George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Heath, 2 May 1782

Highlands, May 2. 1782.

Dear General,

In consequence of your letter of the 16. ultimo I called upon each brigade of the army to appoint a field officer to collect and state the several matters of complaint and grievances of the army respecting the issues of provisions under the contract, in order to their being laid before your Excellency, and appointed major-general lord Stirling to preside. I have this day received from the president the enclosed representation, which I beg leave to lay before your Excellency. I have the honor to be With the highest respect, your Excellency’s Most obedient servant,

W. Heath

P.S. I was the last evening honored with yours of the 30. ultimo—am happy in your Excellency’s approbation in the instances mentioned. The most pointed vigilance has been enjoined on the detachment on the lines, water-guards, &c.

W. Heath

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Connecticut Huts’ April 29. 1782

In obedience to the order of Major General Heath of yesterday the following Officers met this day at the Connecticut Huts, in order to collect & state the several matters of complaint & grievances of the Army, respecting the issues of Provisions under the Contract in order to their being laid before His Excellency the Commander in Chief—Viz.

Major General Lord Stirling President
Members Lieut. Coll Popkins
Colonel Greaton
Colonel Butler Major Gibbs
Lt Colonel Grovsenor Major B. Porter

the Officers are happy to find that the grievances of the Army, with regard to the Contractors for Provisions are taken up by the Commander in Chief, and in the manner expressed in His Excellency’s letter of the 16th to Gen. Heath.

As they Aim at nothing more than a fair & honest execution of the contract itself agreeable to that plain interpretation of it, which will be given by every honest impartial Man acquainted with business, they are ready to join in the proposals made by Mr Sands mentioned in the Secretary at War’s letter to His Excellency, & to Submit every matter they complain of as grievances to the investigation, & determination, of any three impartial Persons (not of the Army) whom His Excellency the Commander in Chief shall approve for that purpose before whom they will aduce their evidence in support of the matters they complain in as concise and explicit a manner as the nature of the case will admit. And in order that the Contractors may know the matters of their complaint, they now state those things which they conceive grievances, and contrary to the spirit & letter of the Contract & which may be communicated to them as soon as they have agreed to the Submission.

1st They do assure and are ready to prove that the greatest part of the Bread hitherto delivered to the Army, was bad in quality—unwholesome and not answerable to the character defined in the Contract "of good merchantable Wheat Flour" by which definition they [   ] the Flour ought to be equal to what passes the Philadelphia, or New York inspection Brand for exportation, as that is in this Country the only criterion of what is merchantable.

2d They complain that the Beef when delivered by the Carcass or Quarter is robbed of its kidney Fat, they are informed that in all Markets where Beef is Sold by the Carcass or quarter the Kidney Fat accompany’s it, & that without it, it is not esteemed merchantable & therefore conceive it not answerable to the true meaning of the contract, this Article is as necessary in the families of the Officers in Camp, or quarters as any other Family. They do also complain that a great part of the Beef delivered was bad in quality & not answering the character of merchantable Beef.

3d They do complain of it as a grievance and direct violation of the Contract, that the Contractors do charge the Officers four pence half penny the Gill for West India Rum, whereas by the words of the contract they are ixpressly bound to furnish them (in all their rations without reserve or limitation) with West India Rum at two pence half penny the Gill as a componant part of each of their Rations. They do also complain that the Rum which has been delivered to them, is of a bad quality and much below the usual proof of West India Rum. They also complain that the Whiskey issued to the Men was in many instances adulterated with hot and poisinous ingredients.

4th They complain of it as a grievance very inconvenient to the Officers that the Contractors insist on delivering them an equal quantity of Bread & Meats, whereas they often want Bread without Meat, & sometimes Meat without Bread, the obligeing them thus to take Articles they have no occation for brings on waste and damage, & is contrary to the spirit of the contract.

5th They complain of it as a very great grievance to the whole Army as well as a violation of the contract that the Contractors deliver no Vinegar, not even the small quantity they are bound to do as a componant part of the Ration to the Men, altho’ repeatedly called upon for that purpose by letters from the Commanding General, & altho’ repeatedly informed that the Men in putrid disorders were suffering for the want of it—have refused or neglected to issue it, this article is so essentially necessary to the health of the Men, that in order to make up the deficiency the Contractors should be compelled to deliver double the quantity mentioned in the Contract to each ration dureing the next four Months, & not be suffered to pay it off on due [Rates] & at a discount of 40 perCent below what he Charges for the same Article.

6th They esteem it a grievance, and contrary to the [words] of the contract that Salt should be withheld from the Ration at any time, for although salted Meat is at some times issued, yet Salt is at all times necessary in a variety of instances, & the pittance is so small that the Contractors should not attempt to deprive the Men of it, in direct violation of the contract. It is true that the allowance for this and the other small Articles of Vinegar, Soap, & Candles as it now stands at a 1/2 /90 one half over ninety of a Dollar, appears to be very small, but it should be recollected that in the original contract the allowance for these Articles stood at 1 1/4 /90 & that afterwards [their] quarters of 1/90 were taken off from these Articles & placed on the more essential Articles of Beef & Bread.

