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SIR : I am very sorry to inform you, that the recruiting business of late goes on so badly, that there remains but little prospect of filling the six new battalions from this State, voted by the Assembly. The board of Council see this with great concern, and, after much reflection on the subject, are of the opinion that the deficiency in our regulars can no way be supplied so properly as by enlisting volunteers. There is reason to believe a considerable number of these may be got to serve six or eight months. But, as you were pleased to signify to me that great inconveniences had arisen by the admission of transient troops at the camp, the board do not choose to adopt the scheme of volunteers, until we are favored with your sentiments on the subject. I believe you can receive no assistance by drafts from the militia. From the battalions of the Commonwealth none can be drawn as yet, because they are not half full.
The volunteers will consist of men chiefly from the upper parts of the country, who would make the best of soldiers could they continue so long in the service as to be regularly disciplined. They will find their own arms, clothes, and blankets, and be commanded by captains and subalterns of their own choosing ; the field-officers to be chosen by the others. They will be subject to the Continental Articles of War, and I believe will be as respectable as such a corps can be expected, without training. I cannot speak with any certainty as to their numbers. In a very little time, seven companies were made up in Augusta. In the other counties no great progress was made, because Government stopped it, on being informed that it was a prejudice to the regular enlistment. But on the failure of this, the other may be revived, I believe, with success. Virginia will find some apology with you for this deficiency in her quota of regulars, when the difficulties lately thrown in our way are considered. The Georgians and Carolinians have enlisted probably two battalions at least. A regiment of artillery is in great forwardness. Besides these, Colonels Baylor and Grayson are collecting regiments, and three others are forming for this State. Add to all this our Indian wars and marine service, almost total want of necessaries, the false accounts of deserters, many of whom lurk here, the terrors of the smallpox, and the many deaths occasioned by it, and the deficient enlistments are accounted for in the best manner I can.
As no time can be spared, I wish to be honored with your answer as soon as possible, in order to promote the volunteer scheme, if it meets your approbation. I should be glad of any improvements on it that may occur to you. I believe about four of the six battalions may be enlisted, but have seen no regular return of their state. Their scattered situation, and being many of them in broken quotas, is a reason for their slow movements. I have issued repeated orders for their march long since. With sentiments of the highest esteem and regard, I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your most obedient and very humble servant,
To His Excellency GENL. GEO. WASHINGTON.
- Patrick Henry