October 17, 1776

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It is reported to the South Carolina and American Gazette that the sailing men of war have left North Carolina and are on their way to New York.  It is probable that there are no British ships between Pennsylvania and East Florida.

The proposed new Pennsylvania Constitution is considered unsatisfactory by many.  Christopher Marshall wrote, “Went to Philosophical Hall, being called by invitation tickets where met a large number of respectable citizens in order to consider of a mode to set aside sundry improper and unconstitutional rules laid down by the late convention, in what they called their Plan or Frame of Government

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October 15, 1776

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In Salem, North Carolina, this day is the Election Day for the delegates to the Provincial Congress.

The Virginia Navy Board orders seven state galleys to proceed immediately with their  vessels  from their station to Portsmouth in order to assist in transporting the Carolina troops up to the Head of Elk, in Maryland.

George Washington, from his headquarters in Harlem Heights, writes to Jonathan Trumball, Sr:  “The movements of the Enemy, their having sent up some of their Ships in the North River, their landing a large proportion, if not the main body of their Army on Frogs Point (or rather Island as it is surrounded by water every flood tide) nine miles above this on the Sound, added to these, the information of deserters, all afford a strong presumption, nay, almost a certainty, that they are pursuing their original plan of getting in our rear and cutting off all our supplies. Our situation here is not exactly the same as it was at New York. It is rather better. However, as we are obliged to divide our force and guard every probable place of attack as well as we can—as most of our Stores are here and about Kings Bridge, and the preservation of the communication with the States on the other side of Hudson’s River a matter of great importance, it will not be possible for me to detach any more assistance than what I have already done for the purpose of securing the passes in the Highlands. I have sent Colo. Tash lately from New Hampshire with his Regiment, upon the business, and as it is of the utmost consequence to possess those passes, and to hold them free and open, I would beg leave to submit to your consideration, whether you can spare any aid upon this interested occasion. I know your exertions already are great, in the Service in this and the Northern Army, and nothing could have induced me to mention this matter to you, were it not for the alarming and melancholy consequences which will result from the Enemy’s possessing themselves of those communications. The Regiment I have ordered up are to receive directions from the Convention, also the Posts they are to occupy, supposing them to be much better acquainted with the places where they should be stationed than I am. If it is in your power to afford any assistance in this instance, you will be pleased to give such instructions to those you send, as you shall judge necessary. I am just dispatching an Engineer to the Convention to throw up some small Works. I have the honor to be with great Esteem Sir your most obedient Servant

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P.S. I have sent two Regiments of the Massachusetts Militia up the River to watch the motion of the Ships and to oppose any landing of men that they may attempt—I am also extending every part of my force that I possibly can towards East and West chester to oppose the Enemy and prevent their effecting their plan of it, if it shall be practicable; but our numbers being far inferior to the demands for men, I cannot answer for what may happen—The best in my power shall be done.”

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October 6, 1776

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Since the Battle of Harlem Heights on September 16, General William Howe concentrates on constructing a line across Manhattan from today’s Bloomingdale’s to Hell’s Gate, and Washington builds three lines at Harlem Heights.

George Washington writes to Lund Washington at Mount Vernon about his desire to have burned New York City, and his delight over the fact that, despite being unable to give the order due to Congress’s decision, “some good fellow” had taken matters into his hand and burned much of New York down anyway.  “Had I been left to the dictates of my own judgment, New York should have been laid in Ashes before I quitted it—to this end I applied to Congress, but was absolutely forbid—that they will have cause to repent the Order, I have not a moments doubt of, nor never had, as it was obvious to me (covered as it may be by their Ships) that it will be next to impossible for us to dispossess them of it again as all their Supplies come by Water, whilst ours were derived by Land; besides this, by leaving it standing, the Enemy are furnished with warm & comfortable Barracks, in which their whole Force may be concentred—the place secured by a small garrison (if they chuse it) having their Ships round it, & only a narrow Neck of Land to defend—and their principal force left at large to act against us, or to remove to any other place for the purpose of harrassing us. this in my judgment may be set down amg one of the capitol errors of Congress.

