George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Lee, 5 September 1780

Sep. 5th 1780 Hackinsack


I have the honor of your Excellency’s letr of the 3d inst. transcribing a complaint exhibited by the Chief Justice of this state against three officers of my corps.

the following is the exact state of the matter. When [illegible ] to Monmouth, I posted a party of horse in the vicinity of Brunswic for the speedy communication of intelligence. The inhabitants on whom they were quartered being people whom we had often visited, received us as usual, with hearty welcome, nor did they wish or require the formality of billets.

On moving to Easton, I encreased this party by leaving with them the horses unfit for service, & directed the officer (Cornet Lewis) to move them to a more abundant country. He accordingly fixed them in & about [ illegibleland] meeting house—the people voluntarily agreed with him to keep a given number at their respective farms for a given number of days; this compact superseded the necessity of waiting on the magistrates. Mr Lewis therefore omitted it. Previous to my return from Easton, Capt. Rudolph of the Cavalry joined with his host from Monmouth. He according to the usage of the corps, & Sheriden’s orders, got billet & forage warrants from the magistrate, & acted by virtue of them only. On my [junction], the troops with me were also quartered by the authority of the warrant given Capt. Rudulph which was general & designed for the quartering of the whole. I saw & read the warrants given Capt. Rudulph & also saw a letr from the Contractor of the county to Capt. Rudulph (in consequence of his application) procuring payment to the people for the supplys furnished.

To the best of my recollection we continued in that country one day only, after my arrival—During that day I visited the quarters of the 2d & 3 troops—I never saw people more pleased, or more affectionate. Not a single complaint was or had been uttered but the soldiers civility was exalted as surpassing any thing they had met with during the war. This is language which I have the happiness of always receiving from the inhabitants. I was not at the cantonment of the 1st Troop, but received the same report from the com. officer, only in the instance of a Mr Senbrook where Capt. Rudulph, of the infantry [   ] an invalid. Doctr Irvin & Cornet Lewis quartered. I enquired of the three officers & was convinced from what they said that the origin of the complaint was the putting a distempered horse into the stable contrary to the will of the farmer. My enquiry was made in the presence of Gen. Heard & another respectable inhabitant—they both replied that it was not worth attending to, as Mr Senbrook & wife were notorious among their neighbors for their ill nature, muttering & discontent. The officers quartered on Mr Senbrook but six days, two of them very sick. They were recommendd there by a magistrate Mr Hoglan, who informed them of the character of the house, & they contracted with Mr Senbrook for their time which they should Stay with him. He agreed & received them. This was the party mentioned in the [first] of my let. On hearing of the ill nature of Mr Senbrook, on receiving no complaint from him & on understanding the general happiness which had subsisted between the soldiers & the people I did not wait on Mr Senbrook, but moved on my way to the army.

The gentlemen complained off, say that they were treated with much abuse by the gentleman & his wife the two last days, from an apprehension that they would continue to quarter on them till my return, which they presumed would be longer than the days agreed on—that one of them, to [pose] a [   ] of [security], into which the farmer [got], replied passionately "that unless he held his tongue he would throw him down his well" this is the only expression of passion which escaped from the three, tho’ the subjects of perpetual abuse from morning to night, for two days [   ] & two of the three invalids. “so far transmitted Chief Justice [Bremly] 6th Sept.

Having given your Exclly a particular relation of the matter in question, I beg leave to assure you, that it is my general rule to conduct every business of my corps in which the people are concerned by and acts from the magistrate—I do not do this when on the lines or on a speedy march thro’ the country. My orderly book & the affectionate treatment we receive from a neighborhood when we return among them are proofs of this assertion—In our variety of movements the ill nature of some, will cause complaints. this is to be expected, & we bear with patience the violence of their spleen. It is my interest as com. officer to introduce such a dyposition, because it preserves discipline & procures better fare for my men. It is my duty, as an obedient officer, & it is my pride as a patriot soldier—My officers participate in the same feelings, & no complainant or advocate for complaints can assert that my men are deficient in discipline—of course the incidental complaints which may be exhibited are the issue of [   ] on the side of the owner of property about to part with it, for a piece of paper, or the mistaken zeal of the soldier. I beg leave to mention what has happened the other day—Forage masters from the army went to Newark & its vicinity, & siezed forage wherever they saw it. The very same day my officer on forage duty was riding about to the magistrates & the contractor, with a letr from me praising their aid—the Magistrates gave their warrant, the contracter in writing promised to notice our certificates—The officer went about from farm to farm with both instruments of writing in his hands—the farmers would give nothing, & he returned to me without a sheaf of oats—the forage mastrs who acted from themselves, passed my quarters with waggons loaded—I found from my officers report, nothing could be done but by force; my horses were starving notwithstanding which, I preferred sending to Trenton for corn, & wait its arrival which came but last night, rather than force the will of the people. This Sir, I resent, & this is the spirit of every part of my conduct with the inhabitants. I have the honor to be Sir with the most perfect respect your Excellencys most obt Set

Henry Lee Junr

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DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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