George Washington Papers

Instructions to Reuben Colburn, 3 September 1775

Instructions to Reuben Colburn

[Cambridge, 3 September 1775]

You are to go with all Expedition to Gardnerstone upon the River Kenebeck, and without Delay proceed to The Constructing of Two Hundred Batteaus, to row with Four Oars each; Two Paddles and Two setting Poles to be also provided for each Batteau.

You are to Engage a Company of Twenty Men consisting of Artificers, Carpenters, and Guides to go under your Command to Assist in such Services as you, & they, may be called upon to Execute.

You are to Purchase Five Hundred Bushells of Indian Corn, to Provide the Workmen employ’d on Building The Batteaus.

You are to bespeak all The Pork, and Flour, you can from the Inhabitants upon the River Kennebeck, & a Commissary will be immediately sent from the Commissary General, to agree, and pay for the same; You will also acquaint The Inhabitants, that The Commissary will have Orders to Purchase Sixty Barrells of Salted Beef, of Two hundred & Twenty pounds each Barrell.

You are to receive Forty Shillings Lawfull Money for each Batteau, with the Oars, Paddles, and Setting Poles included, out of which, you are also to pay The Artificers, & for all the Provisions, Nails &ca they shall expend.1 Given at Head Quarters at Cambridge this 3d day of September 1775

Go: Washington

By The Generals Command

Horatio Gates Adjt Genl

DS, in Horatio Gates’s writing; DNA: RG 233, 22d Congress, folder 22A-G20.1. This document is entitled “Orders for Mr Rheuben Colbourn of Gardnerstone, upon the River Kennebeck in The Province of Massachusetts Bay.”

Reuben Colburn of Gardiner (Gardinerston), District of Maine, arrived at Cambridge on 13 Aug. with Swashan, the chief of the St. Francis Indians, who offered his services to GW. See GW to Schuyler, 14 Aug. 1775, n.1. On 21 Aug. Benedict Arnold, who was then preparing for his expedition to Quebec, wrote to Colburn from Watertown: “His Excellency General Washington Desires you will Inform your self, how soon, there can be procured, or built, at Kenebec; Two hundred light Battoes Capable of Carrying Six or Seven Men each with their Provisions & Baggage, (say 100 wt to each man) the Boats to be furnished with four Oars two Paddles & two Setting Poles each, the expence of Building them & wheather a Sufficient quantity of Nails can be procured with you. you will Also inquire, what quantity of Fresh Beef can be procured at Kenebec, & the price. at Newbury you will Inquire the Size, & Strength of the two Armed Vessells, If Compleated, & wheather, bound on a Cruise or not. Also the Condition the Armed Vessells are in at Kenebec—you will Also get particular Information, from those People who have been at Quebec, of the Difuculty attending an Expedition that way, in particular the Number, & length, of the Carrying Places, wheather Over, Dry land, Hills, or Swamp. Also the Depth of Water in the River at this Season, wheather An easy Stream or Raised—Also, every other Intelligence which you Judge may be necessary to know, all which you will Commit to writing & Dispatch an express to his Excellency as soon as posable, who will Pay the Charge & expence you may be at in the Matter” (DNA: RG 233, 22d Congress, folder 22A-G20.1). Between 21 Aug. and 3 Sept. Colburn apparently went to Gardiner to obtain the information requested in Arnold’s letter and returned to Cambridge to report to GW. After receiving GW’s instructions of this date, Colburn again went to Gardiner. When Arnold arrived there on 21 Sept., he found the bateaux and provisions that he had requested ready for his expedition.

1For Colburn’s bills for these and other items, see Justin H. Smith, Arnold’s March from Cambridge to Quebec: A Critical Study Together with a Reprint of Arnold’s Journal (New York and London, 1903), 293–96.

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