George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Reed, 14 April 1779

From Joseph Reed

Philadelphia April 14th 1779

Dear Sir

Your Favour of the 8th was delivered me on Sunday, & I beg you to accept my Thanks for the Attention to our distressed Inhabitants on the Frontiers. The Support & Comfort they will derive from it, will have the most happy Effects & confirm the Hopes I have given them that nothing will be omitted for their Safety consistent with the necessary Caution, & Regard to be had to the Defince of the Sea Coast. On Saturday we had an Account of 9 Persons killed at Chilisquaqu in Northumberland,1 & there were just Reasons to apprehend an Evacuation of the County, would have ensued, but General Hand’s Movement to Wioming, from whence I hope he will be able to spare a few Men to take Post at Fort Munsey, will I am told effectually cover that County.2 I have endeavoured to promote a Spirit of Union & good Correspondence between our Poeple & the Inhabitants of Wioming under Connecticut, if your Excelly would in your Letters to Col. Butler inculcate the same Idea I think the Effects would be beneficial to both.3 The Lieutenant of Northumberland4 complains that Col. Butler gives him no Information of the Movements of the Enemy. I inclose the last Acct received from Fort Pitt5 to which I have only to add that Gen. McIntosh taking Advantage as I suppose of the Absence of the Govr of Detroit, & the Indians on some Expedition agst Kentucke has gone with 600 Men to throw some Provisions into Fort Laurens which was only supplied to the first of April.6 I have directed regular Returns to be made of the Progress of the recruiting of the Rangers. The Officers of 4 Companies are commissioned supplied with Money & recruiting Orders some Time ago—The 5th Company to be raised in Lancaster & we wait for the Recommendation of the proper Officers. In the mean Time they have raised 3 Companies in Northumberland of 35 Men each for 2 Months from which I am informed the 9 Months Company will soon be compleated. The Men prefering the Terms of the latter.7

As to Capt. Patterson I have not the least personal Knowledge of him: but from the Accounts I have received of his Proceedings there seems little Probability of his executing the Business of an Intelligencer, if Secrecy & Deception are of any Use, as he gave out thro’ the Country that he had an Appointment under you, gave Orders for laying up Magazines, Boards, Plank &c. appointed Deputies or Under Officers, & acted as we are informed quite in the Style of a Quarter Master which was the general Idea held of him from his Transactions. Perhaps the Poeple may be better reconciled if he acts with Prudence, but it has ever been the Misfortune of Pennsylvania to have Men of disaffected Characters brought into Employ by Whigs, who indulging their private Opinions & Friendships do not reflect upon the Consiquences of disgusting the Poeple who judge on these Occasions more truly & impartially. Patterson & Col. Coxe have had great Transactions in Land together, & now have, particularly on Susquehannah and as the former is very obnoxious to the Wioming Poeple they suspect he is brought into Office for some unfriendly Purposes to them. He is General Potters Relation8 but it seems they are not on Terms of political Friendship. there is also a Piece of Family History too long & unimportant to be mentioned. I beg Leave to suggest the Propriety of keeping him as much as possible to the real Purposes of his Appointment in which he would have been useful if he had acted with more Discretion. When we consider how many of this State in publick Employ have joined the Enemy, & others have shrunk from Danger in critical Moments, & how few of the Appointments are in the Hands of those whose Fidelity is proved your Excelly will not be surprized at the Jealousy of the Poeple, & especially when we find from Experience how difficult it is to remove a Man from Office let him be ever so much suspected or detested by the Poeple. We are then told he must be convicted of some Offence have a regular Tryal &c. (in which Wrong is Wright) but in advancing Men to Office the Consideration of political Character as well as moral seems deserving of Notice. In the recruiting Instructions given to the Rangers9 we have expressly told the Officers they will be deemed accountable for the Moneys advanced to Deserters of any kind, or expended on them. In recruiting for the Continental Ser[v]i[c]e you may depend upon every Precaution as your Excelly must remember, I ever opposed & disliked the Practice. The heavy Arrearages due by many Officers on the recruiting Account will require some additional Regulations & Caution in future. I am told that in New England recruiting Money is not put into the Hands of any Officer without a sponsible Freeholder as a Security for his faithfully accounting. As the recruiting Service is profitable to the Officer the Caution does not appear unreasonable, however I have sometimes found the military Gentlemen so tender, that I would not propose it without first asking your Advice.

I am clearly of Opinion that Congress should this Spring have fixed their Ultimatum of Bounty10—by increasing the Allowance of Land & that all Inlistments should be during the War. We have ever been of this Sentiment in this State & therefore gave the high Bounty last Year out of the State Treasury.11 other States went upon the short Periods, now they have come up to the same or rather exceeded us, with this Difference also that this high Bounty as to them is paid by the United States while we have borne the whole partially which in my Opinion is highly unreasonable. Had any State done as Pennsylvania did the Army would have been much stronger & better & there can be no Justice or Reason that we should pay our Proportion for their mistaken Policy. We have lately had a Return of Cloathing issued to Officers last Year commencing 1 Jany 1778 & ending 1st Jany 1779. & we find there has been a Suit of Cloaths issued to every Officer of the Line supposing us to have 10 Regiments upon the new Arrangement & 31 Suits over besides Shoes, Shirts &c. to a very large Amount. I do not mean that every Officer has had a Suit but that so many have been issued & I propose to send the Return to Camp that it may be seen whether the Cloathiers have made a just Return & if so that it may be seen what Officers have gone beyond their just Quota. I observe Staff Officrs & even Waggn Masters have by some Means or another got Cloathing out of the Store. There have I believe been great Abuses.

