George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Ephraim Blaine, 4 February 1778

From Ephraim Blaine

Camp Valley Forge Feby 4th 1778

A Few Queries for the Consideration of His Excellency General Washington, & the Honorable the Committee of Congress now sitting at Moore Hall.

1st  As this is the Season for procuring the Stall’d Beef, and a time we shall be Necessiated to Issue Pork, would allowing the Soldiery 1½ lb. Bread or Flour & ¾ lb. Beef or Pork be a sufficient ration untill there is an appearence of a more Plentiful supply of the Article of Meet.1

2nd  Could not some Method be imediately taken to induce the Farmers to put up one or more of their Grown Cattle to feed which might be in good order for Beef by the Month of April & May to deliver for the use of the Army.

An address from His Excellency to the People for that Purpose might be of great service.2

I will undertake to Circulate them through my district, and make not the least doubt it will produce near three or four Thousand Head of Good Cattle.

3rd  There are a Number of Cattle along the Beaches near Cape May, & Little Egg Harbour in Jersey. are they in danger of the Enemy? would it not be prudent to have them Collected without delay & places prepard to have them fed for Beef.

4th  What ought to be given for Barrel’d Pork seized from People near the Salt Works—the Value those People hold upon their Salt, and was obliged to give will advance it far above what I can think of Giving—Underneath is an Estimate I have made.

220 lb. Pork @ £5 ⅌ct £11. 0.0
½ Bushel Salt @ 20 Drs 3.15. 
Barrel .15. 

5thly  Should not some Method be taken to secure a Large Quantity of Whiskey—the People pay no regard to the Law pass’d by the Assembly of this State for regulating the prices. and no Spirited Measures are persued by the Executive Authority to put those Laws into execution—ought not large Quantities of Whiskey to be purchased for the ensuing Campaign.3

6thly  Ought not some Method be taken to secure all the Beef Cattle in North Carolina & the back parts of Virginia for the Army & Stop Forestallers from Buying any, those persons have been a great injury to the publick, and have greatly added to the extravagant prices of every article wanted for the Army.

D, DNA:PCC, item 192; LB, Ephraim Blaine Papers, DLC: Peter Force Collection.

Blaine’s letter book in DLC contains a full copy of this letter as well as a shorter version that is dated 20 January. The shorter version reads: “The vast daily Consumption of Beef and the appearance of want of that article induces me to present your Excellency with the under Mentioned Quiries—which if approved of may be of great Service to the publick.

“Qus. 1  woud not a reduction of the rations of beef to the Soldiery be a great Service to the publick, suppose the ration 1½ Flour or Bread 12 Ounces beef or pork, and one Gill of Whiskey Flour is plenty and Whiskey may be procured to supply the army, and without great Assistance from the Southern & Eastern Departments it will be Impossible to procure beef.

“2nd  A short address from your Excellency to the Farmers in the Middle Department, requesting every Freeholder to feed one or more Oxen which they are to have in readiness to deliver to the persons appointed in the respective Township to receive them by next april or may for which they will be paid a reasonable & Generous price this is the time the Collectors are gathering in the publick Taxes, one of them papers Delivered each Collector will give general notice to the people, and your Excellency may be Assured it will be the means of procuring five or Six thousand head of beef Cattle in a Season of the Year when the[y] will be most wanted for the army” (Ephraim Blaine Papers, DLC: Peter Force Collection).

The Continental Congress camp committee, which had met with Blaine on 3 Feb. to discuss provisions, received a copy of his letter to GW of this date on 5 Feb. and conferred with Blaine again two days later (see Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 9:7–8). The committee wrote Congress about Blaine’s proposals on 6 Feb. (see ibid., 36–38).

1For the daily ration allotment as settled the previous fall, see a Board of General Officers to GW, 10 Nov. 1777. By early February the shortage of provisions, especially meat, would reach crisis proportions, and a board of general officers, attended by Blaine, apparently met on 11 Feb. to discuss reducing the rations (see General Orders, 8 and 10 Feb.; see also GW to Peter Colt, 7 February). Making virtue of necessity, on 17 Feb., Timothy Pickering wrote his replacement as adjutant general, Alexander Scammell, that a reduction of meat and increase of bread in the daily ration would benefit the soldiers’ health, bringing the American army closer to French and German standards (Pickering and Upham, Life of Pickering description begins Octavius Pickering and Charles W. Upham. The Life of Timothy Pickering. 4 vols. Boston, 1867–73. description ends , 1:205). New regulations issued in the general orders of 16 April reduced the ration of beef, pork, and fish while increasing the amount of bread and whiskey to be issued to each man.

3“An Act for the better supply of the Armies of the United States of America,” enacted into law by the Pennsylvania general assembly on 2 Jan., fixed the price of whiskey at 8s. 6d. per gallon (Pa. Laws description begins Laws Enacted in the Second General Assembly of the Representatives of the Freemen of the Common-wealth of Pennsylvania. At the Sitting which began at Lancaster on the Twenty-seventh day of October, A.D. One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-seven, and continued by adjournment to the second day of January, A.D. One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-eight. Lancaster, Pa., 1778. description ends , 99).

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