George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 7 October 1779

To Major General Nathanael Greene

[West Point] Octr 7th 1779

Dear Sir

I have lost—& cannot tell how—an old & favourite penknife & am much destressed for want of one—if you have any in your stores please to send me one—if you have not, be so good as to get one immediately. perhaps Mr Bayley could furnish me. one with two blades I should prefer, where choice can be had. I am Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt

Go: Washington

ALS, on deposit at CSmH. At least five repositories are known to hold facsimile copies of this letter, and numerous other facsimile and non-contemporary copies are known to exist.

1On 16 Nov., GW again sought the services of “Mr Bayley.” On that date, he wrote to Lt. Col. Udny Hay: “Mem[orandu]m[.] The white Scabbord & the blade in it, is to be put to the Steel hilted sword. with Steel M⟨oun⟩ting done in the neatest manner—The shank which goes through the hilt to be reddened with Sealing wax to give lustre of that cast to the Steel.

“The blade & Scabbord to the Steel hilted Sword to be shifted to the other—& the mounting on the white scabbord, also made to fix thereon.

“Colo. Hay will be so obligin⟨g⟩ as to induce mr Bayley to do this small job as soon as possible” (ALS, NNMM).

John Bailey (c.1736–1815), of New York, N.Y., emigrated to America about 1755 after serving an apprenticeship as a cutler in Sheffield, England. By 1771 he owned his own cutlery shop in the city. When New York fell under threat of British occupation in 1776, Bailey moved his family to his farm at Fishkill, New York. During the war, he conducted a substantial metalworking business in Fredericksburg (now Patterson), N.Y., and in Fishkill. In April 1790, Bailey reminded GW that, during the war, he “was often favored with your commands” (Bailey to GW, 17 April 1790, in Papers, Presidential Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series. 17 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1987–. description ends 5:334–37). Bailey’s name is engraved on the scabbard of the sword that GW’s nephew Samuel Washington inherited from GW (see Papers, Retirement Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series. 4 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1998–99. description ends 4:487, 507). Bailey’s brother William served as an officer in the Loyalist Royal American Regiment. In 1784 Bailey sold his farm and returned to New York City, where he operated an extensive metalworking business throughout the 1790s.

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