George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 28 November 1780

To Samuel Huntington

Morris Town [N.J.] 28th Novr 1780.


I arrived at this place today, having yesterday broke up the Camp near the Passaic Falls and detached the Troops to their different places of Cantonment.1 I shall repair to New Windsor where I purpose to establish my Winter Quarters, after having made some necessary regulations here, and visited the Hospitals.2

The following will be the general position of the Army during the Winter—The Pensylvania line about four Miles from hence in part of the Huts which were occupied by the Troops last Winter3—The Jersey line at Pompton with a detachment from thence to secure the entrance of the Clove near Suffrans (the design of these is not only to cover the Country and our communication with the Delaware, but as much as possible to ease us in the article of transportation)4—The Connecticut, New Hampshire & Rhode Island lines in the Highlands, upon the East side of the Hudsons River5—The Massachusetts line at West point6—Moylans Regiment of Horse at Lancaster in Pensylvania7—and Sheldons at Colchester in Connecticut.8

One Regiment of New York is in Garrison at Fort Schuyler & another is at Saratoga;9 but to give more effectual security to the Northern & Western Frontiers, which are both much exposed & harrassed10 I propose, if Provision can be had—which is exceedingly doubtful11—to send the remainder of the line to Albany & Schenectady, where it will be ready to act as occasion may require—and the Officers have it more in their power to arrange themselves agreeably to the New Establishment.12

I have lately had a very pressing application from Colo. Scammell for liberty to resign the Office of Adjutant General, & resume the Command of his Regiment—Finding him determined upon the measure, I thought it my duty to cast about for a proper person to succeed him, in so important an Office, before I mentioned his request—The Gentleman I would recommend is Brigadier General Hand, who I have Sounded upon the occasion, and who I find will accept the appointment, should Congress think proper to confer it upon him—His Rank, independent of his other qualities, is a circumstance of consequence—besides giving weight and dignity to the Office, it will take off any uneasiness which might have arisen, had an Officer, younger than any of the present Inspectors, been appointed, because by the Regulations, the Adjutt General is Assistt Inspector General and of course commands the others in that Department—I shall very reluctantly part with Colo. Scammell, as he has constantly performed his duty to my entire approbation and to the ⟨sat⟩isfaction of the Army, but his reasons (which I should have transmitt⟨ed⟩ at length had I not sent up his letter among my papers to New Windsor) we⟨re⟩ such as I could not oppose, without requiring him to make greater sacrafices than he assured me his fortune would afford.13

Having14 received information through Major Talmadge (of the 2d Regiment of Dragoons) that the enemy had collected a valuable Magazine of Forage at Coram upon Long Island, the destruction of which he, at the same time, offered to attempt, with my permission (which he obtained)15 I do myself the honor to inclose a copy of his report, by which Congress will perceive how very handsomely he acquitted himself in the execution of his whole plan. There can be no stronger proof of the gallant behaviour & good conduct of the Major and his Officers, and of the bravery and fidelity of his Men, than the recital of the circumstances attending the affair throughout its progress.16 With very great respect I have the honor to be Yr Excellency’s Most Obt & Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 152; DfS, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman penned the draft, but GW added several emendations in his own writing. He also wrote a complimentary closing on the draft that matches the one on the ALS. Congress read this letter on 4 Dec. and referred “to a committee of three” an enclosed copy of Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge’s letter to GW dated 25 Nov. describing the raid on Fort St. George (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 , 18:1116; see also n.16 below and Tallmadge to GW, 7 Nov., and notes 1 and 7 to that document).

2GW supplied the previous four words on the draft. For GW’s arrival at New Windsor, see his letter to William Heath, this date, n.5.

3See GW to Anthony Wayne, 27 November.

