George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 22 December 1780

To Samuel Huntington

Head Quarters New Windsor Decr 22nd 1780


I do myself the honor to enclose to Your Excellency the Extract of a Letter which I have just received from Governor Clinton, and which I beg leave to recommend strongly to the attention of Congress, as by this energetic Exertion of the State of New York the Army will probably be kept from dissolution.1 We have not for some time received a Barrel of Flour from the Southward, except a few hundreds from the Bank,2 and I cannot learn that there is any upon the communication. Thus we are of necessity thrown upon the State of New York for this Winter’s supply of Bread, and for that reason, every aid and assistance should be given to the Agent to enable him to comply with his contracts.3

Should Col. Hay be even successful in his impress, I dread the consequences of not having established Magazines in time. The Garrison of West Point, have not a day’s Flour beforehand, and the Weather threatens a stoppage of Navigation. While the Ice is insufficient to bear Carriages, it will be difficult to throw in supplies, even were they collected, as the Roads leading to the Point are, in a manner, impassable in the Winter.4

By Letters from Rhode Island, I am informed of the death of the Chevalier de Ternay, he is succeeded by the Chevalier Destouche.5 I have the honor to be With the most perfect respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Hble Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in David Humphreys’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read GW’s letter and its enclosure on 29 Dec. before referring the communications to a five-member committee (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 , 18:1203; see also n.1 below). Huntington acknowledged this letter when he wrote GW on 2 Jan. 1781, postscript (DLC:GW).

2For the Pennsylvanians who had subscribed money to provide food for the army, see Philip Schuyler to GW, 18 June, and n.4 to that document.

GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote Robert Morris from headquarters at New Windsor on this date to complain about “the very small exertions made by the State [Pennsylvania] to support The Army, in the Article of Bread particularly. (When I speak of the State I mean to except the Bank, for by that Association the Army has been in a manner subsisted in Flour).” Tilghman then commented more broadly: “I do not think the Contest ever stood upon more critical Ground than at present. The people grow tired of a War, which has been of longer continuance than they were led to expect, and are alarmed and amazed to find that the enemy are, at this time of day, making strides which they could not effect at the beginning. The Reasons are simple, and would be as obvous as day light, if there were not yet among us those who are determind never to see. Instead of securing an Army when our Money was good and the people were willing we have lavished immense sums upon Men of an Hour, whose terms of service have ben spent in marching to and from the Army, and in their way devouring, like Locusts all before them. The Enemy have statedly watched the dissolution of our temporary forces, and have taken their advantages. … Two things will save us, and that speedily—a sufficient pe[r]manent Army, and a foreign loan in aid of our own Resources. We may amuse ourselves of plans of specific requisitions from the States, and a Thousand idle projects. But untill the Army can be regularly cloathed,—paid and fed by the means of a substantial Medium, we are only lingering out the time of our dissolution. Can Men be expected to serve without provision—without Cloathing, without pay? Of the last, we have had none since March and no prospect of any.

“Perhaps there is no Man less apt to despond and I am sure there is none who will oppose longer than I will. But when I see the glorious prize for which we have been contending, within our reach, if we would but embrace the means of acquring it. I am sick to death of our folly. May God of his infinite Mercy enlighten our understanding” (Stan. V. Henkels Catalogue No. 1183; The Confidential Correspondence of Robert Morris … To Be Sold … Jan. 16th, 1917, no. 343).

3See Udny Hay to GW, 23 Nov., and GW to Hay, 27 Nov.; see also William Heath to GW, 15 Dec., and n.4 to that document, and GW to Heath, 20 December.

Maj. Gen. William Heath concluded a letter to Lt. Col. Udny Hay, New York state agent, written at West Point on 23 Dec.: “our Supply of Flour is Still very Scanty pray push on every barrel you can Command while the river remains open, instead of five months Supplies—which ought to be in our Magazines we have not three Days Bread at Command” (MHi: Heath Papers).

4George Morton, assistant commissary general of purchases, wrote Jacob Morgan, superintendent of purchases for Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia on Wednesday, 27 Dec.: “I am informed by Letter from Col. Blaine at Head Quarters that the Army have been several Days upon half Allowance of Bread and that his chief dependence for that necessary Article was upon the resources of this state and the Exertions of the Commissioners in forwarding an Ample Supply of Flour before we are deprived of the Advantage of Water Transportation.

“There should be at least a supply for two months at Camp and in the Magazine at Trenton before the frost impedes the Navigation of the Delaware and I make no doubt but you will take the most speedy measures in your power for that purpose—There is also wanting two H[ogs]h[ea]ds of good spirits for Head Quarters—I shall be sending a number of small Articles for the use of His Excellencies Family on saturday and would wish to have the Spirits go by the same Conveyance—If you will be kind enough to inform me respectg your prospects I will take the Earliest Opportunity to transmit them to Col. Blaine. … P.S. Is there any Flour at or on the way to Easton?” (DLC: Ephraim Blaine Letterbook).

Ephraim Blaine, commissary general of purchases, wrote Huntington from New Windsor on 31 Dec.: “I find there will be great difficulty in supplying the troops at West Point and the Other Cantoonments of the army in the neighbourhood through the winter—our Magazines of beef do not exceed seven days supply exclusive of six hundred head of cattle which I have called down in bulk one half in the Gar[r]isoon and the residue at different posts convenient for the troops—we have no flour, the army have been several days upon half allowance, I have Just been informed six or seven hundred Barrels are at Ringwood but there is not teams to bring it all forw[ar]ded—the Quantity of cattle I expected from the Eastward will fall considerable short—I have wrote the Executive of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, and Connecticut, to adopt every possible means of procuring the weekly supplies which I have required, and assured them a neglect of which will be a dissolution of the army—as this Country do not appear to have any resources or means of relief shou’d we be necessitated.

“The Pennsylvania line at Morris Town must be supplied with meat from Jersey and Pennsylvania, and our principle dependance of Flour through the winter must be from Pennsylvania. If our wants will admit, I coud wish that part of the State Quota to be delivered at Philadelphia, with the Flour demanded from the State of Deleware and One third of the Maryland Quota, to be reserved as a Magazine for next Summer and all we want for winter support including the requisitions from this state to be drawn from Easton that being most Convenience … I shall not return to Philadelphia until I have the state Provisions in such a train as will afford a regular supply for the army (DNA:PCC, item 165; see also Blaine to GW, 10 Nov.). Congress read this letter on 11 Jan. 1781 and referred it to a committee (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 , 19:45–46).

5See Destouches to GW, 15 Dec., and n.1 to that document.

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