George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Anthony Butler, 9 March 1778

From Anthony Butler

Reading [Pa., c.9] March 1778


As I am informed that the Power of regulating the Appointments of the Quarter Master Genls Department is vested solely in you,1 I think it incumbent upon me and therefore take the Liberty to Lay before you my Proceedings in that Department as an Agent for Camp Equipage &c.

When General Mifflin the late Quarter Mastr General resigned, the Congress requested by a Resolve that he would superintend the Department untill they appointed another Quarter Master General:2 in Consequence of which he desired that I would go on providing such supplies as Colonel Lutterloh or the acting Deputy Qr Masr Genl at the Army should write for; and continue also to make a large Provision for the ensuing Campaign as per the enclosed Return of Stores.

The enclosed Return of Stores provided since that time and now remaining in my Possession, together with my Prospects of Supplies in the several Articles I provide, will show in what Forwardness my Department is3—I must confess it does not equal the Expectations I had formed—indeed the Difficulties I meet with in endeavouring to execute my Business are very great—instead of having my Materials and my Workmen centered in one City as was my Situation the last Campaign, I have now to look to the extreme Ends of the States for them; this alone will occasion Delays and Disappointments that prevent my Business from being carried on with the same Certainty and Precision it used.

Upon the subject of Tents the most important Article in my Department I wrote a few days ago to the honle the Board of War: I enclose a Copy of that Letter and upon that Head I think I need not add any more.4

I have not yet a single Camp Kettle in Advance, the Severity of the Weather has been a principal Cause in preventing the rolling of the Iron—I have had two Ton ready rolled this fortnight past to send to the manufactory in New Jersey but have been delayed for Want of Waggons I applied for four Teams to Mr Young comg Waggon Master General of this State and after being kept in Suspense for nine days with repeated Promises of having them, I was at last told by Coll Holla the Waggon Master of this County “that I could not have them that it was against the Law for any Waggons to go any where but to Head Quarters[”]5—the Iron now remains on hand and the Workmen at the Manufactory are idle for Want of it—this is an Obstacle to my Business which if not removed will render it impossible for me to execute it.

There are fifty Covered Waggons making about 8 miles from this town on the Road to Philad., the Bodies are all finished and thirty of the Carriages will be shortly so; as I think they are exceedingly exposed I have desired the Maker to look out for a convenient Place near to the Susquehannah where they can be finished and I would apply for Waggons to have them removed—there are also 22 Wagons loaded with Spare Ammunition at Rheimstown6 which want repairing. I wrote to the Commissary superintending them to have them brought to the Place where the Workmen & Materials ⟨ar⟩e, and they should be repaired; otherwise it would be impossible to do it.

Enclosed are the Returns of Stores provided and delivered out by me the last Campaign throughout which I flatter myself there was nothing wanting in my Part of the department at least I am confident there was no Demand made upon me but what I answered.7 I wish I could have Reason to hope for the same Success this ensuing Year but I feel myself inadequate to the Task of Supplying the Army as amply as my Regard for the Welfare of it would make me desirous and as soon as any Person of Superior Abilities and equal to the Task can be appointed I will readily and chearfully resign in his favor.

The most Ardent Wish I have is to see America firmly fixed in Liberty & Independence, and whenever my Interest interferes with hers I hope I shall always have Virtue enough to sacrifice it to her. I have the honor to be with Respect Your Excellencys very hble servt

Anthy Butler


Anthony Butler had served under Q.M. Gen. Thomas Mifflin as agent for camp equipage at least since July 1777; he had also served as acting deputy quartermaster general at Philadelphia during Mifflin’s illness in September 1777. Butler was replaced as agent by James Abeel in May 1778 (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 , 12:971; Abeel to Nathanael Greene, 10 May 1778, Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 2:387).

1A congressional resolution of 7 Feb. had directed the camp committee “to consult with General Washington and report to Congress proper persons for filling the offices in the several departments of the quarter master general” (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 , 10:138).

2For Congress’s resolution of 8 Nov. 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 , 9:882.

