George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Cadwalader, 5 June 1781

Anapolis 5th June 1781

Dear Sir

As Capt: Fitzhugh goes immediatly to Head Quarters, I cannot omit so good an opportunity of acknowledging the receipt of your Letter dated about three months since, & thanking you for the sentiments of esteem you so warmly express towards me.

It is unnecessary to repeat the information relating to the movements of the Enemy in Virginia; as you must be acquainted with every particular in an official way.

You know so much better than I do the causes of those misfortunes which have reduced us to our present deplorable Situation, that I shall not give you the pain which a recital of ill-judged measures must occasion. I wish past Errors may teach us wisdom in conducting our future opperations. The Idea entertained by most people, that the war was near a close, after the Treaty was concluded with France, has excluded every proposal for establishing System & continued those temporary expedients which were introduced at the commencement of the war, & which have brought us to the brink of ruin. To recover the lost confidence of the people is certainly the first Step to be taken & this cannot be done by mere declarations of the Legislature—we must give every proof in our power of our future honest intentions, acts of violence may procure Cloathing & Provisions for the Army—but these are not sufficient to prevent discontent & a general Mutiny—we must find money to pay our Troops, & this cannot be obtained by any other means, than such as tend to restore public c=Credit—and how to effect this, the wisest men among us are at a loss to determine. We certainly have the means in our possession; but the difficulty is, to draw them forth—A Committee of the whole house had these great points under consideration for several days; & after seting in silence for hours without any one venturing to suggest a remedy, we resolved to submit them to a committee of both Houses—with them the matter rests. We have however, passed a Law for the seizure of Cloathing & provisions, & six hundred horses, for the army. We have resolved, to raise immediately 750 negroes, to be incorporated with the other Troops, & a Bill is now almost compleated.

The people, from every information, are generally disposed to act with spirit; but the means of extensive opposition is not in our power, for want of Arms—& I fear the measures taken to provide fixed ammunition will not afford us a timely & necessary Supply after carrying on a war for six years we might reasonably expect that affairs would be conducted with some degree of method—but we have derived no advantages from so much experience.

That the Enemy intend to make the southern States the scene of action the ensuing campaign is past a doubt; & the consequences are easily for foreseen, unless considerable Reinforcements very soon arrive; either from France or the northern Army. But with them I see no prospect of doing any thing to effect whilst the enemy have the command of the navigation. You know so well the difficulties I allude to; that ’tis unnecessary to recite them. The possession of these States must be of the last importance to the Enemy; because, in these they possess the tobacco, Rice, Indigo & naval-stores—which, to them, perhaps are more valuable than all the other States together. These, too, are separated, by a great natural Line, from the other States; & it appears to me more than probable, considering all circumstances, that G. Britain finds it impracticable to possess themselves of all America & are now preparing to conquer these States in hopes that the powers of Europe, by their interposition, will secure them to her—You, however, can best determine where your presence is most necessary, nor do I presume to advise, being satisfied, that whatever you determine upon, will best promote the public service. But permit me, Sir, to express, that my wishes & the wishes of every person with whom I converse are, that you may think it necessary to take the command of the southern Army. Your presence, we conceive, may create an unanimity & vigour that will relieve us from the dangers that threaten us, & that must otherwise overwhelm us.

I have made a tender of my services to the executive; but, whether they favor me with a command, or not, I shall not remain a distant spectator. I have the honor to be, with the greatest esteem, your Excellency’s most obt & very hble Servt

John Cadwalader

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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