George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Peters, 29 April 1777

From Richard Peters

War Office [Philadelphia] April 29th 1777


I do myself the Honour of acknowledging the Receipt of yours of the 17th instant to the Board enclosing a List of Officers appointed in the new Levies by your Excellency.1 I send you a Number of Returns of Stores in the Commissary Generals Departments of Provisions & Military Stores.2 Neither of these are accurate. I am certain the Military Stores are not exactly ascertained & I most ardently hope the Returns of Provisions are far under the Mark; but as this latter Department has not (except in Instances of Irregularities which have often been truly lamentable) fallen so immediately under the Notice of the Board, I cannot pronounce with any Certainty about it.

I was desired by the Board sometime ago & fear I neglected to inform you that Congress had made Provision in their medical Arrangement for regimental Surgeon’s Mates as your Excellency has no Doubt since percieved in the printed Copies of the resolves of Congress relative to the Hospitals &c.3 The enclosed Letter is from our Town Major Nicola who would be obliged by your sending it by the first Flag.4 I have the Honour to be with the greatest Respect your very obed. Servt

Richard Peters Secy


2Peters enclosed an invoice of military stores sent to French Creek, Pa., between 25 Mar. and 16 April, a return of ammunition made up at Philadelphia, 26 April, a return of Continental provisions in Pennsylvania, 25 April, an invoice of military stores in the Continental magazine at Baltimore, 9 April, and undated returns of military stores in Georgia, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire (DLC:GW).

3The broadside of Congress’s resolutions of 7–8 and 12 April regarding the medical department printed by John Dunlap lists regimental surgeon’s mates among the officers of the department (see the copy of the broadside in DLC:GW, 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 , 7:245).

4This letter has not been identified. Lewis Nicola (1717–1807), a native of Dublin, Ireland, who had purchased a commission in the British army about 1740, served as fort major of Charles Fort at Kinsdale, Ireland, from 1754 to 1766 when he quit the army and moved to America. Nicola established himself as a merchant in Philadelphia, where he became much involved in cultural affairs, operating a circulating library, editing a short-lived magazine, and participating in the formation of the American Philosophical Society in 1769. After living briefly at Allentown and Easton in the early 1770s, Nicola returned to Philadelphia at the beginning of the Revolutionary War to offer his military services to the American cause. At the request of some militia officers, he wrote A Treatise of Military Exercise, Calculated for the Use of the Americans, which was published in Philadelphia in 1776. He also translated two French military works: a manual for field engineers that was published in 1776 and a treatise on light horse and light infantry that was published in 1777. Nicola was appointed barrack master of Philadelphia by the Pennsylvania general assembly on 20 Feb. 1776 (see Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 5:657–58), and on 2 Dec. 1776 the Pennsylvania council of safety named Nicola town major of Philadelphia and directed him “Immediately to enrol all such persons as are not fit to march with the militia, in the several wards of the City, as Guards” (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:26). Congress gave Nicola a similar assignment in the Continental army on 20 June 1777, when it appointed him colonel of the newly created Corps of Invalids, which was to consist of eight companies of soldiers whose physical disabilities precluded them from serving in the field but allowed them to be usefully employed in garrisons, magazines, arsenals, and hospitals (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 , 8:485). Nicola remained town major of Philadelphia until February 1782, and he served as colonel of the Corps of Invalids until the end of the war. In the spring of 1782 Nicola offended GW’s finely tuned political sensibilities by advocating a constitutional monarchy for the United States, an indiscretion for which he abjectly apologized (see Nicola to GW, 22, 23, 24 May, and GW to Nicola, 22 May 1782, DLC:GW). Nicola became commandant of the Pennsylvania corps of invalids in 1788, and he served as inspector of the Philadelphia militia brigade from 1793 to 1798. He lived in Alexandria, Va., during his last years.

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