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My dear Marquis,
I have received your several letters, and am extremely concerned at the temper of your detachment, and the desertions that are taking place. I imagine however that these would have been nearly as great in any other corps that might have been sent, and, after the Pennsylvania line, I think it would be ineligible to detach any other State line. We learn by experience, that they are not only dissipated on the march, but, being at a great distance from their States, are almost entirely neglected. Few recruits are raised for thera, and these few are lost on the way. We see how totally the Maryland line has declined, and how little is doing to reestablish it ; a line formerly among the most numerous and respectable in the army. Our plan at present appears to me to be to commit the defence of the southern States to the States as far as Pennsylvania inclusive, and to make up by detachment any additional succours, that may be necessary. We must endeavour to compensate these detachments for the loss of State supplies by giving them a larger proportion of Continental. On this principle I am sending to you the articles mentioned in the enclosed list ; twelve hundred shirts, twelve hundred linen overalls, twelve hundred pairs of shoes, twelve hundred pairs of socks, and one hundred hunting-shirts, which set out two days ago from this place. I have also urged the Board of War to do their best for you.
Colonel Vose shall be relieved. If there is any good officer of an eastern line here desirous of the command, he must have it. I mentioned to you, that I had a warm remonstrance soon after your departure from the Massachusetts line, on the manner of appointing officers for your corps. If there should be no officer of the proper rank desirous of the command, I shall be glad to employ Lieutenant-Colonel Smith. I will see what can be done in the case of Major Galvan. I wish at all events to retain Gimat ; but it will be difficult to remove the one without the other.
It appears to me extraordinary, that your ad\ices should have given you an idea so different from the whole complexion of the intelligence I had received, concerning the probability of a certain event. This, and the situation of our own force, have induced me to regard it as barely possible ; too precarious to enter far into our dispositions ; possible only in a case, which we are not authorized to expect will happen. I dare not trust the details on which this opinion is founded to paper.
The danger to the southern States is immediate and pressing. It is our duty to give them support. The detachment with you, all circumstances considered, was the most proper for the purpose. The project, which General Greene has lately adopted, adds a particular motive to continuing its destination. It is essential to him, that Phillips should be held in check ; and we cannot wholly rely on militia for this. As to a transportation by water, while the enemy command the Chesapeake and Cape Fear, I do not see how it is practicable. The only cause of hesitation in my mind, about sending your corps to the southward, w^as a separation from you. I refer you to private letters accompanying this, one written previously to your last, the other subsequently. As to our force here, you know what it was when you left us, and you will know what it is now, when I tell you that we have as yet but few recruits. The enemy's present force of regular troops at New York is near seven thousand. I shall recommend Major Macpherson, as you request, to General Greene. Present my warmest thanks to that officer and assure him of the sense I have of his services.
You were right, my dear Marquis, in supposing that no explanation could be necessary as to your letter to the Board of War. I know your sentiments and your friendship. I shall not detain the express to enlarge on the other subjects of your letters. I will embrace the first safe opportunity to give you a full view of our affairs, what we are, and what we expect to be, that you may regulate your future correspondence with your court accordingly. Hitherto I could give you nothing material, more than you know, as to ourselves.
I am, my dear Marquis, &,c.
- New Windsor
- The Writings of George Washington Being His Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and Other Papers, Official and Private, Selected and Published from the Original Manuscripts. Vol VIII, Jared Sparks, 1839