George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Clinton, 1 October 1780

To George Clinton

⟨Head Quarters Orange Town⟩ Octo⟨ber 1st 1780⟩

Dear Sir,

The inclosed will show your Exce⟨llency the⟩ distress we are like to experience in a few days for w⟨ant⟩ of flour.1 You are so fully impressed with the pernici⟨ous⟩ tendency of so frequent repetition of want that I am sure I need only inform you of our prospects, to engage your utmost exertions to give us the necessary supply. The exigency demands immediate measures to forward to West-point all the flour ready at the different mills. It has been mentioned to me that a defi[ci]ency of barrells would retard the supplies from your State; I have given di⟨rection⟩ to have those at West-point repaired and delivered to the order of your agent. Your Excellency knows the reliance I place on the State of New York—delicacy will not permit me to say how much we must depend on you at this juncture.2 I have the honor to be With the greatest Esteem and regard Dear Sir Your most Obedt servt

Go: Washington

LS (partially burned), in Caleb Gibbs’s writing, N-Ar: Clinton Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Burned portions of the LS are supplied in angle brackets from the draft, which GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton penned. GW signed the cover of the LS.

1A note written on the verso of the LS indicates that the enclosure was from Charles Stewart, commissary general of issues, to GW dated 30 Sept. (see Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 6:270–71; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 1 Oct., n.2).

2Clinton replied to GW from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on 8 Oct.: “⟨I am favored with your Excellency’s Letter of the 30th Instant, and communicated the Contents of⟩ it to the ⟨State Agent, who informs me that⟩ he has ⟨made use of every⟩ Means in his Power for hastening ⟨on the Supplies⟩ from this State for the Army ⟨and I have⟩ Reason to hope they will ⟨arrive⟩ in Time to relieve Your Necessities⟨. The⟩ providing ⟨of⟩ the Flour Casks your Excellency mentions will g⟨reatly⟩ tend to hasten this Business, as i⟨t was⟩ not in the Power of the Agent to procure them Speedily as the peculiar Situation of the Army required” (ADf [partially burned], N-Ar: Clinton Papers; burned portions are supplied in angle brackets from Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 6:284, square brackets in source).

Lt. Col. Udny Hay, state agent for New York, wrote GW from Fishkill, N.Y., on 13 Oct.: “I was honourd by the Governour with the perusal of your Excellency’s letter to him on the subject of flour and Casks; though I flatter myself it can be made appear that the greatest attention has been paid for the purpose of procuring these as well as the other articles it is now become my province to collect, yett I am sorry at being oblidged to confess my having fall’n extremely short of what your Excellency had great reason to expect from me, not owing to a real scarcity of the articles, but to a want of Cash for such as I was to purchase, and to the innumerable difficulties attending the mode of Collection of such as were assessed, for having only Certificates to tender for the latter, there are but very few indeed, who do not make a thousand difficulties at granting any part of what we have a legal right to demand, and as to what I ought to obtain by purchase I have never yett recd a shilling since my Appointment from either the State or Commissary General, by which meens the purchasers in the other States, who by some mode or other are furnishd with money, are enabled to purchase the very articles I ought to procure, and for not procuring of which I am undoubtedly responsible.

“The Legislature of this State, Sir, has lately been convened, and have given many proofs of their inclination to serve the general cause, and support the Army under Your Excellency’s Command, but alass! they are destitute of the means; a Treasury totally empty, and the taxes to be collected already anticipated by the permission, which, with the best of views, they formerly granted the public officers of issuing notes which should in payment of taxes be accepted in lieu of Cash.

“In short, Sir, when I view our present situation, and the near approach of the season when the roads will become allmost, perhaps alltogether, unpassable, I am struck with such apprehensions of the consequences, as impells me to give a short sketch thereof to Your Excellency—Within this Department, Sir, there is scarce any rum, no salt more then what will be necessary to use with the beef that will be issued to the Troops fresh, not near the number of Casks we ought to have, and I am affraid a very slender prospect for obtaining the number of Cattle that ought to be salted, could even the other materials be procured, and what is as bad as all the rest no Cash, nor a probability of obtaining any sum nearly adequate to the purposes for which it is wanted.

“I have long agoe wrote the Commissary General on all these subjects, and urged the necessity of making the necessary preparations this fall for the maintenance of the Troops in this vicinity during the winter, but imagine he is surrounded with embarrassments and difficulties which prevent his making those exertions he would otherwise undoubtedly attempt.

“Though I foresee many difficulties, I beg leave to assure Your Excellency I do not despond, and that no mode for promoting the public service You are pleased to point out for me to tread in shall be left unattempted” (ALS, DLC:GW). For legislative permission to accept notes for taxes, see N.Y. Assembly Proc., 15 May-2 July 1780, pp. 170, 191; see also Samuel Huntington to the States, 29 May, 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 , 15:210.

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