George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General John Armstrong, 1 February 1777

From Brigadier General John Armstrong

Baltimore 1st Feby 1777

Dear General

You will scarcely expect a Letter from me dated at this place so far out of the line of yr Excellencys Orders1—On my traversing a considerable part of the State of Pennsylvania as high as Carlisle I found that not only the inclemancy of the weather prevented my being able to draw out the Militia Battalions so fully as cou’d have been wished, but the numbers that were gone to Camp especially from the County of Cumberland greatly lessened the use of publick address—And from the date of my letter to you at Philada on the Subject of Provisions that article & Several Others,2 grew so much by reflexion that I thought my Self constrain’d to make this excursion to Congress in order more deeply to impress on the minds of that Body the importance of various preparatives to the next Campaign—The topicks I have attempted to insist on were the recruiting Service generally, with a certain expedient more particularly requisite in the State of North Carolina—Arms—Cloathing—Provisions Medicin A Stop to the farther distilling of wheat & Other grain—and somewhat (tho’ beside my principal design) on the interuption of Government in the State of Pennsylvania. As these things so far as Congress cou’d influence them I knew you had deeply at heart, I did not hesitate to risque that Censure that the want of explicit authority might with these Gentn have Subjected me to, but have reason to believe the charge of Obtrusion was not made but otherwise, and hope the effort may have some good effect.

The Article of Provisions & perhaps Forrage too—Your Excellency may lay your Accounts for (I mean for a proper Army) will be harder to be Obtained than perhaps any man had apprehended, and the getting them on anything like reasonable terms equally if not still more difficult, for such are the vilianous efforts to depreciate the Credid of the Continental money, & such the disagreeable or rather execrable Spirit of Avarice so generally gone abroad that if some proper & Suden check is not put, the exorbitant demands that two months more are like to produce will astonish every virtuous man in America—A political measure or two are now on the Anvil, not only to make sure of what provisions can be spared, but also to evade the wilde prices ready to be asked under the advantage of publick necessity.

I have been at York Town, and now take in my way—Some other parts of that County—Shall write you next from Carlisle, & either travel more or return to Camp as duty may appear, but probably the latter. I have warmly recommended Mr Buchanan to Congress as in some Stile to assist at least for this State of Maryland in the important business of provision Magazines, and his Scheme if adopted will no doubt Soon be sent you.3 God knows what use this journey may be of, but by reason of your distance & attention to the great point, I thought it necessary. An Opening appears to have been clearly made for the New Englanders retaking New-York & if Successful, the larger part of that Army we hope will step Over to you—Something I believe will be done for General Mercers Family—Genl Dickensons affair is hopefull and great—May God preserve your health & add to your late Series of Success. I am Yr Excellencys Most Obedt humbl. Servt

John Armstrong


1GW ordered Armstrong to Pennsylvania for the recruiting service in December 1776 (see GW to Hancock, 13 Dec., and Hancock to GW, 23 Dec. 1776).

2This letter has not been found.

3Armstrong enclosed a copy of William Buchanan’s plan for victualing and provisioning the army in his letter to GW of 22 February. William Buchanan (1732–1804), who moved to Baltimore from his native Carlisle, Pa., in 1759, was a member of the Maryland conventions of 1774 and 1775. He was appointed a first lieutenant in the Baltimore militia on 19 Dec. 1775, and by the following June he had risen to the rank of colonel. On 20 Feb. 1777 the Continental Congress appointed Roger Sherman, Elbridge Gerry, and William Smith to a committee to confer with Buchanan “on the subject of a contract for supplying the army with provisions” (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 , 7:134; see also Roger Sherman to Joseph Trumbull, 2 April 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 , 6:529–31), and on 18 June Congress appointed Buchanan deputy commissary general of purchases. Buchanan succeeded Joseph Trumbull as commissary general of purchases of the Continental army on 5 Aug. 1777 and served in that capacity until he resigned in the spring of 1778 (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 , 8:477, 607, and Buchanan to GW, 4 Mar. 1778, in DLC:GW). In 1794 Buchanan unsuccessfully sought an appointment from GW as collector of the port of Baltimore (see Buchanan to GW, 19 July 1794, in DLC:GW).

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