Benjamin Franklin Papers

Memorandum of Wagon Accounts, 23 April 1755

Memorandum of Wagon Accounts

AD: American Philosophical Society

Much of Franklin’s thought and energy in the spring and summer of 1755 went into military affairs. His part in Braddock’s expedition is a familiar story, for he related its principal features in his memoirs.8 Setting out from Alexandria, Va., Braddock reached Frederick, Md., on April 21, on his way to the army’s rendezvous at Fort Cumberland on Wills Creek. The governors of Maryland and Virginia had assured him that wagons, horses, and forage would be ready there, but they were not. Instead of 200 wagons, there were 20, and instead of 2500 horses only 200; and there was so little forage that the beasts had to be turned out into the fields and woods at night, and so ran off.9 Angrily Braddock threatened to impress wagons and horses from the neighboring countryside.

At this juncture Franklin reached Frederick with his son. Ostensibly he was on post office business, arranging for postal service between Winchester and Philadelphia to accommodate the army; actually he had been sent by the Pennsylvania Assembly to remove the suspicions and prejudices which it was reported in Philadelphia Braddock entertained toward the Quaker province and its legislature.1 After several days at the camp, “when I was about to depart,” Franklin wrote, “the Returns of Waggons to be obtain’d were brought in, by which it appear’d that they amounted only to twenty-five, and not all of those were in serviceable Condition. The General and all the Officers were surpriz’d, declar’d the Expedition was then at an End, being impossible, and exclaim’d against the Ministers for ignorantly landing them in a Country destitute of the Means of conveying their Stores, Baggage, &c. not less than 150 Waggons being necessary. I happen’d to say, I thought it was a pity they had not been landed rather in Pennsylvania, as in that Country almost every Farmer had his Waggon. The General eagerly laid hold of my Words, and said, ‘Then you, Sir, who are a man of Interest there, can probably procure them for us; and I beg you will undertake it.’ I ask’d what Terms were to be offer’d the Owners of the Waggons; and I was desir’d to put on Paper the Terms that appear’d to me necessary. This I did, and they were agreed to, and a Commission and Instructions accordingly prepar’d immediately.”2 This was on April 22 or 23.

On the morning of April 23 Franklin received some £800 for expenses, and opened the account printed immediately below. The same day he set out for Lancaster. On the way he visited his friends James and Susanna Wright who proposed a way to publicize the project. By Saturday, April 26, Franklin had composed an advertisement and gave it to William Dunlap to print (see below, p. 19). A German translation was run off on Monday. Franklin began to sign on drivers at Lancaster that day; on May 1 and 2 he did the same at York; and William Franklin in Carlisle hired wagons and horses from the Cumberland County farmers. In two weeks Franklin had 150 wagons and 259 horses, with more coming in daily. “With the Assistance we have had from Mr. Franklin, who is almost the only Person to whom the General is indebted for either Waggons or Horses,” Braddock’s secretary wrote gratefully on May 21, “we hope to get over the Mountains.”3 Braddock was no less grateful. He told the secretary of state that when the governors of Maryland and Virginia failed to provide wagons, Franklin undertook to get them, “which he has executed with great punctuality and Integrity, and is almost the only Instance of Ability and Honesty I have known in these Provinces. His Waggons and Horses … are indeed my whole Dependence; …”4 To Franklin personally Braddock wrote that while Virginia and Maryland had promised everything but performed nothing, Pennsylvania had promised nothing but done everything.5 The Assembly voted Franklin their formal thanks.6


Frederick April 23. 1755.

Receiv’d of General Braddock to be laid out in Advance Money to Waggons, &c.
Maryland Money and 28 Pistoles £196 0 6
720 Ounces Silver
 47 Ounces Gold
On Counting the Money at Lancaster I find the 47 Ounces of Gold contain 215½ Pistoles at 27s. per
Pistole is £290 18 6
And a Joannes 5 15 0
And that the 720 Ounces of Silver contain 834 Dollars at 7s. 6d. }
312 15 0
£609 8 6
Which with the Maryland Paper and 28 Pistoles making 196 0 6
Makes in all £805 9 0
But if the Silver were valu’d by the Ounce 720 Ounces at 8s. 6d. would be but £306 0 0
and 47 Ounces of Gold at £6 5s. 293 15 0
£599 15 0
and Maryland money 196 0 6
£795 15 6


