WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("G:o Washington") to Army Clothier General John Moylan, Head-Quarters, Newburgh, 3 August 1782. 3 pages, folio, docketed on page 4, a few spots, mostly marginal, slight tears at fold intersections, otherwise in good condition.
"THE EMBARRASSMENTS OF THE PUBLICK FOR WANT OF MONEY": AN ANGRY WASHINGTON WARNS OF "VERY PERNICIOUS EFFECTS" IF NECESSARY SUPPLIES ARE NOT FURNISHED TO HIS ARMY
A letter which vividly illustrates Washington's unremitting efforts on behalf of his men (some of whom had served for as long as seven years), a concern that included even seemingly minor shortages that distressed his troops and undermined their morale. He acknowledges "the embarrassments of the Publick for want of money," but is clearly incensed to learn that most of his men--in camp on the Hudson--still had only a single shirt to wear: "By the last Inspection Returns of the Army, I find, that the Men in general are possessed of but one Shirt each, and that in a short time they will be totally destitute of the necessary Article, unless a Supply is immediately provided. I wish therefore to fix your Attention immovably to this Subject. Let every Exertion be used, and every resource be tried, for procuring such a Supply of Shirts that two may be issued to every Soldier at the next Delivery, which must be as early as possible."
"This is not only essential necessary for the Comfort of the Troops, but will be found eventually the most substantial and best Oeconomy. The Difficulty, of attaining Supplies and the Embarrassments of the Publick for Want of Money are generally known and considered; but should it notwithstanding be discovered by the Army that any of the States had in possession a Quantity of Linen suitable for Shirts, and that no efforts were made to obtain it for the Publick, it will probably excite great uneasiness, and may be attended with very pernicious Effects, especially when the Men find themselves exceedingly distressed for Want of a single Shirt. This you will represent to those who are competent to have the Business put in a Train of Negotiation, if they should judge proper and you will inform me of the Result."
Lastly, he adds: "I must again urge that the Remainder of the Hunting Shirts [buckskins?] should be sent on without Delay...or the Season proper for wearing them, will have elapsed." Published in Fitzpatrick 24:457-458. For Moylan's 7 August response, see Library of Congress, Washington Papers online.
Washington's pointed comments here on the "pernicious effects" of the neglect of his Army was brought home the following spring. In March 1783, a sizeable number of army officers, aggrieved at continuing shortages and unpaid salaries, circulated the infamous Newburgh Addresses. Only Washington's personal intervention at the last minute was able to avert outright mutiny.