George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Reed, 14 July 1779

From Joseph Reed

In Council Philadelphia July 14th 1779


Your Excellencys favour of the fifth instant was duly received,1 and tho it was and is the universal opinion that the number of Men under General Sullivan is greater than can be fed when he proceeds a little farther on the expedition yet we gave early and preremptory orders to the companies of rangers to join as soon as they were completed to any tolerable number, we also directed the militia of the adjoining counties to give all possible aid, as we were resolved that should the expedition fail of success no imputation should justly fall upon the state of Pennsylvania.2

Our prospects of raising these men were very flattering, the success in recruiting for a little time having equalled or rather exceeded our expectations, but the Quarter Masters department having occasion for a number of batteaumen and offering forty five pounds per month, and a ration and a half per day were terms so superior to what we had to offer that the service has languished ever since and it is very doubtful whether they will ever be completed. It is a general opinion that the boat men might have been procured upon more favourable terms, but as it was a necessary service and well meant we can only wish better information had been had.3 Every state and country is limitted in its powers and if its resources are drawn off in one service they cannot be had in another. Five hundred are engaged in this boat service all of this state besides which the number of deputies assistants and helpers amount to a great number—we would not infer from this that they are unnecessary, but to account for the deficiencies of these companies which otherwise would have been very complete.

We beg leave to refer your Excellency to the enclosed letter which will shew that no orders have been wanting on our part and that there is every disposition in the Officers under us to execute as far as they can.4

It is much to be wished that instead of troubling your Excellency with this circuitous mode of application, General Sullivan would address himself directly to us, we have assured him that we will endeavour to give him every aid and assistance in our power, and when it cannot be done we shall at least be able to give him sufficient reasons.5 We have not had a line from him since he left Easton6 and tho we knew from other advices that these companies had not joined we had not an information on the subject from the General himself.

We are very sensible sir, that this expedition has received all possible aid from you, it has also been fostered and cherished by this state, we have drawn off our Waggons at four pounds ten shillings per day which will not pay the driver and shoe the horses.7 We have stopp’d a great number of ploughs. The encouragment of one hundred dollars by Congress was so small that the state added shoes, shirts leggins blankets and arms amounting to treble the sum.8 Our order and measures since would shew your Excellency our anxiety on this subject in so striking a view as to exclude every supposition that any thing is omitted in our power to procure the desired success. But we cannot change the course of things and order of providence to advance General Sullivans ⟨Vie⟩ws be they ever so salutary—and we hope his r⟨eco⟩llection of past periods wherein he has seen you rise superior to disappointments and deficiencies far more important, will strengthen his mind to obviate those which may occur to him. With perfect esteem and respect I have the honor to be Your Excellencys most obedient and very humble servant

Jos: Reed President

LS, DLC:GW. Mutilated portions of the manuscript have been supplied in angle brackets from the printed version of this letter found in Pa. Archives, description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends 1st ser., 7:555-56. The printed letter is inaccurately dated 11 July.

1See GW to the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, 5 July.

2See the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council to GW, 8 May, and GW to the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, 20 May; see also GW to John Sullivan, 5 July.

3For the need to offer high compensation to secure bateau men, see Nathanael Greene to GW, 1 March, and n.1 to that document; see also Morgan Lewis to Greene, 12 Feb., in Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 3:241-43.

4The enclosure was a letter from Col. Samuel Hunter, Northumberland County, Pa., militia and county lieutenant, to Reed, written at Fort Augusta on 26 June: “Your favour of the second instant I received by Mr [Robert] Martin and I am sorry to acquaint you it was not in my power to send any of the ranging company to assist in guarding the stores up here from Estherton, as what few men Captain Kemplin had under his command was stationed at Rosleys mills on Chillisquaque and as for the militia they could not be called upon at that time as the county was quite drained of men by the boat service, and the few spirited men that remained had charge enough to guard the women and children at the different little posts they were Assembled at, until such time as part of the army marches for Wyoming and then I hope there will be no danger.

“I wrote to General Hand that I had orders from your Excellency in giving all the aid and assistance possible by the Militia of this county in forwarding the stores to Wyoming and giving him several reasons for not complying with your instructions desired he might acquaint Major General Sullivan how this country was distressed, and any thing in our power for the good of the service he might rely upon.

“All the Militia I could collect exclusive of what was at fort freeland and General Potters was about thirty which I ordered to stay at Sunbury to Guard the stores there until the Continental troops returned from Wyoming. . . . N:B: I received a letter from Major General Sullivan inclosing an extract of your letter dated the third instant to order up the ranging company raised for the defence of this county to Wyoming as he finds his numbers rather short of what he expected. Colonel Hubleys regiment marches immediately which leaves fort Muncy and fort Jenkins vacant at this critical time when its out of my power to man them the time of harvest with the Militia of this county” (DLC:GW; see also Pa. Archives, description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends 1st ser., 7:455, 546-47, and John Sullivan to GW, 12 June, n.4).

5Reed probably is referring to his letter to Maj. Gen. John Sullivan of 3 June that is partially transcribed at Sullivan to GW, 12 June, n.4; see also Pa. Archives, description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends 1st ser., 7:457-58.

6For Sullivan’s departure from Easton, Pa., on 18 June, see his letters to GW of 12 June, and n.2 to that document, and 25 June, n.1.

7For the Pennsylvania council’s efforts to provide Sullivan with wagons, 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., 7:427-30.

8For incentives to raise and supply ranger companies for service on the frontier, see 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 13:252; Reed to GW, 2-c.5 April, and n.5 to that document; and GW to Reed, 19 April; see also the documents listed in n.2 above.

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