George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Board of War, 12 October 1779

To the Board of War

Head Quarters West Point 12th October 1779


On the 2d instant I addressed you particularly on the subject of the want of shoes, and informed you that I had made application to Mess[r]s Mehelm—Hatfeild—and Starr the three nearest Commissaries of Hides, and desired to know what quantity of shoes I might depend upon immediately, and what were their future prospects.1 I have only recd answers from Mr Mehelm and Capt. Starr—Copies of whose letters you have inclosed2—By these you will perceive, that the quantities, which they can engage to furnish between this and the latter end of November, are most trifling, in comparison with what we may reasonably suppose will be the wants of the Army. Should Mr Hatfeild and Mr Henry of Lancaster return accounts, not more promising, the Army must be again reduced to a miserable situation for want of Shoes. Indeed should we be called upon to move tomorrow, I beleive I may say without exaggeration that we should lose the service of one third of the Men who could not march from this Ground, unless bare footed. and we may expect that the troops under General Sullivan will be in a similar condition.3 This is a matter of so important a nature, that I hope the Board will excuse me for mentioning it again;4 and more especially when I add that I am perfectly convinced they have taken every measure in their power to procure supplies and that they will leave nothing untried to effect it. It is however to be regretted that the moment we attempt to introduce System in this business, that our supplies become scanty and uncertain.

Inclosed you have the Return of Captain posts Company of Artillery Artificers agreeable to Resolve of Congress of 15th March last.5

Upon the repeated applications of the Officers of the Massachusetts line for their Commissions, I must request the Board will transmit them as speedily as possible.6 I have the honor &c.

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

1For GW’s letters to John Mehelm, Moses Hatfield, and George Starr, see GW to Starr, 2 October.

2The letters of Mehelm and Starr to GW have not been found. The enclosed copies have not been identified.

3To concentrate his army for possible operations with the French, GW had ordered Maj. Gen. John Sullivan, who had completed his expedition against the Six Nations, to march his army with all speed to join the main army (see GW to Sullivan, 3 Oct., and Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 Oct.).

4The following text is marked out at this point: “I do not mean to throw the least imputation upon or charge the least neglect to them: But it is my wish to endeavour, in conjunction with them, to find out some mode of extricating ourselves from the difficulties in which I perceive we shall shortly be involved, unless a supply of shoes should come in from an unexpected quarter. with which I am not at present acquainted.” The commissaries in Pennsylvania shipped over 4,200 pairs of shoes to the main army on 21 Oct. (see James Wilkinson to GW, 9 Nov., DLC:GW).

5The enclosed return has not been identified; for the resolve of 15 March apportioning military units to the states from which they had originally been raised, see 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 13:316–18.

6The board transmitted the commissions in November (see Benjamin Stoddert to GW, 12 Nov., and GW to the Board of War, 23 Nov., both DLC:GW; GW to William Heath, 20 Nov., MHi: Heath Papers; and GW to John Jay, 5 Aug. [first letter], and n.7 to that document).

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