Their Motives for sending Deputies to hear Lord Howes proposals were, in my opinion, tolerably well founded—they had no Idea of treating with him otherwise than as Independant States—they declared so, previous to the appointing of their Commissioners—But as Lord Howe, a thorough paced Courtier, had taken uncommon pains to signify at all times, and upon all occasions, that he was vested with full powers to accomodate matters upon better terms than the Americans ever had askd, and became more importunate, as our Indifference Increased, it had the effect intended by him, on three classes of People. Our open and avowed Enemys, together with the Officers and Soldiers of their Army, were exasperated at it, from a conviction that our Aim, at the beginning, was Independance; the Neutrals had this doctrine so strongly inculcated into them by the Tories, that they began to adopt the same Sentiments & wonderd that we would not accept of more than we asked—whilst it remaind necessary to convince the third class who were really friendly, but great sticklers for the powers of, and the advantages to be derived from the long expected Commissioners, that the whole was a falacy, calculated to deceive, as I suppose they now are; since it evidently appears that Lord Howe had nothing more to propose than that, if we would Submit, his Majesty would consider whether we should be hung or not. If this meeting shd have a bad effect with foreign Powers, who may be unacquainted with the inducements to it, it will be unlucky.

In speaking of New York, I had forgot to mention that Providence—or some good honest Fellow, has done more for us than we were disposed to do for ourselves, as near One fourth of the City is supposed to be consumed. however enough of it remains to answer their purposes.”

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October 4, 1776

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To halt the rapid deprecation of paper currency, Congress authorizes a domestic loan of $5 million at 4%.

The Maryland Convention reassembles to continue drafting a Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Two British ships, HMS Phoenix and HMNS Roebuck sail up the North River.

John Adams, who has been chastised for his failure to write, finds time to write to his wife, Abigail:  “I am seated, in a large Library Room, with Eight Gentlemen round about me, all engaged in Conversation. Amidst these Interruptions, how shall I make it out to write a Letter?  The first day of October, the day appointed by the Charter of Pensilvania for the annual Election of Representatives, has passed away, and two Counties only have chosen Members, Bucks and Chester.  The Assembly is therefore dead, and the Convention is dissolved. A new Convention is to be chosen, the Beginning of November.  The Proceedings of the late Convention are not well liked, by the best of the Whiggs.—Their Constitution is reprobated and the Oath with which they have endeavoured to prop it, by obliging every Man to swear that he will not add to, or diminish from or any Way alter that Constitution, before he can vote, is execrated.  We live in the Age of political Experiments. Among many that will fail some, I hope will succeed.—But Pensilvania will be divided and weakend, and rendered much less vigorous in the Cause, by the wretched Ideas of Government, which prevail, in the Minds of many People in it.”

