George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 15 February 1799

From Alexander Hamilton

New York February 15. 1799


The Secretary at War has communicated to me the following disposition with regard to the superintendence of our Military forces and Posts—All those in the States South of Maryland in Tennessee and Kentucke are placed under the Direction of Major General Pinckney: those every where else under my direction—to which he has added the general care of the Recruiting service.

The commencement of the business of recruiting, however, is still postponed; for the reason, as assigned by the Secretary, that a supply of cloathing is not yet ready.

In conformity with your ideas, I have directed General Wilkinson to repair to the seat of Government, in order to a more full examination of the affairs of the Western scence and to the concerting of ulterior arrangements.1

On this, and on every other subject of our military concerns, I shall be happy to receive from time to time such suggestions and instructions as you may be pleased to communicate.

I shall regularly advise you of the progress of things and especially of every material occurrence. With perfect respect I have the honor to be Sir Your very Obed. ser.

A. Hamilton

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, DLC: Hamilton Papers; copy, DLC: Hamilton Papers.

1On 16 Dec. 1798, shortly after completing his five-week conference with major generals Hamilton and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, GW wrote Secretary of War James McHenry about dividing the administrative control of the army between Hamilton in the North and Pinckney in the South, and he specified that Hamilton “be charged with Superintending . . . all the Troops and Posts which shall not be confided to General Pinckney; including the Army under General Wilkenson.” Brigadier General James Wilkinson had been in command of the Western Army since 1792. On 4 Feb. 1799 McHenry wrote Hamilton that he was “invested with the entire command of all the troops in Garrison on the Northern Lakes in the North Western Territory, including both Banks of the Ohio, and on the Mississippi” (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 22:455–65). Upon receipt of McHenry’s letter, Hamilton wrote Wilkinson on 12 Feb. informing him of these developments and ordering him to repair to Philadelphia with a view to their having “a full discussion of the affairs of the Scene in which you have so long had the direction,” in order to form “a more perfect plan for present and eventual arrangements” (ibid., 477–79). Before Wilkinson arrived in Philadelphia in August, Hamilton decided that Wilkinson should be made a major general and secured GW’s support for the promotion, but the proposal met with opposition from both McHenry and President Adams (see Hamilton to GW, 15 June, and GW to Hamilton, 25 June 1799).

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