George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 21 March 1778

To Henry Laurens

Head Quarters. Valley Forge 21st March 1778.


I have the honor of yours of the 14th and 15th instants. In consequence of the Resolves transmitted to me I have dispatched an Express to the Marquis de la Fayette and Baron de Kalb to recall them from the northward, and instead of ordering down Hazens Regiment to rejoin this Army, I have ordered Van Schaiks immediately to the Highlands where the public Works are in a manner at a stand for want of hands. Van Schaiks is a full and fresh Regiment; Hazens but weak in point of numbers and must be considerably fatigued from their late long March.1

Inclosed you have the Copy of letter which I recd a few weeks ago from Docr Rush.2 As this letter contains charges of a very heinous nature against the Director General Doctor Shippen for mal-practices and neglect in his department; I could not but look upon it as meant for a public accusation, and have therefore thought it incumbent upon me to lay it before Congress. I have shewed it to Docr Shippen that he may be prepared to vindicate his character if called upon. He tells me that Docr Rush made charges of a similar nature before a Committee of Congress appointed to hear them, which he could not support.3 If so, Congress will not have further occasion to trouble themselves in the matter. I have the honor to be with great Respect & Regard Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The LS is docketed in part: “read 3 April. referred to Mr. Drayton Mr Huntington Mr Banister” (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 , 10:303).

1For the resolutions, see Laurens to GW, 14 Mar., and note 1. For GW’s orders, see his letter to Lafayette of 20 March. On the strength and recent movements of Hazen’s regiment, see GW to John Taylor, 28 January.

3William Shippen, Jr., was referring to the charges contained in Rush’s letters to William Duer of 8 and 13 Dec. 1777 (DNA:PCC, item 78) and William Livingston’s letter to Laurens of 25 Dec. 1777 (DNA:PCC, item 68). Those letters were read in Congress on 1 Jan. 1778 and referred to a committee. On 6 Jan., Congress ordered an inspection of the hospitals and directed that Shippen and Rush attend Congress on 26 Jan. “to be examined touching certain abuses” (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 , 10:9, 23). For Shippen’s initial response, that “some amendments to our system may be made but Dr Rush from his entire ignorance of the state of our Hospitals & not knowing his duty has not hit upon any of them,” see his letter to Laurens of 18 Jan. (DNA:PCC, item 78). Shippen and Rush appeared as ordered on 26 Jan., and after the committee had met with both men, Congress on 6 Feb. passed a series of resolutions “For the better regulating the hospitals of the United States,” largely by creating deputy directors general to assist Shippen and by ordering accounting procedures (Rush to Laurens, 25 Jan., and Shippen to Laurens, 26 Jan., DNA:PCC, item 78, and ibid., 10:93, 128–31). Rush resigned his position on 30 Jan. (Rush to [Charles Thomson], 30 Jan., DNA:PCC, item 78).

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