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To George Washington from the Board of War, 5 January 1780

From the Board of War

War-Office [Philadelphia] January 5. 1780


We have the Honour to enclose an Extract of a Letter from Mr Henry of Lancaster on the Subject of Hides whereby we find little good Effect has been produced from the Order you were pleased to give at our Instance for 2,000 to be sent to Philadelphia.1 The general Account of the Hides in Mr Hatfield’s Care deserves serious Attention & Enquiry as, if it be true, great Mismanagement must appear on a Scrutiny. We know that Losses will happen especially with respect to Summer Hides, but so great a Proportion of Hides being defective cannot have happened without egregious Neglect somewhere. We have suspected that Mr Hatfield either from Avocations Indolence or some other Cause has not paid sufficient Attention to his Bussiness, which as we have been informed has been too much entrusted to the Management of others. We therefore beg the Favour of your Excellency either by Means of the Commanding General in the State of N. York or in some other Way to promote an Enquiry into the Conduct of Mr Hatfield that it may be seen from what Cause the Army is deprived of the Benefit of so large a Proportion of the public Hides.2

General Greene wrote to us some time ago desiring that two of his Deputies Col. Hay & Col. Lewis should have discretionary Orders for as many Hides as they wanted.3 We refused to give so great a Latitude to these Gentlemen under an Idea that the Hides were most wanted for shoes for the Soldiers. But if they are not fit for this Purpose it were better that they were used for the Quarter Master Department as we suppose they have Uses for Hides which may not be good enough for shoe Leather. If on the Enquiry there shall be found Hides under this Description we leave it to your Excellency to order as many as you think proper into the Quarter Master’s Hands. Our being so distant from the Means of Enquiry into Mr Hatfield’s Conduct & a Desire that your Excellency should be acquainted with the State of the Matter are the Causes of giving you this Trouble. We have the Honour to be with the greatest Respect Your very obedt Servants

Richard Peters
By order

ALS, DLC:GW; copy (extract), enclosed in GW to William Heath, 12 Jan., MHi: Heath Papers.

1See the Board of War to GW, 9 Oct. 1779, and GW to Moses Hatfield, 25 Oct. 1779; see also GW to the Board of War and to Nathanael Greene, both 25 October.

The enclosed extract of a letter to the board from William Henry, commissary of hides at Lancaster, Pa., dated 29 Dec. 1779, reads: “I have not heard of any hides arriving from Camp and am informed by Mr [Jacob] Zank who went there from this place in order to get part of them, that there are scarcely 2000 out of the 8000 returned by Major Hetfield worth the carriage—this sort of management will probably put it out of the power of the Commissaries to supply the Army with Shoes &c. as all those hides are lost to the Public—6000 hides at an average are worth 360.000 dollrs” (DLC:GW).

2On 12 Jan., GW directed Maj. Gen. William Heath to undertake an inquiry into Hatfield’s conduct.

3Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s letter to the board, dated 15 Dec. 1779, is in DNA:PCC, item 173; see also Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:176.

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