George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Wharton, Jr., 17 February 1778

From Thomas Wharton, Jr.

Lancaster [Pa.] 17th Febuy 1778.


I had the honour to write to your Excellency on the 13th Inst. & have since recd your favour of the 12th.

It is with some concern, that I find you obliged to remind Council of the stipulation made by Genl Armstrong. You may [be] assured that on the [ ] day of [ ] last orders were sent out for the immediate march of two Classes of the Militia of York, Cumberland & Northampton Counties; & a Class of Northumberland1 conditionally.2 The three first, tho’ subs[t]itutes are layed aside, Will probably produce 1500 men. Their arrival has been, I am sensible, too late, for which several reasons may be assigned. The order to the Lieut. of Northampton, tho’ sent by a careful man, was strangely delayed, till he had left home for this Town; tho’ a duplicate was sent to Genl Potter to forward from his Camp.3 The very uncommonly broken weather, & the difficulty of passing the susquehanna, threw continued Obstacles in the way of the Militia drawn out of York & Cumberland. some of these were actually4 weather-bound in Lancaster during weather that forbid all progress. Besides, the inroads of the Indian Enemy prevented the whole detatchment from Northumberland, & part of Cumberland from marching at all.5 To these obstructions, I beg leave with great regret to mention another, which Council contemplated before Genl Armstrong acquainted us of the necessity of continuing the Militia in service. This is, sir, a great & growing disgust, that is lately become general throughout the Counties to serve in conjunction with the regular Troops. They complain, that because some among them, perhaps the hirelings employed as substitutes, have by flagrant misconduct, shewn themselves defective & cowardly, a general undistinguished Censure is cast, & this too in the grossest Terms on the whole of the Militia, by too many of the continental officers & privates. It seems to me, that some Gentln expect too much of untried Militia, drawn out by succession for two months at most. But however the fact may be, your Excellency will see, that this mode of treating new soldiers, to whom experience would afford instruction, is not adapted to improve them in the Military Character. On the other hand it weakens the exertions of America in the Common Cause, & must produce many of the mischeifs derived to the Royal Army by the idle debates between the natives of the Empire & their German Auxilliries. This, however, is but a part of the Evil rising from this source. In the open Country, where the Militia are strongest, it produces altercation, recrimination & feud. The sourness among the people, shews itself dayly in Quarrels; & perhaps the dreadful event that lately took place at the Sign of the Compass, on the road from hence to Head-Quarters, may be ultimately a sprout of this root.6 Three of the Country people, accused as principals in this melancholly business, have been arrested by the Justices & are now in goal here, but their examination is not yet finished; so that I am not able to be positive. It is grievous to remark on this irksome subject, before I leave it, that another officer will be needed for the recruiting service instead of Mr Hammond of the 11th Battalion.

Instructions are made out for the Gentlemen, sent up by yr Exy for the recruiting business, & they will issue forth without delay. But four More seem necessary for Philada County & two for Bucks, after distributing the officers already selected. Inclosed I send Copies of these Instructions, with blanks for the names of such as you may appoint. This, I beg yr Excellency, to refer to your secretary, because it will save the Officers to be appointed to this service the trouble of a journey hither & back again.7

The cloathing mentioned in my last amounting to upwards of three hundred coats & vests; about two hundred pair of Leathern breeches upwards of eighty Overalls &c. are now putting up they will be directed for 3rd, 6th, 9th & 12th Pennsa. Battalions—the 13th Pennsa. Battalion I hope will be otherwise supplied—the remainder of the cloathing is making up as fast as possible.8

Df, PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–1790.

1The manuscript reads “Numtherland.”

2For the orders to call out the militia, see Wharton to GW, 3 Jan., n.1.

3The order to Col. John Weitzel, lieutenant of Northampton County, was probably one of the circular letters of 9 Jan. from the Pennsylvania supreme executive council to the county lieutenants (see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1 st ser., 6:169).

4The manuscript reads “actuactolly.”

5Col. Samuel Hunter, lieutenant of Northumberland County, wrote Wharton on 14 Jan. describing Indian raids in his jurisdiction and requesting liberty not to send the county militia to camp. Wharton subsequently granted Hunter permission to use the militia for frontier defense (see ibid., 175–76, 191–92; Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:403). There were other factors, aside from those mentioned here by Wharton, that impeded the assembly of the Pennsylvania militia. Col. Richard McCalester (McAllister), lieutenant of York County, wrote Wharton on 22 Jan. that the militia of his county were “determined not to march, or at least the Greatest Part of them,” because of their “Grate Complaints” and “Grumbling about the Pay” (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1 st ser., 6:196).

6The Sign of the Compass tavern was located forty-six miles west of Philadelphia, on the Lancaster Road in West Caln Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. For details of the affray at the Sign of the Compass, see George Gibson to GW, this date, n.4.

7Tench Tilghman wrote Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne from Valley Forge on 21 Mar.: “While you were absent in Jersey, Governor Wharton wrote to the General and desired him to add four more Officers to those sent upon the recruiting Service into Philada County and two more to those sent into Bucks. But as we knew that Officers of a particular turn were necessary to carry on this Business effectually, we did not chuse to call for them till your Return, that you might pick the proper Men. Govr Wharton has sent us blank instructions for them, so that the Gentlemen will be saved the trouble of going to Lancaster. When you appoint them, you may send them for instructions. You will let them know that the State have increased their Bounty to the Officers from 8 to 24 dollars for each Recruit” (PHi: Wayne Papers). A printed handbill of instructions from the Pennsylvania supreme executive council to the recruiting officers, dated 14 Feb., is in PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–1790; see also Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:419–21. Captains Edward Scull, Alexander Patterson, and William Wilson complained that the instructions gave inadequate provision for their expenses (see the Pennsylvania Recruiting Officers to GW, 18 February).

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