George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Shippen, Jr., 3 November 1776

To William Shippen, Jr.

Head Quarters [White Plains] 3d Novemr 1776

Dear Sir

I am favd with yours of the 29th last Month. Altho’ by the Resolutions of Congress you are appointed to the Director Generalship of the Flying Camp in New Jersey, and Doctor Morgan to that of the Continental Army which has lain on this side the North River, yet I never imagined it meant to exclude either of you from the power of establishing Hospitals on which ever side of the River you thought most convenient for your respective Sick. Under the Circumstances in which we left New York we found it impossible to remove our Sick up the Country on this side the River, Docr Morgan was therefore directed to provide and prepare Hospitals for them in Jersey, to be under the Controul of him and his Assistants.

He informs me he has left Docr Foster with proper Assistants to care of those Sick who were removed from this Army, and it is my desire that they may remain under his Direction, he will undoubtedly take proper Measures to provide comfortably for them. As fast as they recover they are to be sent over to this Army again, and tho they may have put you to some Inconvenience for a time, yet consider the Necessity of the times must plead the Excuse. We have now established Hospitals in this Neighbourhood, and therefore shall have occasion to send no more to Jersey. As fast as Docr Fosters Sick are removed the Houses will be left for your Use and Convenience. I am Dear Sir yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152. The cover is addressed: “To Docr William Shippen Junr at Docr Barnetts [Burnet’s] Newark favd by Mr Pennell.”

Shippen enclosed this letter in his letter to Hancock of 9 Nov., in which he writes: “I think it proper to inform the honorable Congress that I have not yet taken any of the continental Sick on this side the north river under my direction agreable to their last regulation—Because Dr Morgan differs in opinion with me conce[r]ning the meaning of congress; & because General Washington desires they may remain under his care, as you will see by the enclosed letter from his excellency; The general makes no distinction between my appointment in July & Your resolves in October; & in my opinion has not seen the latter, wch expressly says ‘all the sick on this side of the north river shall be under my care & direction.’ ... I should not trouble the congress on this head, but that I imagine they expect I am exerting my best endeavours to relieve the poor soldiery from the great distress they suffer daily; & because it is impossible Dr Morgan can pay any attention to them, as he is now busy in establishing Hospitals, at a great distance on the other side of Hudsons river” (DNA:PCC, item 78; see also Hugh Mercer to Shippen, 4 Nov., DNA:PCC, item 159).

Congress on 28 Nov. confirmed Shippen’s view of the dispute, resolving “that Dr. Morgan take care of such sick and wounded of the army of the United States, as are on the east side of Hudson’s river, and that Dr. Shippen take care of such of the said sick and wounded as are on the west side of Hudson’s river” (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 , 6:989). Because most of Washington’s troops by that date had moved to New Jersey, Shippen became for all practical purposes the army’s chief medical officer (see Bell, Morgan description begins Whitfield J. Bell, Jr. John Morgan: Continental Doctor. Philadelphia, 1965. description ends , 202–3).

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