George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Director of the Military Hospitals, 3 June 1779

To the Director of the Military Hospitals

[Middlebrook, 3 June 1779]


You will be pleased to direct the removal of the sick from the hospitals at Sommerset to the huts of the Artillerists at Pluckimin.1 This is not intended to be executed immediately, as it would draw off from the Army the waggons which may be now employed2—but as soon as proper assistance can be procured from the Quarter Master General for this purpose.

Such sick of the Army as remain on the Ground may be attended to in the huts and removed to Pluckimin with those from the hospitals.

When the Park moves,3 you will send a Careful person to Pluckimin to make the necessary arrangements for the reception of the hospital stores and sick, instructing him to avoid interference Should General Knox have occupied any of the huts &c. with the Stores of the Park. Given at Head Quarters Middle Brook 3d June 1779.

G: W——n

Df, in Caleb Gibbs’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Gibbs addressed the draft manuscript to “the director of the Military Hospitals,” who was William Shippen, Jr., “or the Officer acting in his room.”

In a letter of this same date, GW wrote the director of the flying hospital: “You will be pleased with such of the Gentlemen of the flying hospital as have no duties to detain them on this ground to proceed with the Army—whi[ch] is now on its March. Given at Head Quarters Middle Brook” (Df, in Caleb Gibbs’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

1For the artillery park at Pluckemin, N.J., see General Orders, 6 Feb., source note.

The need for accommodations to house the sick had created a crisis for the medical department, as described in a letter of 18 May, written at Somerset Court House, N.J., from Dr. Barnabas Binney to Q.M. Gen. Nathanael Greene: “Having in vain endeavoured to procure quarters for sick sent to this place from the different encampments, I am at last reduced to the necessity of troubling you in your Office. The two Churches and Court house of which we have legal possession being crowded to a degree dangerous to the health of the men, I have, thro the commissary with me, made regular written application to the civil Magistrate of the place for the neighbouring Barns to accommodate our convalescents; as is usual upon similar occasions he laught at the requisition and threatens to imprison the first who shall prostitute a Barn to the use of sick Soldiers. We are now in this dilemma, that we must either return some of our sick to camp, or let them lye in the open fields” (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 4:42). Greene dismissed resistance from civil authorities and put sick soldiers in local barns (see Ernestus Van Harlingen to Greene, 18 May, and John Story to Greene, 19 May, in 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 4:46–47, 52–53).

Commandeering barns quickly prompted a civilian complaint that led to a letter from GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton to Greene, written at Middlebrook on 20 May: “Mr. Duryee has applied to The General to have a Barn of his released, taken up for the use of the hospital, representing that from its situation relatively to his dwelling house it will produce greater inconv[en]ience to him than the taking some other barn in the neighbourhood will produce to its proprietor. The General would wish to avoid every thing that would look like discrimenation without sufficient reason, and refers it to you on this ground that you may relieve Mr. Duryee if it can be done without equal inconvenience to others and injury to the service” (Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 2:49). Replying to Hamilton’s inquiry, Maj. John Story wrote Greene from Middlebrook on the same date that he had “Examind the Barns and buildings in the Neighbourhood of Sumerset Court House, and [could] find no Building so Convainent and as Suitable for the Accomidation of the sick, in that Place, as Mr Duryees Barn (Except Two which are taken up for that purpose) it being Nearly Situated to both Churchs, the Stores and two Cook Houses, that are very handy. …

“The consaquences which will attend Mr Duryees Barn being released appears to me to be these. It will cause Messr Vandoran and Harlingen to Apply to have their Barns Released also, who in my Opinion have Eaqual excuses, and if they should not be Accepted, which cannot be done and the sick Accomidated agreable to Doc’tr Bennes [Binney’s] Request, This will cause a great Uneasiness in the Neighbourhood and be Deemed parciallity” (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 4:54–55). For GW’s subsequent involvement in this dispute, see his letter to James Craik, 25 June.

2GW broke up the winter encampment at Middlebrook in response to British operations up the Hudson River and marched the army northward (see William De Hart to GW, 30 May, n.1, and General Orders, 1 June, n.1).

3See GW to Henry Knox, 4 June (first letter), source note.

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