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The American Revolution
Creating a Continental Army
Continental Congress Resolve on the Principal Supplies of the Army

Feeding, clothing, and housing the Continental Army were chronic problems throughout the War for Independence. In the following resolution of the Continental Congress, how does the Congress propose that Washington feed the army? What criticism of Washington does the resolution include? How does the action taken by the Continental Congress illustrate the desperate conditions in the army?

View the original document from the Journals of the Continental Congress in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


The committee to whom it was referred to take into consideration the state of those counties in the states of Pensylvania, Jersey and Delaware, which border on the enemy, &c. brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, and agreed to as follows:

Resolved, That General Washington be informed, that Congress have observed, with deep concern, that the principal supplies for the army under his command have, since the loss of Philadelphia, been drawn from distant quarters, whereby great expence has accrued to the public, the army has been irregularly and [often] scantily supplied, and the established magazines greatly reduced, while large quantities of stock, provision and forage, are still remaining in the counties of Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester, which, by the fortune of war, may be soon subjected to the power of the enemy:

That Congress, firmly persuaded of General Washington's zeal and attachment to the interest of these states, can only impute his forbearance in exercising the powers vested in him by Congress, by their resolutions of the 17 September and 14 November, to a delicacy in exerting military authority on the citizens of these states; a delicacy, which though highly laudable in general, may, on critical exigencies, prove destructive to the army and prejudicial to the general liberties of America:

That from these considerations, it is the desire and expectation of Congress, that General Washington should, for the future, endeavour as much as possible to subsist his army from such parts of the country as are in its vicinity, and especially from such quarters as he shall deem most likely to be subjected to the power or depredations of the enemy: and that he issue orders for such purpose to the commissaries and quarter masters belonging to the army:

That General Washington be directed to order every kind of stock and provisions in the country above-mentioned, which may be beneficial to the army or serviceable to the enemy, to be taken from all persons without distinction, leaving such quantities only as he shall judge necessary for the maintenance of their families; the stock and provisions so taken to be removed to places of security under the care of proper persons to be appointed for that purpose; and that he issue a proclamation, requiring all persons within seventy miles of head quarters, forthwith to thresh out their grain within such limited periods of time, as he shall deem reasonable, on penalty, in case of failure, of having the same seized by the commissaries and quarter masters of the army and paid for as straw:

That General Washington be directed to cause all provisions, stock, forage, waggons and teams, which may be, at any time, in the route of the enemy, and which cannot be seasonably removed, to be destroyed.

Whereas, it is essentially necessary, that magazines should be seasonably provided in the interior part of the country, and many inhabitants, through motives of avarice or disaffection, refuse to thresh out their grain.

Resolved, That it be earnestly recommended to the legislature of the commonwealth of Pensylvania, forthwith to enact a law, requiring all persons within the county of York their State, at the distance of seventy miles and upwards, from General Washington's head quarters, and below the Blue Mountains, to thresh out their wheat and other grain, within as short a period of time as the said legislature shall deem sufficient for that purpose; and, in case of failure, to subject the same to seizure by the commissaries and quarter masters of the American army, to be paid for at the price of straw only, excepting from such penalty, such families only, who, from the absence of the master, sons or servants, in the service of their country, can give good proof that their compliance with the said law was not practicable.
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View the original document from the Journals of the Continental Congress in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.