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Letter from General Washington to the President of Congress


[Read July 1, 1776.]

New-York, June 28, 1776.

SIR: In compliance with the request of Congress contained in your favour of the 25th instant, and my promise of yesterday, I do myself the honour to inform you that the cost of a ration, according to the Commissary-General' s estimate, from the 1st of July to the 1st of December, will be from eight to eight-and-a-half pence, York currency.

Having discharged the obligation I was under in this instance, and finding that many applications have been made for victualling the flying-camp, I would, with all possible deference, wish Congress to consider the matter well before they come to any determination upon it. Who the gentlemen are that have made offers upon this occasion I know not, consequently my objections to their appointment cannot proceed from personal dislike; nor have I it in view to serve Mr˙ Trumbull, the Commissary-General, wishing to have the directions of the whole supplies for his emolument, because whatever rations are taken from him save him the trouble of supplying provisions to the amount, without diminishing his pay, that being fixed and certain; but what influences me is in regard to the publick good. I am morally certain, if the business is taken out of Mr˙ Trumbull' s hands and put into another' s, that it may, and will, in all probability, be attended with great and many inconveniences.

It is likely, during the continuance of the war between us and Great Britain, that the Army here, or part of it, and the troops composing the flying-camp, will be frequently joined, and under the necessity of affording each other mutual aid. If this event is probable — and most certainly it is — the same confusion and disorder will result from having two Commissaries, or one Commissary and one contractor, in the same Army in the same department, as did between Mr˙ Trumbull and Mr˙ Livingston on the coming of the former to New-York. I cannot discriminate the two cases; and not foreseeing that any good consequences will flow from the measure, but that many bad ones will — such as clashing of interests, a contention for horses, carriages, and many other causes that might be mentioned if hurry of business would permit — I confess I cannot perceive the propriety of appointing a different person, or any but the Commissary. I would also add, that few armies, if any, have been better supplied than the troops under Mr˙ Trumbull' s care in this instance, which I should suppose ought to have considerable weight, especially as we have strong reasons to believe that a large share of the misfortunes our arms have sustained in Canada sprang from want of proper and necessary supplies of provisions. Mr˙ Trumbull, too, I am informed, has already made provision in New-Jersey for the flying-camp which will be stationed there, and employed proper persons in that Colony to transact the business incident to his department, in obedience to my orders, and his full confidence that it was to come under his management. My great desire to see the affairs of this important post, on which so much depends, go on in an easy, smooth, and uninterrupted course, has led me to say thus much upon the subject, and will, I hope, if I am unhappy enough to differ in opinion with Congress, plead my excuse for the liberty I have taken.

I would also beg leave to mention to Congress the necessity there is of some new regulations being entered into respecting the Chaplains of this Army. They will remember that applications were made to increase their pay, which was conceived too low for their support; and that it was proposed, if it could not be done for the whole, that the number should be lessened, and one be appointed to two regiments, with an additional allowance. This latter expedient was adopted, and while the Army continued altogether at one encampment, answered well, or at least did not produce many inconveniences; but the Army now being differently circumstanced from what it then was — part here, part at Boston, and a third part detached to Canada — has introduced much confusion and disorder in this instance; nor do I know how it is possible to remedy the evil but by affixing one to each regiment, with salaries competent to their support.


No shifting, no changing from one regiment to another, can answer the purpose; and in many cases it could not be done, though the regiments should consent — as when detachments are composed of unequal numbers, or ordered from different posts. Many more inconveniences might be pointed out; but these, it is presumed, will sufficiently show the defect of the present establishment, and the propriety of an alteration. What that alteration shall be Congress will please to determine.

Congress, I doubt not, will have heard of the plot that was forming among many disaffected persons in this city and Government for aiding the King' s troops upon their arrival. No regular plan seems to have been digested, but several persons have inlisted and sworn to join them. The matter, I am in hopes, by a timely discovery, will be suppressed and put a stop to. Many citizens and others, among whom is the Mayor, are now in confinement. The matter has been traced up to Governour Tryon, and the Mayor appears to have been a principal agent, or go-between him and the persons concerned in it. The plot had been communicated to some of the Army, and part of my Guard engaged in it. Thomas Hickey, one of them, has been tried, and, by the unanimous opinion of a Court-Martial, is sentenced to die, having inlisted himself and engaged others. The sentence, by the advice of the whole Council of General Officers, will be put in execution to-day at eleven o' clock. The others are not tried. I am hopeful this example will produce many salutary consequences, and deter others from entering into the like traitorous practices.

The enclosed copy of a resolve of the Provincial Congress will show that some of the disaffected on Long-Islandhave taken up arms. I have, agreeable to their request, sent a party after them, but have not as yet been able to apprehend them, having concealed themselves in difficult woods and morasses.

General Gates set out on Tuesday with a fine wind, which has been fair ever since, and would soon arrive at Albany.

I this moment received a letter from Lieutenant Davison, of the Schuyler armed sloop, a copy of which I have enclosed, and to which I beg leave to refer you, for the intelligence communicated by him. I could wish General Howe and his armament not to arrive yet, as not more than a thousand Militia have yet come in, and our whole force, including the troops at all the detached posts, and on board the armed vessels which are comprehended in our returns, is but small and inconsiderable when compared with the extensive lines they are to defend, and most probably the army that he brings. I have no further intelligence about him than what the Lieutenant mentions, but it is extremely probable his accounts and conjectures are true.

I have the honour to be, with sentiments of great esteem, sir, your most obedient servant.


To the Honourable John Hancock, Esq.

P˙ S. I have enclosed a general return; and it may be certainly depended on that General Howe and fleet have sailed from Halifax. Some of the men on board the prizes mentioned in the Lieutenant' s letter were on board the Grey-hound, and saw General Howe.