George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James McHenry, 8 August 1798

From James McHenry

War Department [Philadelphia] 8th August 1798

Dr Sir,

I am sorry to be obliged to communicate to you, that a malignant fever, has again not only made its appearance, but some progress in this unfortunate City; and that an attack of my old bilious complaint, at present confines me, and prevents me, from making preparations, for removing my family, and the Office.

The enclosed copy of a late letter, to the President of the United States, will inform you fully of my proposals to him, for arranging the twelve regiments of Infantry;1 calling to my effective aid, for purposes connected with great public utility, the Inspector General, and General Knox;2 and also of my ideas, on the subject of allowing you a Secretary, and to him the emoluments provided by law.3 I am Sir with great consideration & respect your obedt hble servant

James McHenry


1McHenry’s enclosed letter to John Adams of 4 Aug. includes this proposal for “organizing the twelve Regiments of Infantry to be raised”: “that the arrangement for the four Eastern States and Vermont, be made under your immediate direction, commanding the aid, if necessary, of Major General [Henry] Knox, and Brigadier General [John] Brooks, who reside within those States. That the arrangement for New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland be prepared by myself, with the aid of the General Officers within those States, for your final determination: and that General Washington be requested to take charge of preparing the arrangement (including the Cavalry) for the States further South, with the like aid of the General Officers in that quarter, subject also to your eventual determination. The distribution of these twelve Regiments for this purpose, which I beg leave to propose, is—Four to be raised within the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont; four within the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland; four within the States of Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia” (DLC:GW). The entire text of McHenry’s letter to Adams of 4 Aug., which he completed on 7 Aug., is in CD-ROM:GW.

2The portion of McHenry’s letter devoted to his plans for enlisting the aid of Inspector General Alexander Hamilton, and perhaps also Henry Knox, in raising and organizing the new army reads: “Is it possible, that one Man, can do justice to all the details, indispensible to the formation of Contracts for provisioning the old, and new Army, to the Contracts or modes for supplying the troops to be raised with Clothing, to the Contracts for Arms and Accoutrements, to the arrangements for Arsenals and Laboratories, to the instructions to their Conductors, to investigations necessary for enabling him, to fix upon a national standard for our Ordnance a system of exercise, and regulations for the Artillery, and Engine⟨er⟩ Corps, and a system of tactics and discipline for the Army at large⟨,⟩ determine upon plans for Fortifications for our harbours, and give instructions to Agents, or the best qualified of our Officers to superintend their erection, organize the new Regiments, distribute their Officers on recruiting parties, designate their several places of Rendevouz⟨,⟩ receive the returns, and issue all the orders necessary to the Recruiting Service &c. &c. and at the same time carry on, the permanent duties of the department and the varied correspondence relative to these. I hope Sir, after considering the summary view of a part⟨,⟩ of my business, that you will give me leave to call effectually to my aid, the Inspector General, and likewise General Knox; and to charge them with the management of particular branches of the Service. I have already taken the liberty to request the Inspector General, to occupy himself in preparing, from materials with which I have furnished him, a system of Tactics and discipline. It will be proper also, as incident to the Office of Inspector that I should charge him with superintending, the recruiting Service, and make him auxiliary in other ways, to the business of the department. Major General Knox, if I am permitted to draw him to the Seat of Government, may be rendered extensively useful, especially in whatever relates to the Ordnance.” Alexander Hamilton on 30 July suggested to McHenry, in almost identical words, this line of procedure (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 22:41–42), as did GW on 10 Aug. (first letter), before receiving this letter from McHenry. See also GW to Hamilton, 9 Aug., and GW to McHenry, 13 August.

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