WASHINGTON, GEORGE, President. Letter signed ("G: Washington") as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, text in the hand of Tench Tilghman, his aide-de-camp, to Brigadier General James Clinton, Head Quarters, [Morristown, N.J.], 24 January 1780. One page, folio, edges untrimmed, light browning to extreme edges of the sheet.
WASHINGTON, SHORT OF GENERAL OFFICERS, DECLINES TO EXTEND GENERAL CLINTON'S FURLOUG
Washington explains, carefully and in patient detail, his reasons for declining Clinton's request for an extension of his furlough. The General and his army had established winter quarters at Morristown, where they could observe and respond to any movements of the British from New York. Clinton himself had returned not long before from the expedition against the Iroquois in upstate New York, which lasted from May to November 1779. "I should have been glad had the Situation of the Army, in respect to General Officers, admitted of my granting your request for a larger continuance of your furlough. But I am really obliged to dispense with many necessary Camp duties and to send Officers of inferior ranks upon commands which ought in propriety to fall to General Oficers. We have at this time but two Brigadiers of the line in Camp, and one of them, General [William] Irvine has pressing calls to visit his family and waits the return of you or General Huntington. You will see by the above that I am under the necessity of desiring you to join your Brigade as soon as you possibly can....." Published (from Washington's letter book copy, also in Tilghman's hand) in Writings, ed. J.C. Fitzpatrick, 17:437.
The Morristown winter encampment became "an ordeal of almost unbelievable suffering" (Boatner, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, 747). "Discomfort, chill and misgivings attended the birth of 1780 at Morristown. In the absence of furloughed Generals, some of whose duties were thrown on the shoulders of the Commander-in-Chief, the business of the Army took so much of Washington's time that he felt he was not devoting himself as he should to the 'military' parts of his task....All the miseries of camp were made a torture by the extreme cold. On the 2nd and 3rd of January, a storm piled up drifts of four to six feet, with temperature so low that prolonged venture out of doors was self-murder....Some companies were almost without officers, while others had more than the regulations permitted....One of the principal reasons for these humiliating affairs was the continuing absence of officers. The greater part of those of commissioned rank who could find any excuse for leaving the army during the winter procured furloughs, which Washington indulgently granted for periods unduly long. The officers who remained at their posts were overworked and, in some instances, incapacitated by sickness. For days on end Washington had only two Brigadiers of the line at Morristown; one of these [Irvine] had private affairs that would have justified his temporary release from duty...." (D.S. Freeman, Washington, v:143-148).