George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Hugh Hughes, 31 July 1784

From Hugh Hughes

Philadelphia July 31 st 1784


In Obedience to your Excellency’s verbal Order, which was delivered to me by Colonel Joseph Trumbull, on the twenty seventh of August one Thousand seven Hundred and seventy six, the Quarter Master General acting, on that Day, as one of your Excellency’s Aid de Camps, I impressed all the Sloops, Boats and Water Craft, from Spyghtenduyvel, in the Hudson, to Hellgate, in the Sound, by which Means many of them fell into the Hands of the Enemy, some of which have since been paid for, but others have not.

As I never expected to be prosecuted for obeying your Excellency’s Orders that were evidently and eventually the Preservation of the Army, I never applied for a written Order, which is now demanded, and, in Case of a Non-Compliance, Prosecutions are directed to be immediately commenced against me.

In Justification of my Conduct, as above stated, I am compelled to solicit your Excellency to favour me with a written Order for that particular Service, or a Certificate of the verbal One, if more agreeable to your Excellency.1

And, should my other Services, whilst honoured with your Excellency’s Commands, have generally met with your Approbation, I will thank your Excellency for such Sentiments concer[n]ing them as your Candour may think that the[y] merit. This I always intended to ask at the End of my Service, but was prevented from making the Application by a tedious Indispotion.

Colonel Pickering having very politely offered to frank this to your Excellency, it will be an additional Mark of your Favour if your Excellency will be pleased to order whatever may be intended for me, to be put under Cover to the Colonel, who has engaged to forward it to my Son in New York, as I have not yet returnd from Connecticut.

Your Excellency will be pleased to permit me, by this Opportunity, to offer my best Wishes for the Happiness of yourself and Lady. With the purest Respect and Esteem, I have the Honour to be, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient, Humble, Servant

Hugh Hughes

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC: Papers of Hugh Hughes.

During the Revolution, Hugh Hughes (c.1727–1802), of New Jersey and New York, acted as a deputy quartermaster general under Joseph Trumbull (1737–1778), Thomas Mifflin, and Timothy Pickering, successively. In 1793, in an unsuccessful attempt to press his claims for payment for wartime services, Hughes presented a memorial to Congress to which he attached a copy of GW’s letter of 22 Aug. (see note 1).

1Hughes was acting as assistant commissary general to Trumbull when GW conducted the retreat of his army from Long Island to New York on the night of 29 Aug. 1776, ending the Battle of Long Island. The rivercraft commanded by Hughes were used to transport GW’s soldiers across the river. GW responded to Hughes from Mount Vernon on 22 Aug. in these terms: “Sir, I have received your letter of the 31st Ulto from Philadelphia.

“My memory is not charged with the particulars of the verbal order which you say was delivered to you through Colonl Joseph Trumbull, on the 27th of August 1776, ‘for impressing all the Sloops, Boats and Water Craft, from Spyghten Duyvel in the Hudson, to Helgate on the Sound.’ I recollect very well that it was a day which required the greatest exertion, particularly in the Quarter Masters department, to accomplish the retreat which was intended under cover of the succeeding night; and that no delay, or ceremony could be admitted in the execution of the plan. I have no doubt therefore of your having received orders to the effect, and extent you have mentioned, & you are at liberty to adduce this letter in testimony thereof. It will, I presume, supply the place of a more formal certificate, and is more consonant with my recollection of the transactions of that day.

“It is with pleasure I add, that your conduct in the Quarter Masters line as far as it has come under my view, or to my knowledge was marked with zeal, activity & intelligence, and met my approbation accordingly. With grateful thanks for your good wishes, I remain—Sir Yr most obedt Hble Servt Go:Washington” (ALS, NHi: George and Martha Washington Papers).

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