George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Robert Howe, 22 January 1781

To Major General Robert Howe

[West Point, 22 Jan. 1781]


You are to take the command of the detachment, which has been ordered to march from this post against the mutineers of the Jersey line.1 You will rendezvous the whole of your command at Ringwood or Pompton as you find best from circumstances—The object of your detachment is to compel the mutineers to unconditional submission—and I am to desire you will grant no terms while they are with arms in their hands in a state of resistance. The manner of executing this I leave to your discretion according to circumstances—If you succeed in compelling the revolted troops to a surrender you will instantly execute a few of the most active and most incendiary leaders.

You will endeavour to collect such of the Jersey troops to your standard as have not followed the pernicious example of their associates—and you will also try to avail yourself of the services of the Militia, representing to them how dangerous to civil liberty the precedent is of armed soldiers dictating terms to their country.

You will open a correspondence with Colonels Dayton and Shreeve of the Jersey line & Col. Freelinghussen of the Militia—or any others.2 Given at West Point Jany 22d 1781.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW grew anxious when he received no reply (see his letter to Howe, 25 Jan.).

On this date, GW’s aide-de-camp David Humphreys wrote the officer commanding the artillery brigade in the absence of Brig. Gen. Henry Knox: “A Detachment of 600 Men is to march immediatly, from West Point—His Excellency requests that three Peices of Artillery, with a sufficient Quantity of Spare Ammunition May be in readiness; And that you will instantly make out the Necessary Arrangement with the Q.M. Gl” (DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 26919).

On 22 Jan., Q.M. Gen. Timothy Pickering wrote Humphreys from Newburgh, N.Y.: “The Justice of this precinct having on the former occasion impressed about the number of horses required on this, I wrote to him in the morning (the moment I had given the necessary orders for carrying the cloathing to West point) urgently requesting him to turn out the same horses immediately as they had been prepared and appraised, tho’ they performed no service. In the forenoon I sent to him the quarter master of this post to urge particularly the necessity of great dispatch. This afternoon I have again sent by Major platt, to learn what was doing & when the horses would be in. The justice informs him that he complied with my request by issuing his warrant; but the person to whom he directed it refused to execute it; the constable of the precinct not being in a condition to act. He was then going to send his warrant to another person. The event being thus in a degree uncertain I have now sent an application to Justice Nicolls for thirty horses to be impressed in his precinct & sent as early as possible to the park at Artillery to-morrow forenoon. That near the whole number required the residue in case of need may be taken from some Continental teams to the number of six or eight” (DLC:GW).

On 22 Jan. at 11:00 P.M., Humphreys wrote Pickering: “The General entreats you will not remit your endeavours to have the Horses for the Artillery ready as early as possible. The peices will positively be put in motion as soon as the Horses are obtained—He also requests that a number of Tents & intrenching Tools in the same proportion for 600 Men, which the other arrangement gave for the former Detachment may be sent on; if Horses are not redy for these, the Artillery will not be delayed. … His Excellency desires you will delay sending off the Letters from Congress to the Eastward, a few Hours” (DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 26038). According to a notation on the cover, Pickering received this letter at 8:15 A.M. on 23 January.

On 23 Jan., Humphreys wrote the officer commanding the artillery brigade: “I am directed by His Excellency the Commander in Cheif to inform you, that the Detachment of Artillery Ordered yesterday, is to march, the moment Horses are furnished by the Qr Mastr General.

“The General further signifies his pleasure that The Commanding Officer should have directions to move to Ringwood, and there receive the Orders of Major Gen. Howe—or if the Detachment under his Command shall have gone on to Morris Town, the Artillery must follow, untill they come up with the Detachment where ever it shall be” (DLC:GW).

2GW wrote the previous three words on the draft.

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