George Washington writes about the alarming situation regarding his army and its possible dissolution:  “Your Army, as I mentioned in my last, is upon the eve of its political dissolution—True it is you have voted a larger one in lieu of it, but the Season is late, and there is a material difference between voting of Battalions and raising of Men. In the latter, there are more difficulties than Congress are aware of; which makes it my duty (as I have been informed of the prevailing Sentiment of this Army) to inform them, that unless the pay of the Officers (especially that of the Field Officers) is raised, the chief part of those that are worth retaining will leave the Service at the expiration of the present term; as the Soldiers will also, if some greater Incouragement is not offered them than Twenty Dollars, & one hundred Acres of Land.  Nothing less in my opinion, than a suit of Cloaths annually given to each Non-commissioned Officer & Soldier, in addition to the pay and bounty, will avail, and I question whether that will do, as the Enemy from the Information of one John Mash, who with Six others were taken by our Guards, are giving Ten pounds bounty for Recruits; and have got a Battalion under Majr Rogers nearly compleated upon Long Island.  Nor will less pay according to my judgment than I have taken the liberty of mentioning in the Inclosed estimate retain such Officers as we could wish to have continued.4 the difference pr Month in each Battalion will amount to better than one hundred pounds—to this may be added the pay of the Staff Officers, for it is presumable they will also require an augmentation; but being few in number, the Sum will not be greatly Increased by them, & consequently is a matter of no great moment; but it is a matter of no small Importance to make the several Offices desirable—When the pay & establishment of an Officer once become objects of Interested Attention, the Sloth, negligence, and even disobedience of Orders which at this time but too generally prevails, will be purged off—but while the Service is viewed with Indifference—while the Officer conceives that he is rather confering than receiving an obligation, there will be a total relaxation of all order and Discipline, and every thing will move heavily on, to the great detriment of the Service, and inexpressible trouble & vexation of the General.  The critical Situation of our Affairs at this time will justify my saying, that no time is to be lost in making of fruitless experiments—an unavailing tryal of a Month to get an Army upon the terms proposed, may render it impracticable to do it at all; and prove fatal to our cause; as I am not sure whether any rubs in the way of our Inlistments, or unfavourable turn in our Affairs, may not prove the Means of the Enemy Recruiting Men faster than we do—to this may be added the inextricable difficulty of forming one Corps out of another, and arranging matters with any degree of Order in the face of an Enemy, who are watching for advantages.  At Cambridge last year, where the Officers (and more than a sufficiency of them) were all upon the spot, we found it a work of such extreame difficulty to know their Sentiments (each having some terms to propose) that I despair’d once of getting the arrangemts compleated; and do suppose that at least a hundred alterations took place before matters were finally adjusted; what must it be then under the present regulation, where the Officer is to negociate this matter with the State he comes from, distant perhaps two or three hundred Miles—some of whom, without leave or license from me set out to make personal application the moment the resolve got to their hands—what kind of Officers these are, I leave Congress to judge.  If an Officer of reputation (for none others should be applied to) is ask’d to stay what answer can he give, but in the first place, that he does not know whether it is at his option to do so—no provision being made in the Resolution of Congress even recommendatory of this Measure; consequently, that it rests with the State he comes from (surrounded perhaps with a variety of applications, and influenced probably by local Attachments) to determine whether he can be provided for or not. In the next place, if he is an Officer of Merit, and knows that the State he comes from is to furnish more Battalions than it at present has in the Service, he will scarcely, after two years faithful Services, think of continuing in the Rank he now bears when new Creations are to be made, and Men appointed to Offices (no ways superior in merit, and ignorant perhaps of Service) over his head.5 A Committee sent to the Army from each State may, upon the Spot, fix things with a degree of propriety & certainty; and is the only method I can see, of bringing matters to a decision with respect to the Officers of the Army; but what can be done in the meanwhile, towards the arrangement in the Country I know not—In the one case, you run the hazard of loosing yr Officers—in the other, of encountering delay, unless some method could be devised of forwarding both at the same Instant.  Upon the present Plan, I plainly forsee an intervention of time between the old & New Army, which must be filled with Militia (if to be had) with whom no Man, who has any regard for his own reputation can undertake to be answerable for Consequences—I shall also be mistaken in my conjectures, if we do not loose the most valuable Officers in this Army under the present mode of appointing them; consequently, if we have an Army at all, it will be composed of Materials not only entirely raw, but if uncommon pains is not taken, entirely unfit—and I see such a distrust & jealousy of Military power, that the Commander in chief has not an oppertunity even by recommendation, to give the least assurances of reward for the most essential Services. In a word such a cloud of perplexing Circumstances appear before me without one flattering hope, that I am thoroughly convinced unless the most vigorous and decisive exertions are immediately adopted to remedy these Evils, that the certain and absolute loss of our Liberties will be the inevitable consequence, as one unhappy stroke will throw a powerful weight into the Scale against us, enabling Genl Howe to recruit his Army as fast as we shall ours, numbers being disposed, and many actually doing so already. Some of the most probable remedies, and such as experience has brought to my more intimate knowledge, I have taken the liberty to point out—the rest I beg leave to submit to the consideration of Congress.”

