George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Arthur St. Clair, 3 February 1781

To Major General Arthur St. Clair

Head Quarters New Windsor Feby 3d —81

Dr Sir,

The unexpected reduction of the Pensylvania line from the late unfortunate affair adds to the necessity of the greatest attention to improve the measures adopted for recruiting it.1 I do not know precisely what these are; but I am informed in general that money is raising for the purpose and that the recriuting service goes on with success. In orde⟨r to ha⟩ve it conducted with regularity and activity, I am to request you will undertake to superintend it, and will make your arrangements with the state accordingly. Inclosed you will find a copy of the instructions of the recriuting officers of the other parts of the army, which will also be proper for the government of those of your state.2

We have found from experience that by some means or other numbers of men are lost between the place of inlistment and that of rendezvous. To prevent this—as far as possible—will be worthy your particular attention.

I have permitted General Wayne to retire for a while; General Irvine will immediately assist you in the execution of this business.3

It seems a great part of the soldiers of your line have fraudulently procured a discharge by the precipitate ⟨adm⟩ission of their oaths, before the papers relative to their inlistments could be produced. In right, this cannot exempt them from their engagements, and after what has happened, if it were thought expedient to compel the return of such as being explicitly engaged for the war have thus perjured themselves, I should have no doubt of its justice; and should not hesitate to take effectual and convenient measures to notify them, that if they did not immediately return to their duty, they should be considered and treated as deserters. I percieved there are objections to the measure, and unacquainted as I am with all circumstances, I cannot competently judge of its propriety—I therefore shall be obliged to you for your opinion.

Let me hear from time to time of your progress.4 I am with great esteem and regard D. S—Yr most Obedt ser.

Go: Washington

LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, O; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Mutilated portions of the LS are supplied in angle brackets from the draft.

1After the settlement of their mutiny, the troops of the Pennsylvania line were either disbanded or furloughed (see Anthony Wayne to GW, 11, 21 and 28 Jan.; see also Continental Congress Committee on the Pennsylvania Line to GW, 10–11 Jan.).

2The enclosure has not been identified, but there is an undated document headed “Recruiting Instructions” in OHi with identical wording to the recruiting instructions promulgated in the general orders of 5 February.

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