Benjamin Franklin Papers

Provincial Commissioners to Robert Hunter Morris, 15 May 1756

Provincial Commissioners6 to Robert Hunter Morris

LS: Yale University Library

Philada. May 15. 1756


We are honoured with your several Letters of the 5th. 7th. 8th. 9th. 10th and 13th Instant,7 and have complied, as far as we are able, with every Request therein contained, excepting the Article of Tents, of which, we cannot be of Opinion that more are necessary, at this fine Season of the Year, than what will suffice for the Officers, and any of the Men that happen to be sick; for both which Purposes, we think the Fifty already sent an ample Provision. The March to Shamokin is but short, and in case of bad Weather, which is not to be expected, it will be an easy Matter for the Men so to shelter themselves with the Bark and Boughs of Trees, as to be very little exposed to the Inconvenience of it. Especially since We have now procur’d and order’d up to you as many new Blankets as with those from Northampton will furnish all your Men. The 100 Fathom of white Rope, you will receive by the first Waggons, and the Stores and Implements for the Cannon shall be got ready as soon as possible, and we hope in good Time, since we do not suppose you will order the Cannon up till the Fort is ready to receive them. Forty Watchcoats are making and will soon be ready. The Lead you will receive at the same Time. Twelve Shipwrights are agreed with and forwarded, we hope they will be with you by the Time you receive this. We have sent 7 Swivel Blunderbusses for the Battoes, which are all now to be had. Croston8 is gone up with 20 Cattle; and is to take the Commisary’s9 Receipt for the neat Beef he delivers. The Muskets already sent up are 525, which we suppose are more than you have Men: Some may be spared to Steel and Potter.1 The Gunsmiths go up to see the proving of their Work, which they imagine has not Justice done it in the Trials made there.2 When we see Capt. McKee, who is not yet come to Town, we shall enquire into the Affair between him and his Men, and endeavour to set Things right.3 We are ready to pay Capt. Mercer’s Men for the Scalps taken; we have paid for one of them; but do not think it right to make any Allowance of Pay to the Persons he mentions as Officers before the Dates of their Commissions. The Wages of the 3 Men for which he demands some Allowance, we leave to you, requesting you would take the Trouble of enquiring into the Matter, and settling it as you shall find reasonable.4 Pomfret Castle we would chuse to have built where it was first intended; that the Country lost may be recovered, and the People induc’d to return to their Settlements, and reap the ensuing Harvest.5 We send a Cask of ½ Crown Nails: We send also 175 of the new Muskets, being all of the Sort that are fit for the Woods, and supposing you have prov’d and regulated so many of those before sent up as will compleatly furnish the Regiment, and supply any Deficiencies in Steel’s, Potter’s, and Hamilton’s Companies. A Part only of the Arms we sent for are arriv’d; the Field Pieces not sent by this Ship, the Proprietor expecting to obtain them a Gift from the Crown.6 We desire you would not fail to return all the Overplus Arms, after your Corps and those Companies are compleated, as the City and the Counties on Delaware are very poorly supply’d, and we know not how soon we may have Occasion to defend ourselves against some Attempt from the Sea Ward. We shall forward the Pay of the Soldiers as regularly as may be; the Cloathing sent up will bring them greatly in Debt to the Publick. We shall do what we can for the Relief of the many Petitioners,7 but ’tis little we may afford, as our Money grows so low, that unless your Expedition proceeds more expeditiously we fear you will be left in the Midst of it, like a Whale on the Strand, all the Waters being ebb’d away from you.8 We are sensible you must have an infinite deal of Trouble in the Affair, and are with great Respect. Your Honour’s most obedient humble Servants

James. Hamilton
B Franklin
Jos: Fox
Evan Morgan
John Hughes

Honble Governer Morris

Endorsed: Commissions. May 15: 1756.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6See above, p. 284 n. During BF’s absence in Virginia his fellow commissioners had continued to authorize payments and otherwise guide defense efforts. For their letters to and from Morris, see I Pa. Arch., II, 617–41, passim.

7Morris had set out for the frontier on April 28 to help organize an expedition to build the long-planned fort at Shamokin (Fort Augusta). These letters (not found), written from Harris’s Ferry, probably contained requests for men, money, and supplies needed for the march up the Susquehanna. On the expedition and the building of the fort, see Hunter, Forts, pp. 481–8.

