George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Arthur St. Clair, 2 March 1781

From Major General Arthur St. Clair

Philadelphia March 2d 1781


Your Excellencys Letters of the 3d and 13th of February came duly to hand, but I delayed answering them from an Expectation that you was a⟨bs⟩ent from the Army, and because I had nothing explicit to inform you of with regard to the Recruiting, that Business not having come before the Assembly untill yesterday, although General Wayne, General Irvine and myself have constantly attended to press them upon it. A Committee have reported a Plan recommended by Us, which is in general, to call forth the Number of Men required by assessing them upon the Classes of the Inhabitants under a very heavy Penalty, and at the same time to carry on the recruiting by voluntary inlistment. it is yet uncertain whether the House will come into it, but it is a favourable Circumstance that it has met with the approbation of the Council.1

It is certain that a great Many of the Soldiers obtained their Discharges in a most flagitious manner, but nothing better was to be expected from the alternative allowed them. I am however of Opinion that no good Consequences would flow from the Attempt to punish them. It was threatned by some Officers and has driven a great many out of the State—they are too numerous—and it would carry with it something like a Breach of Faith, which the Government does not like to incur; and tho’ the Measure was certainly entered into hastily it appeared to the Gentlemen who transacted it to be necessary.2

Your Excellencys favour of the 22d came by Express to Potts Grove the night before last and I returned to this Place immediatly to confer with the Marquis.3 You may imagine my Chagrine at not being able to comply with so small a Request upon such an Occasion; but after mature consideration it was thought imprudent to attempt it, as none of the Men have yet been settled with, (nor till this Moment are the Auditors appointed for that Purpose) nor any of the Promises that were made them at Trenton complied with, and a very few only of the furloughed Men returned: our Numbers at the different Places of Rendevouz does not exceed five hundred on the whole and those very discontented. I shall again press the Cou⟨ncil &⟩ Assembly to an immediate Settlement of the Accounts, and order the Men on furlough to join their Regiments that your Excellencys Orders of the 26th which I have just received may be carried into Execcution as soon as possible, but I fear few or none can be got ready in time to second the Marquis, as it is indispensable that they be cloathed and the Accounts settled previous to their marching.4 I have only to add that nothing on my Part shall be wanting to expedite it5 and am with the greatest Respect Sir Your Most obedient and very humble Servant

Ar. St Clair

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, OHi: Arthur St. Clair Papers. Mutilated material on the ALS is supplied in angle brackets from the draft.

1In his letters to GW of 6 and 15 April, St. Clair reported on the failure of the Pennsylvania assembly to take action on the plan (both DLC:GW).

2St. Clair comments on the settlement of the Pennsylvania line mutiny (see Anthony Wayne to GW, 2 Jan., and the source note to that document; see also Joseph Reed and James Potter to GW, 19 Feb.).

4For the orders, see GW to St. Clair, 26 February.

5St. Clair wrote the Board of War from Philadelphia on 4 March: “As the troops of Pennsylvania are ordered to march to Virginia by detachments as soon as they can be got in readiness, it will be necessary that camp equipage be provided for them, and sent forward to Yorktown as soon as possible.” He requested “that tents, knapsacks, haversacks, camp-kettles, and blankets and canteens, be got ready for two thousand men and sent to that place as soon as may be, having hopes that in a fortnight a considerable part of that number will be able to move” (Smith, St. Clair Papers description begins William Henry Smith, ed. The St. Clair Papers. The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair: Soldier of the Revolutionary War; President of the Continental Congress; and Governor of the North-Western Territory with his Correspondence and other Papers. 2 vols. Cincinnati, 1882. description ends , 1:543).

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