Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 3

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Author: Robert Morris

U.S. History

From Robert Morris and Richard Peters.

Camp, 13 August, 1781.

SIR,

The orders of Congress, which we have the honor to communicate, directing us to confer with your Excellency on the subject of the proposed numbers and arrangements of the army for the next campaign, not having pointed out the reasons inducing the measure, we have the honor to lay before you our ideas on the subject, so far as we are acquainted with the matter from a conference, at which we were present in Philadelphia, had by a Committee of Congress, the subscriber, as Superintendent of Finance, and the Board of War, pursuant to a resolution of Congress, with a copy of which your Excellency has been furnished.

After the full conversation with which we were honored the 12th ultimo, it is unnecessary to enter at large into those reasons, in order to urge the pressing necessity of economizing our affairs, so as to make our revenues, in a great degree, meet our expenses. Your Excellency must be equally sensible with us of this necessity; and we are perfectly convinced you are equally disposed to assist in every measure tending to promote so desirable an object. You are also impressed with the impolicy of calling on the States for men and money in numbers and quantities so extensive as to alarm the timid, and to excite among men, the zealous and considerate, ideas of the impracticability of carrying on the war upon such terms. Demands of this nature, instead of animating to exertions, are only productive of hopeless languor. Your mortifying experience of the inadequate compliances heretofore with former demands, will explain the motives inducing to the expediency of moderating those demands, so as to render them productive, and, in case of failure, to leave the delinquent State without excuse.

Your Excellency has doubtless considered, that the class of men who are willing to become soldiers is much diminished by the war, and therefore the difficulties of raising an army, equal to former establishments, have increased, and will continue to increase, and embarrass the States in their measures for filling up their quotas, should the mode of recruiting the army be continued in the line. You will also have considered that the enemy, proportionably debilitated by the war, are incapable of opposing to us the force we originally had to encounter; and therefore the necessity of such extensive levies as we formerly raised, seems to be in some measure superseded. In what degree the forces of these States should be decreased, we do not pretend to determine, leaving this to your Excellency’s better judgment. But from past experience, it should seem that the States are incapable of bringing into the field an army equal to that called for by the last arrangement. Or, if all the demands of Congress on the States become merely pecuniary, it does not seem probable that they can, or will, furnish money for raising, equipping and supporting, such an army.

We should be happy, were we capable from any information we are possessed of, to assist your Excellency in the investigation of the subject, with respect to the probable designs or force of the enemy the next campaign. This must, in its nature, depend upon contingencies, at present even beyond conjecture. At this time, therefore, in our apprehension, the only solid ground of procedure is to consider what forces these States, under present circumstances, are capable of producing.

Having thus in general mentioned the ideas which have arisen on the subject, we beg to leave the matter to your Excellency’s consideration, and take the liberty of proposing the following queries, after further mentioning that it has been conceived it would be expedient, in ease of reform, to lessen the numbers of regiments, so as to make fewer commissioned officers necessary, and to increase the numbers of noncommissioned officers and privates in those regiments. It has been supposed that a considerable saving would ensue from this measure, by not having so many officers in full pay, with their horses, servants, baggage, and other consequential expenses in the field, or if they remain in quarters from want of command. We presume that gentlemen qualified for Staff-Officers might be found among the retiring officers, and that artificers and other persons employed by the Staff department should not enter into the present calculation, as the officers at the heads of those departments should be enabled to carry on their business without taking men from the line; a practice introduced from necessity, very prejudicial to discipline, and productive of pernicious consequences by diminishing the effective force of the army.

1st. Is a reduction of the number of officers and men, as fixed by the last arrangement of the army, expedient or proper?

2d. How can this reduction he brought about, consistently with the good of the service; and what arrangement should be made in consequence of this reduction?

The answers to the above queries will no doubt include the numbers of men necessary for the next campaign, and the organization of them, so as to designate the number of regiments and the numbers in those regiments, both of commissioned and non-commissioned officers and privates, as well regimentally as by companies. The expediency of having fewer regiments of horse and artillery, and of consolidating the independent corps, will also, we presume, come under your Excellency’s consideration.

3d. What periods of enlistment, under present circumstances, are most proper to be adopted?

4th. What regulations can be made to modify the practice of taking soldiers from the line, as servants to officers?

On this head we beg leave to submit to your opinion a copy of a motion made in Congress on this subject.*

5th. What is to be done with officers by brevet, or those who have no particular command? Can they not be placed in the regiments, or retire on half-pay?

6th. Would it be practicable, consistently with justice and the good of the service, to call into actual service officers who have retired on half-pay, by the former arrangements, to fill vacancies happening in the lines to which they respectively belong?

We have the honor to be, &c.,

Superintendent of Finance ROBERT MORRIS.

Of the Board of War RICHARD PETERS.

* The motion here alluded to was made in Congres by General Varnum, as follows.

"Resolved, that no officer be permitted to take with him on furlough any soldier, without receiving the permission of the Commander-in-chief or Commanding Officer of a separate department; and that the Board of War take order that all soldiers, now retained from the army in either department as waiters to officers, immediately join their respective corps."

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Chicago: Robert Morris, "From Robert Morris and Richard Peters.," Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 3 in Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, ed. Jared Sparks (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1853), 381–385. Original Sources, accessed January 20, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBN2RQTKCQZ2PGY.

MLA: Morris, Robert. "From Robert Morris and Richard Peters." Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 3, in Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, edited by Jared Sparks, Vol. 3, Freeport, NY, Books for Libraries Press, 1853, pp. 381–385. Original Sources. 20 Jan. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBN2RQTKCQZ2PGY.

Harvard: Morris, R, 'From Robert Morris and Richard Peters.' in Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 3. cited in 1853, Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, ed. , Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, NY, pp.381–385. Original Sources, retrieved 20 January 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBN2RQTKCQZ2PGY.