George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Peters, 1 October 1777

From Richard Peters

York Town [Pa.] Octr 1st 1777


I had the Honour of your Excellency’s Letter of the 28th Ultimo which I recd but this Day. I have attended to the Business you were pleased to recommend as far as Circumstances will admitt & shall use every Exertion in my Power convinced as I am of the Necessity of adding every possible Strength to the Army at this important Juncture. I have given Directions for the Route of the Troops agreeable to your request & have supperadded what I thought would conduce to accelerate their March. I have desired the Officers commanding Detachments to send their heavy Baggage to the Trap & take every possible Means to lighten the Troops & force their March as far as is consistent with the Health & Spirits of the Men. They are desired to impress Waggons to carry on the lame & fatigued as they go along. I wish I could give you better Accounts of the Virginia Militia than that great Numbers of them are but illy provided with Arms & Necessaries—The Men seem to be good & I make no Doubt will use such Materials as they have to their own Honour & the Advantage of the Cause. I could wish indeed they had the Arms which are in the Hands of other Militia who have not behaved with that Spirit & Firmness which the Salvation of their own Country demanded. I would mention to your Excellency that I think it best to station an Officer at the Ford above the Mouth of French Creek to direct the further Progress of the Troops. If such an one can be had at Lancaster he will be sent but lest a Proper Person cannot be found there would it not be better for your Excellency to send one? The Militia gone thro’ this Town & which are by Detachment on their Way are those of Fairfax Prince William, Loudon, Berkley Culpepper & Faquier amtg to about

(Continental) Part of Gibson Regt abt 400 well provided.

Those of Frederick & Dunmore Counties are coming on & it is said in larger Proportions than the Rest. We are also informed that recruiting goes on well in Virginia & that a considerable Number of continental Troops (Recruits) are on their Way. One hundred & ten arrived this Day but naked & unarmed & how they & the rest are to be armed & equipped is yet a Mystery. Could not the Arms be taken from the sick & given to those who are well—Chester County would afford a great Supply of Blanketts if they were taken from the dissaffected; & it is to be wished Mr Mease would appoint some Place for delivering out Cloathing. Shoes are engrossed all over the Country & can be obtained upon no Terms but such as are extravagant except they are siezed & paid for at a reasonable Price. I enclose a Letter from Major Nicholas who was sent for the Arms at Springfield & Brookfield & altho it appeared from the Returns now in the Office that there were at least 6,000, your Excellency will see how difficult it has been to obtain the Number mentioned in the Letter.1 How this can happen is difficult to determine. The Board request you will be pleased to send off Orders to Major Nicholas what he shall do with the Arms & any Stores he may bring. It is rather Mal apropos to bring Stores into this State at this Time. General Heath should be ordered to send all the Arms he keeps for the Regts to be raised & let them be delivered to those which are raised. The Arms kept in Connecticut in Case of an Invasion should be ordered where there is actually an Invasion as I concieve. But no Doubt some Order will be taken in this Matter. Will your Excellency be pleased to direct what shall be done with the Recruits who cannot from all Appearances be armed & cloathed here? As the Board meet but irregularly owing to Matters not being in a proper Train here yet, I have suggested much of this Letter to your Excellency & if there be too much Haste & Egotism you will be pleased to excuse it & believe me to be with the greatest Respect your Excellency’s very obed. & most hble Servt

Richard Peters

P.S. By a Letter from Major Nicholas since writing the above it seems that Col. Cheevers is on his Way with 2,000 Stands of Arms beside those intended to be brought by the Major—As I have no Assistant my Deputy not being here it will prevent my Attention to the forwarding the Troops in the Manner I could wish as I am & shall be much engaged in the Arrangement of the Office for a few Days when I shall be ready to execute with the greatest Industry & readiness any Commands your Excellency may be pleased to honour me with—I shall forward the Troops as they arrive here to Lancaster & if I hear of any Difficulties there shall go thither to surmount them as far as I can.


1The enclosed letter that Maj. Samuel Nicholas wrote to Peters on 24 Sept. from Lebanon, Conn., reads: “Since I wrote you last the Express I sent has returned from Boston. Genl Heath has agreed to send me 400 Stand of a thousand, the rest he keeps for three Regts that are raising there. On Receipt of his Answer I sett off for this Place in Hopes of getting 1000 from hence that were lent to this State to be put into the Hands of the Militia, in Case of Invasion. The Arms are here & not delivered out but on my Application to the Governor & his Council who are always sitting I can obtain only 10 Chests which together with what I shall have from Boston & Brookfield would amount to no more than 2600. A Number far short of my Order. I have some Reason to expect I shall make up my loading with Lead. Col. [David] Mason who is Commissary of ordince Stores at Springfield informed me yesterday that there was forty Five arrived at Boston & Part on the Way for the Ordinance Store. By Thursday next [2 Oct.] I expect to sett off for [from] Hence. As I intend returning by Easton shall be glad you will direct what I shall do with the Arms when I gett there as the Accounts here respecting your Army are not very favorable. Excuse Haste &c.” (DLC:GW).

An earlier report of the unexpected arms deficiencies in Massachusetts had prompted Peters to write GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman on 29 Sept. from Lancaster: “I cannot help informing you that I have just had the Mortification to receive by Express from Springfield an Account that there are but about fifteen hundred Arms at that Place instead of six thousand which by the Returns in the Office signed by the Commissary of Stores at that Place & at Boston appeared to be at Springfield & Brookfield. Major Nicholas who was dispatched about the Business has sent off to Boston to know what has become of the Arms. Has any been ordered by the General? or can any Account be given why Returns should be made which are not founded in Truth unless Orders have been given since the Returns. I heard Genl Knox had ordered 2,000 but know not how this Matter is. Unless the whole Conduct of the Arms & Stores are in one Body or Person we shall have a confused & flemish Account of our military Stores” (DLC:GW). A Flemish account is an unsatisfactory account or one showing a deficit.

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