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September 30, 1776

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Spanish authorities are concerned over reports of an increase in British naval strength, which indicated to them a possible war with countries other than the colonies.

General Washington in a letter to Lund Washington, his nephew in charge of Mount Vernon, blamed the reliance on the militia as the chief root of the problem.  Washington complained that the militia was not “worth the bread they ate I tell you that I never was in such an unhappy, divided state since I was born.”

Sam Adams writes to John Adams about the prior conference with Lord Howe:  “I am much obligd to you for your two Letters of the 8th and 14th of this Month,1 which I receivd, together, by the last Post. The Caution given in the first of these Letters was well designd; and had it come to me as early as you had Reason to expect it would, I should have been relievd of a full fortnights Anxiety of Mind. I was indeed greatly ‘concernd’ for the Event of the proposd Conferrence with Lord Howe. It is no Complement when I tell you, that I fully confided in the Understanding and Integrity of the Gentlemen appointed by Congress; but being totally ignorant of the Motives which inducd such a Measure, I was fearful lest we might be br’ot into a Situation of great Delicacy and Embarrassment. I perceive that his Lordship would not converse with you as Members of Congress or a Committee of that Body; from whence I concluded that the Conference did not take its Rise on his part. As I am unacquainted with its Origination and the Powers of the Committee, I must contemplate the whole Affair as a Refinement in Policy beyond my Reach, and content my self with remaining in the Dark, till I shall have the Pleasure of seeing you, when, I trust, the Mystery will be fully explaind to me. Indeed I am not so sollicitous to know the Motives from whence this Conference sprang, or the Manner in which it was brought up, as I am pleasd with its Conclusion. The Sentiments and Language of the Committee, as they are related to me, were becoming the Character they bore. They mannagd with great Dexterity. They maintaind the Dignity of Congress, and in my Opinion, the Independence of America stands now on a better footing than it did before. It affords me abundant Satisfaction, that the Minister of the British King, commissiond to require and fondly nourishing the Hopes of receiving the Submission of America, was explicitly and authoritatively assured, that neither the Committee nor that Congress which sent them had Authority to treat in any other Capacity than as Independent States. His Lordship, it seems, ‘has no Instruction on that Subject”; We must therefore fight it out, and trust in God for Success. I dare assure my self, that the most effectual Care has before this time been taken, for the Continuance and Support of our Armies, not only for the Remainder of the present, but for a future Year. The People will chearfully support their Independence to the utmost. Their Spirits will rise upon their knowing the Result of the late Conference. It has, you may depend upon it, been a Matter of great Expectation. Would it not be attended with a good Effect, if an Account of it was publishd by Authority of Congress? It would, I should think, at least put it out of the Power of disaffected Men (and there are some of this Character even here) to amuse their honest Neighbors with vain hopes of Reconciliation.  I wish that Congress would give the earliest Notice to this State, of what may be further expected to be done here for the Support of the Army. The Season is advancing or rather passing fast. I intended when I sat down to have written you a long Epistle, but I am interrupted: I have a thousand Avocations which require my Attention. Many of them are too trifling to merit your Notice. Adieu, my Friend. I hope to see you soon.”

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September 27, 1776

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The South Carolina House sends a report to President Rutledge that opposed the idea of forcing captured Indians into slavery.  They argued that the idea would hurt future relations and encourage Indians to retaliate in a similar fashion.

General George Washington transmits to Congress that the British military force in Canada is 8,000 men, one 18 gun ship, two brigs, three schooners, gondolas, bateaux, and artillery companies and about 100 cannon, the finest ever sent from England.