Officers who have been Prisoners are continually sending in their Claims—they rely much upon your Justice to them & upon the Resolve of Congress of the 24th November in their Favour.12 I hope the Gentlemen in Camp will evince a proper Genunity of Sentiment upon this Occasion & not exclude brave Men who have from their Services & Sufferings every Claim upon the Gratitude & Attention of their Country.

I have now but one Point more to trouble your Excelly upon & it is of considerable Importance. A Deputation has lately come from Massachu[s]etts Bay representing their great Necessity for Breads. We have a Surplus in this State beyond our own Wants, but it is very questionable whether we can afford a Supply without endanging the Subsistence of the Army. We had none but Deputies of the most inferiour Rank to consult except Col. Stewart Commissy of Issues. If it is not too troublesome we should be obliged to your Excelly to call upon the Commissaries & then favour us with your Opinion by which we shall direct our Answer.13

I wish I could tell you that any Steps were taken to restore our sinking Money—but alas Mr Deanes Affairs take up all the Time of Congress or at least so great a Part of it, as to leave little Hope of any Thing on that Score at present. There is at present a Scheme on the Tapis to send over quite a new Sett of Commissioners & recall th old. Some Gentlemen in Congress who it is said are desirous of going abroad themselves press this earnestly.14

The Board of War inform me they transmitted your Letter to Govr Johnson15 with their Request that he would relieve Col. Rawlins but have received no Answer. I am with the most unfeigned Respect & Regard Dear Sir, Your Obliged & Affecte Hbble Servt

Jos: Reed


1Saturday was 10 April. For the murder of a family of settlers near Chillisquaque Creek, see William Patterson to GW, 3 April, n.9.

2GW ordered Brig. Gen. Edward Hand’s troops to march to the Wyoming Valley in a letter of 1 April, and Hand replied on 5 April from Minisink, N.Y., that he would march that day. For a description of the perilous state of the works and garrison at Fort Muncy (also known as Fort Wallis), Pa., see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 7:323–24.

3The Wyoming Valley was home to settlers from both Pennsylvania and Connecticut, thanks to conflicting royal land grants dating back to the seventeenth century. Rival land claims between the two groups sometimes resulted in violence, thus adding to Reed’s headaches in maintaining peace in this vulnerable area. For more information, see William Henry Egle, Documents Relating to the Connecticut Settlement in the Wyoming Valley (Harrisburg, Pa., 1893).

4The lieutenant of Northumberland County was Samuel Hunter (see Reed to GW, 1 May, n.3).

5The enclosed account has not been identified.

6For Brig. Gen. Lachlan McIntosh’s relief expedition from Fort Pitt to Fort Laurens, see his letters to GW of 19 March and 3 April. Henry Hamilton, the British lieutenant governor of Detroit, had been captured by George Rogers Clark at Vincennes in Illinois Country on 25 Feb.; see John Parke Custis to GW, 20 Nov. 1778, n.5.

7For the recruiting of the five independent companies of rangers, see Reed to GW, 2–c.5 April, n.5.

8Brig. Gen. James Potter was married to William Patterson’s sister; see Nathanael Greene to GW, 9 April, n.2.

9Reed enclosed these instructions in a letter of 7 April to the recruiting officers; see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 7:300.

10Congress had on 23 Jan. passed a resolution authorizing GW to grant bounties of up to $200 to new recruits who enlisted for the duration of the war (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 , 13:108; see also GW to John Jay, 27 Jan., n.1). For Congress’s subsequent revision of this resolution on 9 March, shifting much of the responsibility from GW to the states, see John Jay to GW, 12 March, n.3, and 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 , 13:298–99.

11For the Pennsylvania general assembly’s resolutions on recruiting of 2 Jan. 1778, see the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council to GW, 15 Jan. 1778, n.1.

12Congress had resolved on 24 Nov. 1778 that “all officers who have been in the service, and, having been prisoners with the enemy, now are or hereafter may be exchanged or otherwise released, shall, if appointed by the authority of the State, be entitled, in case of vacancy, to enter into the service of their respective State in such rank as they would have had if they had never been captured; provided always, that every such officer do, within one month after his exchange or release, signify to the authority of the State to which he belongs, his release and his desire to enter again into the military service[;] That every officer so released, and giving notice as aforesaid, shall, until entry into actual service, be allowed half pay of the commission to which by the foregoing resolve he stands entitled; provided always, that, in case of his receiving any civil office of profit, such half pay shall thenceforth cease.” (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 , 12:1157).

13The deputation from Massachusetts had appeared before the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council on 29 March, but Pennsylvania and other states had, at the recommendation of Congress, passed embargoes prohibiting the exportation of flour except that for the fleets and armies of France. That restriction was lifted on 14 April, when Congress passed a resolution permitting states operating under the embargo to make an exception in this case in order to supply flour to Massachusetts (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 , 13:449; see also Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:682, 728–29; Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 7:231, 315, 324). For GW’s concerns about the impact that this would have on his army, and the measures under way to obtain more flour, see GW to Reed, 19 April, and Royal Flint to GW, 20 April.

14For information on the bitter disputes involving Silas Deane and other American commissioners in Europe, see George Mercer to GW, 28 Nov. 1778, n.2; Thomas Paine to GW, 31 Jan. 1779, n.1; Mercer to GW, 8 March, n.3; William Duer to GW, 16 March, n.3; and Reed to GW, 1 May, n.4.

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