George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Stringer, 10 May 1776

From Samuel Stringer

Albany 10th May 1776.


Upon a receipt of orders yesterday to prepare for Canada with the Hospital under my Direction, I laid before General Schuyler a State of my Establishment, consisting (by resolve of Congress last Septr) of only four Mates besides myself, which he once before laid before that Honble Board without the desired Effect; whereupon he has now requested me to apply to you for a Reinforcement, or augmentation, giving you an Estimate of the addition which I think will be necessary; a List of which I have inclosed, beging your Excellency will be pleased to order up the desired number of Seniors & Mates, or authorize me to provide them, with power to employ such Clerks, Stewards Labourers, &c., as shall from time to time be needful1—I must also intreat your Excellency to order me such Medicines &c. as are contained in the List inclosed to Mr Morgan, as I have by no means a supply fit for the business I am going on; more especially, as I find the Majority of Regiment[a]l Surgeons gone up have neither Medicines or Instruments, & the Army likely to be overspread with the Small Pox, & no possibility of geting supplied in Canada with such Articles as I may hereafter want.2

The inclosed List was intended as a Memorandum for General Schuyler, & as his Express is just going off, must beg your Excellencys Pardon for sending you so imperfect a piece of Paper. The one Senior mentioned & the Clerk, General Schuyler has taken upon him last Campaign to approve of & Confirm. With great respect Sir I am Yr Excellencys Most Obedt and very Hume Servt

Saml Stringer

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 15 May 1776, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, DLC: Hancock Papers.

Samuel Stringer (1734–1817), an Albany physician whose clientele included the Schuyler family, was an active member and sometimes chairman of the town’s committee of correspondence before August 1775 when Philip Schuyler asked him to undertake the task of establishing a hospital for the northern department (Schuyler to Stringer, 27 Aug. 1775, DNA:PCC, item 153). The Continental Congress confirmed Schuyler’s action on 17 Sept. by naming Stringer director of the hospital and chief physician and surgeon for the army in the northern department. Stringer was authorized to appoint up to four surgeon’s mates to assist him, but they were to be employed only when the sick and wounded were “so numerous as to require the constant attendance of four [mates]” and were to be reduced in number as circumstances allowed (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 , 2:249–50).

Although Stringer’s limited powers of appointment implied that he was not equal to the director general of hospitals at Cambridge who could appoint surgeons as well as surgeon’s mates, Congress sowed the seeds for much future confusion and dissension by failing “to define either the relationship of the new system in the north to the one in Massachusetts or Stringer’s position in the chain of command” (Gillett, Army Medical Department description begins Mary C. Gillett. The Army Medical Department, 1775–1818. Washington, D.C., 1981. description ends , 27). As in the case of the commissary department, a troublesome dispute over jurisdiction developed within the medical department after GW’s army arrived in New York. Director general John Morgan sought to establish his authority over Stringer, while Stringer endeavored to maintain his autonomy. Stringer’s letter of this date, a copy of which GW forwarded to Congress in his letter to Hancock of 15 May, is both an effort to deal with the rapidly growing smallpox epidemic among the troops in Canada and an attempt to increase his power by enlarging his staff. Congress referred Stringer’s letter to a committee on 16 May and a few days later apparently declined to approve a resolution directing Stringer to procure unstated numbers of surgeons and mates for Canada (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 , 4:358–59, 378). Congress did not put an end to the bickering between Stringer and Morgan until 9 Jan. 1777 when it suddenly dismissed both men without explanation (ibid., 7:24).

1Stringer’s undated list states that the hospital in Canada required at least 4 senior surgeons, 12 surgeon’s mates, 1 matron, and as occasion might require 1 or 2 clerks, 1 or 2 stewards, surgery men, apothecaries, laborers, cooks, and other servants. Stringer reports that of these people he has 1 senior surgeon (apparently himself), 3 surgeon’s mates, and 1 clerk (DLC:GW).

2This list has not been identified.

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