<br /> Lee Letter: n46

Washington and Lee University

Sender: George Washington
Recipient: Richard Henry Lee

Dear Sir:

Your favour of the 7th. Instant should not have remained so long
unanswered, but for the uncertainty of Colonel Pickering’s acceptance
of his new Appointment. He has now determined to do this, which leads
me to say, that I am really at a loss to recommend a proper person as a
Successor to the Office of Adjutant General. The Gentleman I named to
you some time ago will not, you say, answer. I knew but little of him
myself, but understood he was well acquainted with the duty, having
served much to the satisfaction of General Montgomery (a good judge) in
Canada, during his long and severe Campaign in
1775.1

That I might know the sense of the General Officers upon this point of so
much importance, that is, whether any of them were acquainted with a
person qualified for the discharge of the important duties of this
Office I asked them collectively; but they either were not acquainted
with a proper person, or did not incline to recommend any one. Colonel
Lee,2 who was formerly recommended by
Congress to fill this Office; Colonel
Wilkinson,3 Major
Scull,4 and Colonel
Innes5 were separately spoken of. The first
is an Active, spirited Man, a good disciplinarian, and being,
as he was, disappointed before, by Colonel
Pickering’s unexpected acceptance of the Office, may possibly look for
it now. He writes a good hand, but how correctly, or with what ease, I
cannot undertake to say, having had no opportunity of judging. The next
Gentleman, Wilkinson, I can say less of, because he has served for the
most part in the Northern department. General Gates, I understand,
speaks highly of him. He is, I believe, a good Gramatical Scholar, but
how diligent I know not. The next, Scull, is a Young Man, but an Old
Officer and very highly spoken of, for his knowledge of service,
strictness of discipline, diligence and correctness. He early was
Brigade Major to General Thompson. The last, Innes, I know nothing more
of, than his being a Man of spirit, good Sense and education, and
recommended by General Woodford. Thus, Sir, have I, without the least
view to serve an Individual, given you the Name of every one that has
been mentioned to me, and the Characters of them respectively, as far
as they have been delineated.

It is a matter of no small moment to the well being of an Army, that the
several departments of it should be filled by Men of Ability, integrity
and application; and much therefore is it to be wished that you may be
fortunate in your choice of Adjutant and Quarter Master Generals to
this Army. Wadsworth6 has the reputation of
being clever at business. In the Commissary’s department he was found
active and understanding; but how far he may be qualified for the Chief
management of so extensive a department as that of Quarter Master
General, I know not. Experience has already evinced, in the
Commissarial Line, a change which has embarrassed the movements of this
Army exceedingly. I will not charge it to the measures nor the Men, but
the time it happened. This, however, with truth, I can say, that we
seldom have more than a day or two’s Provisions before hand; and often
as much behind, both of Meat and Bread. It can be no difficult matter,
therefore, under these circumstances, for you, or any other Gentleman,
to conceive how much the movements of an Army are clogged and retarded.
And now, whilst I am upon this subject, let me add, that I am well
convinced that the Salt Provisions necessary for next Year, and which
(for want of Salt) can only be had to the Eastward, will not be
provided, as the Season is now far advanced, and I have heard of no
proper measures being taken to lay them in.

Have you any late advices from Europe? Is there any good grounds for the
report of Russians coming out?7 And is there
any expectation of a War between France and Great Britain? If these are
Questions which can be answered with properity, I shall be glad of a
solution of them,

and am etc.8

Notes:

1 Possibly Lieut. Col. Edward Fleming, of the Third New York Regiment, and
deputy adjutant general, New York Department.

2 Col. William Raymond Lee, of an Additional Continental regiment. He
resigned in January, 1778.

3 Col. James Wilkinson, aide-de-camp to Gates.

4 Maj. Peter Scull, of Patton’s Additional Continental regiment. He resigned
in January, 1778; secretary of the Continental Board of War in
January, 1779; lost at sea in November, 1779.

5 Lieut. Col. James Innes, of the Fifteenth Virginia Regiment. He retired in
September, 1778; Judge Advocate of the Continental Army, July – September, 1782.

6 Jeremiah Wadsworth, formerly Deputy Commissary General of Purchases. He
became Commissary General of Purchases of the Continental Army in
April, 1778; resigned in January, 1780.

7 Great Britain sounded out the Empress of Russia in 1775 as to obtaining
Russian mercenaries as were, later, obtained from Hesse-Cassel and
other places in Germany; but though Catherine seemed willing at
first, she later changed her attitude and all hope of obtaining
Russian troops vanished by 1776. The rumor of their coming, however,
persisted in America for some time.

8 From the Varick Transcripts in the Library of Congress.