George Washington Papers

From George Washington to David Rittenhouse, 3 June 1779

To David Rittenhouse

Head Quarters Middle Brook June 3 1779


I beg leave to trouble you with a Theodolite which is a little out of repair and to request that you will be good enough to have it put in order.1 As I am not in a hurry about it, I wish you only to have what is necessary done at some moment of leisure. The Quarter Master at Philadelphia will receive and forward it to me.2 I am with great esteem Sir Yr Most Obedt servt.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

A letter from GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton to Clement Biddle, written at Middlebrook on this date, reads: “I enclose you a letter for Mr Writtenhouse accompanied by a Theodolite which you will be pleased carefully to forward him for The General.

“(Now on my own account) Gibbs informs me you were obliging enough to promise that care should be taken of my mare and her colt at your place—I leave her in charge of Mr [John] Wallace as my servant will be too much employed while we stay to carry her to your Quarters—I request you will have her sent for as soon as convenient—I hardly think her safe here. … Be pleased to forward the other letters by the first conveyances” (PPIn).

1Rittenhouse was a renowned maker of astronomical and mathematical instruments (see Hindle, Rittenhouse, 83–85, 246–47).

2The deputy quartermaster general at Philadelphia was John Mitchell.

The theodolite still had not been returned when GW wrote Biddle from Newburgh, N.Y., on 11 June 1783: “did I not when the Army was leaving the Cantonment of Middle Brook, in June 1779, put a Theodolite into your care to be conveyed to Mr Rittenhouse to receive some repairs? … I have not heard since what was done with the Instrumt. Will you be so good as to enquire whether it ever reached Mr Rittenhouse—& to prevail on him to afford it the necessary repairs without delay if he has it” (DLC:GW).

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