Letter from Continental Army Officers to George Washington
Heath, William, 1737-1814; Et Al.
Volume 16, Pages 828-829
ADDRESS OF OFFICERS TO GEN. WASHINGTON.
(Enclosure in above Letter.)
It is difficult for us to express the regret we feel at being obliged again to solicit your Excellency’s attention and patronage.
Next to the anguish which the prospect of our own wretchedness excites in our Breasts is the pain which arises from a knowledge of your anxiety on account of those men who have been the sharers of your fortunes, and have had the honor of being your Companions through the various vicissitudes of the War. Nothing therefore, but necessity could induce us to a representation which we know must give you concern.
Your Excellency has so intimate a knowledge of the Condition of the Army as to render a particular delineation unnecessary. As you have been a Witness of our Sufferings during a War uncommon in its nature and unparalleled in many circumstances attending it, so you are now Sir, no less a Witness of the unequal burthen which has fallen upon us, from the want of that provision, to which from our assiduous and unremitting services, we conceive we are intitled. Having recently expressed our sence of what was due to our distress, having repeated to your Excellency the confidence we had that our accounts would be liquidated the balances ascertained, and adequate funds provided for payment previous to our being dispersed or disbanded, having seen with pleasure the approbation which Congress gave of our reliance; it is with a mixture of astonishment and Chagrin that we view the late resolve of Congress, by which the Soldiers for the War, and a proportionate number of Officers are to be furloughed without any one of those important objects being accomplished, and to complete the Scene of woe are to be compelled to leave the Army without the means of defraying the debts we have necessarily incurred in the course of Service, or even of galifying those menials in the pittance which is their due, much less to carry with us that support and comfort to our families of which from our long military services they have been deprived. No less exposed then to the insults of the meanest followers of the Army, than to the
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Sheriff, deprived of the ability to assist our families, and without an evidence that anything is due to us for our Services, and conseqently without the least prospect of obtaining credit for even a temporary subsistence until we can get into business, to what quarter can we look. We take the liberty to say Sir, only to your Excellency and from the sincerity of our hearts, we do it no less from a persuasion of the efficacy of your farther efforts in our favor, than from the kind assurances you have been pleased to give us of your support. To your Excellency then we make our appeal, and in the most solemn manner, from that abhorence of oppression and injustice which first unsheathed our swords, from the remembrance of the common dangers through which we have passed, and from the recollection of those astonishing events which have been effected by our united efforts, permit us to solicit your further aid and to entreat, that the order of the 2d. Instant, founded on the Act of Congress of the 26th of May last, may be suspended or varied in its operation so far as that no Officer or Soldier be obliged to receive a furlough until that honourable body can be apprized of the wretched situation into which the army must be plunged by a conformity to it, that your Excellency will endeavour to prevail on Congress, nay that on the principles of common justice you will insist, that neither Officer or Soldier be compelled to leave the field until a Liquidation of Accounts can be effected, till the balances are ascertained, Certificates for the Sum due given including the Commutation of half pay to the Officers and the gratuity of eighty Dollars to the Soldiers and till a supply of money can be furnished sufficient to carry us from the field of glory, with honor to ourselves and credit to our Country. We still wish to believe that, that Country to which we have been so long devoted will never look with indifference on the distresses of those of her Sons who have so essentially contributed to the establishment of freedom, the security of property and rearing of an Empire.
In the name and behalf of the Generals and Officers Commanding Regiments and Corps in the Cantonement of Hudson River.
I have the honor to be, &c.,
W. HEATH, M. Genl. Presid.