George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Board of War, 18 September 1779

To the Board of War

Head Quarters West point 18th Septr 1779


I have been honored with yours of the 9th inclosing an abstract of the powder brought in by Capt. Ashmead.1 It is to be regretted that the quantity falls so far short of the estimate, but I am in hopes that the above with the three hundred Barrels forwarded before, will answer our present purposes. I would however wish that the Marine Committee may be requested not to lose sight of the object, but take the earliest opportunity not only of making up their disappointment by Ashmead, but for procuring a stock adequate to any future contingencies. I have the honor &c.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1This letter has not been found.

John Ashmead (1738–1818), was born in Germantown, Pa., and first went to sea during the French and Indian War: as a supercargo and as a commander of various Philadelphia-based merchant vessels. He continued in the mercantile trade after that war ended, and, in January 1776, the Continental Congress Marine Committee appointed him to act as a clerk for the commissioners overseeing the construction of Pennsylvania Navy frigates. The Marine Committee subsequently appointed Ashmead to command the Continental brig Mercury, which was launched in February 1777. British raiders burned this ship in its mooring at Biles Creek, Pa., in May 1778, and Ashmead spent the next year rebuilding it. He relaunched it in April 1779, as the 10-gun Continental privateer brigantine Eagle, and commanded it that summer on a voyage to the West Indies in search of powder. This voyage, undertaken at the Marine Committee’s behest, achieved only limited success, and Ashmead returned to Philadelphia in early September with 2,500 stand of arms and 580 powder-filled casks of various sizes. Ashmead lost his ship to the British that autumn during another voyage to the West Indies, but he continued outfitting ships and commanding mercantile expeditions for the remainder of the war. For a detailed study of Ashmead’s wartime activities and his postwar mercantile career, see William Bell Clark, “The John Ashmead Story, 1738–1818,” Pa. Mag. description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 138 vols. to date. 1877—. description ends 82 (January 1958), 3–54.

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