George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Henry Knox, 5 March 1779

From Brigadier General Henry Knox

Pluckemin [N.J.] 5th March 1779.


Agreable to your Excellencys request Genl Greene, The Adjutant General, and myself, met yesterday, on the subject of Amorers, the better keeping of cartridges &c.1 I shewed them the inclos’d proposals, which I drew up at Philadelphia and presented to the board of War who approved of the same.2 I likewise shewed them to General Steuben who in consequence wrote the Letter and regulations of Which the inclos’d is a Copy.3 General Greene & the adjutant Genl also approv’d them. I beg your Excellencys sentiments with any alterations you may please to make—should a Conductor to each brigade be approv’d there will be a necessity to have them appointed immediately. If your Excellency should have no other persons in view I shall take the liberty to propose some able Serjeants of Artillery. They will thereby become a kind of candidates to be officers of Artillery in some future period.

twelve of the Travelling forges were finishd before we left Fredericksburg. I hope the others are done by this time. I directed twenty to be made.

There will be a necessity to prohibit Any kind of Work being done at these Forges but the reparation of Arms. If an order of this kind is not given the Officers on particular occasions will have their horses Shod and such other Work as their necessities or conveniencies may demand. To remedy this evil, in Addition to the proposed General Order, Genl Greene, will have a travelling Forge with some artificers attached to each brigade to execute the common business.

I do not know how we shall be able to procure the Amorers except from the regiments. They cannot be look’d upon in the light of common drafts as they will always remain with the brigade and be ready for Action.4 I am with all possible respect and affection, Your Excellencys most Obedient humble Servant

H. Knox.

I beg your Excellencys pardon for the inadverte⟨nce⟩ in turning over two leaves instead of one.

H. Knox


1Knox had proposed this meeting with Q.M. Gen. Nathanael Greene and Adj. Gen. Alexander Scammell in a letter of 25 Feb. to Greene (see Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 3:302).

2This enclosure, found in DLC:GW, is a copy of Knox’s proposals written at Philadelphia on 4 Feb., which reads: “Brigr Gen. Knox proposes, with the approbation of His Excellency the Commander in Chief and Board of War and Ordnances, to attach to each Brigade of Infantry

“A travelling forge and five or six armourers with proper tools to execute all repairs of arms practicable in the field.

“Besides the compleat compliment of cartridges which the men will have in their boxes, an ammunition waggon with 20,000 extra musket ca[r]tridges.

“Another with materials to make as many more—and

“Another with four arm chests, each to hold 25 arms, one for each regiment with the number of the regiment marked on it, to receive the arms of deserters, dead men, the sick, and such as do no regimental duty. The ammunition and accoutrements of such are also to be put in this waggon. When the number of arms delivered in shall amount to more than 25 the overplus shall be sent to the Commissary at the Park.

“These waggons, forge, and armourers to be under the care of a Conductor, who shall keep an account of all ammunition by him received and issued. This Brigade Conductor shall issue no cartridges but on the order of the Commanding Officer of the Brigade—The arms he may receive from the battalions by order of the Colonel or commanding officer, and redeliver them when called for by him, to the amount of what he may have in the arm chest.

“When any cartridges are lost or damaged by the soldiers the Commanding Officer of Artillery shall order a party to make cartridges, under the direction of the Conductor, equal to the quantity lost or damaged.

“It is proposed that the examination of cartridges shall take place every day—each Captain to answer for his company, and the Colonel or commanding officer for his regiment. And if it shall appear that the soldier has lost or damaged his cartridges for want of proper care in himself, [ ] shall be stoped out of his pay by order of the commanding officer of the regiment, and paid into the hands of the Brigade Conductor, who shall keep a fair account of all monies so received and pay them once every month into the hands of the principal Field Commissary at the Park, who shall settle them with the same authority that he settles his other money accounts with.

“These are the general outlines. Some particulars may be added. If Gen. Steubens will be pleased to give his opinion of the plan, and propose any additions, he will much oblige his Friend & Servant.” For Knox’s previous exchanges with members of Congress that led to legislation adopted on 18 Feb. to regulate the Ordnance Corps, see GW’s remarks for the Continental Congress Committee of Conference, 23–31 Jan., and n.2 to that document; James Duane to GW, and Knox to GW, both 28 Jan.; and 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 , 13:201–6.

3These enclosures, both in DLC:GW, are a copy of Steuben’s letter of 13 Feb. to Knox, written at Philadelphia, and a copy of a chapter headed “Of the Arms & Ammunition” in Steuben’s military manual, then nearing completion. The Steuben letter, which is mistakenly treated in DLC:GW as addressed to GW, reads: “The Regulations you proposed for the preservation of the Ammunition & reparation of the Arms will want nothing but to be carried strictly into execution to avoid the inconveniences experienced the proceeding Campaigns.

“You will observe by the annexed Copy of a Chapter in my instructions on the Arms &c. that I have exactly conform’d to your plan, I have also perswaded the Board of War to furnish the Army with about 10,000 Worms for drawing the Charges, they will be sent forward to the Park with about 750 long Iron Vices to draw such Balls as cannot be drawn by the Worm, both which articles I must beg the favour of you to order the distribution of, furnishing each Company with four Worms, & two Vices to each Arm chest.”

4For artillery recruitment problems that continued to plague Knox and GW, see Knox to GW, 25 March and 6 April, and GW to James Duane, 7 April.

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