Benjamin Franklin Papers

Provincial Commissioners to William Denny, 25 January 1757

Provincial Commissioners to William Denny

MS not found; reprinted from I Pennsylvania Archives, III, 93–5.

Philada. Jany. 25th 1757.


The ammunition and other Things applied for by Captain Calender,1 and allowed by the Commissioners, are sent up some time since, except three Drums which were not then to be had, but will be sent per the first Opportunity. With this your Honour will receive an Account of the quantity of Ammunition sent,2and thereby can judge whether more will be necessary, and how much, on Account of the Detachments sent to reinforce Colonel Armstrong.

On Perusal of the Return of the Persons appointed to inspect the Beef, we are of opinion that, if your Honour thinks fit, strict and positive Orders be sent to the Officers to keep the Men to the Provincial Allowance: at the same Time acquainting them, that if they allow more it shall be stopt out of the Officers Pay. It is very possible that the Beef may be not equal as they say to “some such” as Philadelphia Market affords; but of that prime Beef the Quantity in this Province is small, and too dear even for middling People to purchase, only the richer sort are able to buy it, and the whole Quantity of that Kind rais’d in the Province would in our opinion be insufficient to feed half Col. Armstrong’s Battallion, and therefore we think they ought not to expect it. What is now prepared for them is equal to any they us’d to have, and they never before complain’d of the Quality of it.

As to the Drying of Beef and Pork, the Design must be to make the same Quantity of Nourishment lighter of Carriage for Marching or Ranging Parties. We therefore approve of it, and request your Honour would be pleased to give Directions to Col. Armstrong to cause a Quantity to be weigh’d out of the Casks, an Account taken of such Weight, the whole to be dry’d, and again weigh’d when thoroughly dry; and then distributed occassionally in Weights proportion’d to the Loss by Drying, for example, if one Fourth of the whole Weight be lost, then three Quarters of a Pound is to be given out instead of a Pound, and so in whatever other Proportion the Loss of Weight may be. For what is lost is only in the Watery part, the Nourishing Part all remaining after the Drying.

We send your Honour an Account of the Blankets that have been delivered to that Battalion,3 by which it will appear they have been more than fully supplied. When they return’d from Kittanning, the Demand was for 300 supposed to be lost; they were immediately sent. Then 60 more were demanded, Those also were sent. Now 40 more are required, these are not sent. Because we find by our Accounts they cannot be wanted, unless the Men have been suffered to sell them: In which case we think the Officers should see them supplied at their or the men’s Expence.

We are preparing an Account of the Provissions that Battalion has consumed, by which your Honour will perceive that we have some Reason to be disatisfied with the Conduct of the Officers in that Respect. We know not what Col. Armstrong means by the sundry Instances of our taking Umbrage at his Conduct, and shall enter into no Disputes with him, having on many Accounts a Respect for him and his Officers. But this we must remark, that for the Defence of their County all the Men, Arms and Ammunition have been allowed that they could desire; that the Officers were appointed as well as the Men taken into pay from among themselves; that the Contractors were reputable Inhabitants of their own County, with whom we had no connection; that we have no interest directly nor indirectly in the Contract; that the Provisions being bought in their County the Money of course center’d among them; that we have endeavoured on all occasions to have that Batalion well supplied in the same Manner, and on the same Terms with the other Troops of the Province; but so it happens that tho’ we have given satisfaction every where else, we are perpetually teiz’d with Complaints from that Quarter, and from thence only4 No Officers of that Battalion that we know of are waiting in Town for the Settlement of their Accounts: The Accounts of the others we shall settle as fast as possible. We are, with the utmost Respect your Honours Most obedient Humble Servants

Wm. Masters, John Mifflin,
B. Franklin, Jos. Fox,

To the Honourable Wm. Denny Esqr.

An Account of Blankets sent to the W. Side of Sasqua. [Susquehanna] at diff[erent] times.