Richard Henry Lee writes to Thomas Jefferson to inform him that he has been chosen, along with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane to travel to France in order to convince the French to join the efforts of the colonies.  “I should have written to you before now if I had not been uncertain about finding you at home, as the distance was great, and the meeting of our Assembly approaching. All the material events that have happened since you left us are to be found related pretty faithfully in the public papers, which I suppose are regularly conveyed to you.

The plan of foreign treaty is just finished, and yourself, with Doctor Franklin, and Mr. Deane now in France, are the Trustees to execute this all important business. The great abilities and unshaken virtue, necessary for the execution of what the safety of America does so capitally rest upon, has directed the Congress in their choice; and tho ambition may have no influence in this case, yet that distinguished love for your country that has marked your life, will determine you here. In my judgement, the most emminent services that the greatest of her sons can do America will not more essentially serve her and honor themselves, than a successful negotiation with France. With this country, every thing depends upon it, and if we may form a judgement of what is at a distance, the dispositions of that Court are friendly in a high degree, and want only to be properly acted upon, to be wrought into fixt attachment and essential good. We find ourselves greatly endangered by the Armament at present here, but what will be our situation the next campaign, when the present force shall be increas[ed] by the addition of 20 or 30 thousand Russians with a larg[e] body of British and Irish troops? I fear the power of America will fail in the mighty struggle And the barbarous hand of despotism will extirpate libe[rty] and virtue from this our native land; placing in th[eir] stead slavery, vice, ignorance, and ruin. Already these foes of human kind have opened their Courts of Justice (as they call them) on Long Island, and the first frui[ts] of their tender mercies, are confiscation of estates, and condemnation of Whigs to perpetual imprisonment.  The idea of Congress is, that yourself and Dr. Frank[lin] should go in different Ships. The Doctor, I suppose, will sail from hence, and if it is your pleasure, on[e] of our Armed Vessels will meet you in any River in Virginia that you choose.”

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.  Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank, Graff House, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church.  If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us for our Valley Forge Tour.  For those interested in the Civil War, come see our Gettysburg Tour.  Or, for the true history buffs, contact us about taking part in our American History Vacation Packages.

September 25, 1776

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Congress spends the day approving payments to individuals and adopting resolves intended to increase the supply of winter clothing for the army.  John Adams wrote, “This was another measure I constantly urged, convinced that nothing short of the Roman and British discipline could possibly save us.”

Meanwhile, George Washington takes the time to write an unusually lengthy and personal letter to the President of Congress, John Hancock, describing the army’s current difficulties and those he sees coming around the corner.  Most important in Washington’s eyes is for members of the congress to agree that the risks inherent in a standing army are trifling when compare to the current risks of having insufficient men to conduct the war.   (original spellings are retained):  “From the hours allotted to Sleep, I will borrow a few moments to convey my thoughts on sundry important matters to Congress. I shall offer them with that sincerety which ought to characterize a Man of candour; and with the freedom which may be used in giving useful information, without incurring the imputation of presumption.

We are now as it were, upon the eve of another dissolution of our Army—the remembrance of the difficulties wch happened upon that occasion last year—the consequences which might have followed the change, if proper advantages had been taken by the Enemy—added to a knowledge of the present temper and Situation of the Troops, reflect but a very gloomy prospect upon the appearance of things now and satisfie me, beyond the possibility of doubt, that unless some speedy, and effectual measures are adopted by Congress; our cause will be lost.

It is in vain to expect that any (or more than a trifling) part of this Army will again engage in the Service on the encouragement offered by Congress—When Men find that their Townsmen & Companions are receiving 20, 30, and more Dollars for a few Months Service (which is truely the case) it cannot be expected; without using compulsion; & to force them into the Service would answer no valuable purpose. When Men are irritated, & the Passions inflamed, they fly hastily, and chearfully to Arms, but after the first emotions are over to expect, among such People as compose the bulk of an Army, that they are influenced by any other principles than those of Interest, is to look for what never did, & I fear never will happen; the Congress will deceive themselves therefore if they expect it.

