George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 11 December 1780

To Major General Benjamin Lincoln

New Windsor 11th Decr 1780.

My dear Sir,

I have received your favors of the 25th & 28th of last Month, and it gives me very great pleasure to find that you are appointed to a Committee the subject of whose deliberations you are so well acquainted with—and it adds not a little to my satisfaction to hear, that it is generally composed of Gentlemen remarkable for their good sense & patriotism, at a time when there never was greater occasion for men of those qualifications.1

The general good disposition prevailing in the State, to promote measures of public utility, is also a happy presage that matters will mend, in your quarter at least—But how unfortunate is it, that the fatal system of temporary inlistments should still have such an influence, as to have prevailed upon your Legislature to adopt the measure of raising their recruits for three years only? which in other words, is nothing more nor less, than an inducement to the enemy to prosecute the War three years longer.2

You have, to your cost, been a Witness to the pernicious consequences attending a temporary Army, and have therefore the better right to point out to your fellow Citizens what may be expected while the system is pursued. I will still hope that they will upon a reconsideration of the matter, and conformably to the requisition of Congress, determine upon raising their Men for the War only.

I have, by this oppertunity, transmitted to his Excellency the Governor an Acct of the places which will be, in my opinion, most convenient & proper3 for the deposit of Salt, Salt Meat, & Rum4—The Weekly, or Monthly supplies of Beef Cattle, & the places at which they are to be delivered, will be pointed out occasionally by the Commissary General—He is not at present with the Army—I can therefore only say, that if he has given no directions to the contrary, the present Monthly demand should be complied with. Should it amount to more than the consumption the best can be Salted down on their arrival here.

Your remarks on the last clause of the Act of requisition are undoubtedly very just, and I am confident it will be found upon examination that some States have been largely deficient in their specific supplies; otherwise we should not at this alarming period of the year, be destitute of Flour for which I see no other chance of a supply than the State of New York being obliged to take measures that will be very disagreeable, & most oppressive to individuals.5 It is a matter of delicacy with me to complain to Congress of the default of any of the States, or to criticize upon their own Acts. And I should therefore be very happy to see any of the Legislatures take the matter up, & point out the dangers arising from such a latitude as is given in the case to which you allude.

To add to our other difficulties, the situation of the Army in respect to Cloathing, is really distressing. By collecting all our remnants, and those of a thousand colors & kinds, we shall scarcely make them comfortable—Uniformity, one of the essentials of discipline, & every thing in the appearance of a Soldier, must be dispensed with. And what makes the matter more mortifying is, that we have, I am positively assured, Ten thousand compleat Suits ready in France & laying there because our public Agents cannot agree whose business it is to Ship them—a quantity has also lain in the West Indies for more than Eighteen Months, owing probably to some such cause.6

You tell me there is Cloathing enough lately arrived in private bottoms to supply the Army—This my dear Sir is only tantalizing the naked—such is the miserable state of Continental credit that we cannot command a yard of it. Some of the States may, & I hope will derive an advantage from it, in which case I hope they will attend to the colors proper for their uniform7—I informed them all very lately, to what a miserable condition the Troops would be reduced except that would lay themselves out for Cloathing8—I am certain that had our Supply of that article been ample we could have enlisted a great proportion of the Levies, who would for the sake of Cloaths have dispensed with the Money bounty, for the present.9 With every Sentiment of regard & Affection I am—Dr Sir Your Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, NjP: De Coppet Collection; DfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The ALS was addressed to Lincoln at Boston. GW wrote the complimentary closing on the draft.

2GW wrote the previous twenty-two words in a left margin of the draft, which his aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman penned.

3At this point on the draft, GW struck out “(either for an operation in this quarter or one to the southward[)].”

4See Circular to State Executives, 10 Dec., and the source note to that document.

6GW wrote the previous twenty words in a left margin of the draft.

7GW wrote the previous fifteen words on a left margin of the draft.

For the designation of uniform colors for the various state lines, see Board of War to GW, 10 May 1779, and n.2 to that document; see also General Orders, 2 Oct. 1779.

8See Circular to State Executives, 10 Nov. 1780, and n.1 to that document; see also Lafayette to GW, 4 Dec., and notes 4 and 5 to that document.

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