To James Craik
Head Qrs New Windsor June 25: 1779
I received Your Letter to Mr Harrison.1 As nothing can be more disagreable—or more injurious to the public service than disputes and differences between the Army and people—I would wish to avoid them in every possible case. In the present instance—as the Inhabitants do or soon will, want their Barnes—and have applyed to the Governor & Council to have the sick removed;2 I wish that they may be carried to Pluckhimin—where I should hope, the Barracks may be made to afford them tolerable accomodations—and the more so, as it was thought at first on inquiry into the matter—that they would answer.3 I am Dr Sir with great regard Yr Most Obedt sert
Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
1. This letter has not been identified.
2. At a session of the New Jersey Privy Council held at Bound Brook on Monday, 21 June, Gov. William Livingston “laid before the Board a Petition and Representation from a number of Inhabitants of the County of Somerset setting forth that a number of their Barns have been taken and occupied as hospitals for the sick of the Army to the great damage and Inconvenience of the Petitioners. The Council having taken the same into Consideration and being well informed there are a number of empty public Buildings at Pluckamin sufficient to receive the said Sick and convenient for them, The Council advised His Excellency to give Orders to the Director of the Hospital or person or persons having the Care of the said Sick to remove the Same from the said Barns or Out Houses of the said Inhabitants in one week from this day. And that in case the above order is not Complyed with, That His Excellency be Authorized to call out such number of the Militia of the County of Somerset as may be sufficient to remove the Sick as aforesaid” (Bernstein, N.J. Privy Council Minutes, description begins David A. Bernstein, ed. Minutes of the Governor’s Privy Council, 1777–1789. Trenton, 1974. In New Jersey Archives, 3d ser., vol. 1. description ends 121–22; see also Livingston to John Stevens, Sr., 16 June, in Prince, Livingston Papers, description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends 3:113–14).
Livingston defined his position in this dispute in a letter to Dr. William Brown, written at Middlebrook on 23 June: “I have received your Letter of yesterdays date, & am not a little surprized that you should oppose the orders of any man or body of Men to those of the executive Authority of this State in a matter respecting the violation of the property of any of our Citizens. … Nor could General Washington by ‘suitable Quarters’ possibly mean the barns of farmer against the approaching harvest, the wit of man being scarcely able to present plans more unsuitable, & I may venture to affirm from my knowledge of his Excellency’s tenderness for private property, & his Sense of the great importance of leaving the farmers unmolested in securing their crops that he woud abhor the very Idea. …
“How far the owners of those Barns have given you just cause to represent them as persons intent only on their petty personal Interests & the gratification of unworthy passions etc. I cannot determine, but sure I am that the Inhabitants of this County in General have given the amplest proofs of their zeal for the Service, & their readiness to sacrifice private Interest to public Emolument. which is more than can be said for many who live in luxury at the public expence, & receive great wages for doing little business. Nor can I help thinking that you are rather too precipitate in asserting that I had received no other than party-information on the Subject & that the resolve of Council is a hasty one. …
“I did not desire you to remove the sick to Pluckhemin because it is no business of mine to direct whither they shall be carried; tho’ I have no doubt of its being a proper place, (in which light only it was mentioned) notwithstanding the objections you have rais’d against it. … But it is my duty to order their removal from their present Situation, & the duty of those who placed them there or who have the direction of them to see it done” (Prince, Livingston Papers, description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends 3:119–20; see also Livingston to Brown et al., 21 June, and to Moore Furman, 24 June, in Prince, Livingston Papers, description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends 3:118, 121–22).
3. For earlier preparations to transfer sick soldiers to the former artillery park at Pluckemin, N.J., and the need for barns, see GW to Director of the Military Hospitals, 3 June, and n.1 to that document.
In response to GW’s directive to remove sick soldiers from the barns to Pluckemin, Q.M. Gen. Nathanael Greene wrote Brown from Smiths Clove, N.Y., on 27 June to initiate the transfer despite strong reservations (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 4:185–86).