A Soldier reasoned with upon the goodness of the cause he is engaged in and the inestimable rights he is contending for, hears you with patience, & acknowledges the truth of your observations; but adds, that it is of no more Importance to him than others—The Officer makes you the same reply, with this further remark, that his pay will not support him, and he cannot ruin himself and Family to serve his Country, when every member of the community is equally Interested and benefitted by his Labours—The few therefore, who act upon Principles of disinterestedness, are, comparitively speaking—no more than a drop in the Ocean. It becomes evidently clear then, that as this contest is not likely to be the Work of a day—as the War must be carried on systematically—and to do it, you must have good Officers, there are, in my judgment, no other possible means to obtain them but by establishing your Army upon a permanent footing; and giving your Officers good pay. this will induce Gentlemen, and Men of Character to engage; and till the bulk of your Officers are composed of Such persons as are actuated by Principles of honour, and a spirit of enterprize, you have little to expect from them. They ought to have such allowances as will enable them to live like, and support the Characters of Gentlemen; and not be driven by a scanty pittance to the low, & dirty arts which many of them practice to filch the Public of more than the difference of pay would amount to upon an ample allowe—besides, something is due to the Man who puts his life in his hand—hazards his health—& forsakes the Sweets of domestic enjoyments—Why a Captn in the Continental Service should receive no more than 5/. Curry per day for performing the same duties that an Officer of the same Rank in the British Service receives 10/. Sterlg for, I never could conceive; especially when the latter is provided with every necessary he requires upon the best terms, and the former can scarce procure them at any Rate. There is nothing that gives a Man consequence, & renders him fit for Command, like a support that renders him Independant of every body but the State he Serves.

With respect to the Men, nothing but a good bounty can obtain them upon a permanent establishment; and for no shorter time than the continuance of the War, ought they to be engaged; as Facts incontestibly prove, that the difficulty, and Cost of Inlistments, increase with time. When the Army was first raised at Cambridge, I am perswaded the Men might have been got without a bounty for the War—after this, they began to see that the contest was not likely to end so speedily as was immagined, & to feel their consequence, by remarking, that to get the Militia In, in the course of last year, many Towns were induced to give them a bounty—Foreseeing the Evils resulting from this and the destructive consequences which unavoidably would follow short Inlistments, I took the liberty in a long Letter written by myself (date not now recollected, as my Letter Book is not here) to recommend the Inlistments for and during the War, Assigning such Reasons for it, as experience has since convinced me were well founded—At that time Twenty Dollars would, I am perswaded, have engaged the Men for this term. But it will not do to look back, and if the present opportunity is slip’d, I am perswaded that twelve months more will Increase our difficulties four fold—I shall therefore take the freedom of givg it as my opinion, that a good Bounty be immediately offered, aided by the proffer of at least 100 or 150 Acres of Land and a Suit of Cloaths & Blankt to each Non Comd Officer & Soldier, as I have good Authority for saying, that however high the Mens pay may appear, it is barely sufficient in the present scarcity & dearness of all kinds of goods, to keep them in Cloaths, much less afford support to their Families—If this encouragement then is given to the Men, and such Pay allowed the Officers as will induce Gentlemen of Character & liberal Sentiments to engage, and proper care & precaution used in the nomination (having more regard to the Characters of Persons, than the number of Men they can Inlist) we should in a little time have an Army able to cope with any that can be opposed to it; as there are excellent Materials to form one out of: but while the only merit an Officer possesses is his ability to raise Men—while those Men consider, and treat him as an equal; & (in the Character of an Officer) regard him no more than a broomstick, being mixed together as one common herd, no order, nor no discipline can prevail—nor will the Officer ever meet with that respect which is essensially necessary to due subordination.

