George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jeremiah Wadsworth, 8 November 1779

From Jeremiah Wadsworth

West Point November 8th 1779


I came here to lay before your Excellency Mr Flints report on his return from Philadelphia, of which the inclosed is a Copy.1 I have examined the Magazines and find we have only four days allowance of Bread and flour, and the want of Water to turn the Mills, prevents our geting the little Wheat we have ground. I have no prospect of supplies in season to prevent our being out of Bread—as we have a quantity of Pease and Roots I beg leave to propose that the troops recive half the usual Allowance of Bread and have Pease & roots, to make up the defficiency. and that those who are so situated that they can not obtain the roots or Pease (if any are so situated) be paid the full price of the flour in Money.2

I hope the necessity for this measure will not be lasting—as my deputy at Philadelphia promises me three thousand Barrels of flour this month, and the first rain will give us a small supply from this State. I have the advise of General Schuyler Genl Green, & Col. Harrison to go directly to the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut and urge them imediately to levy the grain proposed by the late law to be levied when Count DEestang arrives.3 I have hopes of persuadeing them, by laying before them our present wants to have the grain imediately collected—Mr Flint being here the business of my Department will not suffer by my short absense. I have the honor to be Your Excelly most obedient Humble Servant

Jere. Wadsworth

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, CtHi: Jeremiah Wadsworth Papers.

GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison addressed a letter to Wadsworth or his deputy commissary general of purchases, Royal Flint, at Murderer’s Creek, N.Y., on Wednesday, 10 Nov.: “I hope His Excellency will be at Home to day. Our circumstances with respect to provision—as transmitted—on Monday—would alarm him exceedingly—and he will be very anxious to know the instant he arrives, whether they are better now. Pray inform me by the Return of the Express—whom I have sent on purpose, whether you have received any & what farther supplies—and whether you have prospects of any in the course of a day or two” (NN: Emmet Collection). Writing from New Windsor, N.Y., Flint replied to Harrison on the same date: “I have this instant received your favor of this morning. I yesterday ordered two or three vessels up the river to the several landings between this and Albany. These Vessels will bring down all the flour there is in those deposits. but I cannot precisely tell you the quantity. Besides what comes through this channel, small parcels may be expected from the southward. The supplies of bread however will be precarious till the mills can have water to grind. After that I am persuaded we shall have a sufficiency. I will soon give you more information on this subject” (DLC:GW). Flint again wrote Harrison from New Windsor on 15 Nov.: “The sloops, that were sent up the river some days ago for flour, have had such unfavorable winds, that they have not yet returned. As the wind is now fair to bring them down, I expect them at this landing this evening. They will have a freight of flour & vegetables; but I cannot tell you the exact quantity. I find, by the returns made out to day, that the Issuing comisaries have three or four days bread on hand. I am not without hope we shall rub through without experiencing want for any length of time” (DLC:GW).

1The enclosed letter from Flint to Wadsworth, written at New Windsor on 7 Nov., reads: “My not being able to give you a favorable account of the circumstances of your department must not prevent me from acquainting you, with precision, of such points as are certain & interesting. I find that one of the principle causes of our present scarcity of bread, is a failure for some months past, in getting sufficient supplies of Cash. This difficulty has brought us to the brink of want, and has immersed the purchasers in a heavy debt. By this means the price of every Article is enhanced, and it is almost impossible to continue the supplies of the army any longer. My representations on this subject to the proper boards were so full & explicit that they must be convinced of the necessity of remedying so extensive an evil. The Treasury board will avail themselves of every resource to obtain money so as to enable us to put up Magazines of meat in the course of this month & the next. I have however the greatest reason to fear they will not furnish us so amply that we can barrel any considerable quantities of meat this season. And I have not even a hope left that we can procure flour much if Any faster than the consumption of the Army till late in the winter. There is a tolerable plenty of grain in the Country but as it is not yet the usual season for threshing I could not expect great supplies of flour under three or four Months, even if no hindrance arose from a want of Cash. It is with great reluctance the farmers sell their grain for money, on any Terms.

“Upon the whole, it is my opinion that in spite of all obstructions such channels will be opened in the run of this month that regular & sufficient supplies of flour may be afforded the Army. The critical hour has now overtaken us. Our dependance must be for two or three weeks on the purchasers of this State and we must look to the wheat now in the Mills of this neighborhood for present releif. Want of water prevents the mills from grinding at this time. In two or three days after there comes rain the mills may be at work; but till that happens I fear we must submit to a short allowance if not to an actual want of bread” (DLC:GW).

2Wadsworth’s suggestion led to an alteration of rations in the general orders for 13 November.

3See Wadsworth to GW, 29 Oct., and n.6.

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