George Washington Papers
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From a Committee to Inspect Beef, 20 December 1777

From a Committee to Inspect Beef

In Camp [Valley Forge] Decr 20th 1777

We the subscribers being appointed a Committee to Inspect the Beaf drawn for Genl Learnard’s Brigade, under the Command of Colo. Bailey Commandant, we have examianed the Beaf and Judge it not fit for the use of human beings, unwholesome & destructive to nature for any person to make use of Such fude.1

Joseph Pettingill Captn

John Wiley Capt.

Seth Drew Capt.

DS, DLC:GW. A note signed by Maj. Gen. Johann Kalb beneath the text of the letter reads: “The same complaints are made by Gl Patterson’s Brigade. They all complain also that the flours being Sour is almost of no use.”

Joseph Pettingill, John Wiley, and Seth Drew were captains from the three different Massachusetts regiments in Brig. Gen. Ebenezer Learned’s brigade. Seth Drew (1747–1824), a shipwright from Kingston, Mass., became a lieutenant in Col. Theophilus Cotton’s Massachusetts regiment in April 1775 and remained with that regiment through its subsequent reorganizations and redesignations as the 23d Continental Regiment, Bailey’s Regiment, and the 2d Massachusetts Regiment. Drew was promoted to captain in January 1777 and to major in January 1783, and he retired from the army in June 1783. At this time Drew’s regiment was designated for its commander Col. John Bailey.

1Lt. Samuel Armstrong of the 8th Massachusetts Regiment says in his journal entry for 20 Dec. that “This day we draw’d some provisions, but when it came to Camp, there was a Committee appointed to Examine the meat, and Judged it not Wholesome for to Eat. Report was made to the Genl. who brought the Commissary to account, but he plead off and the Genl. Ordered him to deliver out Salt Provisions as much as three Barrells to a Brigade, which turned out ½ a pound to a Man; with this the men seem’d a little Contented, & indeed Men never bore up with such bad Usage before, with so little Mutiny, for I believe it gratified them in a great measure to think that the Officers Endured the same and indeed there was more mutiny among the Officers than among the men” (Boyle, “Armstrong’s Diary,” description begins Joseph Lee Boyle. “From Saratoga to Valley Forge: The Diary of Lt. Samuel Armstrong.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 121 (1997): 237–70. description ends 258).

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