General Washington Provides for His Chaplains

In addition to their pay, chaplains in the Revolutionary War received one standard allowance of rations for himself and one standard allowance of forage for a horse. The standards Washington established at the winter quarters in 1782-1783 show one example of this provision.

The Quarter Master general having represented his inability to procure forage during the Winter for the whole number of horses allowed to the General and other officers of the Line and Staff who remain with the troops in the New Windsor Cantonments, has proposed to supply in the following proportion—which has been approved by the Commander in Chief: …. Chaplain: 1

General Orders, 8 November 1782

That a ration of forage per day shall consist of fourteen lbs. hay & Ten quarts of oats for each horse. … That there shall be allowed for Saddle horses.  Rations …. Chaplain 1

General Orders, 27 December 1782

Even today, all Army officers – including chaplains – receive a Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) as a monthly entitlement. When you are in the field eating Army chow, your unit is supposed to deduct a portion of your BAS from your pay to cover the field rations. And 10 USC 3547 requires commanders to provide chaplains with transportation so that they can perform their duties. For me, it’s been a CUCV, a few HMMWVs, and some GSA vehicle – but no horse.

General Washington invited chaplains to eat with him from time to time – as long as their brigadier general was coming, too.

The Commander in Chief also begs leave to inform such Officers as may be unacquainted therewith that it is His Wish and Desire that the Field Officers of the day when they are relieved from their tour of duty would dine with him at Head-Quarters …. and the General further requests that the Chaplains would also dine with him in turn each coming with his Brigadier when of the day.

General Orders, 28 July 1778

And when Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown in 1781, Washington authorized his officers – including chaplains – to draw $20 in provisions from British traders.

In pursuance of the determination of a Board of General Officers setting forth the means by which the Officers of the Army may receive a general benefit from that Article of the Capitulation which entitles them to a right of pre-emption of the Goods in the possession of the Traders in York and Gloucester at the time of the surrender of these Posts. The Commander in Chief is pleased to direct that every officer who came here with this Army (coming under the following description) receive on account of his pay to the amount of Twenty pounds (dollars at Six shillings) each vizt.  General Officers and their families and other military staff regimental officers (the Officers of the Hospital) the Chaplains (the Quartermaster General the Commissary General and their Duputies. But not to include the Deputies of Deputies.). …. 

The Brigades and Corps having balloted for priority of purchase are to be served in the following Order  …  10th, The Chaplains

General Orders, 30 October 1781

The chaplains were 10th in priority – last in line. By the time their turn arrived, most of the good stuff would be gone.


This is one chapter of the series, George Washington’s Remarkably Modern Chaplain Problems.

Advertisements