George Washington Papers

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

Head Quarters New Windsor Feby 4th 1781

Dear Sir

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

I am sorry there should be so much justice, in Your Excellencys observation respecting the irregularity of supply & consequent waste of the live Cattle sometimes sent to the Army. It is easy to trace this Irregularity & 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 which, 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, & 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 the Driver, the badness of the roads, or interruption of Waters, 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 Commissy or Quarter Mastr have the Means of disposing of them Cattle immediately, or supporting them alive at 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 Commissary Genl with Money to purchase & make him accountable for the supplies of the Army, which made, 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, & 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 had—And the other at Bulls Falls, as being the nearest Point to the Nor. River, & our present principal force, where the Deposit could safely be made—From the Western parts of the state,& 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

Ct: Trumbull Papers.

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