To place any dependance upon Militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender Scenes of domestick life—unaccustomed to the din of Arms—totally unacquainted with every kind of Military skill, which being followed by a want of Confidence in themselves when opposed to Troops regularly traind—disciplined, and appointed—superior in knowledge, & superior in Arms, makes them timid, and ready to fly from their own Shadows. Besides, the sudden change in their manner of living (particularly in the lodging) brings on sickness in many; impatience in all; & such an unconquerable desire of returning to their respective homes that it not only produces shameful, & scandalous Desertions among themselves, but infuses the like spirit in others—Again, Men accustomed to unbounded freedom, and no controul, cannot brooke the Restraint which is indispensably necessary to the good Order and Government of an Army; without which Licentiousness, & every kind of disorder triumphantly reign. To bring men to a proper degree of Subordination is not the work of a day—a Month— or even a year—and unhappily for us, and the cause we are Ingaged in, the little discipline I have been labouring to establish in the Army under my immediate Command, is in a manner done away by having such a mixture of Troops as have been called together within these few Months.

Relaxed, and as unfit as our Rules & Regulations of War are for the Government of an Army, the Militia (those properly so called, for of these we have two sorts, the Six Months Men and those sent in as a temporary aid) do not think themselves subject to ’em, and therefore take liberties which the Soldier is punished for—this creates jealousy—jealousy begets dissatisfactions—and these by degrees ripen into Mutiny; keeping the whole Army in a confused, and disordered State; rendering the time of those who wish to see regularity & good Order prevail more unhappy than Words can describe—Besides this, such repeated changes take place, that all arrangement is set at nought, & the constant fluctuation of things deranges every plan, as fast as adopted.

These Sir, Congress may be assured, are but a small part of the Inconveniences which might be enumerated, & attributed to Militia—but there is one that merits particular attention, & that is the expence. Certain I am that it would be cheaper to keep 50 or 100,000 Men in constant pay than to depend upon half the number, and supply the other half occasionally by Militia—The time the latter is in pay before and after they are in Camp, Assembling & Marching—the waste of Ammunition—the consumption of Stores, which in spite of every Resolution, & requisition of Congress they must be furnished with, or sent home—added to other incidental expences consequent upon their coming, and conduct in Camp, surpasses all Idea; and destroys every kind of regularity & œconomy which you could establish amg fixed and Settled Troops; and will in my opinion prove (if the scheme is adhered to) the Ruin of our Cause.

The Jealousies of a standing Army, and the Evils to be apprehended from one, are remote; and in my judgment, situated & circumstanced as we are, not at all to be dreaded; but the consequence of wanting one, according to my Ideas; formed from the present view of things, is certain, and inevitable Ruin; for if I was called upon to declare upon Oath, whether the Militia have been most Serviceable or hurtful upon the whole I should subscribe to the latter. I do not mean by this however to arraign the Conduct of Congress, in so doing I should equally condemn my own measures (if I did not my judgment) but experience, which is the best criterion to work by, so fully, clearly, and decisively reprobates the practice of trusting to Militia, that no Man who regards order, regularity, & Œconomy; or who has any regard for his own honour, character, or peace of Mind, will risk them upon this Issue.

No less Attention should be paid to the choice of Surgeons than other Officers of the Army. they should undergo a regular examination; and if not appointed by the Director Genl & Surgeons of the Hospital, they ought to be subordinate to, and governed by his directions—the Regimental Surgeons I am speaking of—many of whom are very great Rascals, countenancing the Men in sham Complaints to exempt them from duty, and often receiving Bribes to Certifie Indispositions with a view to procure discharges or Furloughs; but independant of these practices, while they are considered as unconnected with the Genl Hospital there will be nothing but continual Complaints of each other—The director of the Hospital charging them with enormity in their drafts for the Sick; & they him, for denying such things as are necessary—In short there is a constant bickering among them, which tends greatly to the Injury of the Sick; and will always subsist till the Regimental Surgeons are made to look up to the Director Genl of the Hospital as a Superior—whether this is the case in regular Armies, or not, I cannot undertake to say; but certain I am there is a necessity for it in this, or the Sick will suffer. the Regimental Surgeons are aiming, I am perswaded, to break up the Genl Hospital, & have, in numberless Instances, drawn for Medicines—Stores—&ca in the most profuse and extravagent manner, for private purposes.

