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To George Washington from Clement Biddle, 22 July 1780

From Clement Biddle

Camp Perackness 22 July 1780.


Your warrant of 11th instt for impressing Forage has expired1 and in Case it should be necessary for the Army to Continue at this Ground it will not only be necessary to extend the Time for which the warrant was granted, but also the distance for impressing, as the Limits to which the last warrant was confined, cannot longer subsist the Army, but in Case you should approve of extending the limits, I shall, as I have heretofore done, endeavour to leave as much Forage as possible on the roads which may be used for the Communications from Trenton to Hudsons river and I am of Opinion that they should be to Ten miles from the Encampments of the Army and for such time as your Excellency may think necessary.

I have taken the Liberty to inclose a Copy of a warrant for your Excellency’s perusal and to fill up the blanks for distance and time if you should approve the same.2 I have the honour to be with great respect Your Excellencys Most Obedt & very humble servt

Clement Biddle
Commissary General of Forage

ALS, DLC:GW. A document purported to be a draft of this letter was offered for sale by Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., in 1943. GW’s assistant secretary James McHenry wrote on the verso of the ALS: “A warrant granted for ten miles and to be in force ten days” (see n.2 below). He signed and dated the statement.

2Biddle enclosed, and GW signed, a warrant of this date from headquarters at Preakness: “From the representation that you have made to me, that the horses of the Army cannot be supported by the modes pointed out by Law & that it will be necessary to impress hay, Grass and pasturage in the Vicinity of the encampments of the Armies, I am induced from the necessity of the case, to authorise you to impress hay Grass and pasturage, for the horses attached to the Army, when the same can not be procured in the modes pointed out by the Laws of the States in which the Army may serve and you are hereby authorised, in such Cases to impress, by yourself Deputies Assistants and Forage Masters, so much hay, Grass & pasturage as may be necessary for the support of the horses attached to the Army, provided that the same be taken within Ten—miles of an Encampment of the Army & that you use your utmost endeavours to prevent waste or unnecessary Damage to the Inhabitants and that Certificates be given by you or the proper officers under you for the Value of such Forage so taken by you or them.

“This warrant to continue in force for Ten days from the date hereof and no longer” (DS, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence). GW wrote the words “Ten” and “Ten days.” GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison also signed the document, attesting that the warrant was issued “By His Excellencys Command.”

GW issued similar impress warrants to Biddle on 2, 13, and 23 Aug., as well as on 6 and 16 September. All are signed by GW and attested by Harrison. In the 2 Aug. warrant, dated at Peekskill, N.Y., GW set the radius around an encampment of the army for the impress of “Pasturage, Grass hay & Oats” at ten miles and fixed the duration of the warrant at ten days (DS, in Biddle’s writing, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence). In the 13 Aug. warrant, dated at Tappan, N.Y., empowering Biddle to impress the same items, GW left the radius from camp blank, but he filled the blank for the number of days it was to remain in effect with the word “Ten” in his own writing (DS, in Biddle’s writing, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence). In the warrant of 23 Aug., dated “at head quarters,” GW authorized Biddle to impress “Forage” and “necessary pasturage,” within ten miles from camp and limited the time to ten days. GW filled in the word “Ten” in his own writing in the blank spaces Biddle left for the effective radius and number of days (DS, in Biddle’s writing, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence). GW’s warrant of 6 Sept., dated “at Head Quarters,” allowed Biddle and his assistants to impress pasturage and forage within fifteen miles of camp but kept the effective time at ten days (DS, with the words “Fifteen” and “Ten” in Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW). The warrant of 16 Sept., dated “at head quarters Bergen County,” empowered Biddle and his assistants to impress “Forage and pasture” within fifteen miles of a camp and was to remain in force “for Ten days or until Colo. Pickering or his Deputy shall arrive in Camp” (DS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, PPIn). Congress had named Timothy Pickering to replace Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene as quartermaster general on 5 Aug. (see Samuel Huntington to GW, that date).

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