Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James McHenry, 13 August 1799

To James McHenry

New York Aug. 13. 1799


It is now time to take measures for the establishment of the additional Regiments in Winter Quarters. It has been already determined to dispose of them in four bodies and the positions generally have been designated.1 These positions will of course be adhered to, unless alterations shall become expedient from considerations relative to the comparitive prices of rations at different places. It is necessary speedily to understand whether any deviations will result from this source which has been heretofore a subject of correspondence between us.

As to mode, I incline to that of Hutts. Every thing in our military establishment is too unsettled to justify the expence of permanent barracks and the hiring of quarters in Towns will be adverse to the health and discipline of the Troops and may lead to disorders unfriendly to harmony between the citizens and the soldiery. The experience of last war has proved that troops cannot be more comfortable in any way than in hutts; and these they can build themselves. Perhaps as those in question are quite raw it may be expedient, where they do not happen to have carpenters among themselves to indulge each Regiment with the aid of a few to be procured here; who may direct the mode of construction and lend a helping hand to the hutts of the officers.

The ground will be to be hired. The material for building must be found upon each spot. If you approve and as soon as I shall receive from you the information which is to guide as to the prices of rations, I will give direction to the respective Contractors to procure the ground with the cooperation, when it can conveniently be had, of the Agent for the War Department, and of the Commandant of a Regiment nearest to the intended site.

Any suggestions which you shall think fit to make with regard to the detail will receive careful attention.

Applications have been made to me to authorise the providing a waggon and four horses for the use of each Regiment.2 It is suggested that for transporting of fuel & straw and for a variety of current services many difficulties attend the continual depending on the Contractor, which would be obviated by a waggon attached to the Regiment.3 I am of opinion that the measure is right and would direct it to be put in execution but that it is my rule to enter into no new arrangement involving expence without previous recourse to you when there is no pressure of circumstances to require immediate decision.

With great respect

The Secy of War

ADf, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

2On July 30, 1799, William S. Smith wrote to H: “Enclosed is a Letter from the Quarter Master of the Regt. stating the inconvenience he is exposed to, and the expence arising to the public, for the want of a Waggon and Horses attached to the Regt.… Will you do me the favour to point out a mode, by which the Regt. can obtain a Waggon & Horses” (letter listed in the appendix to this volume). The enclosure which Smith mentions is Henry Ludlow to Smith, July 29, 1799 (ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress).

3In the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, there is an undated document entitled “Conjectures in the form of Queries,” which reads in part: “Might not a stage waggon be so constructed as to answer the purpose of a Limber to a field piece, an ammunition waggon, & a vehicle for the transportation of 12 Men? Might not a pintle be fixed behind, of sufficient strength to receive the trail upon it, and draw the Carriage after it? Might not the seats of the Carriage be converted into ammunition Boxes to the extent of 50 or 60 rounds? …”

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