Lt. Enos Reeves of the 10th Pennsylvania Regiment recounted the march to winter quarters when he wrote an unknown correspondent from near Morristown on 30 Nov.: “On the night of the 27th lay in a wood within about four miles of Rockaway river,” with the officers lodged in a house where the owner charged nearly $200 because of depreciated money when “in good times the bill would be about nine shillings.” The regiment halted in the wood near Morristown” on 28 Nov. and began work on huts, using “the old huts” from the previous year as much as possible.

“The division arrived in the afternoon of the 29th and pitched tents in a wood” (Reeves, “Letter-books,” description begins John B. Reeves, contributor. “Extracts from the Letter-books of Lieutenant Enos Reeves, of the Pennsylvania Line.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 20 (1896): 302–14, 456–72; 21 (1897): 72–85, 235–56, 376–91, 466–76. description ends 469–70). Reeves again wrote an unknown correspondent from the same place on 8 Dec.: “We have been so fortunate as to fall into the huts formerly belonging to the Eleventh Pennsylvania regiment; tho’ they are out of repairs we shall be able to get our men under cover in three or four days. On this instant all the soldiers moved into their houses. …

“On the evening of the 2d we had a smart snow, when I had to ride through the country in search of wagons to carry on the business of hutting” (Reeves, “Letter-books,” description begins John B. Reeves, contributor. “Extracts from the Letter-books of Lieutenant Enos Reeves, of the Pennsylvania Line.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 20 (1896): 302–14, 456–72; 21 (1897): 72–85, 235–56, 376–91, 466–76. description ends 470). For the previous winter encampment at Jockey Hollow, N.J., see GW to Nathanael Greene, 30 Nov. 1779, and n.2 to that document.

4GW supplied the parenthetical remarks in a margin on the draft (see also General Orders, 26 Nov., n.3).

5See GW to Heath, 26 Nov. 1780, and n.5.

Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn wrote in his journal entry for 10 Dec.: “the New Hampshire Troop moovd into Huts, the best ever built in America—call’d New Hampshire village” (Brown and Peckham, Dearborn Journals description begins Lloyd A. Brown and Howard H. Peckham, eds. Revolutionary War Journals of Henry Dearborn, 1775–1783. 1939. Reprint. New York, 1971. description ends , 210).

6Massachusetts soldier Nathaniel Cowdrey tracked the progress of the Massachusetts line on its march from Preakness to West Point in his daily diary entries for 28 Nov.–4 Dec.: They reached Kakiat, N.Y., on 28 Nov. “and Camped in the Bush.” The troops marched to King’s Ferry, N.Y., on 29 Nov. “and Campd thare that night.” The soldiers “arived at” West Point on 30 Nov. “and Camped.” Cowdrey’s regiment “layd in the Barraks” on 1 Dec. until orders came “in the afternoon to march abought two mils into the wood and we Campd here this Night and no tents.” They “layd in the wood” on 2 and 3 Dec. without tents until the coverings came “By water” on the latter date. On 4 Dec., “we Struck oure tents and marched abought an half a Mile into Sum huts that the York trups Bult” (Moulton, “Cowdrey,” description begins Mary A. Stimpson Moulton. “Sketch of the Life of My Great-Grandfather, Nathaniel Cowdrey, of Reading, Mass.” The American Monthly Magazine 4 (January–July 1894): 409–16. description ends 416; see also the diary entries for 28 Nov.–1 Dec., plus 4 Dec., in Nichols, “Doughboy of 1780,” description begins James R. Nichols, ed. “The Doughboy of 1780: Pages from a Revolutionary Diary.” The Atlantic Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics 134 (July–December 1924): 459–63. description ends 461, and General Orders, 26 Nov., n.3).

Benjamin Gilbert, an officer in the 5th Massachusetts Regiment, wrote his brother-in-law Charles Bruce from West Point on 2 Jan. 1781: “After retireing from the field to winter Quarters my Quarters weir in Tents … till the second Instant when the Regiment moved into Barracks. But still many Embarrassments occur which render our situation disagreable. Our men are naked and not like to be Clothed. Some have Received no money since December 1779, the others not since March 1780. Our wood is four miles to fetch by warter and then a bad hill which is equill to one mile more. Now I leave you to Judg whether I am happy or not” (Shy, Letters of Gilbert description begins John Shy, ed. Winding Down: The Revolutionary War Letters of Lieutenant Benjamin Gilbert of Massachusetts, 1780–1783. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1989. description ends , 32).

