2/16/78 — Washington’s troops about to mutiny

In my last post, I wrote about how the Continental Army was faring during its first month at Valley Forge.  Well, after about two months, the situation continues to go downhill.  Here, General George Washington writes to Brigadier General William Smallwood that the troops are so hungry and cold that they’re about to mutiny.  He directs Smallwood to go to Dover, Delaware and Head of the Elk, Maryland to help Captain Lee and his soldiers take some food from the storehouses (called magazines) there and bring it back to Valley Forge.


From George Washington to Brigadier General William Smallwood, 16 February 1778

To Brigadier General William Smallwood

Hd Qrs Valley Forge Feby 16 1778

Dr sr

The distress of this army for want of provisions is perhaps beyond any thing you can conceive; and unless we strain every nerve to procure immediate relief, a general mutiny and dispersion is to be dreaded. Our nearest Magazines are at Dover and the Hd of Elk; and it is absolutely necessary, by a vigorous effort, to push on all the provisions at those places, for the present subsistence of the Troops. I have intrusted this important business to the zealous activity of Capt. Lee, whom I haveimpowerd to impress the number of Waggons requisite for the purpose.1 He will probably stand in need of some assistants, acquainted with the neighbouring Country, to facilitate & dispatch the business. I imagine you can furnish him with proper persons for the purpose, Officers in the Maryland & Delaware Troops. Every aid you can possibly afford him is demanded by the exigency of the occasion. I am Dr sr Yrs &c.

G. W——n

P.s. I do not know in what manner, the troops under your Command have been hitherto supplied with provisions, but as you are in an abundant Country, I should imagine you might furnish yourself from the resources of it, without the help of the magazines above mentioned, no part of which can, without detriment, be spared from the use of this Camp.

Source:  “From George Washington to Brigadier General William Smallwood, 16 February 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-13-02-0478 [last update: 2015-12-30]). Source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 13, 26 December 1777 – 28 February 1778, ed. Edward G. Lengel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003, pp. 563–564.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s