George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Israel Putnam, 1 June 1777

From Major General Israel Putnam

Peeks Kill [N.Y.] June 1st 1777

Dear General

It is Impossible for me at this Juncture to obey your Instruction with respect to the Boats, we have verry few Flat Bottom’d ones here, and as yet only one Whale Boat has been employ’d in Cruising in the River I have Directed the Quarter Master to have Eight Built Immediately, and a proper officer with a party of men to man them—four of them I intend shall be kept alway’s down the River as a Look out, and four Ready to Relieve them—I have Also orderd a number of Flat Bottomd ones to be built as soon as Possible, and to be stationd at Kings Ferry, and New Windsor.

The Troops here make a most Unsoldier Like Appearance for the want of Cloaths—many of them no shirt at all, and verry few more than one—no Uniform or Shoes, which is a most assential Article here—if they were Bro’t to Action it would be Almost Impossible for them to Act, Among those Rocks and Mountans, which Peeks Kill Abound with.

They were hurried away with the promise of having their Cloathing as soon as they arrived here. There was a Quantity of Cloathing Arrived at Fish Kills Yesterday, I have orderd it to be stop’d untill I Receive your Directions—I have wrote to Maise and Cadwell1 to send up some Deputy Cloather to Deliver it out—and if it meets with your approbation, I should be glad you would write to them Least they should refuse to Comply with my orders The Ships and Gally is not yet Ready bu⟨t⟩ will get fitted and fall down as soon as possib⟨le.⟩

we have had nine deserters Came into to⟨day⟩ from Th. Bridg⟨e⟩ Altogether—the Examination of which I send you—they say they came by Virtue of a Proclamation Issued by the Convention of this state, which we have endeavourd to spread among them2 they say their officers tell them that Old McDougall is a Bitter Devil and will hang them up as soon as [they] Come out—they further say if the men could get Acquainted with that Proclamation they would almost Universally Desert. I am Dear General Your Most Obt Hume servt

Israel Putnam

P.S. sinse writing the above there has been 4 more Diserters Came in.


Alexander Hamilton replied to this letter on 2 June by order of GW: “The General is astonished at that extraordinary want of cloathing you mention, as Mr Mease informed Mr Tilghman that a full proportion of this article had been retained in Massachusettes for all its troops. It is unaccountable, that they should be so unprovided, unless the cloaths destined for them should have been sent by mistake to the Northward, as being the place for which they were first intended. On this supposition, General McDougall has been directed to inquire into the matter and if he found it so, to send up an officer from each of those regiments to bring them down. The General wishes to know what has been done on the occasion. If inquiry has not been yet made you will please to make it, and if ⟨it⟩ appears to be as is conjectured, you will persue the mode pointed out to General McDougall for obtaining a return of them, or any other more convenient mode you may think of. His Excellency desires you will speedily inform him how the matter stands, and what prospect you may have of gaining a supply in this way.

“In the mean time, you can detain the cloathing arrived at Fish-Kills ’till further orders, but they must not be issued to the troops. It would be inexpedient to devote the cloathing designed for the southern troops which are in great want of them to those, from the Eastward, when provision has been made for them, unless it shall prove to have been so misapplied, as to render it impossible to make it answer the end” (DLC:GW).

1Samuel Caldwell (1728–1798), a Philadelphia merchant who was a business partner of Clothier General James Mease, served as paymaster of the Philadelphia light horse from 1776 to 1777, a subcontractor of the wagon master general’s department in 1778, and a clothing agent for the Board of War from 1779 to 1780 or 1781.

2The New York convention on 10 May approved an act “offering a free pardon to such of the deluded subjects of this State as have been guilty of treasonable acts against this State, on taking the oath of allegiance” on or before 1 July. One thousand handbills of the act were ordered to be printed for general distribution (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:920–21).

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