8Probably Edward Croston, contractor for supplying garrisons east of the Susquehanna. Numerous payments are recorded to him, Votes, 1755–56, pp. 167–70. See illustration facing p. 392.

9Adam Hoops (Hoopes) (1709–1771), commissary of provisions. I Pa. Arch., II, 601; PMHB, XXXV (1911), 512. His son Major Adam Hoops, Revolutionary soldier and land entrepreneur, visited BF in France, 1781–83.

1Capts. John Steel and John Potter, as well as Hans (Hance) Hamilton mentioned below, all commanded companies of provincial troops stationed in Cumberland Co. I Pa. Arch., II, 601–5.

2Many reports came from the frontier of “unfitt Arms” sent by the commissioners; Edward Shippen complained he could “Seldom or ever hit the board of two feet wide and Six feet long” at a distance of 150 yards with the defective guns. Ibid., 633, 643. Apparently the gunsmiths were unable to improve the weapons much, since after “a great deal of pains to rectifie them,” they still so often exploded or failed to fire at all, that one officer thought the province would be better off if we “throw our Philadelphia Arms into the middle of Susquehannah.” Joseph Shippen to Edward Shippen, Jr., June 12, 1756, PMHB, XXXVI (1912), 386. The commissioners later ordered all the arms made in Philadelphia returned to the city. I Pa. Arch., II, 666.

3Capt. Thomas McKee (d. 1772), in command, January–May 1756 at Hunter’s Fort (Mill), ten miles north of Harris’s Ferry, had difficulty protecting Indians under his care from irate settlers, and also complained that his company “had been but poorly served; the provisions having been very ordinary.” I Pa. Arch., II, 553–4, 634–5, 637. McKee had arrived in Philadelphia by May 20 when he received £257 5s. 6d. pay for himself and his disbanded company. See above, p. 439; Hunter, Forts, p. 354.

4Capt. Hugh Mercer (c. 1725–1777), later famous for his heroic conduct and death at the battle of Princeton during the Revolution, at this time commanding officer at Fort Shirley (near George Croghan’s trading post on Aughwick Creek, about 50 miles west of Harris’s Ferry), had written Morris on April 19 about desertions among his unpaid men, and requested money for them and for his officers, Lieut. Hugh Crawford and Ensign Thomas Smallman. A bounty proclaimed on April 14 while BF was in Virginia, offered 130 Spanish dollars (£48 15s.) for every scalp of a male enemy Indian and 50 Spanish dollars (£18 15s.) for a female scalp. Soldiers in the pay of the province were to receive half the amount. The only bounties recorded in the commissioners’ accounts after this proclamation are £18 15s. paid George Lynderman on April 23 “for a Scalp, and Cure of a Wound from the Indians,” and £97 10s. to Daniel Cressop, June 23, “for two Scalps.” I Pa. Arch., II, 619, 632–3; 5 Pa. Arch., V, 44; Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 89–90; Votes, 1755–56, pp. 168–70.

5The intended site of Fort Pomfret Castle (never built) was about ten miles up Mahantango Creek which enters the Susquehanna from the west about twenty miles below the forks at Shamokin. Hunter, Forts, pp. 373–7.

6In December 1755 Morris had asked the British secretary of state for 2000 stand of arms, seven brass field pieces, and twenty iron cannon. After Lord Loudoun, to whom the request for brass pieces had been referred, finally rejected it in June 1756, Thomas Penn made the same request of Secretary of State Henry Fox who authorized shipment of the brass cannon, but stipulated that they be paid for by the province. (Public Record Office, C.O. 5:17, fos. 183–5.) The arms which had “arriv’d” in Philadelphia on May 14 on the ship Carolina were sent to the frontier immediately, and included some “excellent short light arms” far superior to the faulty weapons mentioned above. Pa. Gaz., May 20, 1756; PMHB, XXXVI (1912), 386; I Pa. Arch., II, 664.

7Probably petitioners seeking compensation for losses suffered in Indian attacks.

8Morris remained on the frontier most of May, and the expedition to build the fort did not finally reach Shamokin until July 6.

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