George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Edward Hand, 26 April 1779

From Brigadier General Edward Hand

Estherton [Pa.] 26th April 1779


When I wrote your Excy on the 23d from this place I informed you I entended visiting Col. Blain D.C.G. of Purchases to inform myself of the prospects he has of procuring the provision Ordered by your Excy for the Susquehannah—I at the same [time] hoped to see Col. Heartly, but was disappointed, he being at Baltimore—you have Col. Blains report inclosed—and he has given me the strongest Assurances that he will do what he there promises, & perhaps more, Col. Blains punctuallity gives me reason to hope the best from him—he was just returned from Virginia where he had been to make provision for the Ohio.1

Govr Reeds misinterpretation of a Paragraph in a Letter of mine, or his unacquaintance with your Excys future prospects on the susquehannah has alarmed him much, but I hope that the rect of my second Letter, with the Answer he will receive from your Excy will quiet his Fears2 I have conversed with Col. patterson & seen your Excys Letter of the 11th or 12th Int to him3—when at Carlisle I made it my Business to talk with Jno. Buckannon the person he Chiefly depended on for gaining Intelligence, the Man bears a good Character—but knows nothing of the Country farther back then French Catherines Town discribed by Lt Jenkins4—nor is he acquainted with the Six Nation Language—from these Circumstances and the little Prospect there is of his or any other person being permitted to travel in that Country, I think it best to stopt his proceeding. I am sir with much respect Your Excellencys most Obedt Hhble Servant

Edwd Hand

N.B. Coppies of my Correspondence with Governor Reed are enclosed.5


1The enclosed letter from Ephraim Blaine to Hand, written on 24 April at Carlisle, Pa., reads: “An Estimate of Provisions Wanting for Weyoming and the Susquehanah for the use of the troops upon that Station Vizt[:] 4 Months flour for 3,000 Men reduced to barrels will make 1920 blls[;] Ditto for 2 Months salt Beef & Pork ditto 850 blls[;] Ditto for 2 Do fresh beef do 600 Cattle[;] Ditto allowance of Whisky 4500 Galls[;] about 80 or 100 bushl salt. Purchased and will be delivered at Kelso’s Ferry and Middleton by the 15th of May next. Flour 1200 blls[;] Bread 250 or 300 Do[;] Beef 700 blls[;] Pork 250 Do[;] 400 Head of Cattle 150 fit for Present use—1200 Gallons of Whisky—400 Gallons of Spirrits—100 bushl of salt.... the above Mentioned Quantity of Provisions and Liquor will be Deliverd at Kelso ferry from next week & hope by the fifteenth the whole Quantity will be on the Spot, was assured of a Larger Quantity of Flour if in my Power to procure it” (DLC:GW).

Blaine had been out of touch with headquarters for some time; a letter of this date from Royal Flint to an unidentified recipient, possibly GW’s assistant secretary James McHenry, reads: “I had accounts yesterday from Phila. that Colo. Blaine was then about the Susquehannah—As he went there for the express purpose of getting ready the magazines of provisions ordered by his Excellency, it may be presumed, he will not fail. His silence respecting the affair is a strong circumstance that he will accomplish his orders; for if he neither effects that business nor gives seasonable notice of his failure he certainly must be answerable for consequences. Advice will come from him to camp by Express the middle of this week” (DLC:GW).

2See note 5.

4For John Jenkins’s description of the area around Catharine’s Town, N.Y., see Questions and Answers Regarding a Proposed Expedition Against the Six Nations, March–April 1779.

5Hand enclosed an extract of his letter to Joseph Reed of 16 April (DLC:GW), which he wrote from Lancaster, Pa.; the complete letter, which Reed enclosed in his letter to GW of 25 April, reads: “I think it my duty to inform your Excellency that in consequence of His Excellency General Washingtons orders, I am thus far on my way to Wyoming on the susquehanna to take the command of the troops on that river. As their number is but small and the principal object of my command lies above Wyoming I am apprehensive that I cant pay much attention to Sunbury or the contigious settlements, should the enemy attempt any thing in that neighbourhood. Your Excellency will therefore be pleased to take such measures for their particular security as you think necessary.

“It is needless I hope to mention how happy I should deem myself could I render any services to the distressed inhabitants of that part of the state, and that I shall be ever ready to promote any operations your Excellency may think proper to direct in their favour as far as the nature of my instructions will admit of. if your Excellency will please to honor me by any commands direct them to be forwarded by Colonel George Ross D.Q.M.G. Lancaster” (DLC:GW).