Another matter highly worthy of attention, is, that other Rules and Regulation’s may be adopted for the Government of the Army than those now in existence, otherwise the Army, but for the name, might as well be disbanded—For the most atrocious offences (one or two Instances only excepted) a Man receives no more than 39 Lashes, and these perhaps (thro the collusion of the Officer who is to see it inflicted) are given in such a manner as to become rather a matter of sport than punishment; but when inflicted as they ought, many hardend fellows who have been the Subjects, have declared that for a bottle of Rum they would undergo a Second operation—it is evident therefore that this punishment is inadequate to many Crimes it is assigned to—as a proof of it, thirty and 40 Soldiers will desert at a time; and of late, a practice prevails (as you will see by my Letter of the 22d) of the most alarming nature; and which will, if it cannot be checked, prove fatal both to the Country and Army—I mean the infamous practice of Plundering, for under the Idea of Tory property—or property which may fall into the hands of the Enemy, no Man is secure in his effects, & scarcely in his Person; for in order to get at them, we have several Instances of People being frieghtned out of their Houses under pretence of those Houses being ordered to be burnt, & this is done with a view of siezing the Goods; nay, in order that the Villainy may be more effectually concealed, some Houses have actually been burnt to cover the theft.

I have with some others used my utmost endeavours to stop this horrid practice, but under the present lust after plunder, and want of Laws to punish Offenders, I might almost as well attempt to remove Mount Atlas—I have ordered instant corporal Punishment upon every Man who passes our Lines, or is seen with Plunder that the Offender might be punished for disobedience of Orders; and Inclose you the proceedings of a Court Martial held upon an Officer, who with a Party of Men had robbd a House a little beyond our Lines of a number of valuable Goods; among which (to shew that nothing escapes) were four large Peer looking Glasses—Womens Cloaths, and other Articles which one would think, could be of no Earthly use to him—He was met by a Major of Brigade who ordered him to return the Goods as taken contrary to Genl Orders, which he not only peremptorily refused to do, but drew up his Party and swore he would defend them at the hazard of his Life; on which I orderd him to be Arrested, and tryed for Plundering, Disobedience of Orders, and Mutiny; for the Result, I refer to the Proceedings of the Court; whose judgment appeared so exceedingly extraordinary, that I ordered a Reconsideration of the matter, upon which, and with the assistance of a fresh evidence, they made Shift to Cashier him.

I adduce this Instance to give some Idea to Congress of the Currt Sentimts & general run of the Officers which compose the present Army; & to shew how exceedingly necessary it is to be careful in the choice of the New sett even if it should take double the time to compleat the Levies—An Army formed of good Officers moves like Clock work; but there is no Situation upon Earth less enviable, nor more distressing, than that Person’s who is at the head of Troops, who are regardless of Order and discipline; and who are unprovided with almost every necessary—In a word, the difficulties which have forever surrounded me since I have been in the Service, and kept my Mind constantly upon the stretch—The Wounds which my Feelings as an Officer have received by a thousand things which have happened, contrary to my expectation and Wishes—the effect of my own conduct, and present appearance of things, so little pleasing to myself, as to render it a matter of no Surprize (to me) if I should stand capitally censured by Congress—added to a consciousness of my inability to govern an Army composed of such discordant parts, and under such a variety of intricate and perplexing circumstances, induces not only a belief, but a thorough conviction in my Mind, that it will be impossible unless there is a thorough change in our Military System for me to conduct matters in such a manner as to give Satisfaction to the Publick, which is all the recompense I aim at, or ever wished for.

Before I conclude I must appologize for the liberties taken in this Letter and for the blots and scratchings therein—not having time to give it more correctly. With truth I can add, that with every Sentiment of respect & esteem I am Yrs & the Congresses Most Obedt & Most H. Servt – Go: Washington”

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