George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 13 December 1780

To Major General Nathanael Greene

New Windsor 13th Decr 1780

Dear Sir,

It gives me much pleasure to hear, that my letters of introduction were serviceable to you1—I am perswaded there is not wanting a disposition in Congress, or the individual States to the Southward to afford you every support the unhappy state of our finance (which seems to be the source from whence flows all our difficulties) will admit; but if any thing in my power can give a spring to their exertions, every motive which can flow from public & private considerations will urge me to comply with yr wishes.

You have no doubt an arduous task in hand, but where is the man charged with conducting public business in these days of public calamity that is exempt from it? Your difficulties I am perswaded are great—they may be insurmountable—but you see them now through a different medium than you have ever done before, because the embarrassment of every department is now concentered or combined in the Commanding Officer; exhibiting at one view a prospect of our complicated distresses.

Your friends, and the great public, expect every thing from your abilities that the means which may be put into your hands are compett to—but both know full well the deranged situation of our Southern Affairs, and neither, I trust, are so unreasonable as to expect impossibilities; I therefore think that you have nothing to apprehend on the score of public dissatisfaction.2 on the contrary, that you may gain, but cannot lose in your Military reputation.

I will put your Letter under a cover to Mrs Greene & request her to make use of the same channel of conveyance back—I shall take much pleasure in forwarding the letters to & from her & think it the best medium of conveyance for Safety.3 I have the pleasure to inform you that I heard by Genl Varnum (who went on to Congress yesterday) that Mrs Greene & your family were well, When he left Rhode Island. Genl McDougall talks of setting out for Congress the beginning of next week, but if he reaches Phila. by the opening of next Campaign it will be as much as I expect from his dispatch.4

We reached our Winter Qrs about the beginning of this Month,5 and I have been driven, by necessity, to discharge the Levies—want of Cloathing rendered them unfit for duty—and want of Flour would have disbanded the Whole Army, if I had not adopted this expedient for the relief of the Soldier for the War.6

Without knowing that Colo. Hamilton ever had an Eye to the Office of Adjt General, I did, upon the application of Colo. Scammell to resign it, recommend Genl Hand for reasons which may occur to you; one of them (& not the smallest) was to guard (by having an Officer of Rank appointed) against the discontents which would have arisen in the Inspectorate department, if a Junr Officer to the present Sub-Inspectors had been appointed, for you know, that, by the present establishment of the Inspection the Adjt Genl for the time being, is the Second Officer in that line. It would have been disagreeable therefore to the present Sub-Inspectors some of whom are full Colonels to have had a Lt Colo. put over them.7 With much sincerity & Affect. I am—Dr Sr Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

2GW first wrote and struck out “disgrace” before writing the previous two words.

3GW wrote Catharine Littlefield Greene from New Windsor on 15 Dec.: “I have the pleasure to inclose you a letter from Genl Greene which came under cover to me. I fear you will find it of old date, as the one accompanying it was of Novr the 19 th—since which I have not heard from him.

“If you will entrust your letters to my care, they shall have the same attention paid to them as my own, & forwarded with equal dispatch to the Genl.

“Mrs Washington who is just arrived at these my Qrs joins me in most cordial wishes for your every felicity; & regrets the want of your Company—remember us to my namesake—Nat—I suppose can handle a musket” (ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; the draft indicates Greene’s location as Coventry, R.I.). For Greene’s letter to his wife, see n.2 with the letter referenced at n.1 above. For Martha Washington’s travel to GW’s winter headquarters, see Robert Hanson Harrison to GW, 28 Nov., n.15.

George Washington Greene (c.1776–1793), the eldest Greene child, drowned in the Savannah River. For GW’s interest in the youth’s education, see his letter to Jeremiah Wadsworth, 22 Oct. 1786, in Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends 4:298–99.

Nathanael Ray Greene (1780–1859) was then the youngest child in the Greene family (see also Nathanael Greene to GW, 21 Jan. 1780, and n.4 to that document).

4Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall had been elected as a delegate to Congress from New York. GW may refer to McDougall’s letter to him dated 30 October.

5For the winter quarters of GW’s army, see his letter to Samuel Huntington, 28 Nov., and n.12.

6See GW to William Heath, 28 Nov., and n.1 to that document.

7Greene replied to GW from camp on the Pee Dee River, S.C., on 13 Jan. 1781: “Your Excellencys private letter of the 13th of Decem. I have had the pleasure to receive and thank you kindly for the information respecting the health of Mrs Greene and family. It is the first hint I have had since I left the Northern Army.

“General de Portail who will deliver your Excellency this letter is pretty well acquainted with our situation, and can give you a better account of the state of the department than I shall have an opportunity to write by this conveyance as the General is just setting out. I beg my compliments to Mrs Washington” (ALS, DLC:GW). GW acknowledged this letter when he wrote Greene on 27 Feb. 1781 (DLC: Hamilton-McLane Famly Papers).

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