George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 4 October 1794]

4th. Forded the Susquehanna; nearly a mile wide, including the Island—at the lower end of wch. the road crosses it.

On the Cumberland Side I found a detachment of the Philadelphia light horse ready to receive, and escort me to Carlisle 17 miles; where I arrived at about 11 Oclock. Two miles short of it, I met the Governors of Pennsylvania & New Jersey with all the Cavalry that had rendezvouzed at that place drawn up—passed them—and the Infantry of Pennsylvania before I alighted at my quarters.

Traveling the same route in 1783–84, Johann David Schoepf observed that the Susquehanna at Harrisburg was “three quarters of a mile wide, but in the summer months so shallow that only canoes can cross; horses and wagons ford over. In the middle are a few small islands, called Harris’s and also Turkey Islands” (SCHOEPF description begins Johann David Schoepf. Travels in the Confederation [1783–1784]. Translated and edited by Alfred J. Morrison. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1911. description ends , 1:212). Captain Gould noted today that the troops “suffered much with the cold in crossing [the Susquehanna], it being a very cold morning. The President, General Washington, forded the river in a coach—drove it himself, &c.” (GOULD description begins “Journal by Major William Gould, of the New Jersey Infantry, During an Expedition into Pennsylvania in 1794.” Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society 3 (1848–49): 173–91. description ends , 179).

The detachment of the Philadelphia Light Horse had left Carlisle at 3:00 A.M. and met GW just after he crossed the river (Dunlap’s American Daily Adv. [Philadelphia], 17 Oct. 1794).

At Carlisle, GW found a town “regularly laid out, consisting of several parallel streets, crossed by others at right angles. It contains upwards of 400 dwellings, chiefly of stone and brick. The public buildings are, a college, a jail, a handsome brick court-house, which stands in the centre of the town; and four houses for public worship” (SCOTT [2] description begins Joseph Scott. The United States Gazetteer: Containing an Authentic description of the Several States, Their Situation, Extent, Boundaries, Soil, Produce, Climate, Population, Trade and Manufactures. Together with the Extent, Boundaries and Population of their Respective Counties . . .. Philadelphia, 1795. description ends ). During the Revolution, Carlisle Barracks had been an ordnance depot and in 1791 had been designated as a general rendezvous for federal troops and supplies. It is estimated that during the insurrection between 10,000 and 15,000 troops encamped on the common (TOUSEY description begins Thomas G. Tousey. Military History of Carlisle and Carlisle Barracks. Richmond, Va., 1939. description ends , 164–65).

There was “the greatest vieing between the New Jersey and Pennsylvania horse,” Captain Ford of the New Jersey troops noted, as to “who should be first on the ground to receive the President. At ten o’clock, the signal for mounting came, and away went the horse” (FORD [6] description begins David Ford. “Journal of an Expedition Made in the Autumn of 1794, with a Detachment of New Jersey Troops, into Western Pennsylvania, to Aid in Suppressing the ‘Whiskey Rebellion.’” Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society 8 (1856-59): 75–88. description ends , 85). At 12 o’clock it was announced that the president was approaching. “Immediately the 3 troops from Philadelphia, Gurney’s and Macpherson’s battalions, and the artillery paraded. The horse marched down the road about two miles, followed by the Jersey cavalry in great numbers. We were drawn up on the right of the road, when our beloved Washington approached on horseback in a traveling dress, attended by his Secretary, &c. As he passed our troop, he pulled off his hat, and in the most respectful manner bowed to the officers and men; and in this manner passed the line. . . . As soon as the President passed, his escort followed, we joined the train, and entered the town whose inhabitants seemed anxious to see this very great and good man; crowds were assembled in the streets, but their admiration was silent. In this manner the President passed to the front of the camp, where the troops were assembled in front of the tents; the line of artillery, horse and infantry, appeared in the most perfect order; the greatest silence was observed” (“Notes on the March from September 30, until October 29, 1794,” Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 4:361).

While at Carlisle, GW and his party occupied two houses belonging to Ephraim Blaine (1741–1804), former commissary general in the Continental Army. Blaine and his family not only provided lodging but also meals and hostelry service for the president and his staff (FREEMAN description begins Douglas Southall Freeman. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York, 1948–57. description ends , 7:202, n.212).

Governor of New Jersey Richard Howell (1754–1802) was born in Newark, Del., but moved with his family to Cumberland County, N.J. He studied law there and was admitted to the bar. In 1775 he joined the 2d New Jersey Regiment as a captain, served as brigade major with Stark’s Brigade in 1776, and again with the 2d New Jersey Regiment until his resignation in 1779. He became an active Federalist and was elected governor of New Jersey in 1793, serving until 1801. Something of a poet, Howell is credited with having composed the stanzas in honor of GW for the president’s reception at Assanpink Bridge on his way to New York in April 1789 (see also AGNEW description begins Daniel Agnew. “A Biographical Sketch of Governor Richard Howell, of New Jersey.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 22 (1898): 221–30. description ends , 221–30).

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