Valley Forge Washinton report
George Washington to the President of Congress.
Valley Forge, December 23, 1777
Sir: Full as I was in my representation of matters in the Commys. department. yesterday, fresh, and more powerful reasons oblige me to add, that I am now convinced, beyond a doubt that unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place in that line, this Army must inevitably be reduced tc one or other of these three things. Starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can; rest assured Sir this is not an exaggerated picture, but that I have abundant reason to support what I see.
Yesterday afternoon receiving information that the Enemy, in force, had left the City, and were advancing towards Derby with apparent design to forage, and draw Subsistance from that part of the Country, I ordered the Troops to be in readiness, that I might give every opposition in my power when, behold! to my great mortification, I was not only informed, but convinced, that the Men were unable to stir on Acct. of Provision, and that~ dangerous Mutiny begun the Night before, and [which] with difficulty was suppressed by the spirited exertion's of some officers was still much to apprehended on acct. of their want of this Article.
This brought forth the only Comy, in the purchasing Line, in this Camp and, with him, this Melancholy and alarming truth; that he had not a sir~ hoof of any kind to Slaughter, and not more than 20. Barrels of Flour! From hence form an opinion of our Situation when I add, that, he could not~ when to expect any.
All I could do under these circumstances was, to send out a few I _ Parties to watch and harass the Enemy, whilst other Parties were instantly detached different ways to collect, if possible, as much Provision as we satisfy the present pressing wants of the Soldiery. But will this answer? Sir: three or four days bad weather would prove our destruction.
What then is to become of the Army this Winter? and if we are as ol without Provisions now, as with it, what is to become of us in the Spr when our force will be collected, with the aid perhaps of Militia, tot advantage of an early campaign before the Enemy can be reinforced? Th' are considerations of great magnitude, meriting the closest attention,' will, when my own reputation is so intimately connected, and to be affected by the event, justify my saying that the present Commissaries are by means equal to the execution of the Office or that the disaffection of People is past all belief. The misfortune however does in my opinion. Proceed from both causes, and tho' I have been tender heretofore of givings opinion, or lodging complaints, as the change in that department. took pl contrary to my judgment, and the consequences thereof were predicted;! finding that the inactivity of the Army, whether for want of provisions, Cloaths, or other essentials, is charged to my Acct., not only by the common vulgar, but those in power, it is time to speak plain in exculpation of myself; with truth then I can declare that, no Man, in my opinion, ever had his measures more impeded than I have, by every department of the Army.
Since the Month of July, we have had no assistance from the Quarter Master Genl. and to want of assistance from this department, the Commissary Genl. charges great part of his deficiency; to this I am to add, that notwithstanding it is a standing order (and often repeated) that the Troops shall always have two days Provisions by them, that they may be ready at any sudden call, yet no opportunity has scarce ever yet happened of taking advantage of the Enemy that has not been totally obstructed or greatly impeded on this Acct., and this tho' the great and crying evil is not all. Soap, Vinegar and other Articles allowed by Congress we see none of nor have [we] seen I believe since the battle of brandywine; the first indeed we have now little occasion of few men having more than one Shirt, many only the Moiety of one, and Some none at all; in addition to which as a proof of the little benefit received from a Cloathier Genl., and at the same time as a further proof of the inability of an Army under the circumstances of this, to perform the common duties of Soldiers (besides a number of Men confined to Hospitals for want of Shoes, and others in farmers Houses on the same Acct.) we have, by a field return this day made no less than 2000 Men now in Camp unfit for duty because they are bare foot and otherwise naked and by the same return it appears that our whole strength in continental Troops (Including the Eastern Brigades which have joined us since the surrender of Genl. Burgoyne) exclusive of the Maryland Troops sent to Wilmington amount to no more than 2898 In Camp fit for duty. Notwithstanding which, and that, since the 4th~ Instt. our Numbers fit for duty from the hardships and exposures they have undergone, particularly on Acct. of Blankets (numbers being obliged and do set up all Might by fires, instead of taking comfortable rest in a natural way) have decreased near 2000 Men.
We find Gentlemen without knowing whether the Army was really going into Winter Quarters or not . . . reprobating the measure as much as if they thought Men were made of Stocks or Stones and equally insensible of frost and Snow and moreover, as if they conceived it practicable for an inferior Army under the disadvantages I have described our's to be which. is by no means exagerated to confine a superior one (in all respects well appointed, and provide for a Winters Campaign) within the City of Phila., and cover from depredation and waste the States of Pensa,, Jersey, &cat but what makes this matter still more extraordinary in my eye is, that these very G ntn. who were well apprized of the nakedness of the Troops, from occular demonstration thought their own Soldiers worse clad than others, and advised n~e, near a Month ago, to postpone the execution of a Plan, I was about to adopt (in consequence of a resolve of Congress) for seizing Cloaths, undu strong assurances that an ample supply would be collected in ten days
agreeably to a decree of the State, not one Article of which by the bye, is yet come to hand, should think a Winters Campaign and the covering these States from the Invasion of an Enemy so easy a business. I can assure those Gentlemen that it is a much easier and less distressing things to draw remonstrances in a comfortable room by a a good fire side than to occupy a cold bleak hill and sleep under frost and Snow without Cloaths or Blankets; however, although they seem to have little feeling for the naked, and distressed Solider, I feel superabundantly for them, and from my Soul pity those miseries wch it is neither in my power to relieve or prevent.
It is for these reasons therefore I have dwelt upon the Subject, and it adds not a little to my other difficulties, and distress, to find that much more is expected of me than is possible to be perfomed, and that upon the ground of safety and policy, I am obliged to conceal the true state of the Arm from Public view and therby expose myself to detraction and Calumny.