George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Thomas Polk, 23 September 1777

To Colonel Thomas Polk

Camp near pottsgrove [Pa.] 23d Sepr 1777


You are hereby directed to proceed immediately to Bethlehem with the heavy Baggage of the Army, upon your arrival there you are to take a convenient Building and unload and store the Baggage in order that the Waggons may return under the conduct of the Waggon Masr General or one of his deputies. You are to remain yourself with a Guard of 200 Men consisting of such as may be at the time most fatigued and unfit for duty. The remainder to be sent to Camp under charge of their Officers with positive directions not to suffer them to straggle upon the march. Make me a return of the Number that you send back that I may make the Officer accountable for them.

In storing the Baggage let care be taken not to mix that of the different Brigades together. I am &ca.

Copy, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Tilghman’s copy and the Varick transcript both indicate that this letter was addressed to a Colonel “Pollock.” The general orders of 20 Sept., however, indicate that the commander of the baggage guards was Col. Thomas Polk of North Carolina. A member of the Moravian congregation in Bethlehem, Pa., gave this account of the arrival of the baggage there on 24 Sept.: “The whole of the heavy baggage of the army, in a continuous train of 700 wagons, direct from camp, arrived under escort of 200 men, commanded by Col. Polk, of North Carolina. They encamped on the south side of the Lehigh, and in one night destroyed all our buckwheat and the fences around the fields. The wagons after unloading, return to Trenton for more stores. Among the things brought here were the church bells from Philadelphia, and the wagon in which was loaded the State House bell, broke down in the street, and had to be unloaded” (Jordan, “Bethlehem during the Revolution,” 13:73–74).

On the manuscript of the retained copy of this letter, Tilghman wrote a copy of GW’s letter to the wagon master general, Lt. Col. Joseph Thornburgh, of this date, which reads: “I have directed Colo. Pollock to proceed to Bethlehem with the heavy Baggage of the Army there to have it stored that the Waggons may return. You will therefore either proceed your self to see this Business executed or send one of your deputies on whom you can depend. But as your presence in the Army is essentially necessary to regulate your department I think you had better send one of your deputies” (DLC:GW).

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