Papers of John Adams, volume 5

From James Warren

To Samuel Cooper

141 From Nathanael Greene, 5 April 1777 Greene, Nathanael JA


From Nathanael Greene, 5 April 1777 Greene, Nathanael Adams, John
From Nathanael Greene
Dear sir Morris Town April the 5th. 1777

I have neither seen nor heard of any Resolution of Congress approving or disproving of the Laboratory being fixed at Springfield.1 If the Congress approves thereof it will be necessary for them to say so there being now an Order for it's being fixed at Brookfield and the Council of the Massachusets State commissioned to provide the materials for the erection of the necessary Buildings at that place. Please to enquire into the matter and write General Knox upon the Subject, it will forward the business if the Council has the same powers with respect to providing materials only at Springfield instead of Brookfield.

Since my return to Camp, I am more at a loss to guess the Enemies intentions than ever. They are fortifying Brunswic—two Spies who left that place a few Days since say the greater part of the Troops are gone to Staten Island—drafts have been made from the several Corps. There is a General Order of General Howes commanding all the Officers that are absent from Posts to join the 10th. of this Instant. It is generally suggested some expedition is on foot, if 'tis up the North River General Howe is the greatest blunderer of the Age to put us on our Guard by such an ill tim'd Expedition as they made the other Day.2 If his Expedition is to the Southward his delay has lost him the happy moment. A Fortnights delay longer will put it out of his power to do any great things. If the States furnish their Men and we have a good Train of Artillery provided seasonably and General Howe dont shut himself up in some inaccessible Post ten to one that ruin awaits him before Fall. But if every State is at liberty to furnish only a part of their Men and those at their pleasure we shall have another crippled Campaign indicisive and perhaps disgraceful.

General Schuyler is going to Congress armed with the imperial Cohorts of N. York to support the Assertion that the Northern Operations depend entirely upon his being continued in the command.3 A dispassionate inquiry perhaps may convince you of his usefulness if not it will afford you an Opportunity to convince the State of N. York that the Salvation of America don't Depend on the political sentiments of Albany County. General Schuyler thinks with me that it will be exceeding difficult if not to say impossible for the Enemy to penetrate the Country by the 142way of Ticonderoga. He also thinks if the Enemy push up the North River it will afford us the fairest opportunity to ruin them we can wish notwithstanding it may prove distressing to that State.

I am more and more alarmed every day of my life at the local preperations making in the several States for their own defence in such a situation as we are in surrounded with immaginary and real grievances claims made by one State and refused by another.4 Men at the head of affairs full of caprice and humours poisoned with little prejudices and conceited of their own importance can easily throw the whole Empire into a convulsion unless there is some seasonable check provided to silence those little differences in their infancy. Human nature is capable of those ebullitions of folly and prudence dictates the necessity of proceiding against them. It is my opinion there ought not to be any standing Troops but what are on the Continental establishment.5 Believe me to be with sentiments of regard Your most obedt: And very hble Servt:

N Greene

RC in a clerk's hand (Adams Papers). Terminal punctuation has been supplied at several points.


The Board of War recommended on 20 Feb. that the congress approve the establishment of a laboratory and foundry at Springfield, Mass., but congressional approval for moving the proposed establishment from Brookfield, Mass. (the place agreed upon on 27 Dec. 1776) to Springfield did not come until 14 April ( JCC , 7:139, 266).


A reference to the British raid at Peekskill on 23 March (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 7:328, note 87).


The congress, probably stirred up by the faction in it supporting the advancement of Gen. Gates, had taken umbrage at the tone of two letters Schuyler had sent to Philadelphia in early 1777. One demanded vindication of his character from the charge made by Commissary Gen. Joseph Trumbull that Schuyler was withholding a commission of adjutant general from his brother John. The other letter protested the congress' dismissal of Dr. Samuel Stringer without advising Schuyler of its reasons. On 15 March the congress passed several resolutions reprimanding Schuyler for writing letters “derogatory to the honor of Congress” and offensive to its dignity. Needing to proceed to Philadelphia for vindication, Schuyler met with the New York Convention, which chose him as one of its delegates to the congress and ordered the others, William Duer, Philip Livingston, and James Duane, to go to Philadelphia with him (Benson J. Lossing, The Life and Times of Philip Schuyler, 2 vols., N.Y., 1873, 2:158, 165–166, 168). On opposition to Schuyler in the congress, see Elbridge Gerry to Samuel Adams and JA, 21 July 1776, note 9, and Samuel Adams to JA, 16 Aug. 1776, note 4, vol. 4:403, 468.


Among the alarming instances of state behavior that Greene may have had in mind was the Massachusetts embargo on exports to other states, which was imposed in the interest of the state's own defense and which created bad feeling everywhere. Connecticut was claiming land in Pennsylvania, and both states were looking to the congress for a resolution of the dispute. There was jealousy among the states that some were contributing more to the common effort than others; thus Massachusetts refused to honor Schuyler's request for more troops, 143feeling that it had done all that it could (William Tudor to JA, 16 March; James Warren to JA, 22 Feb., note 3, both above).


Greene, like other commanders, was undoubtedly disgusted with the habit of a state militia's returning home when its enlistment expired, regardless of the dangers of the military situation.