WASHINGTON, George (1732-1799), President. Letter signed ("G:o Washington"), as Commander-in-Chief, to Gen. Smallwood, Morris Town, 8 March 1777. 1 page, folio, free frank on address panel in secretarial hand. Fine condition. TEXT IN THE HAND OF ALEXANDER HAMILTON, Washington's aide-de-camp.
WASHINGTON WORRIES OVER "THE PRESENT WEAK STATE OF OUR ARMY AND THE APPEARANCE OF A SPEEDY MOVEMENT BEING INTENDED BY THE ENEMY"
Washington girds for the 1777 campaigning season, trying to augment his depleted, ragged force. "The present weak state of our army and the appearance of a speedy movement being intended by the ennemy, make it necessary that I should use every resource to augment our number in the most expeditious manner possible. You will therefore immediately call upon the commanding officers of the regiments of your State and order them without delay to repair to camp with such men as they have already collected; leaving a proper number of officers to prosecute the business of recruiting, which must, by no means, be impeded or retarded. I am sensible that the drawing troops into real service, before the regiments are properly completed and arranged, is injurious in many respects; but the exigency of our affairs makes it, at this time, indispensable; and I must urge it upon you to take every method in your power to hasten their coming forward. I must also request that you will immediately send me exact returns of the number of men, which have been raised in your State."
Freeman's chapter on this period in Washington's biography is appropriately titled "Languor and Danger at Morristown." The returns requested here showed a force--on paper--of some 17,800. But the real number was far, far below that. Washington thought it closer to 4,000. Many militia took a bounty to stay on past their agreed term, then decided to go home anyway, money and all. "Here today, gone tomorrow," Washington grumbled in another letter about the unreliable provincials. The commander was also disgusted by many of his officers who were prepared to pass an unperturbed winter in the cozy homes of Morristown. A New Army of continental regulars was in the making, bringing, he hoped, more discipline and fighting spirit. In the meantime Washington could only maintain his defensive positions, and harass Howe's troops near their outposts at Brunswick and Amboy. He was astonished and grateful that Howe did not hurl his whole force against the Americans and crush them. Now, here in March, Washington was convinced the British were on the move against Philadelphia, or possibly up the North River to Ticonderoga. Yet not until the end of the summer did Howe bestir himself, attacking Philadelphia (instead of trying to link up with Burgoyne and St. Leger in Albany). Washington was finally able to give battle at Brandywine and Germantown in September and October. Both engagements did little to check Howe's advance, and the more decisive action unfolded to the north, at Saratoga. But Washington was determinedly, and inexorably, moulding his new army into a legitimate fighting force. Published in Fitzpatrick 7:265.