George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from John Mitchell, 17 December 1779

From John Mitchell

Philada 17th Decemr 1779.

Sir

I have the honor of your Excellency’s favor of the 14th instant and would immediately have set off for Camp agreeable to your desire but the Business of my department is at present in such a situation as renders it next to impossible for me to be absent.1 The Virginia troops cannot be furnished with necessaries and means of proceeding on their Route if I am absent,2 nor can the duties of my department be exercised by any other in the present critical situation—The River being froze up, and the Navigation stopped, the Army cannot have the provisions forwarded but by me, and I find my personal attendance and all the influence I can make but barely sufficient to enable me to do it—add to this the scarcity of Money which makes it essentially necessary for me to be present to endeavour to make the people easy under the many disappointments we are unavoidably obliged to give them.

I have given in every information to a Committee of Congress in writing, that I know of respecting Major General Arnold—My principal Clerk has also been qualified before Mr Paca a Member of Congress and his evidence taken in writing—Those will I hope be sufficient.3 I request your Excellency will be so indulgent as to think the Reasons I have given sufficient, for not immediately setting off for Head Quarters which I should have done, if in my power. But if your Excellency should think it necessary for me to attend the trial of Major General Arnold, and leave the Business here in the situation it is in, I will immediately obey your commands. As nothing can give me more pleasure than to shew my respectful attention to every order or wish of your Excellency,4 being with the greatest Respect Your Excellency’s Most obt and most humble Servt

Jno. Mitchell D.Q.M.G.

Copy, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, enclosed in the first letter from GW to Nathanael Greene, 23 Dec. 1779, PPAmP: Nathanael Greene Papers; copy, OHi.

1GW had written Mitchell from Morristown on 14 Dec.: “The 20th of this month being appointed for the trial of Major Genl Arnold, and he having signified that your evidence is essential on this occasion—you will be pleased to attend at this place, at the above mentioned time” (Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

2For the movement of the Virginia line to the southern department, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 29 Nov., source note.

3Maryland delegate William Paca was chairman of a five-member committee that Congress formed on 26 Jan. to investigate the allegations of Pennsylvania officials against Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold (see 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 13:115; see also Paca to Joseph Reed, 3 March, in Smith, Letters of Delegates, description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends 12:143–44). Paca questioned Mitchell’s clerk John Hall in Philadelphia on 20 March about entries in an account book. Paca recorded each query and answer and wrote a summary of Hall’s deposition (see DNA:PCC, item 19). The committee then reported to Congress on the same date that “no Evidence appears to prove that the said Col. Mitchell, in ordering and directing the said John Hall, his clerk, to make the said alterations and obliterations, has acted criminally or fraudulently” (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 13:345). For Hall’s subsequent testimony on this matter at Arnold’s court-martial, see Arnold, Proceedings, description begins Proceedings of a General Court Martial of the Line, Held at Raritan, in the State of New-Jersey, By Order of his Excellency George Washington, Esq., General and Commander in Chief Of the Army of The United States of America, For the Trial of Major General Arnold, June 1, 1779. Major General Howe, President. Philadelphia, 1780. description ends 29–31.

John Hall (c.1717–1791) was described in a death notice as a Philadelphia “Shopkeeper” and “an inflexible patriot in ‘the times that tried men’s souls’” (Gazette of the United States [Philadelphia], 2 March 1791).

4Mitchell ultimately testified in person on 19–20 Jan. 1780 during Arnold’s court-martial at Morristown (see GW to Reed, 4 Dec., and n.2 to that document, and Arnold, Proceedings, description begins Proceedings of a General Court Martial of the Line, Held at Raritan, in the State of New-Jersey, By Order of his Excellency George Washington, Esq., General and Commander in Chief Of the Army of The United States of America, For the Trial of Major General Arnold, June 1, 1779. Major General Howe, President. Philadelphia, 1780. description ends 32–38; see also GW’s first letter to Greene, 23 Dec., and notes 1 and 2 to that document, and to the Board of War, 24 Dec.).

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