3In the enclosure, entitled “Prospects of Supplies of Camp Equipage &c. for the Army this Campaign” and dated at Reading, 9 Mar., Butler reported that “not one” camp kettle was “yet made, but two Ton of rolled Iron ready to be sent to the Manufactory and the same Quantity will be delivered in a few Days from Coxes Iron Works in New Jersey this will make 1800 Kettles which can be manufactored in four Weeks after the Manufactorer gets the Iron—he lives at a place called New Mills in N. Jersey his name is John Litle—I have agreed with Mr Samuel Ogden at Boonetown New Jersey for 8000 Kettles his works are prepareing very fast and as soon as he gets them in order he will deliver 600 Kettles regularly per Week—This was my greatest dependance for this Article and if I had been furnished with Waggons to have sent the rolled Iron I have here to Mr Litle, the Kettles made from that would have served untill Mr Ogdens Supplies came in—I hope it is not too late yet.” Entrenching tools “will be provided with ease the whole are nearly provided allready but the Fascine Hatchets and Axes and I do not Immagine I shall meet with any Difficulty in getting them, provided I am assisted with Waggons when I request them.” Regarding “Waggon, Horse and Artillery Furniture,” Butler continued, “I have lately supplied Col. Lutterloh with as much Harness as he requested except the Traces and I have now fifty Setts in Advance, the want of Traces is entirely owing to the want of Waggons to hall the Spike Iron from Col. Birds Furnace to be Manufactured.” Saddles and bridles, horseshoes, and traveling forges “will be provided”—there were “near 2000 Sett” of horseshoes “on hand and expect a great Number from the Smiths this Week.” Also “Amunition Waggons are going on with all Expedition fifty are in hand and thirty will be finished this Month.” With regard to soldier’s accoutrements: “6000 Knapsacks are already finished, I expect a large Quantity of Linen from South Key which I directed Mr Pennel to purchase—The Supply of this Article I think certain,” but “As I could not prevail upon one of the Workmen who made Canteens for me in philad. to come out I was entirely at a Loss for the Provision of this Article I mentioned it to General Mifflin who wrote to Colo. Chase D.Q.M.G. at Boston to provide 50000 Canteens and Bowls and purchase good Oxen Teams to send them on by, how far Colonel Chase has complied with his Order I am ignorant of, but least his Supplies should not arrive in good time I shall have about 3 or 4000 Canteens and the same Number of Bowls & pails ready by the Middle of April.” A “tolerable Assortment” of carpenter’s tools and “two Compleat Setts” of blacksmith’s tools had been laid in. Although “not more than 20 Rheam” of paper was “on hand, hope I shall receive Shortly 1000 Rheam from South Key, there is no Quantity from Boston to Virginia, I depend upon a few Paper Mills in this State and what may Arrive in North Carolina.” For “Orderly Books, 1000 are finished, I imagine that nu[m]ber is Sufficient, Wax Quills, Ink Powder & Blank Books &c. sufficient for two Campaigns.” For nails, “not a Cask in Advance. I have had large Demands lately for this Article which has exhausted what stock I had—Major Eyres has made a Demand for 3000 ⟨lb.⟩ for the Boats building on Susquehannah, I order’d them to be made four Weeks ago and the Waggons for which applied to Mr Young to take Rods & Sheet Iron were to have brought them back in Return—The Boats are in Danger of being Stopt unless my Agent at Lancaster can procure a sufficient Quantity there.” Of “Scythes, 300 are allready provided,” and “Cutting Boxes, 40 are finished and 60 more in hand.” Butler added, “Colonel Melcher who returned from Camp lately brought me a Message from Colo. Lutterloh to provide 4000 Espontoons I do not think there are either Workmen or Tools to make these by the Time they will be wanted,” and concluded, “For Tents I refer to my Letter to the Board of War” (DLC:GW).

4Butler’s letter to the Board of War of 26 Feb. has not been identified. After Congress read the letter on 4 Mar., Henry Laurens characterized it as “a piteous narrative of the article of Tents” (Laurens to Francis Dana, 5 Mar., DNA:PCC, item 13; see also Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 12:517, and 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 , 10:222). GW passed on at least some of Butler’s information to the Continental Congress camp committee, which wrote Dep. Q.M. Gen. Thomas Chase on 11 Mar., directing him to shift from the production of bell tents ordered by a resolution of 6 Jan. 1778 (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 , 10:24) to the production of “Tents for the Men” (DNA:PCC, item 192).

5Henry Haller (c.1740–1793), of Reading, was appointed wagon master of Berks County on 25 Feb., and he continued in that post until March 1780. Haller, who had been a Berks County delegate to the Pennsylvania Provincial Conference of June 1775, served in a number of other capacities during the war, including commissioner for collecting clothing, commissioner for seizing the estates of traitors, and auditor to settle soldiers’ pay.

6Reamstown, Lancaster County, Pa., lay on the road between Lancaster and Reading about fifteen miles from each town.

7Butler’s “General Return of Camp Equipage &c. delivered in the Campaign 1777,” dated at Reading on 9 Mar., is in DLC:GW.

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