George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Continental Congress Committee of Conference, 2 February 1779

To the Continental Congress Committee of Conference

Frankford [Pa.]1 Feby 2d 1779


I did not hear till after I had set out, that some fresh difficulties had occurred in fixing a System for the Ordnance department. I understand that it is now proposed that the Surveyor (agreed to be establishd by the Committee) shall be a Civil Officer, this is totally repugnant to my Ideas, and defeats one great end I had in view by the institution of such an Officer, which is, to bring the principal Officers of Artillery, by Rotation, perfectly acquainted with all the duties of the Ordnance department, that they may be judges of the due execution of the several parts and better qualified for a general direction when it may fall to their lot by succession, or otherwise, to command.2

I could go more fully into the matter if time and opportunity would permit: But tho’ these do not serve, I could not forbear giving this further testimony of my continuing in the same sentiments on the subject, with those which I delivered the other day, and in which I was happy in beleiving that the Committee unanimously concurred. I have the honor to be with great Respect Gent: Your most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

GW had gone to Congress on 1 Feb. to take his leave of the delegates (see John Fell’s diary, 1 Feb., in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 12:3). A report in the Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia) for 4 Feb. says that on the morning of 2 Feb. “his Excellency General Washington set off from this city to join the army in New Jersey.—During the course of his short stay, (the only relief he has enjoyed from service since he first entered into it) he has been honored with every mark of esteem which his accomplished fortitude as a Soldier, and his exalted qualities as a Gentleman and a Citizen, entitle him to…. His Excellency’s stay here was rendered the more agreeable by the company of his Lady and the domestic retirement which he enjoyed at the house of the Honorable Henry Laurens, Esq: with whom he resided.” Martha Washington and GW’s aides-de-camp Alexander Hamilton, John Laurens, and Tench Tilghman accompanied him on his return trip to Middlebrook, where they arrived on 5 Feb. (see Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser [Boston], 25 Feb.; GW to Patrick Henry, 7 Feb.; and GW to Philip Schuyler, 11 Feb.).

1Frankford was a village located about four miles northeast of the center of Philadelphia on the main road going north to Trenton and New York.

2The new arrangement of the ordnance department, which Congress approved on 18 Feb., provided that “there shall be one surveyor of ordnance, to be appointed annually from the colonels, the appointment to be made by the Board of War and Ordnance, until Congress shall direct otherwise. The officer thus appointed shall retain his rank in the artillery, and all the benefits arising from it; but during the time of his surveyorship, he shall not, except in extraordinary case, or when called for by the Commander in Chief, perform any duty in the line” (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 , 13:205; see also New York Delegates to Alexander McDougall, 20 Feb., in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 12:101).

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