George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jonathan Mifflin, Jr., 20 February 1778

From Jonathan Mifflin, Jr.

Reading [Pa.] 20th Feby 1778


On the other Side is a Copy of a Letter I received Yesterday from the President of the Board of War on my Way to Potts Grove to establish a Magazine at that Place which I think proper to transmit to you Excellency.1

Your Excellencys Letter of 15th Int was received a few Minutes before Col. Hooper & Capt. Falconer left this Town—The Cattle in this County have been chiefly collected by Mr Patton Commy of Purchases—I had taken Measures for collecting what Supplies could be obtained of the Meat Kind but in Consequence of Genl Gates Letter I have put the Business intirely into the Hands of Mr John Lasher & Mr Valentine Eackirt the Commissioners appointed by the Assembly of this State.2


1The enclosed copy of a letter from Horatio Gates to Jonathan Mifflin, Jr., dated 17 Feb. from the War Office at York, Pa., reads: “Since you was appointed a Superin⟨ten⟩dant for the Purchase of Provisions Congress have judged the Commissioners appointed by a Law of this State adequate to the Purchases necessary on the East Side ⟨of⟩ the Susquehanna & have acco⟨rd⟩ing⟨ly su⟩pply’d the President & Coun⟨cil⟩ with Money to distribute to the Commissioners for that Purpose—they have also resolved that the Superintendants for that Side of the Susquehanna be recall’d & that they lay before Congress their Proceedings & Accounts—You will therefore, Sir, cease to act any farther in the Business above mentioned & as soon as possible lay your Proceedings & Accounts before Congress” (DLC:GW).

Congress resolved on 17 Feb. to suspend the activities of Nathaniel Falconer, Robert Lettis Hooper, Jr., and Mifflin, who had been appointed by the Board of War to procure provisions for GW’s army in Pennsylvania (see Falconer, Hooper, and Mifflin to GW, 14 Feb., and GW’s reply of the following date). Congress justified its decision on two points: first, the Pennsylvania government already had appointed commissioners of its own for that purpose; and second, Falconer, Hooper, and Mifflin “without any authority, in direct violation of the laws of Pensylvania, and contrary to the instructions given by the Board of War, have presumed to fix and ascertain the prices of several other articles wanted in the army, much higher than fixed by law in the State, directing the quarter masters to govern themselves by such illegal rates” (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 , 10:176).

The dismissal of the three commissioners threatened to exacerbate the provision crisis facing GW’s army. William Duer wrote Francis Lightfoot Lee on 19 Feb. that “Just when the resolution came to hand a considerable supply of provisions & forage was forwarding to head quarters by the persons appointed by the board of war & a great number of teams impressed for this purpose. The order of Congress has put a stop to the whole, so that all prospect of keeping the army together is now at an end and you may expect every moment to hear of its dissolution” (PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–1790; see also Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 9:130–32). Congress read an extract of Duer’s letter and the letter of 14 Feb. from Falconer, Hooper, and Mifflin to GW on 21 Feb. and ordered “That copies of the same be sent by express to the executive council of Pensylvania, and that it be most earnestly recommended to them to exert the whole powers of the State in providing and forwarding to the army, by every possible means, supplies of provisions, (especially of the meat kind,) and forage, with the utmost despatch.” At the same time Congress resolved “That the Board of War immediately employ a suitable number of proper persons on the east side of the Susquehanna, to purchase meat and forage for the army, and to forward the same to the camp with all possible expedition, having respect to the prices fixed by the laws of the State of Pensylvania” (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 , 10:189).

Henry Laurens forwarded the resolves and letters to Thomas Wharton, Jr., on 21 Feb., and on the same date Daniel Roberdeau, delegate to Congress from Pennsylvania, wrote speaker of the Pennsylvania general assembly James McLene on the same subject, adding that “I have only to assure the Honble. House that under God the Salvation of our Cause now depends on you as from your Situation timely supplies of provisions especially meat, of forage and Waggons and immediate conveyance can only be expected, and without the most vigorous exertions you may depend the army will disperse” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 9:155–57). On 24 Feb., on the advice of the general assembly, the Pennsylvania supreme executive council wrote a circular letter to its purchasing commissioners, urging them “to forward to Camp with all possible expedition all the neat Cattle, swine, Beef Pork & forage you can procure” (PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–1790; Pa. Minutes of the General Assembly description begins Minutes of the Second General Assembly of the Common-wealth of Pennsylvania, Which Met at Lancaster, on Monday, October Twenty-seventh, A.D. One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven. Lancaster, Pa., 1778. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , Oct. 1777–Sept. 1778 sess., 46).

2John Patton had resigned his commission as colonel of an additional Continental regiment on 3 Feb., and the Board of War appointed him a superintendent of flour magazines and purchases (see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:234–35). John Lesher (1711–1794) was a native of Germany who immigrated to America in 1734 and eventually settled in Oley Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania. He was co-owner of Oley Forge and owner of a furnace in District Township, Berks County. He also served during the war as a delegate to the Pennsylvania general assembly. In January 1778 Lesher was appointed a commissary for purchasing provisions in Berks County, along with Valentine Eckert (Eckhart; 1733–1821), another native German who had come to America in 1741 and settled in Berks County. Eckert was a delegate to the state general assembly during the war, also serving as sublieutenant for Berks County from 1777 to 1781 and as county lieutenant from 1781 to 1783.

Index Entries