Proceedings at Lancaster in the Waggon Affair


April 26. Paid for Printing7
Sent by my Son to Carlisle £279 9 6
28. Advanc’d to James Lowrey for 30 Horses8 21 0 0
Advanc’d to Sebastian Graaf for his Waggon No. 2   7 Days Pay }
5 5 0
Advanc’d to Charles Rowan for his Waggon No. 1   7 Days Pay }
5 5 0
Advanc’d to Wm. Bausman for his Waggon No. 3   7 Days Pay }
5 5 0
Advanc’d to Jacob Downer for his Waggon No. 4   7 Days Pay }
5 5 0
to Do. for 2 Horses with Saddles and 7 Days pay }
1 8 0
Advanc’d to John Christy Waggon No. 5. 5 5 0
Advanc’d to Barnabas Hughes Waggon No. 6. 5 5 0
Advanc’d to Jno. Hopson Waggon No. 7 5 5 0
30. Advanc’d Abraham LeFevre Waggon No. 8 5 5 0
Advanc’d Samll. Ferree Waggon No. 9 5 5 0
Advanc’d Jacob Downer a Horse and Saddle 14
Advanc’d James Carr Waggon No. 10 5 5 0


Cash advanc’d R. Vernon £2 9 6
paid D. Dunlap 4 1 0
paid Jno. Read 2 14 0
paid Printer W. Dunlap 15 4
paid G. Gibson9 7 18 5
Sundry other Expences at York, Carlisle and on the Road }
4 2
Advanc’d Money to 150 Waggons £787 10 0
Do. to Michael Charles 1
250 Horses at 2s. [per day for 7 days] 175 0 0
  12 Horses at 1s. 6d. [per day for 7 days] 6 6 0
£1005 6


Borrow’d £3 of Mr. M’Conaughy

20s. of Mr. Wright

Frederick Von Triesh

Lent Mr. Grace Six Pounds at Lancaster May 81

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8See also Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., and Leonard W. Labaree, “Franklin and the ‘Wagon Affair,’” APS Proc., CI (1957), 551–8, and George L. Heiges, “Franklin in Lancaster County,” Lancaster Co. Hist. Soc. Jour., LXI (1957), 1–26, and references there cited.

9Pargellis, Military Affairs, p. 85.

1See his letter to Deborah Franklin, next above, and Par. Text edit., pp. 336–8. Calling for an embargo on trade with the French and asking for the establishment of postal service to the army, Braddock expressed surprise to Governor Morris, Feb. 28, 1755, at the “pusillanimous and improper Behaviour” of the Assembly and threatened “unpleasant Methods” to get what he wanted. Morris presented the letter to the Council, March 10, and sent it to the Assembly, March 18, which responded only by asking BF to consider and report on establishing the post. Pa. Col. Recs., VI, 307–8. Edward Shippen wrote his father at Lancaster, March 19, of Braddock’s “most alarming letter,” which “the Assembly know not how to stomach,” but it was thought it would “frighten them into some reasonable measures, as it must be a vain thing to contend with a General at the head of an army.” [Thomas Balch] Letters and Papers relating chiefly to the Provincial History of Pennsylvania (Phila., 1855), p. 35.

2Par. Text edit., p. 338.

3I Pa. Arch., II, 322.

4Braddock to Sir Thomas Robinson, June. 5, 1755, Public Record Office, London; quoted inaccurately in PMHB, XXXVIII (1914), 5. To Robert Napier, Braddock wrote June 8, “Mr. Franklin undertook and perform’d his Engagements with the greatest readiness and punctuality.” Pargellis, Military Affairs, p. 85.

5“Extracts from the Diary of Daniel Fisher, 1755,” PMHB, XVII (1893), 272.

6Votes, 1754–55, p. 89. Braddock’s esteem for BF became part of the latter’s popular reputation. See, for example, “Musings Near a Cool Spring,” to be printed in the next volume.

7The amount is not filled in, but note that in another memorandum (below, p. 18), BF paid the printer William Dunlap £15 4s.

8The accounts of Lowrey and all but two of the wagoners mentioned in this memorandum are printed in Lewis B. Walker, The Settlement of the Waggoners’ Accounts Relating to General Braddock’s Expedition (n.p., 1899). As for these two—Abraham LeFevre and Samuel Ferree— BF may have confused their names. Abraham Ferree is recorded in the Waggoners’ Accounts (p. 5) as receiving £5 5s. on April 30; and Samuel LeFievre is there recorded (p. 12) as receiving the same sum in “cash pd by Mr. Franklin.”

9Possibly the Richard Vernon who accompanied James Kenney to Pittsburgh, 1759 (PMHB, XXXVII, 1913, 442, 445); Deborah Dunlap, wife of the printer William Dunlap; possibly John Read, BF’s brother-in-law, whom Braddock appointed wagon master on May 21; and George Gibson of Lancaster.

1David McConnaughy (see above, V, 22); James or John Wright, brother of Susanna (see above, IV, 210 n); and BF’s old friend Robert Grace (see above, I, 209 n).

Index Entries