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Your Excellency has made me very unhappy. I can submit very patiently to deserved censure ; but it wounds my feelings exceedingly to meet with a rebuke for doing what I conceived to be a proper part of my duty, and in the order of things.
When I left your Excellency at Haverstraw, you desired me to go forward and reconnoitre the country, and fix upon some proper position to draw the troops together at, I was a stranger to all this part of the country, and could form no judgment of a proper place, until I had thoroughly examined the ground.
Croton River was the only place I could find suitable to the purpose, all circumstances being taken into consideration. I wrote your Excellency what I had done, and where I was, that if you had any thing in charge I might receive your orders. I wrote you the reasons for my not waiting upon you in person were, I had many letters to answer, and many matters to regulate in my department, which prevented me from returning. Besides which, it was almost half a day's ride, the weather exceeding hot, and myself not a little fatigued. And here I must observe, that neither my constitution nor strength is equal to constant exercise.
As I was a stranger to all the lower country, I thought it absolutely necessary for me to come for ward. A thorough knowledge of the country is not easily obtained ; such a one, at least, as is necessary to fix upon the most eligible position for forming a camp. The security of the army, the ease and convenience of the troops, as well as to perform the du ties of my office with a degree of reputation, all conspired to make me wish to fix upon the properest ground for the purpose. This it was impossible for me to do, unless I came on before the troops. And I must confess I saw no objection, as your Excellency had wrote me nothing to the contrary, and what I wrote naturally led to such a measure.
I expected you on every hour, and was impatient to get forward that I might be able to give some account of the country when you came up. Before I left Crompond, I desired Mr. Pettit to wait upon you at your arrival, and take your orders, and if there was any thing special to forward it by ex press.
If I had neglected my duty in pursuit of pleasure, or if I had been wanting in respect to your Excellency, I would have put my hand upon my mouth, and been silent upon the occasion ; but, as I am not conscious of being chargeable with either the one or the other, I cannot help thinking I have been treated with a degree of severity that I am in no respect deserving. And I would just observe here, that it is impossible for me to do my duty if I am always at head-quarters. I have ever given my attendance there as much as possible, both from a sense of duty and from inclination ; but constant attendance is out of my power, unless I neglect all other matters ; the propriety of which, and the consequences that will follow, I submit to your Excellency's consideration.
Your Excellency well knows how I came into this department. It was by your special request, and you must be sensible there is no other man upon earth would have brought me into the business but you. The distress the department was in, the disgrace that must accompany your operations without a change, and the difficulty of engaging a person capable of conducting the business, together with the hopes of meeting your approbation, and having your full aid and assistance, reconciled me to the undertaking.
I flatter myself, when your Excellency takes a, view of the state things were in when I first engaged, and consider the short time we had to make the preparations for the opening campaign, and reflect with what ease and facility you began your march from Valley Forge, and continued it all through the country r notwithstanding we went great part of the way entirely out of the line of preparations, you will do me the justice to say I have not been negli gent or inattentive to my duty.
I have, in every respect, since I had my appointment, strove to accommodate the business of the department to the plan of jour Excellency's operations. And I can say, with great truth, that ever since I had the honor to serve under you, I have been more attentive to the public interest, and more engaged in the support of your Excellency's character, than ever I was to my own ease, interest, or reputation.
I have never solicited you for a furlough to go home to indulge in pleasure, or to improve my interest, which, by the by, I have neglected, going on four years. I have never confined myself to my particular line of duty only. Neither have I ever spared myself, either by night or day, where it has been necessary to promote the public service under your direction. I have never been troublesome to your Excellency, to publish any thing to my advantage, although I think myself as justly entitled as some others, who have been much more fortunate, particularly in the action of the Brandywine.
I have never suffered my pleasures to interfere with my duty ; and 1 am persuaded I have given too many unequivocal proofs of my attachment to your person and interest, to leave a doubt upon your mind to the contrary. I have always given you my opinion with great candor, and executed your orders with equal fidelity. I do not mean to arrogate to myself more merit than I deserve, or wish to exculpate myself from being chargeable with error, and in some instances negligence. However, I can speak, with a becoming pride, that I have always endeavoured to deserve the public esteem, and your Excellency's approbation.
As I came into the Quarter-master's department with reluctance, so I shall leave it with pleasure. Your influence brought me in, and the want of your approbation will induce me to go out. I am very sensible of many deficiens, but this is not so justly chargeable to my intentions, as to the difficult circumstances attending the business. It is almost impossible to get good men for the con ducting all parts of so complex a business. It may,therefore, naturally be expected that many things will wear an unfavorable complexion ; but, let who will undertake the business, they will find it very difficult, not to say impossible, to regulate it in such a manner as not to leave a door open for censure, and furnish a handle for reproach. I am, with all due respect, your Excellency's
Most obedient, humble servant,
- Nathanael Greene
- Correspondence of the American Revolution; Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Volume II., Jared Sparks, 1853