George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to John Hancock, 5 May 1776

To John Hancock

New York May 5. 1776

Sir

I am honoured with your favor of the 30 Ulto and observe what Congress have done respecting the Settlement of the Paymasters accounts. This seems expedient as he is out of office, and I am certain will be attended with but little, if any difficulty, nothing more being necessary than to compare the Warrants with his Debits, and the receipts he has given with his Credits. I wish every other Settlement as easy, and that a Committee was appointed to examine & audit the Accounts upon which the Warrants are founded, particularly those of the Quarter Master & Commissary Generals—They are long, and of high amount, consisting of a variety of Charges, of course more intricate and will require time and an extraordinary degree of attention to adjust and liquidate in a proper manner; upon this Subject I did myself the honor to write you a considerable time agoe.1

Having had several complaints from the Officers in the Eastern Regiments, who have been & are engaged in recruiting, about the expence attending It, & for which they have never yet been allowed anything, Tho the Officers in these Governments have as I am informed, I shall be glad to know whether the allowance of 10/, granted to the Officers for every man Inlisted by the Resolve of Congress in ____ is general & Indiscriminate, or confined to the middle district; If General, must I have retrospect to the time of the Resolve and pay for the Services since, or only for future Inlistments?2

In a Letter I wrote Congress the 25 of December I Inclosed one I had received from Jacob Bailey Esqr. about opening a Road from Newbury to Canada,3 I have received another of the 15 Ulto & from his Account & the Intelligence I have from others upon Inquiry, I have no doubt of the practicability of the measure, and am well informed that the distance will be considerably shortened; in so much that our people going from any part of the New England Governmts, Eastward of Connecticut River to Canada, or returning from thence Home, will perform their March in five or Six days less time than by coming or going any way now used; Add to this, that the road may be so conducted as It is said, as to go to the river Missisque from whence the Water Carriage to St Johns is good, except forty odd miles, or be carried so far to the Northward, as to keep clear of the Lakes altogether, & afford an easy pass into Canada at all Seasons. the advantages resulting from this Route being so great and important, I have advanced Colo. Bailey Two hundred & fifty pounds to begin with & directed him to execute his plan;4 no doubt It will require a more considerable advance to accomplish It, but that will be soon sunk. The expence saved from taking off Six days pay and Provisions from the Soldiers returning to the Eastward Governments at the expiration of this Campaign, will be almost, if not more than equal to the charge incurred in opening It. If not, as in all probability there will be often a necessity for sending detachments of our Troops to Canada from those Governments & for Others to return, It will soon be repaid.5

By a letter from General Schuyler of the 27 Uto I find Genl Thompson & his Brigade were at Albany—General Sullivan with the last, except three or four Companies of Col. Wayn’s Regiment not yet come, is embarked & gone, and probably will be soon there—I am apprehensive from General Schuylers account, they will not proceed with the wished for expedition, owing to a difficulty in getting Teams & provender for Cattle necessary to carry their Baggage & a scarcity of Batteaus at the Lakes for so large a number, tho he is taking the utmost pains to procure ’em—Shou’d they be stopped for any time, It will be exceedingly unfortunate, as their going from hence has weakened us here much, & our Army in Canada will not be strengthen’d.6 I have sent with the last Brigade Sixty Barrells of Powder & other Stores & Intrenching Tools, a Supply being asked for; also the Chain for a Boom at the Narrows of Richelieu, & the three Boxes of money brought by Mr Hanson, & have wrote Genl Schuyler to have the Boom fixed as soon as possible.7 The Commissary too has forwarded about Eight Hundred Barrells of Pork & is in expectation of a further quantity from Connecticut, which will go on without stopping here.

As the magazine from whence the Northern and Eastern Armies will occasionally receive supplies of powder, will probably be here, and our Stock is low and inconsiderable being much reduced by the Sixty Barrels sent to Canada, I shall be glad to have a quantity immediately forwarded—Our Stores shou’d be great, for If the Enemy make an Attack upon the Town or attempt to goe up the North River, the expenditure will be very considerable—Money too is much wanted, the Regiments that are paid have only received to the first of April, except those of Pensylvania & Jersey which are gone to Canada; they are paid to the last of April. By a Letter from Genl Ward I find his Chest is just exhaustd; the money which was left with him for the payment of the Five Regiments at Boston & Beverley being almost expended by large drafts in favor of the Commissary & Quarter Master, and in fitting out the Armed Vessells8—I wou’d here ask a question, to Wit, Whether as Mr Warren’s Commission is Superseded by Mr Palfreys appointment, It will not be necessary to fix upon some person to pay the Troops there, or are the payments to goe thro his hands—he does not Incline to do any thing in the Affair without the direction of Congress.9

I have Inclosed you a Return of the last Brigade detached, & also of the Forces remaining here10—And as It is a matter of much importance to know the whole of our Strength from time to time, & to see It at one view, for regulating our movements with propriety, I wish It were a direction from Congress to the Commanding Officers in the different districts to make monthly returns to the Commander in Cheif of the Continental Army, of the state of the Troops in their departments, and also of the military Stores. such direction will probably make ’em more attentive than they Otherwise wou’d be—I cou’d not get a Return of the Army in Canada all last year.11

