George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 6 May 1781]

6th. Colo. Menonville,1 one of the Adjutt. Generals in the French Army came to Head Quarters by order of Count de Rochambeau to make arrangements for supplying the Troops of His Most Christian Majesty with certain provisions contracted for by Doctr. Franklin. This demand, tho’ the immediate compliance with it, was not insisted upon, comports illy with our circumstances; & is exceedingly embarrassing.2

The D[eputy] Q[uarter] M[aster] at Sussex C[our]t House,3 conceiving that the Provision Magazine, & other stores at that place were exposed to a surprize, and in danger of being destroyed by the Indians & Tories who were infesting the Settlement at Minisink,4 I directed Colo. Dayton to send a guard there from the Jersey Brigade near Morristown.

Mr. John Flood (at present a liver at lower Salem) whom I had sent for to obtain from him an acct. of the Harbours in the Sound from Frogs point Eastward, arrived; and gave the information wch. is filed in my Office.5

Other letters arriving this Evening late (more expressive of the wants of the York Troops at Albany, & the Posts above) I ordered 100, out of 131 Barrls. of Flour which were in Store, to be immediately sent up; & again called upon the Q. M. Genl. in the most pointed terms to send active men to forward on, by every means they could devise, the Salted provs. in Connecticut; & flour from Sussex Ct. Ho. &ca.6

That the States might not only know our Wants, which my repeated & pressing letters had recently, & often communicated, but, if possible, be impressed with them and adopt some mode of Transporting it to the Army, I resolved to send Genl. Heath (2d. Offr. in Commd.) to make to the respective legislatures East of York State, pointed representations; & to declare explicitly that unless measures are adopted to supply transportation, it will be impossible to subsist & keep the Troops together.7

1François Louis Arthur Thibaut, comte de Ménonville (1740–1816), was appointed lieutenant colonel in the French army in 1772 and came to America as aide to the French general staff.

2The French army at Newport was encountering the same problems in obtaining supplies as the American army. Although the French army had usually paid for its supplies—some estimates of expenditures run as high as $6 million—locating adequate provisions remained a problem. From France, Benjamin Franklin reported to Congress in Dec. 1780 that he had made an arrangement with the French ministry to have delivered for the use of the French troops in America “such Provisions as may be wanted from time to time, to the Amount of 400 thousand Dollars . . . the said Provisions to be furnished at the current Prices for which they might be bought with Silver Specie” (Franklin to Samuel Huntington, 2 Dec. 1780, DNA:PCC, Item 82). On the assumption that Franklin had signed the contract as a form of payment to the French government for funds furnished him by France to discharge bills of exchange drawn on him by Congress, that body confirmed the contract and agreed to provide the supplies (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 , 19:372–73; 20:528).

GW’s interview with Ménonville lasted several days, after which GW referred him to Congress for a decision. For the negotiations with Ménonville, see WRITINGS description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 22:43–45, 56–58; Ménonville to GW, 8 May 1781 (Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., Etats-Unis, supp. vol. 15); GW to the President of Congress, 8 May 1781 (DNA:PCC, Item 152). Ménonville then conferred with Robert Morris, superintendent of finance, who informed him that the prospects for supplying the French army were not promising. By late July, however, Morris wrote Franklin that he would endeavor to carry out the commitment to France (Morris to Franklin, 21 July 1781, DLC: Robert Morris Papers).

3Newton, N.J.

4GW may be referring to the site of a ford across the Delaware River in Sullivan County, N.Y., which had been the scene of a battle between the Mohawks and Tories and the Patriots in July 1779, or to the village of Minisink some 25 miles east of the ford (BOATNER [2] description begins Mark M. Boatner III. Landmarks of the American Revolution. New York, 1975. description ends , 265).

5Flood, a sea captain, who had “formerly lived at Maroneck,” apparently carried out minor intelligence errands for GW in the Long Island area. A copy of his report, in GW’s handwriting, is in DLC:GW.

Lower Salem was in Westchester County, N.Y. In 1840 the name was changed to Lewisboro.

6See William Heath to GW, 6 May 1781, James Clinton to GW, 4 May 1781, and George Clinton to GW, 6 May 1781 (DLC:GW). GW wrote to Timothy Pickering concerning the desperate need of provisions at the New York posts, 6, 7 May 1781 (DNA: RG 93, MS File Nos. 26368, 26372).

7At this time Maj. Gen. William Heath (1737–1814) was in command of the area of the lower Hudson. GW’s instructions, 9 May 1781, are in DLC:GW.

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