George Washington Papers

Circular to State Executives, 10 November 1780

Circular to State Executives

Head Quarters Prackness Novembr 10th 1780


From a collective view of the State of our Cloathing, I find we have not more, in the Public, Magazines than will be sufficient for one half of the Men inlisted for the War, or whose term of service will extend beyond the Winter—To depend, any longer, upon the supply expected from Europe arriving in time to releive the wants of the Troops, will be leaving the matter upon too precarious a footing—I have therefore thought it a duty incumbent upon me, to give you this information, that you may endeavour to procure and send forward the Articles most essential to the convenience and comfort of the Men. I should have done it sooner, but I still flattered myself with an ample supply from abroad.1 The Articles most wanted will be Blankets Waistcoats, Woolen Overhalls, and Stockings,2 The greater part of the men have Coats that may enable them, with warm under Cloaths to rub thro’ the severity of Winter. I would recommend that the Cloth, with thread, buttons &c., be sent to the Army in the peice; it may be made up there agreable to the wants of the Men and quicker than at home, as there are Taylors sufficient in every Corps.

The Return with which you have lately been furnished, very accurately points out the number of Men intitled to Cloathing from the public.3 A supply equal to half that number will be absolutely necessary, and as there is no probable chance, for the reasons I have before mentioned, of obtaining it from the Continental Agents, I must entreat the exertions of each State in behalf of its own Troops, as the only means of preventing a number of them from experiencg extreme distress the ensuing Winter. I have the honor to be With great respect Your most Obedt humbe servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Caleb Gibbs’s writing, addressed to William Greene, R-Ar; LS, in Gibbs’s writing, addressed to George Clinton, NIC; LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, addressed to John Hancock, M-Ar; LS, in Tilghman’s writing, addressed to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., DLC:GW; LS, in Gibbs’s writing, addressed to Meshech Weare, Nh-Ar; Df, DLC:GW; Varick Transcript, DLC:GW. The docket of the draft indicates that letters, which have not been found, were also sent to New Jersey governor William Livingston and Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council president Joseph Reed.

For replies or pertinent comments, see Livingston to GW, 15 Nov.; Trumbull to GW, 21 Nov.; Greene to GW, 8 Dec.; and Hancock to GW, 5 Feb. 1781, DLC:GW. No replies have been found from Clinton, Livingston, or Weare. No reply from Reed to GW has been found, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council received the circular on 17 November. Reed and the council then sent a message to the Pennsylvania general assembly on the same date: “His Excellency General Washington has made an earnest representation on the subject of cloathing for the army. …

“The State store is exhausted, & the money in the Treasurer’s hands not being current, we have no means of compliance with these requisitions ’till we shall be enabled by your Hon’ble House.

“The subjects are so important, that we cannot doubt they will have your immediate attention” (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 12:545).

1In 1779, Congress had ordered supplies from France. To GW’s dismay, the French expeditionary force brought only a small portion of the anticipated uniforms (see Lafayette’s second letter to GW, 26 July 1780, n.5). The Continental frigates Alliance and Ariel also failed to bring uniforms (see James Bowdoin to GW, 17 Aug., and War to GW, 10 May 1779, n.2).

2For specifics on the existing stock of clothing, see Otis & Henley to GW, 25 Oct., and James Wilkinson to GW, 7 Nov., and the notes to both documents.

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