WASHINGTON, George (1732-1799). Letter signed ("G:o Washington") TO BRIGADIER GENERAL "MAD ANTHONY" WAYNE (1745-1796), Headquarters, Preakness [New Jersey], 27 November 1780. 4pp., folio, expertly silked. Head Quarters, Preakness, [New Jersey], 27 November 1780. Text in the hand of Washington's aide-de-camp TENCH TILGMAN (1744-1786), DOCKETED AND SIGNED BY WAYNE on verso, with a brief maxim: "Prepare for the worst hope for the best, do your duty & trust God for the rest."
WASHINGTON ORDERS CIVILIANS BE SPARED "FROM WANTON OR UNNECESSARY VIOLATION," FOR "THEY HAVE...BORNE MUCH OF THE BURTHEN OF THE WAR, AND HAVE NEVER FAILED TO RELIEVE THE DISTRESSES OF THE ARMY"
"DO YOUR DUTY & TRUST GOD FOR THE REST." A very long, richly detailed confidential letter to one of Washington's most trusted senior officers, ordering "Mad Anthony" Wayne to march his division to its winter quarters at Morristown, just a month before the unpaid and ill-equipped troops mutinied. The Commander-in-Chief worries about depleting supplies and deserting troops, but pins his hopes on promised French help, as well as the steadfastness of American support for the Revolutionary cause. "You will march with the division under your command to the ground in the neighbourhood of Morris Town...You will as soon as possible get both Officers and Men completely and comfortably covered...The scantiness of Forage requires every exertion to avoid the consumption of it in and near the Army. The state of our Magazines of provision requires, also, every attention to frugality and economy, for which purpose it will be necessary to inspect the issues every now and then, and compare them with the Returns of the Men. The same may be observed of public stores of every kind, of which our Magazines are almost intirely exhausted."
In an eloquent passage Washington strongly cautions against exploiting the neighboring civilians. "I would recommend, in the strongest manner, the preservation of the persons and properties of the inhabitants from wanton or unnecessary violation. They have, from their situation, borne much of the burthen of the War, and have never failed to relieve the distresses of the Army, when properly called upon. You will pay particular attention to drawing the public Arms and Accoutrements from the Levies at the time of their dismission." We can see Washington's fears over discipline as well as supplies when he hopes that Wayne "will receive a number of Recruits in the course of the Winter. Should you do so, you will put them in training, that they may, by imbibing the Rudiments of a Soldier in detail, be fit to join the line in performing their maneuvres in the Spring, which you will direct to commence as soon as the season will admit. You will not suffer the established mode of discipline and Maneuvre to be in the least degree deviated from, as it is my wish to see the whole Army take the Field next Campaign, with more than a common uniformity in the performance of all its duties, as we shall, probably, open it in conjunction with the Army of our Allies, composed of some of the first Corps of France; for which reason, it will be doubly incumbent upon the Officers, who remain in service, to perfect themselves in the duties of their respective stations..."
He tells Wayne to make sure he has sufficient officers to maintain command, and he wants those officers "to cut off, as effectually as possible, the pernicious intercourse between [occupied] New York and New Jersey; the most probable way of doing which is, by the total destruction of all the Craft of every kind found between Amboy and Second River [now known as Belleville], which I would recommend, not only upon that account, but to prevent the passage of Deserters. The State of New Jersey has, I am informed, proposed very severe
laws against holding an intercourse with the Enemy, and it would, therefore, be well to make yourself acquainted with them..."
Morristown was not the only Continental encampment that winter. Washington also kept troops at Pompton, West Point, and the Hudson Highlands. But Wayne's command would prove the most eventful. His control over his men would be among the greatest achievements of his military career, one that dated back to 1775, when he fought in the Canadian invasion and Ticonderoga. He extended his reputation for boldness at Brandywine, Germantown and especially his daring capture of Stony Point in 1779. Five weeks after receiving this letter, on New Year's Day, 1781, his men mutinied over poor conditions and lack of pay. Washington's greatest fears seemed to be realized. Trying to contain his men's fury, Wayne agreed to lead a contingent to Congressional and Pennsylvania legislators at Princeton. The British, getting wind of the troubles, tried to lure the discontented into their lines but the men refused to (as they put it) "become Arnolds." The Pennsylvanians returned to their lines with ameliorating concessions from the politicians. However, when a contingent of Jersey troops launched their own mutiny at Pompton a few weeks later, Washington cracked down hard, executing the mutineers and severely disciplining the remaining troops. The Army held together for one more season of campaigning--the one that would see their triumph at Yorktown. In his endorsement on the verso Wayne seems to express the attitude that saw him through this crisis. He records words said to him by Capt. McPherson at Paulson: "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, do your duty & trust god for the rest." Published in Fitzpatrick 20:406-408.