Here is a letter from General Washington to the Congressional War Board
outlining the current situation at Valley Forge, 225 years ago today.
Mike Cecere 3rd & 7th VA
George Washington to Continental Congress War Board, January 2, 1778
Head Quarters, Valley Forge, January 2--3, 1778.
It would be a happy circumstance, if the Cloathing from Virginia was made up,
that it might be delivered to the Troops from thence. I believe there will be
little, nay none for any other part of the Army, after they are supplied,
supposing such to be the wish of the State. Their views do not extend only to
such of their Soldiery as are now in Camp, but to their Men in Hospitals and
the recruits or drafts who will join hereafter; And I am satisfied, should
any of it be appropriated to the use of others and their own troops want,
there will be disgust and dissatisfaction. From the Letters I have received
upon the Subject, it is particularly mentioned that the supplies which the
states procures, are intended for their own Men and this is agreeable to the
Idea entertain'd by the other States.
The Connecticut Troops now here, have received from thence more necessaries
of an essential nature than their present wants require and these are kept
for their future demands. As to Blankets, I really do not know what will be
done. Our situation in this instance is peculiarly distressing. I suppose
that not less than from 3 to 4000 are now wanted in Camp, Our Sick want, Our
unfortunate men in captivity want. I gave Doctor Shippen an order some time
ago for 400, said to be coming from the Eastward; whether they have been
received or not, I cannot tell. To relieve in one quarter, is to distress in
another, and I do not see that any of those sent from Virginia, can be
possibly spared from the Troops here.
I have written to Genl Smallwood, who is posted at Wilmington, respecting the
Cattle said to be driven to the Marshes in Kent County, and given him
direction to inquire into the fact and if found true, to pursue proper
measures for their removal and security.
Whether the Men from the Eastward, drafted for a short term of Service, have
received Cloathing is a matter I am not able to determine. I do not apprehend
that they have drawn much since they joined this Army; Because the supplies
in the Cloathier's hands would not admit of it; nor do I know certainly
whether they have had any. As far as it is in my power I shall attend to the
prohibition, tho' the observance of it will be found easier in Speculation
than in practice.
I have given directions to the Commissary and Qr. Master about the Flour and
Bread at Elk and hope measures will be pursued, that they will be with the
Army or in the vicinity of it by the time they are wanted.
The Army being much reduced by Sickness, by the expiration of the time of
service of Several of the Troops, by Detachments and other Causes, I cannot
think it safe to weaken it more, and therefore cannot comply with the
requisition for sending Taylors to Lancaster. However, that the Supplies of
Cloathing may be forwarded, I have directed a return to be made of all the
Taylors and they will be set to Work either in Camp or at some place
Contiguous to it, as soon as Cloth and other materials arrive.
Your favors of the 28th and 30th Ulto. came to hand this Morning. In
compliance with the Board's request, I have ordered Colo. Heartley's Regiment
to march to York, and in turn shall expect as soon as possible the Detachment
of Men, which you mention. This measure at the same time, does not appear to
me very adviseable, The Army, as I have observed before, being greatly
reduced and weakened by the term of service of several Regiments being
expired and from other causes. It is daily diminishing. On the 31st day of
Decr. the Inlistments of near 300 of Colo Stewart's Regiment ended and they
are all gone. Our condition in point of force is far from being the most
eligible or respectable, and in case the Enemy should make a General push,
would be hazardous.
I shall use every exertion, that may be expedient and practicable, for
subsisting the Army and keeping it together; But I must observe, that, this
never can be done by coercive means. Supplying of Provisions and Cloathing
must be had in another way, or it cannot exist. The small seizures, that were
made of the former, some days ago, in consequence of the most pressing and
urgent necessity, when the alternative was to do that or dissolve, excited
the greatest alarm and uneasiness imaginable even among some of our best and
Warmest Friends. Such procedures may relieve for an Instant, but eventually
will prove of the most pernicious consequences, besides spreading
disaffection and jealousy in the people, they never fail even in the most
veteran Armies, under the most rigid and exact discipline, to raise in the
Soldiery a disposition to licentiousness, plunder, and Robbery, which has
ever been found, exceedingly difficult to suppress and which has not only
proved ruinous to the Inhabitants, but in many instances to Armies themselves.