7th They do complain of it as a very particular grievance on the Officers that this alteration was made from the original contract, by which Beef was fixed at 4/90 per lb. and Bread at 1 3/4 /90 three fourths over ninety per lb., & by the after alteration which took place near three Weeks afterwards the same articles are fixed at 4 1/2 /90 one half over ninety & 2/90 by which they are burthened with the payment of 13 perCent on all they use of these Articles without any benefit accrueing to the public—they cannot present this, but as an unjust deviation from the original contract founded on the Contractors own proposal, a deviation which puts this 13 perCent into the pockets of the Contractors at the Cost of the Officers of the Army.

8th They do complain that the Contractors not contented with these indulgences in their favor have gone a step further, which exceeds all degrees of decency in the science of imposition. Articles which their Commissary’s have been deficient in delivering to the Officers they have received due Bills for which they have paid off in cash at the rate of near 50 perCent less than he is by the contract allowed for the same Articles.

9th They esteem it grievous, Arbitrary, & unjust, that the Contractors should make out his accounts against the Officers at his own prices contrary to the Spirit & letter of the Contract, and exhibit them to the Deputy Paymaster General who without the previty or approbation of the officer & without any inspection of any person for him, deducts the amount out of the Officers ration Money & pays over the ballance only to the Regimental Pay Master, or staff officer.

10th They esteem it a grievance unwarranted by the Contract, that the Contractors insist on the Officers receiving one third of the amount of their ration Money in Hospital Stores, whether they have occation for them or not, & that these Stores are in some instances at very extravagant prices.

11th They complain that there have been great & unnecessary delays in the settlement & payment of the Ration Money for the Months of January & February—which has deprived the Officer of makeing use of his Money when his necessities most called for it, & has often obliged the officer to take Articles from the contractors which they would not otherwise have purchased.

12th The Officers feel themselves much agrieved & injured in the Contractors haveing refused, or neglected altho’ repeatedly called upon to submit to that decision prescribed in the contract disputes respecting the quality of the Articles they have issued, & by such their refusal or neglect uneasiness has greatly increased in the Army to the injury of the service.

They esteem it a very great grievance & contrary to the words & spirit of the contract, that the Bread & all the other parts of the ration except Beef, are delivered for a considerable part of the Army remotely situated, at West Point only. The Connecticut Line have the greater reason to complain of this as their principal Officers early in the Winter agreed with Mr Sands to build a Store House, Oven & bak House near their Huts, which they with great labor & inconvenience at that season effected, & at which place the Contractor issued the provision to that Line of the Army, untill the Winter broke up, & the River became navigable, since which he has Insisted on delivering their provision at West Point & this obliges them to bring the provision on the Shoulders of the Men upwards of two Miles through rugged roads, by which their Blankets, cloathing & particularly their Shoes receive very great damage, the greatest part of the rest of the Army feels the same inconvenience.

It has been suggested that in many instances there has been the appearance of deficiency of Weight & Measure in the Articles issued, they are by no means willing to Charge this to design in the Contractors, especially as it might arise from a variety of other causes, yet in order that in future no possibility of a suspision of this kind should exist, they submit it to the same determination whether, all Weights & Measures hereafter to be used by the Contractors for issueing to the Army should not have the mark of the sealer of Weights & Measures for the State of New York.

They now reluctantly enter on the discussion of some matters which they would have passed over had they not seen part of a paragraph of a letter from the secretary at War, quoted in His Excellency the Commander in Chiefs letter before mentioned of the 16th in the following Words—"Mr Sands who says he is conscious of haveing in every instance demeaned himself properly." these expressions they conceive themselves bound in justification of their own honor, & propriety of their Military & decent-behaviour to take Notice, least it should be conjectured, As the words in sound logic infer, that the Officers in this Army have complained of his behaviour without reason, they would leave it to the determination on the foregoing Articles, whether they had cause of complaint or not: but they can shew many instances of the impropriety of Mr Sand’s personal behaviour, particularly his threatning in the presence of a number of Officers that in case they were not content with Beef without kidney Fat, he would issue to them no more hind quarters, & would give them Shanks, or Legs, or any such pieces he thought proper and if they were not content with those they might go without. they could shew other instances equally improper, but decensy calls on them to let them sink in to oblivion & close the scene here.

They would beg leave to add that it appears to them highly necessary that there be some person of undoubted veracity appointed between the Army & Contractors, who should inspect the Articles issued & see that they are answerable to the Contract, without this there will always be room for a difference of sentiment between them, which will bring on disputes detrimental to the Service.

Stirling, Major Genl


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