cloths taken in the Quebec Fleet) I forget to mention, tho’ it was fully my intention to have done it, that the Cargo’s of those Vessels consisted in part of Salted Beef & Porke, the securing of which (if good) would be of infinite advantage to the Army in any operation—or for the Garrison at West point if none can be undertaken.

“The propriety & practicability of such a purchase is now submitted to the consideration of Congress” (ALS, DNA:PCC, item 152; ADfS, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). Congress read this letter on 14 Sept. and referred it to the Board of War (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 , 18:824).

GW also wrote the Massachusetts Council from headquarters near Hackensack Bridge, N.J., on 12 Sept.: “Notwithstanding the second division expected from France has not arrived, we have good reason to think it will make it’s appearance before it is long upon our coast, or that the Chevalier de Ternay will receive, at any rate, a reinforcement which will give him a naval superiority in these seas. If this should be the case, the delicate and pressing situation of our affairs will require, that we avail ourselves of the succour if it shall be practicable, in some way or other. The circumstances of the season may be such possibly, as to prevent any operation in this quarter, but still perhaps something may be attempted elsewhere with a good prospect of success and advantage. But this will depend on the means we have of subsisting our Troops. At present, unfortunately for us, were we in the fullest possession of a naval superiority and the fairest opportunities were to present themselves for striking a stroke, we could not transport even a small body of Troops to any point, however interesting & certain the Object, for want of Salt provisions. From these considerations, it is a matter of the greatest importance that we should have a supply immediately procured if it is possible. Every thing may depend upon it, and must, so far as any Enterprise is attempted, except against New York. I have heard that a very considerable quantity of beef & Pork was captured in the Quebec fleet. If this is the fact, it seems to be the only source from which we can hope to obtain a supply—and from the necessity of the case I take the liberty to entreat You will endeavour to secure it. I would wish, at least, Four Thousand barrels to be provided, if it be by any means practicable, and I am certain the Council will render the States the most essential service by the measure. But if after all—events should occur to make this supply unnecessary—the provision will not prove an incumbrance on their hands—and will always bring it’s cost. I confide in the goodness of the Council to excuse this freedom and persuade myself, that they will most readily place the application to the motives which have really produced it.

“I am pained to inform Your Honourable body that our distresses for meat still continue pressing & alarming. The supplies we have received, including the Cattle which have been exacted from the Inhabitants of this state and in many instances to their entire ruin & which have made no inconsiderable part, have been little more than sufficient to satisfy a third of our necessary demands. The Troops on some occasions have been even four & five days without a mouthful of meat. Complaints & murmuring—a relaxation of discipline—marauding—robbery and desertion are the consequences; and indeed it is to be wondered at, th⟨at⟩ they have not prevailed to a much greater extent. I am satisfied things cannot continue long in their present situation” (LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit at PPAmP; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). The anticipated French reinforcement instead sailed from the West Indies to Europe (see Heath to GW, 6 Sept., n.3).

Massachusetts Council president Jeremiah Powell replied to GW from Boston on 23 Sept.: “Immediately upon receipt of Your Excellency’s Letter a Committee of the General Court was chosen to enquire what Quantity of Salt Beef had been captured by the Privateers belonging to this State in the Quebec Fleet & find there was a much smaller Quantity than had been supposed The whole not exceeding twelve or fifteen hundred Barrels which has been already mostly appropriated to the Use of the Privateers which have been since fitted out: no considerable Quantity of Salt Beef if any can therefore be purchased in this State We are devising every Measure & exerting every Nerve to furnish our full proportion of the Supplies required by Congress being fully sensible of the Embarrassments under which Your Excellency labours for want of a regular Supply of Provision And hope like efforts have been made & with better Success by the other States of whom Quotas of the same kind are required in which Case We have no doubt but the Distresses of the Army will be fully relieved & the Publick Stores filled—We sincerely Wish Your Excellency a Continuance of Health amidst Your Arduous Exertions & every Blessing” (LS, DLC:GW; Df, M-Ar; copy, “Mass. Council Journal,” Sept.-Oct. 1780 sess.). For the quotas, see Circular to the States, 2 June, n.1.

Huntington wrote GW from Philadelphia on 24 Sept.: “By the enclosed Act of Congress of the 19. Instant, your Excellency will be informed of the Measures they have adopted in Consequence of your Letter of the 10. Instant, to obtain a Quantity of salted Beef & Pork therein mentioned” (LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 15). The enclosure was a resolution that recommended “effectual measures” be taken in Massachusetts “for procuring for the Use of the Army a quantity of Salted beef & pork Arrived in that State in sundry prizes captured from the Enemy; And that the State be informed that Congress will draw upon the loan Officer in the said State for payments of the same out of the new bills reserved for the Use of the United States” (DLC:GW; 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 , 18:837–38, and Philip Schuyler to GW, 12 March, notes 3 and 4).

4The enclosed letter from Maj. Gen. Robert Howe to GW was written from camp at New Bridge on 8 Sept.: “I have this moment had the inclosd letter deliver’d me from Brigadier Genl Nixon, requesting leave to Resign his Commission, The situation of his Health gives him a claim to the recess from service which he ask’s; the more Especially as he tells me that when by retiring from Service he gets Better; his return to Duty Occasions a Relapse which from repeated instances he finds to be the case” (ALS, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; see also John Nixon to Howe, same date, in DNA:PCC, item 152). Congress accepted Nixon’s resignation on 12 Sept. (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 , 18:819).

5Tilghman wrote and struck out “of troops” at this point on the LS.

6Huntington acknowledged this letter when he wrote GW on 12 September.

Index Entries