Dec. 23,
George Croghan had 16 Pieces which make 240 Blankets,5
June 24,
Col. Armstrong had  3 Pieces which make 45   ”
July 10,
Col. Armstrong had  3 Pieces which make  45   ”
Aug. 31,
Col. Armstrong had  3 Pieces which make  45   ”
Sept. 28,
Col. Armstrong had 15 Pieces (20 in a P’e) 300   ”
Decr. 8,
Col. Armstrong had 4 Pieces (15 in a P’e)  60   ”
Besides which, George Stevenson
charges for Steel,6
 40   ”
Total, 775

Dec. 16, Sent by Andrew Cox, one Box of Medicines, for the Use of Col. A’s Battalion7

Jan. 5, Sent by Robt Amos,8 850 Pounds of Lead, 400 Pounds Powder, 1000 Flints, 4 Water Engines, 17 Brass-kettles, 4 Hour Glasses, 6 Tin and 2 Horn Lanthorns, which were delivered to Col. Armstrong.

1Robert Callender (d. 1776) of Carlisle, long associated with George Croghan in Indian trade and land speculation, had been commissioned captain in Col. John Armstrong’s battalion of the Pennsylvania Regiment of provincial troops, Oct. 11, 1756. Above, V, 90, 105 n; Nicholas B. Wainwright, George Croghan Wilderness Diplomat (Chapel Hill, 1959), pp. 29–30, 51–5; History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pa. (Chicago, 1886), p. 306; I Pa. Arch., III, 29, 89. Though his application and the various other requests and complaints from Armstrong’s battalion mentioned below have not been found, in November 1756 some of its officers had made accusations against Adam Hoops and William Buchanan, commissary agents for the forces in Cumberland Co. Besides berating the quality of beef furnished the soldiers, Armstrong thought Hoops and Buchanan profiteered enormously from their contract: they furnished each man in the battalion four pounds of beef, three pounds of pork, 10½ pounds of flour, and ⅞ quart of hard liquor per week, a provision for which the commissioners paid them 5s. For 400 men for a year, this amounted to over £5000, but at prevailing prices quoted by Armstrong, the total cost to the contractors was less than £3000. Ibid., III, 48–9, 54–6; Votes, 1757–58, p. 117.

2Printed at the end of this letter.

3Printed at the end of this letter.

4The military exploits and prestige of Col. John Armstrong (1717–1795) and his men seem to have become politically entangled: his partially successful attack on Kittanning, Sept. 7, 1756 (above, p. 4 n), had vindicated those who urged an aggressive, ruthless Indian policy, while his connection with the proprietary interest probably caused part of the commissioners’ obvious irritation with him. On Oct. 15, 1756, the proprietary-dominated Philadelphia City Council had voted plate, medals, and a sum of money to Armstrong and his officers for their victory, and in January 1757, the Council transmitted the gifts, for which Armstrong offered public thanks, actions perhaps calculated to call attention to the commissioners’ ingratitude toward military heroes. Minutes of the Common Council of the City of Philadelphia, 1704 to 1776 (Phila., 1847), pp. 600, 604–5; Pa. Gaz., Feb. 17, 1757. Armstrong spoke bluntly of his difficulties: “The Commissioners and we are at great odds. It seems to me as if the devil had gotten possession of Bennie Franklin” (to James Burd, Feb. 22, 1757). Later in the year, Capt. Thomas Lloyd of the Augusta Regiment also complained when the commissioners refused to send him more arms and blankets until he had accounted for those sent earlier: “They intended, I suppose, to pass an act that arms should never perish through time, age, and blankets never decay.” [Thomas Balch], Letters and Papers Relating Chiefly to the Provincial History of Pennsylvania (Phila., 1855), pp. 68, 88. Armstrong later served prominently in the Forbes expedition to capture Fort Duquesne, and was judge of the Court of Common Pleas, brigadier general in the Revolution, and member of the Continental Congress. DAB.

5When he was sent to Cumberland Co. to build three stockades. See above, VI, 294–5.

6George Stevenson (1718–1783), was a landowner and public official of York Co. In civilian life Capt. John Steel was Presbyterian minister at Carlisle; he served later as chaplain of the Augusta Regiment at Shamokin. George R. Prowell, History of York County, Pa. (Chicago, 1907), I, 496–7.

7Though Cox has not been identified, he probably carried the “Medicines for Col. Armstrong’s Battalion” for which Charles Osborne received £19 14s. 7½d. on Dec. 24, 1756. Votes, 1755–56, p. 172.

8Not identified.

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