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Letter from General Greene to Samuel Ward



Prospect-Hill, December 18, 1775.

The army is filling up slowly; I think the prospect is


better than it has been. Recruits come in out of the country plentifully, and the soldiers in the army begin to show a better disposition, and to recruit cheerfully.

Your observation is exceedingly just. This is no time for disgusting the soldiery, when their aid is so essential to the preservation of the rights of human nature, and the liberties of America. His Excellency is a great and good man; I feel the highest degree of respect for him. I wish him immortal honour. I think myself happy in an opportunity to serve under so good a General. My happiness will be still greater if fortune gives me an opportunity in some signal instance to contribute to his glory and my country' s good.

But his Excellency, as you observe, has not had time to make himself acquainted with the genius of this people; they are naturally as brave and spirited as the peasantry of any other country, but you cannot expect veterans of a raw militia from only a few months' service. The common people are exceedingly avaricious; the genius of the people is Commercial, from their long intercourse with trade. The sentiment of honour, the true characteristick of a soldier, has not yet got the better of interest. His Excellency has been taught to believe the people here a superior race of mortals; and finding them of the same temper and dispositions, passions and prejudices, virtues and vices of the common people of other Governments, they sink in his esteem. The country round here set no bounds to their demand for hay, wood, and teaming. It has given his Excellency a great deal of uneasiness that they should take this opportunity to extort from the necessities of the army such enormous prices. The General has often expressed to me his uneasiness about the expenses; they so far exceed the expectations of Congress. He is afraid they will sink under the weight of such charges. Economy is undoubtedly essential in this dispute; there should be no wanton waste of publick property; but if you starve the cause, you protract the dispute.

If the Congress wish to put the finishing stroke to this war, they must exert their whole force at once — give every measure an air of decision. I pray God we may not lose the critical moment. Human affairs are ever like the tide, constantly on the ebb and flow. Our preparations in in all parts of the United Colonies ought to be so great as to leave no room to doubt our intentions to support the cause and obtain our conditions. This will draw in the weak and wavering, and give such a turn to the minds of people, that small shocks shall not be seriously felt in the general plan of operations. Your proclamation, in answer to that of the King' s of August last, is glorious, is noble; was it unanimous, or only the voice of a small majority? The papers announce to you the much greater part of the military operations here.

From the best accounts we can get out of Boston, they are prodigiously distressed. It begins to be very sickly; the scurvy discovers itself; the small-pox prevails; and General Howe is inoculating all the soldiery who have never had it. I think they cannot hold out the winter through, though we were to leave them, unmolested, which God grant we may not.

It is reported that Quebeck is taken. General Montgomery and Colonel Arnold will acquire immortal honour. Oh, that we had plenty of powder; I should then hope to see something done here for the honour of America.

Our barracks are almost completed. Blankets and clothing will be very much wanted, notwithstanding your supply from Congress. The Connecticut troops are gone home; the militia from this Province and New-Hampshire are come in to take their places. Upon this occasion, they have discovered a zeal that does them the highest honour. New-Hampshire behaves nobly.