George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Patrick Henry, 19 April 1778

To Patrick Henry

Head Quarters Valley Forge 19th April 1778

Dear Sir

I have the honor of yours of the 1st inst. informing me of the appointment of Mr Hawkins to the Office of purchasing Commissary in the State of Virginia.1 I have heard so good an account of his Character that I hope the most salutary effects will ensue. I hold myself infinitely obliged to the Legislature for the ready attention which they paid to my representation of the wants of the Army and to you, for the strenuous manner in which you have recommended to the people, an observance of my request for fattening Cattle.2

Congress have just made a change in the Commissary Generals department by the appointment of Mr Jeremiah Wadsworth of Connecticut in the room of Mr Buchanan. Mr Wadsworth is a man of most extensive influence in the Eastern States, has a thorough knowledge of the Resources of those States, and possesses that most useful quality of great activity and address in Business—I shall take the first opportunity of acquainting him with your appointment of Mr Hawkins that he may cooperate with him.

I have consulted Mr Blaine the purchasing Commissary in this district upon the Subject of your letter He advises that no Cattle be immediately sent forward but those fit for present use, or in tolerable good order, as he observes that it is almost impossible to fatten poor Cattle in any reasonable time after being drove a great distance. Such as are purchased in a part of the Country which does not afford pasture must of necessity be drove on, but those that the purchasers can provide for had better be kept thro’ the summer and drove on in or about Septemr when there is plenty of Grass upon the Road. Mr Blaine recommends two Routs for the poor Cattle. The upper by Winchester, Red House, Watkins’s ferry, and Carlisle. Mr James Smith near Carlisle will provide for them. The other across Potowmack and thro’ Frederick Town. Mr George Murdoch of Frederick Town will provide pasture for those brought that way.3 But he begs Mr Hawkins may be pressed to send forward the Beef Cattle as expeditiously as possible.

If the Money to pay the additional Bounty to the reinlisted Men comes to my hands it shall be properly disposed of.4 I have the Honor to be with the greatest Regard and Esteem Dear Sir Yr most obt Servt.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Henry’s letter of 1 April has not been found, but the journal of the Virginia council for that date describes its contents: “The Governor laid before the Board a Letter which he had prepared to General Washington letting him know of the appointment of Mr Hawkins to purchase Beef & Bacon for the Continental Army, and also informing of his Excellency that he will draw on our Delegates at Congress desiring them to pay to his Excellency or to such Person as he may please to appoint to act as temporary paymaster for the purpose thirty thousand Dollars to pay the additional twenty Dollars bounty allowed by this State to the Soldiers who have reinlisted” (Va. State Council Journals description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends , 2:114). John Hawkins of Hanover County, who had been commissary of provisions for the Virginia regiments from September 1775 to October 1777, was given the appointment on 31 Mar. in response to “The Governor having received & laid before the Board sundry Letters from General Washington & the Virginia Delegates in Congress representing the present situation & future prospects of the grand army with respect to Provisions in the most alarming colours & pressing it on the Executive of this State to exert every expedient in their power to provide the necessary Supplies for the ensuing Campaign” (ibid., 113). Hawkins immediately gave security for the faithful discharge of his office and was supplied with £6,000 in warrants. By 24 April he had advertised a schedule of meetings around the state for the purchase of cattle (Dixon & Hunter’s Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg], 24 April), but he died before 26 May with his work uncompleted.

2For GW’s representation of the wants of the army and Henry’s response, see Proclamation on Cattle, 18 Feb.; Circular to the Chief Executives of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, 19 Feb., and note 1 to that document; and GW to Henry, 19 February.

3The “Red House,” about a mile north of current Martinsburg, W.Va., was the site of the first Berkeley County court. Evan Watkins operated a ferry across the Potomac River at Maidstone, Va. (now West Virginia), opposite the mouth of Conococheague Creek on the Maryland side. George Murdock (1742–1805), a merchant, farmer, and member of the Frederick County committee of correspondence, was the Continental commissary at Frederick, Md., in 1777 and issuing commissary at that location, 1778–81.

4For discussion of the arrangements to pay the reenlistment bounty, see John Banister to GW, 16 April, and note 1 to that document.

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