9The 3d New York Regiment was stationed at Saratoga (see Philip Schuyler to GW, 31 Oct.–1 Nov.). The 4th New York Regiment had been sent to Fort Schuyler (see GW to Heath, 18 Oct., found at Heath to GW, 17 Oct., n.4; and James Clinton to GW, 19 Nov., n.2).

10GW inserted the previous two words on the draft.


Map 2. Defensive maneuverability and the availability of forage were paramount in GW’s broad positioning of American and French troops for winter encampments from November 1780 to June 1781. (Illustrated by Rick Britton. Copyright Rick Britton 2020)

11GW inserted the previous nine words on the draft.

12GW supplied the previous seventeen words on the draft. For the new arrangement of the Continental army, see General Orders, 1 Nov.; see also GW to Heath, 28 Nov., n.4.

GW realized that supply scarcities and military necessities required that his army’s winter encampment be less concentrated than in previous years, and his final orders changed little from his preliminary thoughts on proper dispositions (see GW to Heath, 12 Nov.). In a communication docketed November, GW provided answers to queries from Q.M. Gen. Timothy Pickering to assist that officer in winter encampment preparations: “The Jersey Brigade will be ordered to Kings-ferry to receive the Waggons of the Mas[sachuset]ts Troops, without any detention of the latter.

“No Troops about Hd Qrs except the Guard—& the Artillery Regiments in the vicinity of New Windsor.

“The light Infantry of the Jersey line will take charge of the Boats.

“The Massachusetts Brigades will be a⟨t⟩ the Posts in the Highlands—West side.

“The Connecticut Brigades will be at the same place—but on the East side” (AD, DNA: RG 93, Miscellaneous Records of Quartermaster General’s Department; see also GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 17 Dec.).

Movement to the designated encampments went rapidly. Sgt. Ebenezer Parkman, Jr., who served with the artificers, wrote in his diary entry for 27 Nov.: “We Sat out on Our March From Totowa for Fish Kill.” He wrote on 28 Nov.: “I Lost or Missd A Large Bundle of Cloaths Near to Kakiatt Meeting House—near which We Campt one night on our March.” In his entry for 3 Dec., he announced their arrival “at Fish Kill—A Snow Storm,” before commenting in his entry for 4 Dec.: “I was So Lucky as to find my Bundle of Cloaths that I had Lost on Our March—It was brought to Fish Kill” (MWA: Parkman Family Papers).

Lt. William S. Pennington of the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment wrote in his diary entries for 27 Nov.–4 Dec.: “Agreeable to the orders of yesterday, the Army marched; the Pennsylvania line for Morristown, the park of artillery for New Windsor, the Massachusetts and Connecticut lines for West Point and its vicinity. Proctor’s Regiment of artillery marched with the Pennsylva[n]ia line; the artillery, brigaded, remained with their brigades.” The artillery reached Paramus, N.J., on 27 Nov., halted at Kakiat the next night, “tarried the night” at King’s Ferry on 29 Nov., and then dispersed on 30 Nov.: “This morning we parted with our brigades, who marched through the woods on the west side of the river to West Point, except the Connecticut line. The Massachusetts Artillery formed a park, and marched with the Connecticut line to the Continental village and encamped the night.” Pennington’s unit “marched to Nelson’s Point and encamped” on 1 Dec. before proceeding on 2 Dec. “at two o’clock for Fishkill, where we arrived, ten P.M., and took quarters for the night.” Orders arrived on 3 Dec. for “artillery belonging to the Massachusetts and Connecticut lines … to join the park of artillery near New Windsor. We accordingly marched for Fishkill Landing, and began to pass the river.” They “finished transporting the artillery past the river” on 4 Dec. (Pennington, “Diary,” description begins A. C. M. Pennington, contributor. “Diary of William S. Pennington, of New Jersey, 1780–1781.” Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States 4 (1883): 314–29. description ends 325; see also notes 3 and 6 above).