I beg leave to lay before Congress a Copy of the proceedings of a Court Martial upon Lieutenant Grover of the 2d Regiment and of his defence—which I shou’d not have troubled them with, had I not conceived the Courts Sentence upon the Facts stated in the proceedings, of a singular nature, to be by no means adequate to the enormity of his Offence, & to be of exceeding dangerous and pernicious tendency; upon those principles I thought It my duty to transmit the Proceedings to them in order that they may form such a Judgement upon the facts stated as they may conceive right & Just, and advancive of the public good12—At the same time I wou’d mention to Congress, that I think It of material consequence that they shou’d pass a Resolve cutting of the right of succession in the military line from one Rank to Another which is claimed by many upon the happening of vacancies, (upon which Principle this Offence seems to have originated in a great measure, and the extraordinary Judgement in this instance to be founded), declaring that no Succession or promotion can take place upon any vacancy, without a Continental Commission giving & authorizing It—It is of much consequence to check and entirely Suppress this opinion & Claim which is becoming too prevalent, and has an obvious tendency to introduce mutiny and disorder: or If they conceive the claim good & that It shou’d take place that they will declare It so, that the Point may be settled & known in future.13 I have the honor to be with Sentiments of the highest respect Sir Your Most Obedt Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, DLC: Hancock Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 7 May (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:330).

1For GW’s earlier proposal for auditing the army’s accounts, see his letter to Hancock of 24 Jan. 1776. Congress responded to this second mention of the matter on 10 May by sending GW its resolutions of 1 April authorizing a treasury office of accounts and an auditor general for settling all public accounts (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:243–46, 341; see also Hancock to GW, 10 May 1776). GW found those measures insufficient for controlling the army’s finances, however, and on 16 July 1776 Congress agreed to send three commissioners to New York to audit the accounts of the commissary general, quartermaster general, and director general of the hospital (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 5:564–65, 593; see GW to Hancock, 11 July 1776).

2Congress’s resolution of 17 Jan. 1776 “allowing ten shillings = one dollar and one third of a dollar to the officers, in lieu of expences for inlisting each soldier” was, Congress informed GW on 10 May, “a general regulation” that included “the troops raised in the eastern department.” GW consequently was “directed to make that allowance for all the troops inlisted since the time of passing the said resolution” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:63, 341; see also Hancock to GW, 10 May 1776).

3GW enclosed a copy of Jacob Bayley’s letter to Moses Little of 24 Nov. in his letter to Hancock of 25 Dec. 1775 (see note 6 to that letter).

5Congress accepted GW’s arguments and on 10 May resolved that “the General be directed to prosecute the plan he has formed, respecting the said road” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:342).

6The letter-book copy reads: “they will not proceed from thence with the expedition wished, owing to a difficulty in getting Teams & provender for the Cattle necessary to carry their Baggage, & a scarcity of Batteaus for transporting so great a number—though he is using the utmost Industry & diligence to procure ’em. Shou’d they be retarded for any considerable time, It will be exceedingly unfortunate, as we are much weakened here by their going & our Army in Canada not strengthen’d.”

7See GW to Schuyler, 3 May 1776 (first letter), and note 4. The letterbook copy reads “a Supply being wanted.”

8See Artemas Ward to GW, 28 April 1776. Congress resolved on 10 May to send 10 tons of gunpowder to New York and $400,000 to the paymaster general “for the use of the army in New York and the Massachusetts bay” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:342).

9Congress did not appoint a deputy paymaster general for the eastern department until 12 June (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 5:428, 432; see also GW to Hancock, 8 June, and Hancock to GW, 10, 14–16 June 1776).

10These returns are in DNA:PCC, item 152. The brigade that General Sullivan took to Canada was reported on 28 April to contain 182 commissioned officers, 24 staff officers, 272 noncommissioned officers, and 3,372 rank and file of whom 3,091 were present and fit for duty. The strength of the infantry regiments remaining at New York on 5 May was 509 commissioned officers, 73 staff officers, 730 noncommissioned officers, and 8,421 rank and file of whom 6,565 were present and fit for duty. Col. Henry Knox’s artillery regiment on that same date had a total of 459 men of all ranks, of whom 358 were returned as present and fit for duty.

11Congress approved such a directive on 10 May (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:342).

12A general court-martial which sat 29–30 April found Lt. Thomas Grover guilty of insulting Capt. James Wilkinson and disobeying his orders, but the court did not think Grover’s offenses warranted cashiering and sentenced him to be fined one-half month’s pay. Grover told the court that he refused to accept Wilkinson as captain of the company, because Grover had enlisted nearly all of its men with the help of a sergeant and because General Sullivan had promised Grover that no captain other than “Capt. Ogdon” would ever be put over him if Sullivan could help it. Copies of the proceedings and Grover’s statement to the court are in DNA:PCC, item 152, and DLC:GW. For GW’s subsequent action in this case, see his letter to Hancock of 11 May and the General Orders for 18 May 1776. See also Grover to GW, this date.

13Congress resolved on 10 May “that this Congress has hitherto exercised, and ought to retain the power of promoting the officers in the continental service according to their merit; and that no promotion or succession shall take place upon any vacancy, without the authority of a continental Commission” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:342).

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