George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Timothy Pickering, 10 February 1781

To Colonel Timothy Pickering

Head Quarters New Windsor Feby 10th 81


The inclosed instructions were begun though not completed at the time they are dated;1 but the disturbances in the Army withdrew my attention from them and prevented their delivery ’till this time.2

For your satisfaction I shall here recapitulate the verbal directions given you in answer to your letter of the 14th of January—If my memory should fail me in any article which may affect your operations already commenced, I shall be obliged to you to point it out.

I gave it as my opinion that of the two modes proposed for procuring teams against the next campaign—assessment or hire—the latter was preferable: because the teams procured by assessment, as happened the last campaign, would probably be inadequate to the service, and because for want of care in the manner of procuring them, they would be ultimately more expensive to the public, though not an immediate draft on the Continental treasury.

I did not approve your plan of assessing ox-teams in some States and horse teams in others, because the troops of each line would imagine they had a kind of exclusive right to the teams procured ⟨by⟩ their respective states, and would unwillingly submit to the exchanges you have in view for particular exegencies—I think the attempt would be apt to produce disorder in several ways.

I advised to ox-teams for all but the Artillery and cavalry, which from the nature of their service would some times require greater expedition than oxen would be capable of.

I approved your proposals for constructing tumbrils for the officers & for allowing two to the field officers of each regiment.

As to the allowance of waggons for carrying the tents of a regiment, I advised you to ascertain it by an experimental calculation—by computing the number of tents sufficient for a regiment, and by weighi⟨ng one⟩ tent dry, another wet to estimate the average.

As we have found an unwillingness in the soldiery to carry their camp kettles themselves, which would make it difficult to enforce it, I desired you to make an experiment of the kind of tumbrils you propose for carrying them to determine with certainty how far they will answer your expectation: that if they will answer the purpose, you might have a sufficient number prepared—I observed however that I was rather doubtfull of the success, and in case of failure, directed you to have recourse to the expedient of converting the old tents unfit for use into bags large enough to contain the kettles—that with proper belts or slings of the tent cloth itself or of leather as you should judge best, they might be carried at the mens backs. As these bags will have to bear little weight they are not liable to the same objection as the forage bags.

I approved your idea of a particular construction of boats to be transported on carriages, and referred you to Major Darby, who from having had charge of the boats at Prackness last campaign, had had an opportunity to judge of the kind which would be most convenient.

In answer to a note of yours to Colonel Hamilton, I directed him to inform you that I thought the middle of May would be a proper time for the rendezvous of the teams.

I inclose you copy of a letter of mine of the [  ] instant to General Heath in which you will perceive my ideas of the matters in dispute between him Colonel Hazen and Yourself.3 With great regard, I am Dr sir Your Most Obedt and Hble servant.

Go: Washington

LS, in William Colfax’s writing, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 25386; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Mutilated and faded portions of the LS are supplied in angle brackets from the draft, which is in the writing of GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton.

On this date, GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote Pickering from headquarters: “By a Resolve of Congress of the 10th of Novemr last (with which I believe you were furnished) the Commander in Chief is directed to cause Returns to be made to the Board of War ’of all Horses both public and private property kept in Camp at the public expence and also of those removed, noting at what places kept and on what business employed.’ The General wishes you to furnish this Return that he may transmit it. … Be pleased also to make the Return of Boats called for in General Orders, some time ago” (DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 26007). For the resolution, see Samuel Huntington to GW, 12 Nov. 1780, n.5; see also 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 , 18:1045–47. For the call for the return, see General Orders, 29 Dec. 1780.

2GW refers to mutinies in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey lines (see Anthony Wayne to GW, 2 Jan., and Israel Shreve to GW, 20 Jan., and the source notes to each document).

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