George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 4 February 1781

To Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.

Head Quarters New Windsor Feby 4th 1781

Dear Sir

I was yesterday honored with your Excellencys Letter of the 31st of January by General Knox. The exertions the Eastern States are making afford me great satisfaction.

I am sorry there should be so much justice in Your Excellency’s observation respecting the irregularity of supply, and consequent waste of the live Cattle sometimes sent to the Army. It is easy to trace this Misfortune to its source: Each State is called upon for the Weekly or Monthly proportion of the supplies demanded by Congress. A failure in any One, involves the Army in distressing want—to releive this, the most pressing representations are made, which in some instances are attended with such efficacy, as to bring on the supplies that have been retained, and produce such a temporary redundance, as is attended with the loss & waste which your Excellency mentions—To depend upon a daily supply of live Cattle, as has been the case hitherto, under these circumstances, must produce one of the disagreeable alternatives before recited. The negligence of the Purchaser, or Driver, the badness of the roads, or interruption of Water, inevitably bring on a scarcity, which threatens the Army with dissolution—While on the contrary, a large stock in hand, produced by whatever contingency, is attended with waste, as neither the Commissarys or Quarter Mastr have the Means of disposing of the Cattle immediately, or supporting them alive in Camp. I have not the least doubt, but the Army might be fed at half the present expence, by having proper Magazines laid in, And arrangements made for the Department—At the same time I do not see but two ways to remedy the evil complained of—either to furnish the Commissy Genl with Money to purchase, and make him accountable for the supplies of the Army, which mode, I conceive would be far preferable—Or, to oblige the State Agents, or Contractors to comply punctually with the requisitions made upon them.

In determining the places of Deposit for the specific supplies required of the States, it was necessary I should have regard to the subsequent transportation to the probable theatre of action, and to the difficulty of performing this by land carriage, from the want of Money & Means in the Quarter Master Department. I will candidly acknowledge, it was from these considerations, I was induced to fix one of the Magazines of the State of Connecticut at Hartford, from whence Water transportation might eventually [be]1 had. And the other at Bulls Falls, as being the nearest Point to the North River, and our present principal fo⟨rce, whe⟩re the deposit could safely be made⟨. Fr⟩om the Western Part of the State, & the Places contiguous to the Sound, which may be as near to West Point as Bulls Iron Works, it will certainly be eligible to have the Provisions forwarded directly to the former.

I thank you for the Books sent, & will return them after perusal. With the greatest consideration & Esteem I have the honor to be Your Most Obed. Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in David Humphreys’s writing, Ct: Trumbull Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Mutilated portions of the LS are supplied in angle brackets from the draft, which Humphreys also penned. GW signed the cover of the LS, and Trumbull wrote on the docket: “recd 9th inst.”

1This word is supplied from the draft.

Index Entries