George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Mease, 17 April 1778

To James Mease

Head Quarters Valley Forge 17th April 1778

Dear Sir

scarcely a day passes but I am either applied to by different Officers for cloathing,1 or by persons for payment or some Business in the Cloathiers Generals department. To the first, I can give no satisfactory answer, because I am intirely ignorant of the quantity which you have on hand or in expectation—To the last, I can only refer them to you, at such a distance, that they think it very hard to be at the expence of the money and time which they must necessarily expend in going to you2 and which must ultimately, become a public expence, & in the aggregate amount to no trifling Sum—In a word your absence, & the incompetency of a Clerk, to answer the various applications that are daily making, throws a load of business upon me which ought to be the burthen of your own Shoulders—& which were you present you would become more intimately acquainted with & know better how to provide for. For these reasons if you mean to continue in the Office I am obliged to insist that you shall reside with the Army or so near it, that I can, upon every application to me, for matters in your department, receive proper information from you.3 I should suppose that an active deputy at Lancaster could superintend the making up the Cloathing at that place, and by making you weekly returns of the quantities ready to issue, orders might be given upon a certainty, and not put Officers to the expence and trouble of going up and down to no purpose. I hear, by report, of great quantities of Cloathing purchased on continental account in every quarter.4 But where are they?5 I cannot get as much cloth as will make Cloaths for my Servants, notwithstanding one of them that attends my person and Table, is indecently, & most shamefully naked and my frequent applications to Mr Kemper (which he says he has as often transmitted to you) in the course of the last two Months.6 I can easily under such an instance as this give credence to the complaints of others when they assert that no attention is paid to their wants. The greatest part lately supplied has been by particular States to their own troops.

I shall be glad to see you as soon as possible, and I beg you will bring with you as exact an account as you can make out, of the Quantities of Cloathing in your own Hands and those of your Agents in the different States7 and it is of essential importance that the Prices of Cloaths agreeable to the resolves of Congress of the [ ] be fixed8 that proper Stoppages be made & Officers and Soldiers know what they have to depend upon—at present the public are loosing and every body dissatisfied. I am &c.

P.S. Shoes, Shirts and linen Overalls should now be principally attended to.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW made extensive additions to the draft (see notes 2, 5, and 7).

1The magnitude of the clothing problem is indicated by Adj. Gen. Alexander Scammell’s “General Return of the Continental Army under the Immediate Command of His Excellency George Washington” for 18 April. Scammell noted, “Eleven hundred & eighty three of the R. & F. included in the fit for Duty are unfit for Guards or Detachments, for want of Cloathing & Necessaries” (DNA: RG 93, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775–1783). The return reported 7,489 rank and file present and fit for duty.

2At this point about a line of text was deleted from the draft and a passage that GW had written on another sheet was inserted. That text continues through the words “reside with.”

3On 16 May, GW again wrote Mease, enclosing a duplicate of this letter, to which Mease had not responded, and giving him “a positive and peremptory injunction immediately to repair to Head Quarters.” Mease was still not at camp when he replied on 23 May, claiming that the original letter had “some how miscaried.”

5At this point marks indicate the insertion of text in GW’s writing from another sheet of paper. The inserted text continues through “their wants.”

6No such application from GW to Daniel Kemper for clothing has been identified.

7The text from this point to the complimentary close of the letter was written by GW on another sheet of paper and marked for insertion here.

8On 26 Nov. 1777 Congress resolved to recommend that the states “exert their utmost endeavours to procure” additional clothing for the army to be distributed “at such reasonable prices as shall be assessed by the clothier general or his deputy, and be in just proportion to the wages of the officers and soldiers, charging the surplus of the cost to the United States.” Congress further resolved that “all Cloathing hereafter to be supplied to the officers and soldiers of the Continental Army out of the publick stores . . . shall be charged at the like Prices” (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 , 9:968–69).

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