George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Steuben, 6 February 1781

To Major General Steuben

Head Quarters New Windsor Feby 6th 81

Dr Sr

I have duly received your several letters of December the 28th 29th Janry the 8th 11th; which the smallness of my family at this time and a multiplicity of business have prevented my acknowleging sooner.1

I am sorry for your embarrassments and obliged to you for your exertions. With the materials you have, I am sure you will do the best you can; and I hope the state by adopting better arrangements will hereafter aid you more effectually. The Governor in his letter to me does justice to your efforts and to your zeal.2

The enclosed copies of the resolutions of Congress of the 4th of December & 1st of Jany will inform you of all they have done relative to your department since the last establishment.3

The measures you have taken with regard to the assembling of recruits furloughs and discharges will I am persuaded be very useful. I have written to Congress to make similar regulations general. When I receive their determination I will communicate it to you.4

You will have heard of the defection of the Pensylvania line and the disagreeable compromise made with them. It has ended in a temporary dissolution of the line. One half has been absolutely discharged and the remainder have been furloughed to reassemble in the beginning of April. The oaths of the men respecting the terms of their inlistments were precipitately admitted before the documents could be produced; by which it afterwards appeared, the greater part had perjured themselves to get rid of the service. We had it not in our power to employ coertion in the first instance owing to the distance they were from the main army, and5 a variety of other impediments which you will easily conceive. I am told the line will soon be reestablished on a better footing by new inlistment⟨s⟩.6

Fortunately a part of the Jersey line since followed their example and gave us an opportunity, after compelling all the mutineer⟨s⟩ to an unconditional surrender, to make examples of7 two of the most active leaders. The perfect submission and penitence which appeared, made it unadviseable, to extend the severity8—I believe we shall have no more trouble at present from a spirit of this kind.

We have just received the agreeabl⟨e⟩ news of the British fleet, in the sound having suffered in a late storm9—One seventy four it is said has been stranded and entirely lost on Montauk point—another (some accoun⟨ts⟩ say two) dismasted and towed into Gardners bay—one of Ninety, after having been seen in great distress, forced to sea.

This intelligence comes to me from the Count De Rochambeau—I wait every momen⟨t⟩ a confirmation and the particulars.10 Mr Destouche was waiting for the same, ready to put to sea with his whole fleet.

The enemy at New York seem to be doing nothing: We were told some time since of their having embarked heavy cannon and stores, but we have heard nothing of the[i]r destination—I shall not be surprised, if a post is establish⟨ed⟩ in Virginia. I am with every sentiment of esteem and regard D. Baron Yr Obedient servant.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1For Steuben’s letter to GW of 29 Dec. 1780, see GW to Steuben, 10 Dec., n.8.

3The copies have not been identified. For the resolutions of 4 Dec. 1780 and 1 Jan. 1781 concerning the inspector general’s department, see, respectively, Samuel Huntington to GW, 6 Dec., and n.1 to that document, and James Duane to GW, 2 Jan., n.3.

4See GW to Huntington, 3 Feb., and the source note to that document.

5GW wrote the previous eleven words on the draft.

6For the Pennsylvania line mutiny, see Anthony Wayne to GW, 2 Jan., and the source note to that document; see also GW to Arthur St. Clair, 3 February.

7Hamilton initially wrote and struck out “execute” on the draft before continuing with the previous three words.

8For the suppression of the mutiny in the New Jersey line, see Robert Howe to GW, 27 Jan.; see also Israel Shreve to GW, 20 Jan., and the source note to that document.

10For follow-up reports, see Rochambeau to GW, 3 Feb., and Shaw to GW, this date.

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