George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Buchanan, 28 December 1777

To William Buchanan

Head Quarters [Valley Forge] 28th December 1777.


As the Season advances in which bad weather and broken Roads will render the transporting provision from any distance, for the most part subject to considerable delay, and sometimes impracticable—it becomes indispensibly necessary to form with all possible expedition ample magazines for our Winters Supply contiguous to the Rear of the Camp—and to embrace every favorable opportunity of keeping them furnished—They ought never to have less than thirty days provision in them.

You will likewise extend your views to establishing the necessary magazines for the next Campaign—with respect to their Situation I can only say in general Terms at present, that they are to be in the most convenient places consistent with Security for subsisting an Army in the neighborhood of Philadelphia.

The Deputies in your Department complain of a Deficiency of Waggons1—the power which you have by virtue of your Office of impressing them, if exerted, will certainly remedy this Evil—I am &ca.

P.S. Such Articles of Provision as can be obtained nearest the Enemys Lines, ought to be first secured.

Df, in John Laurens’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Laurens docketed the draft: “inclosed to Mr Chaloner to be forwarded.” A copy of what would appear to be the cover letter from John Chaloner to Buchanan, dated 28 Dec. but without address or signature, is in the Ephraim Blaine letter book in DLC: Peter Force Collection. The author of the letter writes: “Inclosed is a letter from his Excellency to You which I am charged to forward by Express embrace the Opportunity it affords of addressing you on a Subject that flatter myself I should not have had occasion for previous to receiving an answer from my last—but his Excellency has commanded and I must obey.” The writer refers to an enclosed return documenting the failure of the quantity of provisions reaching camp to meet expectations and continues: “I now am in obedience to his Excellencys command to require of you what supplies are laid in for the insuing year and what provision is made for the Winter contigious to Camp supposing the worst of weather to happen to secure us from want. . . . In conversation with his Excellency to day on the Subject of Supplies he expressed himself as follows—Dam it what is that reason Mr Buchanan is not here does he think to indulge himself at home whilst we are distressed and suffering for want of provision. This is Language that his Excellency is by no means accustom’d to use and you may Judge of the provocation when he is oblig’d to adopt.”

Another letter in Blaine’s letter book, also undated, unsigned, and unaddressed but apparently again from Chaloner to Buchanan, covers a “State of provisions given to his Excellency January 4th 1778.” The author of the cover letter complains that because of the failure of his purchasers to live up to expectations, “I am charged by his Excellency with making false Returns, thus I am brought in to disgrace and have foreffeited my reputation at Head Quarters. . . . Thirty hours are elapsed since I presented to His Excellency the inclosed return and not one Bullock arrived, this day will consume the Whole of the salt provisions Fish &c. and God only Knows what will be for the troops to morrow.” The list of provisions given to GW reads: “The Assistant Commissary of Purchases hourly expects from Joseph Hugg 250 head of Cattle from Azariah & Nehemiah Dunham daily 200 head—From Thomas Huggins in two days 250 head—from Anthony Broderick daily 200 head. From Robert McGermont daily 100 head from all the purchasers in New England daily 500 head quantity am not certain off but am informed part are on the Road—He has also at Bombacks five Miles distance from Camp 20,000 Wt of salt Beefper estimation at Coreylls ferry which is order on immediately 70 Barrels of Beef. The pork purchasers in East & West New Jersey. The Several Counties in pennsylvania Delaware & Maryland have not as yet reported their progress in this business nor does he as Yet know what the parties sent to Oley and Concord have collected, but expects daily to receive a quantity of Beef from them and to be informed what expectations may be placed on their collections. Large Quantity of Flour & Bread coming daily from Elk and Lancaster.”

1The shortage of wagons to carry forage was a frequent complaint in GW’s army. See, for example, Stirling to GW, 24 Dec.; see also Henry Emanuel Lutterloh’s letter of 31 Dec. to Robert Hanson Harrison, printed as a note in GW to Lutterloh, 27 December.

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