George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Johnson, 21 March 1778

To Thomas Johnson

Head Quarters Valley Forge 21 March 1778


I do myself the honor to inclose you a representation made to me, by Mr Chaloner Deputy Commy of Purchases, upon the difficulty, under your present law, of procuring Waggons to bring forward the public Stores of provision collected at the Head of Elk and Middletown in your State.1

The State of Pennsylvania has been already exceedingly harrassed in providing teams, as we have drawn our Horses and Waggons almost totally from them since the commencement of this dispute. I would therefore wish, that you would lay this matter before your legislature, and endeavour to procure an amendment to the law, whereby a mode may be fallen upon to obtain a2 sufficient number of Waggons to bring forward the Stores at the places abovementioned and in the neighborhood of them.3

Governor Livingston lately did us the favr to procure a law, of the State of Jersey, vesting him and the Council with powers to impress any number of Waggons, to supply the Army, in cases of great emergency,4 and I can assure you that is truly the case now. If we do not establish Magazines in Camp and near it, before our Reinforcements arrive, it will be impossible to subsist our force when collected. I have to acknowledge the Rect of yours some little time ago, informing me of the steps you had taken to procure us a supply of provision.5 I sincerely thank you, and hope I shall find the same readiness in you to assist us with Carriages.

As one of the Gentlemen in the Commy department will wait upon you with this, he will inform you of the number wanting at present.6 I have the honor to be with great Respect & Regard Yr Excellency’s most obedient Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, MdAA; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

2On the draft Tilghman first wrote, “I would therefore wish that the law of your State might if possible be dispensed with in this instance, and that you will either by your own authority, or if that cannot be done, obtain a temporary law to enable ⟨illegible⟩ person to procure a”; after some editing he struck out that text and substituted the words that appear in the LS.

3On 31 Mar., Johnson transmitted this letter to the Maryland general assembly for action (MdAA). The legislature responded by passing “An Act for the Service of the United States,” which extended the provisions for hiring or impressing wagons of the existing act to include “the carriage of any articles of provision purchased in this or any other state, for the use of the continental army, which it may be necessary to convey from or through this state” (Md Laws, 1778 sess., chap. I).

4For a discussion of the New Jersey action on impressment of wagons, see GW to William Livingston, 14 Feb., n.1.

6This letter was sent to John Ladd Howell, deputy commissary at Head of Elk, for delivery to Johnson (see Chaloner to Howell, and Chaloner to Henry Hollingsworth, both 24 Mar., Ephraim Blaine Papers, DLC: Peter Force Collection).

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