22 May 2007
WASHINGTON, George. Autograph draft manuscript, unsigned. An addendum to the General Orders for 27 May 1781. 1 page, folio, edges and creases expertly reinforced on verso. Autograph notation at bottom edge in hand of Tench Tilghman.
"ALL ABSENT OFFICERS... ARE TO JOIN THEIR RESPECTIVE CORPS IMMEDIATELY--NO OTHER EXCUSE CAN BE ADMITTED"
A rare and dramatic example of Washington drafting part of a general order. The commander in chief makes this urgent and emphatic call to rally all troops for a planned move to liberate occupied New York City: "All absent officers not on public duty by order of the comdr in chief, or not appointed by proper authority under him, to receive & forward on the recruits, are to join their respective Corps immediately--no other excuse can be admitted. No more furloughs are to be given till the end of the Campaign but in very extraordinary cases of which the General Officer commanding the Corps is to be the judge. All soldiers upon furlough are to be immediately ordered to join their respective Regiments. The Commander in Chief does in pointed and positive terms forbid under any pretense whatever, officers of the Regiment discharging Soldiers before the term for which they are engaged is expired--and he is equally pointed in forbidding the exchange of Men unless both are produced to the Genl. officers commanding, & his approbation obtained, wch is to be certified in the discharge. No more recruits are to be discharged. Such as they thought unfit for service by the Inspectors of the different State lines with the Army are to be sent to the Adjutant General for further examination."
Fresh from his 22 May meeting with Rochambeau in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the American and French commands agreed to strike at New York. A blow there, Washington hoped, would force British general Lord George Germain to send reinforcements up from the Chesapeake. Washington soon realized that even with French help he still lacked sufficient power to prevail in New York, but his movements down the Hudson Highlands were enough to force the British to peel forces from Cornwallis, leaving him vulnerable. Washington lunged for this exposed jugular at Yorktown just a few months later. The complete text of the order is published in Fitzpatrick 22:122-124.
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