George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 15 September 1780

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Camp Kennekimak [Kinderkamack, N.J.] 15th Septr 1780.


Inclos’d I send your Excellency a copy of a letter this moment receiv’d from Colo. Biddle, respecting the forage Department. The inclos’d News Paper has the resolutions of Congress in it, which Colo. Biddle’s letter refers to.1 As the matter is altogether out of my power to remedy, I must refer it to your Excellency, and beg your advice and order thereon.2 I am with great respect and regard, Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Huml. Servt

Nath. Greene M. General


1The enclosure from Clement Biddle, commissary general of forage, to Greene, written from camp in Bergen County on this date, explained that a congressional resolution adopted on 23 Aug. required that certificates for supplies “be signed by the principals of the Departments, without which no claim shall be valid against the United States.” Biddle sought direction on how to proceed, “for I shall render myself and the Officers acting under me personally accountable for any forage which we may hereafter collect; and it is not in our power to conform to the mode pointed out by the resolve of Congress, unless Colo. Pickering should arrive this day, and assume the direction of the department” (DLC:GW; the enclosed newspaper has not been identified; 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 , 17:761–62, and Biddle to GW, 22 July). Timothy Pickering had replaced Greene as quartermaster general (see Samuel Huntington to GW, 5 Aug., and n.1).

2GW wrote Biddle from headquarters in Bergen County on this date: “General Greene has transmitted, to me a Copy of your letter to him of this date, setting forth the embarrassment in which you find yourself by the operation of an Act of Congress of the 23d Augt which takes place this day—As it is impossible, under present circumstances, to suspend the Business of the Forage department untill Colo. Pickering, or the Gentleman appointed to succeed you, may arrive in Camp, you will be pleased to proceed in the execution of the Office for the space of ten days from this date (unless Colo. Pickering or his Deputy should sooner arrive) giving Certificates agreeable to the mode pointed out by the act, and keeping an exact account of those granted during that time, that a return may be made to the Boards of War and Treasury according to the terms of the Act—I shall, in the mean time, write to Colo. Pickering urging the necessity of his, or his deputy’s, immediate presence in Camp, and I shall also write to Congress, informing them of the reasons which induced me to take the above step, and requesting them to make provision for the payment of the Certificates which may be given in consequence by you or by Persons acting under your orders” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

GW also wrote Pickering on this date: “I was in hopes that circumstances would have admitted of your joining the Army before this time; but your presence, or that of some person acting by authority under you, now becomes indispensably necessary; as, by a Resolve of Congress of the 23d Augt which takes effect this day, no Certificates for any Articles in the Quarter Master Generals department are to be valid hereafter, except signed by the Quarter Master General himself. This operates instantly upon the supply of Forage, of which we have no Magazine, and which we are therefore obliged to collect from day to day upon Certificate.

“Colo. Biddle, who yet continues to act in that department at my request, has informed me, thro’ General Greene, of the embarrassment in which he finds himself on account of the Resolve above mentioned, and I have been obliged, as no other expedient could be devised, to take upon me the power of directing him to continue in Office for the space of ten days from this date, (unless you or some person authorised by you should sooner arrive) and to give Certificates agreeable to the mode pointed out by the Resolve. I have also written to Congress informing them of the necessity which I have been under of taking this step, and requesting them to make provision for the payment of Certificates given in consequence.

“Besides the important reason which I have mentioned, there are others which require your presence as soon as possible. General Greene continues to perform the duties immediately relative to the Army, but matters every now and then occur in which he does not conceive himself at liberty to interfere” (LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 25424; Df, DLC:GW; copy, MHi: Pickering Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also GW to Huntington, 15 Sept.).

Pickering wrote Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, from Philadelphia on 17 Sept. that he had been ill “almost all last week” and was “still indisposed and sore from a fall from my horse this day week; but shall, nevertheless, set out for camp immediately, with melancholy prospects indeed! when the treasury has been empty forty days, and it is expected by the army (which is in the greatest distress), that I shall go loaded with money” (Pickering and Upham, Life of Pickering description begins Octavius Pickering and Charles W. Upham. The Life of Timothy Pickering. 4 vols. Boston, 1867–73. description ends , 1:257). For Pickering’s arrival at camp, see Greene to GW, 23 September.

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