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To George Washington from Henry Knox, 9 October 1789

From Henry Knox

War Office October 9th 1789.

Sir

I have the honor to submit to your inspection a general return of the Ordnance, Arms, and Military Stores in possession of the United States specifying the places at which they are deposited.

The stores in general were placed in their present situation by the chances or events of the late War—Springfield in Massachusetts and Carlisle in Pennsylvania excepted—At these places buildings were directed by Congress to be erected for the reception of the public Stores1—The buildings at Springfield are of wood and of course will soon decay, excepting the Magazine which is of brick well constructed and executed—The buildings at Carlisle are numerous and well constructed being all built of brick and stone—There are but few stores there at present, most of the unserviceable stores having been sold by order of Congress—The buildings were also directed to be sold to the trustees of Dickenson Colledge, but they and the Board of Treasury could not agree respecting the price2—Some of the buildings having been damaged by a late hurricane are ordered to be repaired, and I have directed that such of them as are not immediately wanted for the public use be rented to the trustees of the said Colledge to be returned whenever demanded for the public use—From the inland situation of Carlisle it is very equivocal whether it would be wise in the public to make it one of their principal Arsenals—The expence of transportation and retransportation would in a very few years amount to an excessive sum.

The stores contained in the return are highly valuable and require a constant attention in order to preserve them, particularly the Arms and Powder.

The powder at Springfield and West Point, in which is included the greatest quantity in possession of the public is in good order, great attention having been paid to its preservation.

The Arms at Springfield and those at West Point which have been repaired are in order for immediate use—The arms in Philadelphia require to be cleaned.

The damaged Arms at West Point and in Virginia are generally worthy of repairs.

The stores at the several places are in charge of store keepers, or a Commissary or deputy Commissary of stores, who are allowed annually the sums herein specified.

Providence Dollars
A store keeper 96
Springfield
A Deputy Commissary 480
An Assistant 180
Fort Harkimer and the Mohawk river
A Store keeper 172
West Point
A deputy Commissary 480
Philadelphia
One Commissary 500
One Assistant 360
French Creek a keeper of the
Magazine 60
Carlisle A store keeper 100
New London & Manchester
A deputy Commissary 480
Charleston South Carolina
A Store keeper 100
3008

The public are annually charged with the following sums for the rents of buildings, and the post of West Point—To wit

Philadelphia 752.66 2/3
Manchester & New London 350   
For the Post of West Point 400   
1502.66 2/3

The places at which the stores generally are deposited ought to be considered merely as temporary accomodations. They are improper for the permanent Arsenals of the United States—But as this is an object of great national importance it will require a particular discussion—I shall therefore have the honor Sir of submitting to your consideration some ideas on this subject, and a general plan for the establishment of naval and military Arsenals for the service of the United States. I have the honor to be With the most perfect respect Sir Your Obedient Humble Servant

H. Knox

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1The magazine and laboratory at Carlisle was authorized by the Continental Congress 27 Dec. 1776 (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 6:1044). For the resolution, 14 April 1777, establishing a laboratory and magazine at Springfield, 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 7:266.

2By the mid–1780s the public buildings at Carlisle had ceased to be of much importance to the government and were steadily deteriorating. On 16 Jan. 1785 the trustees of the newly founded Dickinson College in Carlisle petitioned Congress to permit them to lease or purchase the buildings for the use of the college (DNA:PCC, item 42, signed by Benjamin Rush). Congress reacted favorably to the petition but delayed action until an examination could be made of the stores at the facility (Burnett, Letters, description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed. Letters of Members of the Continental Congress. 8 vols. 1921–36. Reprint. Gloucester, Mass., 1963. description ends 8:17). A resolution agreeing to allow the college to lease the buildings was presented in Congress, 7 Feb. 1785, but failed to pass (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 28:44). Although over the next several years Rush continued to pursue his aim of leasing or purchasing the buildings, the college again failed to acquire the buildings when the Board of Treasury opened bidding on them in 1787 (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 33:401). See also report of committee on the memorial of the trustees of Dickinson College, 23 July 1787, DNA:PCC, item 20; Tousey, Military History of Carlisle and Carlisle Barracks, description begins Thomas G. Tousey. Military History of Carlisle and Carlisle Barracks. Richmond, Va., 1939. description ends 160–63.

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