Hand enclosed a copy of Reed’s letter to him of 21 April, written from Philadelphia: “Your favour of the 16th Inst. I duly received and Observe with some Concern that you apprehend the Station you are directed to take, will not afford Protection to the distressed Frontiers of Pennselvania. After the several Conferences this Winter betwene Congress and the Assembly, the Defence of the Frontiers was refered to the Commander in Cheif and the Council of the States, upon which I went to Camp to confer with his Excellency on the subject who communicated to me his Ideas very fully upon it; one material and as I understood a determined part of the System was that the Troops under your Command should be withdrawn from the State of New York & take post at Wyoming and such parts of Northumberland County as would give all the Protection to the Frontiers which stationary Forces can do. This Idea has been preserved in all the Letters which I have received from his Excellency since that time. I cannot help therefore beleiving that there must be some misapprehension which ought to be imediately removed, and I am the more confirmed in this Opinion as it was concluded betwene us that no Militia should be sent to Northumberland, as they would not be necessary and would consume the provisions, Hence when Militia was Ordered to Bedford and Westmoreland none were sent to Northumberland. Depending also upon the Troops under you, covering that Country effectually I wrote to the Inhabitants there, encouraging them to remain on their Farms, and assuring them that they would receive ample Protection. It will therefore be a distressing circumstance to them, and mortifying to me, if after all these assurances, they are left to take care of themselves.

“This certainly was not General Washingtons Intention when I saw him, and when I heard from him last Week—& as a few men posted at Muncy in conjunction with those at Wyoming will give the people great Encouragement I hope that will be done untill more explicit Orders are obtained from the Commander in Chief.

“It seems pecularly hard upon pennselvania that her Troops should be drawn both ways to defend Virginia and New York while the wide Interval has only had the weak Regt of Heartly for its protection, and few of them tolerable Woodsmen. Col. Butler is now here, and I am not certain that the Regt late Hartlys has any Field Officer—assoon therefore as your private Affairs will admit we hope you will return to the Troops. The distressing Accounts we constantly have and the Complaints made by the Inhabitants of the Frontiers of being neglected by us will undoubtedly prove a powerful Incentive to you & Account for my anxiety on this Occasion.

“I shall imediately write to Genl Washington on the Subject and shall be glad to hear further from you—For if you cannot pay much attention to Sunbury and the Contiguis Settlements; we have been led into a most lamentable Error which may prove fatal to the Inhabitants of that Country, who have been assured that such Attention would be paid them & have in consequence remained there.... P.S. In your next I shall be glad to know what Number of Men you have & where they are posted that our Measures may be taken accordingly, So far as the Communication may be consistant with your Instructions & Propriety” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of Hand’s reply to Reed, dated 26 April at Esthertown, Pa., reads: “I have been honoured by the rect of your Excys Letter of the 21st Inst. your Excellency has undoubtly Misapprehended my Letter of the 16th when I told you I could not pay a particular Attention to Sunsbury or the Settlements in its Vicinity. I apprehended that the remoteness of Wyoming, and Fort Jenkins might cause an uneasiness in the Minds of the Inhabitants nearer Sunbury—At that time I did not know of a post being established at Muncy, & even that is so remote that I dread an uneasiness in the Breasts of the people from an Idea of Neglect, which your Excy can best remove, by holding out the prospect of their remaining undisturbed whilst the beforementioned posts are Occupied (as there is certainly no intention of removing them at present) or by Ordering Militia for their better Security if you deem it Necessary—the Troops which Marched from Delaware lately amt to 332 Rank & File fit for Duty, I do not yet know the number on the Susquehannah before their arrival.

“The post at Wyoming is now strong & it is intended it should continue so, the strength of Muncy or Fort Jenkins I dont know, the latter being immediately covered by Wyoming is I believe intended merely to keep open the Water communication, should a post be Established higher than Wyoming I think it will add to the security of the Frontiers of Pennsylvania and particularly Northampton County, which is at present as much exposed as any other part of the State—There can be no doubt but the Commander in Chief wishes to afford every degree of Security to the Frontiers consistant with his Ultimate views, which I make no doubt your Excy is acquainted with—and I can assure you I am influenced by the same principles—if any Change be made in the present disposition of the Troops under my Command in conformity with my present or future Instructions, shall take the liberty of communicating it to your Excellency—also any other Occurences worth your Attention.... P.S. I am glad your Excy has consulted the Comr in Chief as thereby every doubt or Misaprehension will be removed” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries