George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 23 April 1781

New Windsor 23d April 1781


Mr Ruddock, Deputy Commissary of Military Stores, at Fishkill, has handed me an order from the board of war, for discontinuing the post at Fishkill, so far as it relates to the department of the Commissary General of Military Stores, dismissing the said Mr Ruddock and all the Officers under him, and ordering all the military stores in his possession to be delivered to the D.Q. Master of the State of New York—a copy of which order is enclosed.

I beg leave to recite to Your Excellency the injury that would arise to the service by breaking up said deposit, and delivering the stores (among which are most of the arms, accoutrements, and musket cartridges for the ensuing campaign) to the D.Q. Master.

Fishkill, from its relative situation to West Point and the Army which has generally operated below it, has been the temporary deposit of most of the surplus stores necessary to be carried to or from the field, or West Point; or damaged stores, which have been commonly sent to that place in the first instance, and afterwards to the places where they could be best repaired. Besides which, there is a small armoury which executes the slight repairs, and prevents much expence of transportation.

These circumstances have occasioned stores and a magazine to be built, for the reception of such things as should be sent there, and which, although they are not so good as they ought to be, are the best of any in this vicinity.

It may be supposed that all the stores now at Fishkill might be lodged at West Point, but such a measure would be highly improper, for the following reasons.

First—To encumber West Point with stores not necessary for the garrison would be a capital injury to the defence of the place, besides the absurdity of risquing all our stores at one point.

Second—There are no proper places there for the reception of such a quantity of stores as are at Fishkill.

Third—The natural situation is improper for such a temporary receptacle of stores as that at Fishkill, because the opportunities of sending and receiving stores from the different arsenals could not be embraced in any degree with the same facility.

I have ever considered Fishkill, with Your Excellency’s approbation, as a necessary appendage to the field, and made use of it accordingly. I apprehend the order for its suppression has been given without a due knowledge of its situation and utility. The impropriety is apparent of ordering the ordnance and other military stores, so numerous and complicated as those at Fishkill, to be delivered to persons, who from their office cannot be supposed to know even the different species by name, much less their uses, and cannot be accounted for in a candid manner but upon the supposition of misinformation.

With respect to the dismission of Mr Ruddock, I can have nothing to say, but that it is a disagreeable service indeed, where a man after six years faithful service, without the imputation of an official crime, that I know of, shall be dismissed, with almost his whole pay due for four years, and that at a time when there are not more officers of his station than are wanted.

I beg Your Excellency’s directions on this subject—and have the honor to be, with the highest respect, Your Excellency’s most obedient servant

H. Knox.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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