George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Peters, 24 October 1776

From Richard Peters

War Office [Philadelphia] Octr 24th 1776


The Board of War have directed me to enclose you the Plan they intended to present to Congress for preventing Abuses in Regiments or Companies recieving more Rations than they are entitled to; an Evil which has been complained of perhaps with too much Foundation.

It frequently happens that sick Soldiers are either left behind at Posts or Places thro’ which their Regiments or Companies are marching, or they are sent to Hospitals at a Distance from their Corps. These unhappy People, or some of them, are often thought incurable & discharged by the Director or Surgeon of the Hospital as unfit for Service, & turned out to beg their Subsistence to their Homes, or Places of their former residence, altho’ they may have Pay due to them sufficient to support them. This not only raises Compassion & from this Motive should be remedied, but is extremely detrimental to the Service, by deterring others from enlisting. The Board therefore have thought that the Soldiers, so discharged, should have it in their Power to recieve their Pay in whatever Part of the States they may be; & have accordingly formed a Plan to enable them to do it, & request your Excellency’s Advice on both these Subjects.1 With the greatest Respect I have the Honour to be your obedt humble Servt

Richard Peters Secy


1The undated plan, in Peter’s writing, is in DLC:GW (see also Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 2:1211). To prevent the issuance of excess rations, it requires muster-masters to report monthly the strength of every regiment, troop, or company in the army and commissaries to submit monthly accounts of the exact number of rations drawn by each unit. The plan also includes a system for issuing pay certificates to hospital patients discharged from the army because of infirmity.

Robert Hanson Harrison replied to the Board of War on 4 Nov. that although GW found the part of the plan for halting ration abuses “well calculated to answer the end,” the part “respecting the sick, seems to him, not entirely perfect. The Captains or Commanders of Companies are prohibited from drawing pay for such Sick as may be discharged from the Hospitals as unfit for service. If during their stay, and before it can be known, whether their case will or will not admit of their return, It should become necessary to make up a Regimental pay Abstract, in what manner are the Officers to make up their Rolls? are they to include the Sick or not? As this is a case that may & must of necessity frequently happen, It appears to his Excellency, that the intended regulation should be more general, and restrain the Officers from including in their pay Abstracts or Rolls, all the Sick they send to the Hospitals and the pay due ’em previous to their going. In such case, those who are discharged as unfit for service may receive their pay as intended, & those who return to duty, can obtain what was due them, when the Regiment was paid, by applying to the paymaster with the Officer & Surgeons Certificates or be included in a Subsequent Abstract. The Inconveniencies & abuses which are designed to be remedied by those regulations, his Excellency does not apprehend to arise so much from necessity as Incident to the nature of Armies, as from the imperfect institution of the present, and the great mixture & diversity of Troops composing It, and also from the inattention of the Officers in whose appointments, but too little regard has been had to choosing men of merit & honor” (DNA:PCC, item 152). A modified version of the plan incorporating GW’s suggested change was approved by Congress on 10 Nov. (see 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 , 6:965–66).

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