George Washington Papers

Orders and Instructions for John Morgan, 3 April 1776

Orders and Instructions for John Morgan

[Cambridge, 3 April 1776]

As the Grand Continental Army, immediately under the Command of His Excellency General Washington, will, as soon as it is practicable, be Assembled at New York; you are with all Convenient Speed to remove the General Hospital to that City.

As The Sick in the different Houses cannot be removed, but must be attended, untill they are Able to March, you will leave such Surgeons, Surgeon’s Mates, Apothecary, & Attendants, under the Direction of [ ] as are necessary for the Care of the Sick now in the General Hospital.

The Medicines, Stores, Bedding, &c., not immediately wanted in the General Hospital, should be loaded in Carts, that will be provided next Saturday by the Assistant Q.M. General & sent under the Care of a proper Officer, or Officers of The Hospital, to Norwich in Connecticut; upon their Arrival there, They will find His Excellency’s Orders how, and in what Manner to proceed from thence whether by Land, or by Water.

The Medicines order’d upon His Excellency’s Application, By the Honourable The General Court of this province, to be taken out of The Town of Boston; should be sent with the First of The Hospital Stores that goes to Norwich, a careful person having Orders to take Charge of the Same.1

The fixing and Compleating the Regimental Medicine Chests, according to your plan lately proposed, had better be deferr’d untill your Arrival at New York, when that may be Set about under your Inspection.

As the removing the General Hospital, must be attended with such a Variety of Duty, and attention, I must refrain from giving more Particular Directions; leaving a Latitude to your Experience, & knowledge in your profession, to Govern & Direct all your Motions.

Before You leave Cambridge it will be Necessary to see a proper Regimental Medicine Chest provided, and Deliver’d, to each of the Surgeons of the Four Regiments left in Garrison there under the Immediate Command of Major General Ward—Also a Chest for Colonel Glover’s Regiment, on Command at Beverly.2

Reposing entire confidence in your Care, Dilligence, and Zeal for the Service, I remain Satisfied of your best Exertions for The Publick Benefit. Given at Cambridge, Head Quarters, 3d day of April, 1776.

Df, in Thomas Mifflin’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1On or before 1 April GW ordered Morgan to take possession of the medicines left in the British military hospital at Boston and in the shops of two Loyalist physicians, Sylvester Gardiner (1707–1786) and William Lee Perkins (d. 1797), who had fled from the town with Howe’s army. Because the disposition of Loyalist property was a civil matter, GW’s order was submitted to the Massachusetts General Court on 1 April for proper authorization, and on that date the General Court resolved that the medicines in Gardiner’s and Perkins’s shops were to be delivered to Morgan (“Mass. Council Journal,” Mar.–Sept. 1776 sess., 63; Mass. House of Rep. Journal description begins A Journal of the Honorable House of Representatives. At a Great and General Court or Assembly for the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Watertown, Mass., 1776. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , Mar.–May 1776 sess., 67–69). On 11 April an attempt was made in the House of Representatives to reverse that decision by recalling the resolution of 1 April (ibid., 110). Morgan promptly wrote a committee of the General Court requesting a conference before any step was taken to counteract GW’s orders. “I imagine,” Morgan said in his letter of 11 April, “it will be no difficult matter to convince gentlemen of your weight, character, and integrity, as well as importance in the community, of the propriety of so general an order. As his Excellency General Washington ever made it the rule of his conduct to support the civil authority, and not to infringe it in a single instance, I flatter myself you will be very tender how you offer any insult to his orders, by explaining away the spirit and intention of them, which proceeded solely from what he esteemed the essential interests of the Army.... I mean to leave an approved list in your hands of what I take; and to obligate myself for the payment of every article I take into my custody, whenever I am called upon authoritatively so to do; but it is by no means my intention to relinquish a single article comprehended within my orders, that I think will be of service to the Army” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 5:859). The recall effort apparently was thwarted by the secretary of the house of representatives who claimed that he could not find the resolution in question (Mass. House of Rep. Journal description begins A Journal of the Honorable House of Representatives. At a Great and General Court or Assembly for the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Watertown, Mass., 1776. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , Mar.–May 1776 sess., 112). Whatever the circumstances of this political maneuvering, Morgan kept the medicines that he wanted from the two shops (see Morgan to GW, 22 April 1776). For an account of Gardiner’s claim in 1785 that he should be compensated by Massachusetts for his losses, see Sabine, Loyalists description begins Lorenzo Sabine. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution. 2 vols. 1864. Reprint. Baltimore, 1979. description ends , 1:459–62. For accounts of the disorderly condition of the medicines at the British hospital and unsubstantiated rumors that they had been poisoned, see the depositions of doctors John Warren, Daniel Scott, and Frederick Ridgely in the Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, 22 April 1776.

2The four regiments remaining at Boston were commanded by colonels Asa Whitcomb, Paul Dudley Sargent, Edmund Phinney, and Israel Hutchinson.

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