To Major General William Heath
Head Quarters White Plains Sepr 13. 1778
I have just received advice from the Board of War, that they have given directions to Mr Fletcher, to send forward to Springfield and Hartford all the ready made cloathing in his possession, there to be sorted and repacked previous to their coming to Camp, except a few particular articles, which are ordered immediately on; and to deliver Messrs Otis and Andrews all the Cloths, woolens linnens and other goods, to be made up by them, as expeditiously as possible, for a further supply.1
The necessities of the army and the experience we have had of the total mismanagement, too common in the manner of transporting cloathing to camp, by which great delay and loss have been incurred—induce me to desire your particular attention and assistance in the matter. The importance in this advanced season of losing no time and sparing no pains to supply the exigencies of the soldiery, in so essential an article, is too obvious, and I am persuaded too interesting to your own feelings, to need being inforced by a single argument. I would wish you to call upon Mr Fletcher to know what means he is employing to answer the views of the Board; and if they do not appear to you perfectly adequate, to concert with him any additional measures, you may think adviseable. The necessity is urgent and the exertions should be proportioned.
I have written to General Greene directing him to instruct his assistants in Boston, that they may strain every nerve to give the most effectual aid.2 There is a number of return-waggons both in the Commissary’s and Quarter Master’s line, which may be made use of on the occasion, and be a saving of expence to the public. But though this resource should be well improved, in a business of such moment, it ought not wholly to be relied on. It is my anxious wish, the cloathing may come on with the greatest dispatch, and as much together as circumstances will permit; and for this purpose every expedient ought to be used to provide a sufficient number of waggons—hiring them if to be had, or if not, calling in the aid of the civil authority to impress, or otherwise procure them in the most certain and expeditious mode.
It hath been too much a practice hitherto to send on the cloathing in small parcels, without a guard or conductor to take care of them. The consequences have been, in every case, loss of time, in many cases, the loss of the cloathing itself, which being scattered about at different places on the road, has often been converted to private use. To obviate this—I request your care to have trusty persons appointed to conduct the cloathing, to the respective depositaries, furnished with proper guards—to facilitate which, it will be necessary to send it on in large parcels.
I should also be glad, you would call upon Messrs Otis and Andrews and know what measures they are taking for making up the articles intrusted to their care—and to give them all the advice and assistance in your power. In every step you take, however, you are to be cautious not to contravene the directions of the Board of War; but to promote and accelerate their execution. With great esteem and regard I am Sir Your most Obedt servant
LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. On the draft, the date was changed from “13” to “14,” and the transcript is dated “Septr 14th.”
1. This information, sent in an unfound letter from the Board of War of 5 Sept., was received on the night of 13 September. The Massachusetts council on 17 July appointed Samuel Fletcher to take charge of the clothing then arriving from France, pursuant to Congress’s resolution of 28 May. In mid-August a letter from Fletcher had led the Board of War to conclude that it would be best to store the made-up items at Hartford, and they sought and received from Congress authority to do what they deemed “expedient and best adapted to present circumstances” with the clothing (Board of War to Henry Laurens, 14 Aug., and Board of War report on clothing, 5 Oct., DNA:PCC, item 147; 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 , 11:548–49, 811; Jeremiah Dummer Powell to Fletcher, 17 July, Documentary History of Maine description begins Maine Historical Society. Documentary History of the State of Maine. 24 vols. Portland, Maine, 1869–1916. description ends , 16:39).