George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Continental Congress Executive Committee, 7 January 1777

To the Continental Congress Executive Committee

Morris Town January 7th 17771


I have understood that the Foundery for casting brass Cannon which was begun at Philadelphia with good prospect of success has for sometime past been neglected—The importance of having a large number of feild peices against the Spring Campaign is so very evident that I most earnestly beg every spring may be set in motion to procure them.2

If the Founder is unskilful in his business I will send a Mr Byers who is experienced in it he having cast a number of very good ones in N: York3 I have forwarded Captain Cr[a]in to Philadelphia in order to prepare fix’d Ammunition of all kinds, you will please to give him every Assistance in your power4—The Cannon to be cast must be generally six pounders, some three pounders and a few twelves—The fix’d ammunition must be for these Calibres.

The persons who have been employed in making the Carriages must be very industriously kept to work for mounting the Cannon that may be cast. I am Gent. Your most Obedt hble servt

Go: Washington

P.S. The Letter from Mr Morris of the 1st Instt with 50,000 Dollars came duly to hand.

LS, in John Clark, Jr.’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152. The postscript is in GW’s writing. The executive committee received this letter on 9 Jan. and forwarded it to Hancock the next morning (see the Executive Committee to Hancock, 10 Jan., in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 6:80–81).

1GW arrived at Morristown from Pluckemin, N.J., on Monday 6 Jan. 1777 around sunset and, according to local tradition, set up his headquarters on the northwest side of the town’s public square in a three-story tavern owned by Capt. Jacob Arnold of the Morris County light horse (see Hoffman, Arnold Tavern description begins Philip H. Hoffman. History of “The Arnold Tavern,” Morristown, N.J.: And Many Incidents Connected with General Washington’s Stay in This Place, as His Headquarters in Winter of 1777. With Views of Historic Buildings and Places of Revolutionary Interest. Morristown, N.J., 1903. description ends , 3, 5–8, 18). Morristown, the center of an important agricultural and iron-mining region situated on both banks of the Whippany River, was strategically located on the main post road leading from the Hudson River to the Delaware River, about halfway between Philadelphia and West Point, N.Y., and twenty-six miles west of New York City. The narrow passes in the rolling hills to the east of the town could be easily defended against the British foraging parties that were forced to fan out from the enemy’s main outposts in New Jersey at Newark, Perth Amboy, and New Brunswick, and the mountains to the west provided a place where GW’s forces could withdraw to if necessary. GW stayed at Morristown until 28 May 1777, when he moved his headquarters to Middlebrook.

2GW in December 1776 ordered Henry Knox to form a plan for casting cannon and making carriages (see GW to Hancock, 20 Dec., and note 3).

3The executive committee had written to James Byers requesting him to return from the New York area before it received this letter, and by today’s date Byers had arrived in Philadelphia (see Robert Treat Paine to James Byers, 3 Nov. 1776, Francis Lewis to Robert Morris, 26 Dec. 1776, and the executive committee to Hancock, 2 Jan. 1777, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 5:433–34, 671–73, and 6:17–18). “Mr Byers,” the executive committee wrote to Hancock on this date, “who formerly Cast Brass Field pieces in New York has been with us this morning. He says the Furnace erected here by the Council of Safety will do with a very little alteration” (ibid., 45). John Adams described the foundery at Philadelphia in a letter to his son Charles Adams of 30 Mar. 1777: “It is in Front street in Southwark, nearly opposite to the Sweedes Church. This Building was formerly a China Manufactory, but is now converted into a Foundery, under the direction of Mr. Biers, late of New York. Here is an Air furnace, in which they melt the Metal. There is a great deep Cavern dugg in the Ground in which they place the Mould into which they pour the melted Metal, and thus they cast the Gun in a perpendicular Position. Several brass six Pounders newly cast, were lying there, and several old ones, to be cast over. There is another Man, one [Daniel] King, [Jr.,] who lives in Front street, at the Corner of Norris’s Ally, who cast Patterara’s and Howitzers” (ibid., 506–7).

4Brig. Gen. Henry Knox dismissed Capt. Lt. Joseph Crane from the artillery corps on 15 Jan. 1777 (see Samuel Shaw to Crane, that date, in NNGL: Knox Papers), and William Livingston recommended Crane to “raise a Troop of Horse, if your Excellency should see fit to encourage it,” in a letter to GW of 3 Feb. 1777 (DLC:GW).

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