George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Azariah Dunham, 6 April 1780

From Azariah Dunham

Morris Town April 6th 1780


In obedience to your request of Yesterday I send you inclosed a return of what beef and pork is purchased in this state for the army as near as my returns will admit.1 also send the Acct of grain on hand about the 20th ult.2 what part has since been sent on to camp and to the lines and small post am not yet informd.

I have wrote to every person who has grain, to send it all on to camp without delay. but they all complain of great dificulty in gitting teams to do the service all the pork and a great part of the grain was purchased previous to this states appointing contractors and as the continental Treasury have now of a long time delayed payment, they who purchased have no money in hand either to pay the purchase or Transportation and on that Acct many who sold say they will not deliver it. some have taken it away from the mills where it was stored for the public.3 I send your Excellency some letters lately recevd which Justifies this representation.4 such conduct is truly allarming and may prove fatal to the army. I have used every argument in my power to diswade them from such practices. but when I assure your Excellency that I am about one Million of pounds in advance and in debt for purchases made in the eastern division of this state previous to my appointment to superintend the purchases made by the contractors and the rapid depriceation of money considered, it pleads something in their favour5—I have sent and wrote to all the contractors to purchase and forward all sorts of provision and forrage and will chearfully attend to every part of my duty.6 I am your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servent

Az. Dunham Suprdt of Purchs.


1For a copy of the enclosed return, which Dunham prepared in response to a letter from GW of 5 April, see GW to the Board of War, 7 April, n.2. Dunham later wrote GW’s aide-de-camp Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton from Morristown on this date: “There is eleven thousand & thirty four pounds of Beef in Morris Six Miles from this place, omitted in the return delivered this morning and I have since heard there is some considerable quantity Barreld pork in Burlington county of which have no exact return” (DLC:GW).

2For a copy of this enclosure, which estimated grain available on 17 March, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 17 March, n.2.

3Dunham had elaborated on his predicament when he wrote Ephraim Blaine, commissary general of purchases, from Morristown on 1 April: “Inclosed you have an Acco[un]t of the Provisions in the Magazine here: The Quantity is small, & the Roads continue bad, which added to the Want of Cash to pay for transportation of what was purchased under the former Appointment, renders it almost impossible to get the necessary Supplies forward. The Consequences that I fear’d from the Delay of Payment, has in part come to pass—two hundred Bushels Grain is taken from Mr Schenck’s Mill; and the Person who purchas’d it writes me that he fears the whole will go unless speedily paid for. I shall endeavor to prevent such Practices by every Means in my power, as they must prove fatal to the Army; but do assure you, I have frequently such threats from every Quarter where we have Stores. I must again repeat my Entreaties, that you would use every Argument with Congress, to induce them to redress so great a Grievance in this Part of the State, that have on all Occasions exerted themselves to serve the Army. Reminding them of this also, that at this Season the People want their Money either to pay Debts or stock their Farms without which the Army cannot long subsist.

“I dare say you pity my Situation from what little you see of it when here” (DLC: Ephraim Blaine Papers; see also Moore Furman to Charles Pettit, 29 March, and Furman to Thomas Durie, 4 April, in Furman Letters description begins Historical Research Committee of the New Jersey Society of the Colonial Dames of America, ed. The Letters of Moore Furman: Deputy Quarter-Master General of New Jersey in the Revolution. New York, 1912. description ends , 59–61).

4The enclosed letters have not been identified.

5Dunham specified his debt in a letter to Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, written at Philadelphia on 28 April: “Soon after the Troops were quartered in Jersey, I was called on by his Excellency The Commander in Chief together with the late Commissary General of Purchases [Jeremiah Wadsworth] and his Deputy in a particular manner to exert myself in procuring provision for the Army. The large and heavy debt I had at that time incurred on public Account gave me but little hopes of executing these Orders with any degree of success without being enabled to make prompt payment: but duty and inclination together with the necessity of the Case compelled a trial; and I am persuaded that nothing short of the authenticated Accounts which the People daily received of the distressed and alarming situation of the Army induced them to part with their property on Credit—But anxious to releive the Army’s wants, they intrusted me and the people employed by me with provision to a very considerable Amount: my part of which I have not yet been enabled to pay for—And I am at this time indebted to the People of the State of Jersey upwards of Nine hundred & sixty nine thousand Pounds as Account rendered Col. Blaine.

“Having made applications for Money in the usual mode without success it becomes my duty to the Public and to my Creditors to lay the same before Congress and to request them to enable me to discharge the debts I have incurred on their Account; part of which might be paid in Loan Office Certificates or Bills of Exchange were I possessed of them. …

“In the Execution of my duty in this office I find that unless the public debts are speedily discharged it will be out of the power of the Officers employed by the State to collect or procure the supplies required by Congress” (DNA:PCC, item 78). Congress read Dunham’s letter on the same date and referred it to the Board of Treasury (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 , 16:396). A notation dated 4 May on the docket of Dunham’s letter reads: “N.B. Blaine required to apply for Certificates” (DNA:PCC, item 78).

6While at Morristown on 7 April, GW drafted a reply to Dunham: “I have received Your Letter of the 6th with the Return of the provisions under your direction—and am greatly concerned to find the quantity is so small. I must again from the importance of the subject—entreat your every exertion to have it brought on to Camp as speedily as possible—and that You will use every means in your power to procure & bring on further supplies. The support of the Army requires it in a most essential manner (Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also GW’s circular to the New Jersey magistrates, 15 April).

Dunham’s response to GW, written at Morristown on Sunday, 9 April, suggests that the letter GW actually sent to him was dated 8 April. Dunham’s letter to GW reads: “Previous to your Excellencys request of Yesterday I had sent of[f] an express with an intreaty to every person who had public Stores of which had made a return, to use every exertion in forwarding of them to this post, Also to the Several Contractors to purchase and forward every Article of provission & forrage in their district without delay, And wrote to the Quarter Master General informing him where the Stores were which was purchased under the late Commissary General desireing his Assistance in conveying them to Camp and lest there should be a failure I sent of[f] another Yesterday to effect the same purposes.

“Received advice by a letter from Brunswic[k] that on Wensday and fryday last one hundred and fifty barrils of meal had been fetched from there for use of the Troops on the lines in the neighbourhood of Westfield” (ALS, DLC:GW). Dunham’s letter to Q.M. Gen. Nathanael Greene has not been identified.

Index Entries