George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Edward Hand, 29 October 1778

From Brigadier General Edward Hand

Albany 29th Octr 1778


I think it my duty to Acquaint your Excy that I arived here on the 24th & Communicated my instructions to Genl Stark.

I had reason to expect that in compliance with your orders 1 I should be made acquainted with many particulars necessary for my Gouvernment in this Command, but found myself much mistaken, Genl Stark left this place on Tuesday 27th without Communicating a Single Circumstance except what I could Collect from the Inclosed returns, which are the Best I am yet Able to make your Excelly.2

I requested a return of the Troops in Garrison here, & the duty they did, but recd none from him, he Verbally inform’d me that the present Garrison Consisted of 9 or 10 Privates with two or three Non Commissiond Officers of Col. Aldens Regt as a Guard for himself, and two Compys of Massachusets Militia whose time of Service would expire on the last of this month, which however I found not to be the case.

The Act by which they were Raised entitles them to a very Generous Bounty from their own state exclusive of the Continental pay, but expresly says they are to Serve untill the 1st of Jany next, unless Sooner discharged.3

With what propriety Genl Stark could discharge them Sooner, when, as he confesses in his letter to their Officers discharging them, (a Coppy of which I transmit yr Excy in his own words) that I could not possibly procure a man to Guard the Stores here, I hope for the Good of the Service he will be obliged to make Appear to your Excelly.4

I believe it will not Appear Strange to your Excy that the Men pay very little regard to the Genls recommendation to stay a week longer, I Yesterday to no Effect, made use of every Argument I could think of to induce them to continue a few days, and was Strongly Seconded by their own Officers. todays Orders, (an Extract of which I inclose) will with the Exertions of the Officers I hope have a better Effect.5 if not my only dependence is on an Application made to the Commanding Officer of Militia of the State in this Quarter—as the Continental Troops are too far distant & cant be spared from the Frontiers untill the winter Sets in.

If your Excelly does not think Genl Stark’s Discharge, given under the circumstances I have related, a Sufficient plea for the Militia To receive the Bounty intended them by their State, your Excy will <illegible> to caution the Legislative Power of Massachusets Bay in ti<me>.

Provisions are now forwarding to Fort Schuyler, & the Commy has promised me to use his Utmost Efforts to supply every other <illegible> as speedily as Possible.

As the Greater part of the Troops on the Frontier are Almost naked, and the Winter Approaching, I intend Send<ing> an Officer from each Corps to head Quarters for a Supply of Cloat<h>ing for them.

I have not heard of any Attempts made by the Ene<my> in this Quarter Since my arival. I am Sir with much respect your Excelly most Obedient & most Hble Servt

Edw: Hand

ALS, DLC:GW. This letter is docketed in part: “Answered 12th Nov”; see GW’s reply to Hand of that date (DLC:GW).

2Hand enclosed four returns, all of which are in DLC:GW: (1) a return of Col. Seth Warner’s regiment of Green Mountain Boys at Fort Stark, N.H., on 22 Aug., signed by Lt. Col. Samuel Safford; (2) an undated return of Maj. Benjamin Whitcomb’s three independent companies of rangers at Rutland, Vt., signed by Whitcomb; (3) a monthly return of the 7th Massachusetts Regiment at Cherry Valley, N.Y., on 3 Oct., signed by Col. Ichabod Alden; and (4) “A Return of nearly what Stores of Provisions is on Hand at the several Posts, in the Northern Departmt Albany excepted,” dated 26 Oct. at Albany and signed by Thomas Tolman for Ebenezer Winship, deputy commissary general of issues for the northern department.

3Hand enclosed a two-page broadside of the Massachusetts house of representatives’ act of 10 June 1778 for raising 1,800 men “to serve from the time of their being inlisted or detached, until the first day of January next, unless sooner discharged.” The act provided that in addition to Continental pay, the state would pay each captain forty shillings a month, each lieutenant three pounds a month, and each noncommissioned officer and private four pounds, thirteen shillings a month. Furthermore, the selectmen of each town were directed to pay from their respective town treasuries the sum of fourteen pounds to each of their noncommissioned officers and privates. The council consented to the act on 12 June 1778 (DLC:GW).

4The enclosed copy of Brig. Gen. John Stark’s letter to captains Peter Porter and Daniel Pomeroy of 27 Oct. reads: “The Detachments Whereof you Command, Is Discharged the Last Day of this Month; I Thank you for the Good Services you have Done, I would Recomend it to you to Tarry Another Week, as General Hand, Cannot possible Raise sufficient to Guard this City in Less Time” (DLC:GW).

5The enclosed copy of Hand’s orders of this date reads: “The General is not a Little Surprised on Examining General Starks Discharge of the Militia (under the Command of Captains Porter & Pomroy at this post[)], to find it Dated on the 27th the Day Genl Stark Left this Place, tho it was not to take place untill 31st, any person the Least Conversant in Milatary Matters must know that Genl Stark Could not with propriety Issue Orders after the Arrival of an Officer Older in Commision than himself, ordered by the Commander in Cheif to Relieve him, nor Could Orders to be Executed after His Departure Avail Even if he had Been the Elder Officer, the General therefore Acquaints the Militia under the Command of Captains Porter and pomroy that they are not Discharged & hopes they will not Sully the Merrit of their former Good Conduct by quiting there Station before they are Regularly Releived or Discharged by proper Authority, particularly as Such an Ungenerous & unsoldier Like Conduct will not Only Render them Contemptable in the Eyes of their fellow Citizens, but Preclude them the Benefit of the Act under which they were Raised & Subject them to be treated as Deserters” (DLC:GW).

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