Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from John Armstrong, [17 September 1791]

From John Armstrong1

[Fort Washington,
Territory Northwest of the River Ohio,
September 17, 1791]

Dear Sir:

Permit me Sir to intrude so fancy to call your attention for a moment on a subject that to me is very interesting. In a report I made to Gel. Knox the 21st of February last a copy of which I am told was sent to your Office, I stated some facts relative to the Conduct of the late contractors,2 and having since learnt that they have by some means procured certificates contradicting this report, I therefore concieve it necessary to inform you that when called on I can Support the facts therein stated by the Testimony of Captain Beatty, Captain Strong Lt Sedam Lt Kingsbury3 & in short almost every Officer in the Rgt. Major Ferguson4 to whom I showed a copy of that Report in reply to that part wherein I speak of the due bills, Says he always compeled the contractors to pay the Articles on Soap in Lieu thereof. I wrote General Knox more fully on the Subject on the 15th. July, but perhaps that letter may have miscarried. Major Hamtramck5 who was commanding Officer at Post Vincennes informs me that Messrs Elliot & Williams directed their agent to call on him to certify that the troops had been well furnished, which certificate he refused giving as the troops had often been on half allowence. Their agent was also requested to take his deposition before a Magistrate on this Subject, but he had too just a sense of their rights to do so.

It will appear by the Merchants books at Fort Washington that during the last Summer they sold to the Individual Soldiers more than Six thousend weight of Bacon beef &c. It is therefore evident if the Soldiers had drawn their rations they could have had no use for that quantity, this proves also that there was plenty of provisions to be had & I believe it was offerd the contractors at a time when the troops were in a sterving condition as mentioned in my report. I have in my possession an account renderd by the contracters wherein I stend charged 22/6 pr. hundrid for flour & 7/6 pr Gallon for whisky as mentiond in my report. It is a fact Sir that every imposition has been played off against the Soldiery, & that they have been the continual Subject of Speculation.

Copy, Indiana Historical Society Library, Indianapolis.

1Armstrong, who fought in the line of the Twelfth and Third Pennsylvania Regiments during the American Revolution, was brevetted a captain on September 30, 1783. He received a commission in the United States Infantry Regiment on August 12, 1784, and in 1786 was transferred to the western frontier. In 1790 he was promoted to captain in the First United States Infantry Regiment and in the same year explored the Spanish territory in the West and the Missouri and Wabash rivers. Armstrong served in the expeditions against the Indians led by Brigadier General Josiah Harmar in 1790 and by Major General Arthur St. Clair in 1791. In 1793 he resigned from the Army, and in 1796 he became treasurer of the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio and founded one of the first settlements in what is now Indiana.

2Armstrong is referring to Robert Elliot and Elie Williams, of the Baltimore firm of Elliot and Williams. See H to Otho H. Williams, December 7, 1791 (PAH description begins Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (New York and London, 1961– ). description ends , X, 348).

3Erkurius Beatty, David Strong, Cornelius Sedam, and Jacob Kingsbury were all members of the First Infantry Regiment.

4William Ferguson of Pennsylvania was a major commandant in the artillery battalion of the United States Army. He was killed on November 4, 1791, during St. Clair’s expedition against the western Indians.

5John F. Hamtramck of New York was a major in the First Infantry Regiment.

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