George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 15 November 1780

From William Livingston

Trenton 15th November 1780

Dear Sir

By a Resolution of both Branches of ⟨ou⟩r Legislature, I am requested to write to your Excellenc⟨y⟩ to assure you that the Legislature of this State are mo⟨st⟩ sincerely disposed to exert their utmost Efforts for drawing forth all the Supplies this State can furnish for the Army under your Command, but at the same time to inform you⟨r⟩ Excellency that from the Drought of the last Summer, & the large Supplies already furnished, Hay & other forage are so scarce, that it will be necessary to send out of this State, as early this Season as convenient, every horse that can possibly be spared from the Army; & that it will be equally necessary to call upon the Neighbouring States to fill the Magazines upon the Borders of this State, that the Forage near them may be sent on towards the Army.

I am further requested by the said Resolution to consult your Excellency on the Subject of guarding the Frontiers of this State during the ensuing Winter & to learn whether any part of the Forces under your Excellency’s Command can, consistently with the Plan of Operations laid down by you, be employed in that Service, & what part of the Frontiers of this State may depend on the Protection to be derived therefrom.1 With the greatest respect, I have the Honour to be Dear Sir Your Excellency’s most humble & most obedient Servant

Wil: Livingston


The New Jersey legislature on 27 Oct. initiated consideration of issues related to supplies and “the Necessity of guarding the Frontiers of this State this Winter.” The bulk of Livingston’s letter repeated a resolution the legislature had proposed on 4 Nov. and adopted on 14 Nov. (N.J. Gen. Assembly Proc., 24 Oct. 1780–9 Jan. 1781 description begins Votes and Proceedings of the Fifth General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey, At a Session begun at Trenton on the 24th Day of October, 1780, and continued by Adjournments. Trenton, 1780 [–81]. description ends , pp. 7, 17, 28). Final adoption of “An ACT for the more speedy and effectual Procurement of Supplies for the Army of the United States” occurred on 4 Dec. (N.J. Acts, 15 Nov. 1780–9 Jan. 1781 description begins Acts of the Fifth General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey, At a Session begun at Trenton on the 24th Day of October, 1780, and continued by Adjournments. Trenton, 1781. description ends , pp. 6–10).

1GW replied to Livingston from Passaic Falls on 19 Nov.: “I have been this day honored with Your Excellency’s favor of the 15th: You may be assured that I shall pursue the same measures this Winter, that I have invariably done heretofore—of sending every Horse that can possibly be spared, to a distance from the part of the Country which has been the seat of the Army during the Campaign, and as there will be fewer troops in Jersey this Winter than usual, I hope the inhabitants will find releif in proportion. The exertions of the State have been great, and it is intitled to every indulgence that the nature of the service will allow.

“Your Excellency and the Legislature must be sufficiently acquainted with the State of the Army to know, that our force, after the dismission of the Levies, will admit but few troops to remain in Jersey. I shall throw all that can be spared, after securing West point from any possible insult, on the communication from Morris Town to King’s Ferry; but as their numbers will be but few, they cannot be cantonned nearer to the sound than Morris Town. They will occasionally keep patroles and light parties advanced to give notice of any approach of the Enemy. I am convinced that a force within striking distance of an enemy, any thing short of a body sufficient to keep them in perfect awe, instead of affording protection to the inhabitants, only serve as an inducement to bring the enemy out upon them” (LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, NN: William Livingston Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). GW presumably refers to Staten Island Sound, known formally as Arthur Kill. For previous correspondence between GW and Livingston on troops raised for temporary service during the last months of 1780, see Circular to the States, 18 Oct., and the source note to that document. GW soon determined final winter encampment arrangements (see his letter to Samuel Huntington, 28 Nov.; see also GW to William Heath, 12 Nov.).

Letter not found: from Joseph Reed, 15 Nov. 1780. GW wrote Reed on 20 Nov.: “Your favor of the 15th is just come to hand.”

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