George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, 15 January 1778

From the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council

In Council
Lancaster [Pa.] January 15th 1778


The enclosed recommendation of the honourable house of General Assembly of this state, founded on a recommendation of Congress, has been repeatedly under consideration: As we are persuaded that however it may be in other states, we cannot reasonably expect in this state where property is in general very equally divided, that farmers will exert themselves to enlist their neighbours children in the service, or even the labourers which they feel themselves in great want of; and Council can devise no means by which we can hope so effectually, and expeditiously, to raise our quota of troops, as by the officers of the battalions; If this measure should meet your Excellency’s approbation, We request that you will please to Select two out of each for this purpose, and give them orders to repair to the several counties as soon as may be on this important service.1

A sum of money will be deposited in the hands of the county Lieutenant, or other suitable person, to pay the bounty of one hundred dollars ordered by the Assembly, over and beside the bounty given by Congress, to each able bodied recruit who shall enter any of the battalions belonging to the quota of this state, for three years or during the war: The words of the recommendation are of the “twelve battalions” but we must understand it to have been intended to all the battalions.

Council had some time since, set on foot a collection of coarse woollens, blankets shoes &ca to be sent into the common fund in the hands of the Clothier General. Very lately Congress departing from their former system, resolved that each state do endeavour to supply the present necessities of its troops.2 Agreeable to this, council immediately proceeded to bring a large quantity of woollens, which was concealed; or neglected in Bucks County to the supply of the distressed soldiers; The Taylors have made considerable progress in making them up.3 They calculate that they will produce near one thousand coats and waiscoats for privates, and a few breeches. These goods seem not so fit for officers; except some surtouts would be thought acceptable. Your Excellencys direction concerning the distribution will be usefull, as the Council are fully satisfied that you wish the most pressing necessity to be first relieved.

The Assembly in the exigence of our army at this inclement season, have gone into the most vigorous mode of relief, but a mode, that cannot be continued, nor renewed consistent with trade or manufacture; They have invested two commissioners in each county, with power to seize, and take all necessaries suitable to the purpose, in whatever hands they may be found; and they have appointed Colonel Francis Johnston to receive and distribute the cloathing as ordered by council. By this means it may be expected that great additions may be made to the cloathing already made up and making.

The officers whose wants, it is beleived, are very pressing will be in some measure releived; but it cannot be expected that powers of this extraordinary nature, can be exerted to procure any other goods than warmth and decency require. Lieutenant Peterson of the eighth pennsylvania battalion, applied to Council for cloathing for himself and several officers. At the foot hereof we transcribe from his application a specimen of their wants.4

The call upon the state was thought to be for covering for the naked part of the army; and as no idea that fine ruffled shirts, laced hats, or even fine ones of beaver, silken stockings, or fine scarlet cloth came under this description, no provision for these has been made, nor can be expected. Your Excellency can best judge whether any precaution may be necessary to prevent such officers, as intend shortly to resign, from obtaining a supply of the cloathing expected to be delivered out. I am with much respect Your Excellencys very humble servant

Tho. Wharton jun. Prest

LS, DLC:GW; Df, PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–1790. A note at the bottom of the draft indicates that the letter was “sent by Mr Jas Davidson.”

1Wharton enclosed an extract from the minutes of the Pennsylvania general assembly of 2 Jan. by clerk John Morris, Jr. On that date the Pennsylvania assembly passed the following resolutions in response to the congressional resolves on recruitment of 31 July 1777: “Resolved That it be recommended to his Excellency the president or Vice president in Council to appoint a sufficient number of recruiting commissioners in each county for the purposes aforesaid—And he is hereby impowered to give one hundred dollars over and above the bounty allowed by Congress to each able bodied recruit who shall enter into any one of the twelve regiments belonging to the quota of this state for three years or during the war, and he is further impowered to draw orders on the state Treasurer for such sums as may from time to time be necessary for the purpose of paying the aforesaid bounties. Resolved that it be recommended to the Executive council to appoint places of rendezvous where its most convenient to receive such recruits as they shall enlist and the said recruiting commissioners shall monthly send such recruits to the place of rendezvous and to deliver them to an officer appointed to receive them taking a receipt for them and shall as often as required transmit to the Executive council accounts of the number of recruits by him enlisted and produce the receipt of the officer to whom they were delivered which shall be his Vouchers for the expenditures of the money delivered to him by the Executive Council. And the said recruiting commissioners are required to be careful in apprehending and securing all Deserters from the continental army for which service he is to receive five dollars in full for his trouble and expence in taking and securing such deserters and he shall deliver the deserters to the officer appointed to receive the recruits” (DLC:GW; for the congressional resolves of 31 July 1777, 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 , 8:593–95).

On 14 Jan. the Pennsylvania supreme executive council, “having repeatedly had under their consideration the recommendation of the Hon’ble House of General Assembly of the 2d inst., respecting the Recruiting Men to complete one Quota of the Continental Army, & being fully satisfied that men qualified & willing to perform this business cannot be found, And that an attempt to carry into execution the plan therein recommended, would be attended with great inconvenience & loss of time, if not with fatal Consequences,” resolved that Wharton should write this letter to GW (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:401). See also the circular letter of this date from the Pennsylvania supreme executive council to the commissioners to collect clothing, in Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:179.

2See the congressional resolutions of 20 Dec. 1777 in 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 , 9:1043–44.

3For the seizure of clothing in Bucks County from Joseph Carson, see James Mease to GW, 16 Dec. 1777, n.4.

4Gabriel Peterson (1748–1832) was appointed an ensign in the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment in August 1776, wounded at Bound Brook, N.J., in April 1777, and promoted to second and then first lieutenant in July 1777. He transferred to the 2d Pennsylvania Regiment in January 1783. The enclosed document lists clothing desired by three officers and a doctor of the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment (DLC:GW).

Index Entries