George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Pennsylvania Commissioners of Arrangement, 23 October 1776

From the Pennsylvania Commissioners of Arrangement

Mount Washington [October] 23d 1776


The Anxious Concern we feel for the General Cause as well as the particular Line of Duty marked out to us by our Instructions from the State of Pennsylvania, is the Occasion of the present Trouble to your Excellency. When we had the Honor of waiting on you at this place about a Month ago, we were assured by the Adjutant General that Recruiting Orders should be Imediately issued for the Continental Battalions raised in Pennsylvania then at and near New-York-Island. This Assurance was given us on the 8th of October; and in full Confidence that they would be issued generally we set out the next day for Tyconderoga. On our Return, a few days ago, we came to the Camp at the White plains and from Col. Hand we understood that he had received the orders,1 and in Consequence of them had Recruited more than an hundred Men out of the Flying Camp for his Battalion only, and would have been able to have Compleated the whole, had it not been for the frequent Movements of the Army, which had unavoidably prevented him.

At our Return to this place we Naturally enquired of Cols. Magaw & Cadwalader, what Success they had met with in their Inlistments—When to our Astonishment they Informed us that they had not received any Orders for that Purpose.2 Your Excellency, we doubt not, had good Reasons for issuing the Orders to Col. Hand only and not to the other Gentlemen. However, as we are Informed by Genl Ewing that many of the Pennsylvanians in the Flying Camp under his Command, are willing to Enter into the Service on the New Establishment, and as Cols. Magaw and Cadwalader are near and could with Ease Inlist them, we have thought it our Duty to Represent the Affair to your Excellency; and doubt not but that the Zeal & Ability you have ever Exerted in the Cause of American Liberty, will Induce you to take the most proper Means for Effectuating that glorious purpose.3 We have the Honor to be with the greatest Esteem, Yr Excellency’s Most Obedt & most hble Servts

Jas Potter[,] Wm Clark[,] John Morris Jr
Commissioners for Pennsylvania

LS, DLC:GW. The date on the dateline of the manuscript, “Nov. 23d 1776,” clearly is wrong because Joseph Reed replied to this letter on 6 Nov. and Fort Washington fell to the British on 16 November. Robert Hanson Harrison dates the letter “Octr 23d” in his docket on the addressed cover. That date apparently is correct, although at the end of the docket Harrison errs in noting that the letter was “An[swere]d Nov. 7th 1776.”

The Pennsylvania convention on 26 Sept. created this commission to visit the state’s troops in Continental service and arrange for reenlistments for the duration of the war as recently requested by Congress (see the proceedings of the Pennsylvania convention, 26 Sept., in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 2:50). John Morris, Jr. (c.1739–1785), the Philadelphia attorney who served as secretary of the convention, was appointed to the commission on 27 Sept., and on the following day William Clark (1740–1804), a member of convention for Cumberland County, and James Potter (1729–1789), a member for Northumberland County, were made commissioners in place of two appointees who declined to serve for personal reasons (see the proceedings of the Pennsylvania convention, 27, 28 Sept., ibid., 50, 60). On 30 Sept. the state council of safety appropriated £187.10 to pay the commissioners’ traveling expenses to Ticonderoga (see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , Colonial ser., 10:735).

Each commissioner held military rank. Morris served during 1776 as quarter-master for the Pennsylvania troops with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was named a judge of the court of common pleas during this year, and in 1777 he acted briefly as state attorney general before becoming master of rolls and recorder of Philadelphia, an office which he held until his death. Morris also served as clerk of the general assembly from 1776 to 1779. Clark in July 1776 was lieutenant colonel of the 3d Regiment of Cumberland County associators. In July 1777 he was lieutenant colonel of a Cumberland County militia regiment, and the following month he became paymaster for the county militia. Clark served in the general assembly during 1776 and 1777. Potter, a native of Ireland whose family emigrated to Pennsylvania when he was about twelve years old, served as an officer in the Pennsylvania forces during the French and Indian War, being commissioned an ensign in February 1756 and promoted to lieutenant in December 1757 and captain in February 1759. In January 1776 Potter was appointed colonel of the 2d Regiment of Northumberland associators, which he commanded in the Battle of Princeton on 3 Jan. 1777. Wounded and captured during the battle, he was freed a short time later. Potter was promoted to brigadier general of militia in April 1777 and major general in May 1782. He was named a member of the state’s supreme executive council in October 1780 and became its vice-president in November 1781.

1See Recruiting Instructions for Colonel Edward Hand, 11 October.

2Lambert Cadwalader (d. 1823), a Philadelphia businessman who in 1775 had been named captain of one of the city’s associated military companies and a delegate to the provincial convention, was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 3d Pennsylvania Regiment on 4 Jan. 1776. He assumed command of the regiment without promotion on 25 Sept. when its colonel, John Shee, resigned his commission, and on 16 Nov. Cadwalader was captured with his regiment at Fort Washington. Although Cadwalader immediately was released on parole and was appointed colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment in December 1776, his inability to obtain a formal exchange during the next two years prevented him from joining the army, and in January 1779 he resigned his commission (see Cadwalader to GW, 16 Mar. 1777, 7 Oct. 1778, and GW to Cadwalader, 4 Sept., 23 Nov. 1778, DLC:GW; Cadwalader to the Board of War, 15 Jan. 1779, DNA:PCC, item 78; and JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 13:100). Cadwalader subsequently moved to Trenton, N.J., his birthplace, and he represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress 1785–87 and the U.S. Congress 1789–91 and 1793–95.

3Joseph Reed replied to this letter on 6 Nov.: “Your Favour of the 23d Inst: expressing your Astonishment that recruiting Orders had not been issued to Col. Magaw & Col. Cadwallader has been duly received. As it seems founded on Assurances given by me I think it my Duty to explain the Matter & call to your Recollection some Circumstances which perhaps in the Hurry of Business you may have forgot. At the Time you left Kingsbridge no one Officer that I recollect was fixed on nor was it known whether Col. Cadwallader would accept the Regiment if in his Power—There was not Money in the Continental Treasury at that Time to advance for the Bounty of even Hands Regiment & all those who were consulted agreed that it answered no Purpose to attempt the Business without the Money in Hand. Another thing Gentlemen you will I doubt not agree with me in that it could not be the Generals Duty or that of any other General Officer to attend upon the Officers of these two Battalions to know whether they would serve or set about, the Business of recruiting & I am very confident that no Application was made for Money or recruiting Orders—nor indeed could they—for the Enemy landed immediately after at Frogs Point, the Army immediately moved & has been moving ever since so that there has not been Leisure or Oppy for transacting Business of this Kind—Our Communication with Mount Washington has now been cut off for 2 Weeks & in short the Variety of Avocations to the immediate Safety & Interest of the Army under constant Alarms & the Approach of the Enemy has made that very nature⟨al⟩ to those on the Spot which may appear very much otherwise to Gentlemen whose short Stay at such Times in the Camp does not enable them to Judge of the Difficulties which occur upon such Occasions.

“The Necessity of appointing the Officers who were to execute the recruiting Orders will appear when it is recollected that at that Time it was understood that 10/ was to be allowed for every Man recruited: so that the Appointment must of course precede the Service. This the Congress have since altered” (unsigned draft in Reed’s writing, DLC:GW; the Varick transcript in DLC:GW erroneously ascribes this letter to GW instead of Reed).

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