I have received your letter of the 31st of March last, yesterday evening.
I am sorry the business respecting the clothing has occasioned any uneasiness.
I should be unwilling to contravene the disposition made by the gentlemen who administered the Government in my absence but I hope it is not necessary. His intentions, I could not coincide with mine, though possibly from some mistake or misinformation, a difculty has occurred in carrying them into execution.
My first wish, relative to the supplies of the troops, is that the Corps be in general well satisfied, and, therefore, my opinion was always to leave the detail of distribution altogether to themselves; but this being deviated from in the present instance, I am under the necessity of giving my ideals relatively to what I suppose to have been the intention in that deviation.
Considering that our Stores are not always in condition to furnish full supplies, the first object seems to be to furnish such as are
Among all the first attention should be paid to those who are most in want and still preserving those distinctions.
Under the first, I conceive, must be classed, all who are in Camp and on detached commands, connected immediately with the operations thereof.
Under the second, such as are on services more remote from the scenes of action and whose duties are less arduous and less exposed.
Under the third, such as are prisoners of War on parole within our lines, and such are absent with leave, and perhaps others better known to you than to me.
I do not mean that every officer under every distinction is not entitled to full supplies, but that when our stores are unequal to that, the more useful distribution of particular supplies would be on those principles.
To apply them to the case in hand, I am of opinion that all the officers at Camp, and connected immediately with the operations thereof, be supplied from the clothing sent on, as far as it will extend, awarding to their respective wants without observing any distinction of who received in Charlestown or elsewhere, and that what clothing remains on hand in the Stores or shall be procured, be distributed either to make up the differences in the first class, or to the other classes agreeably to an arrangement to be agreed on by the Corps and transmitted by their Agent.
Prisoners of War, within the Enemy’s lines, in my opinion, ought to be supplied on other principles and from a peculiar fund. Those on parole within our lines are every way entitled to supplies and to attention, and only to be postponed to such, whose services cannot be dispensed with, and this only through necessity.
These, Sir, are my ideas, and I doubt not such was the intention of the Speaker of the Senate, though possibly he deemed that such officers as had been supplied in Charlestown could not now be in want equal to the others, which may be a mistake.
I am sensible that I am writing on a subject of which I have but a very imperfect knowledge, and, therefore, I wish you to understand that if any other mode of distribution shall appear more eligible
I should be exceedingly concerned for losing any of our valuable officers. I have a high sense of their merit, and believe me, I do not want the inclination to distinguish and reward them, though my powers are inadequate.