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To George Washington from Tobias Lear, 30 October 1799

From Tobias Lear

Harper’s Ferry Octr 30th 1799

Dear Sir

I arrived at this place yesterday afternoon, and finding that Colo. Parker had gone to Winchester I dispatched a messinger for him (one of the Soldiers). He got here this afternoon, when I delivered him your letters.1

The huts for the 8th Regt are in a state of forwardness; 22 of them are finished to the roofs; several of which are now covering, they are 16 feet sqr. and intended for 12 men each. There are logs provided, with the huts now up, enough to quarter this Regt. About twelve thousand feet of plank are on the ground, and enough to cover the huts, now preparing, will be soon here.

A person (Mr Wilson) who has the lease of a part of the ground, adjoining the public’s, has offered 150 Acres for sale at £500—Virga Currency. The lease is for fifty years, yet to come, @ 6£ pr hundred per year. On this ground there is timber sufficient for logs to hut the two Regts vizt the 9th & 10th, and a considerable quantity of fuel. This, I think, will be purchased, and the logs cut immediately. The plank, for covering, can be had by the time the huts are ready to receive it; and it will be a cheap purchase for the United States if only the logs and fuel are considered, independent of the ground. Upon the whole it will be best to cover the huts with plank, as they will be so put on as to be but little injured, and may serve the public hereafter at this place, where a quantity will be wanted.

Colo. Parker and myself go over to Frederick town tomorrow morning, to look at the Barracks &c.—not so much with a view of making use of them, as to hold up an idea that a part of the troops will be quartered there, to induce Mr Wilson to take a less price for his land, which Major Campbell, to whom he has offered it for his own use, is desired to secure.2

I have today been over the ground belonging to the United States, and that offered for sale, and I am convinced that there can be no doubt of getting sufficient timber therefrom to hut the three Regiments (and a Battalion of Artillery, if necessary, which is ordered to this place) and to supply them very amply with fuel for at least the ensuing winter. Colo. Parker seems anxious to make every preparation, and I am persuaded that the Troops destined for this place can be accommodated here this winter at as little expence to the United States as they could be in any other place: and the other advantages which arise from their being embodied must be very great.

I hope to be at Mount Vernon by Saturday next. At present I see nothing to prevent it. But I shall not return until I can give you a precise account of the Winter Quarters for the three Regiments.3

My best respects attend Mrs Washington and the family at Mount Vernon. With the purest respect & attachment I have the honor to be, Your most affectionate & Obedt St

Tobias Lear


1GW had sent “to the Post Office” by messenger on 27 Oct. his letter to Thomas Parker of 26 Oct. enclosing a letter for him from Alexander Hamilton dated 21 October. He wrote Parker again on 27 Oct. and sent that letter to Harpers Ferry by Tobias Lear. Presumably the letters that Lear delivered to Parker were the one of 27 Oct. and perhaps a copy of that of 26 Oct. or a missing letter of 28 Oct. (see Parker to GW, 31 October). Lear on 28 Oct. had “set out for Harpers Ferry to make some arrangements with Colo. Parker respecting Cantoning the Troops” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:372). On 30 Oct. Parker wrote Hamilton: “Colo. Lear is now with me by order of the Commander in Chief to assist me in Endeavouring to procure the necessary materials for Accomodating the other Troops. we are on Treaty for the purchase of a piece of Land adjoining to that Belonging to the public . . .” (DLC: Hamilton Papers). Parker was in Winchester on 29 Oct. in search of logs (Parker to Hamilton, 29 Oct., DLC: Hamilton Papers).

2Thomas Wilson was paid $2,148.66 for a little less than two hundred acres of land at Harpers Ferry on 11 Dec. 1799 (Parker to Hamilton, 10 Oct. 1799, n.1, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 23:515).

3For Lear’s full report on his mission to Harpers Ferry and to Frederick, Md., see Lear to GW, 4 Nov., written on the day of his return to Mount Vernon.

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