Soldiers near West Point faced privations, which Dr. James Thacher described in his journal entry for 1 Dec.: “Our brigade is now ordered into the woods, in the highlands, in the rear of West Point, where we are to build log-huts for winter cantonments. … The soldiers, though very miserably clad, have been for some time obliged to bring all the wood for themselves and officers on their backs, from a place a mile distant, and almost half the time are kept on half-allowance of bread, and entirely without rum. Twelve or fourteen months’ pay are now due to us, and we are destitute of clothing and the necessaries of life. The weather is remarkably cold, and our tents are comfortless” (Thacher, Military Journal description begins James Thacher. Military Journal of the American Revolution, From the commencement to the disbanding of the American Army; Comprising a detailed account of the principal events and Battles of the Revolution, with their exact dates, And a Biographical Sketch of the most Prominent Generals. Hartford, 1862. description ends , 242). Pvt. Joseph Plumb Martin recalled his command’s march from Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., to West Point: “At the Peekskill we procured batteaux to convey ourselves and baggage up the river to the Point, where we arrived in safety and went into the old barracks, until new ones could be built for us, which we immediately commenced. We had to go six miles down the river, and there hew the timber, then carry it on our shoulders to the river, and then raft it to West Point. We, however, soon completed this part of the business ourselves, when the carpenters took it in hand, and by New Year’s Day they were ready to receive us. Till then, we had been living in the old barracks, where there were rats enough, had they been men, to garrison twenty West Points” (Martin, Private Yankee Doodle description begins Joseph Plumb Martin. Private Yankee Doodle: Being a Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier. Edited by George F. Scheer. 1962. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 208–9).

British and German observers in New York City and environs apparently took little notice of their rivals’ establishment of winter quarters, but Gen. Henry Clinton wrote Lord George Germain as part of a lengthy report from New York on 16 Dec.: “General Washington by all the accounts I have procured has not detached a man to the southward except 250 cavalry. It appears from the intercepted letters that he means to winter in the Highlands, by which I suspect he has an intention of detaching either to Canada or to the southward. A great part of his army whose times of service expire the 1st of January next ’tis supposed will then leave him. I cannot judge whether he will be able to detain them or assemble another. Great efforts, however, are making to raise an army for the war” (Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 18:256–58, quote on 257; see also Henry Lee, Jr., to GW, 21 Oct., source note, and GW to Huntington, 15 Dec., n.6).

13Congress elected Brig. Gen. Edward Hand as adjutant general on 8 Jan. 1781 (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 , 19:39; see also Alexander Scammell to GW, 16 Nov. 1780; Greene’s second letter to GW, 19 Nov., postscript; Lafayette to GW, this date; GW to Hand, 23 Jan. 1781, NN: Emmet Collection).

14GW wrote this word on the draft.

15GW inserted the parenthetical remark above the line on the draft.

16Huntington wrote GW from Philadelphia on 9 Dec. 1780: “Your Excellency will receive enclosed, the Copy of an Act of Congress of the 6th Instant, expressing the Sense they entertain of the Gallantry & Intrepidity of Major Talmadge & the Officers & Soldiers of his Detachment in the late Enterprize against Fort St George on Long Island” (LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 15; see also the source note above). The enclosed congressional resolution adopted on 6 Dec. praised the exploit of Tallmadge and his command and ordered publication of Tallmadge’s report to GW “with the preceding minute as a tribute to distinguished merit, and in testimony of the sense Congress entertain of this brilliant service” (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 , 18:1121–22, and General Orders, 14 Dec.). GW replied to Huntington on 15 December.

Index Entries