George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Clement Biddle, 11 July 1780

From Clement Biddle

Camp Perackness July 11. 1780


The sufferings of our horses were realy alarming and I delay’d applying to your Excellency for a warrant to impress Grass, hay & pasturage until I found that they could not be supported by the Justices or Contractors in the way pointed out by the laws, and that the horses must perish or the inclosures of the Farmers be broke into without Authority or regulation—these Circumstances induced me to lay the Case before your Excellency1 & I have taken the Liberty to draw the form of a Warrant which is inclosed—I have left the distance to which the same is to extend blank for you to fill up if you approve the form, also the time for which it should continue in force.2

I shall use my utmost Endeavours to save the well effected as much as in my power & shall make use of the modes pointed out by Law to Obtain the supplies when they can be had in that way, for which purpose I have two Justices attending who see the Necessity of impressing. I have the honour to be with great respect Your Excellencys mo: Obedt Servt

Clement Biddle C.G.F.

I am of Opinion that within five Miles of the Encampments would be as far as the warrant should extend, at least for the present.


1See Biddle’s first letter to GW of this date and the source note to that document.

2Biddle enclosed an impress warrant of this date for GW’s signature. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote Biddle on this date enclosing the signed warrant and noting that GW had restricted the term to “ten days because there is the greatest proba[bi]lity of moving from this Ground” (PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence). The warrant, which is in Biddle’s writing but signed by GW, reads: “To Clement Biddle Esquire, Commissary General of Forage.

“From the representation that you have made to me, that the horses of the Army cannot be supported by the modes pointed out by Law and that it will be necessary to impress hay, Grass and pasturage in the vicinity of the encampments of the Armies, I am induced from the necessity of the Case to authorise you to impress hay, Grass and Pasturage for the horses attach’d to the Army, when the same can not be procured in the modes pointed out by the Laws of the States in which the Army may serve and You are hereby authorised in such Cases to impress by yourself, Deputies, Assistants and Forage Masters, so much hay, Grass & pasturage as may be necessary for the support of the horses attach’d to the Army, provided that the same be taken within five Miles of an Encampment of the Army and that you use your utmost endeavours to prevent waste or unnecessary Damage to the Inhabitants and that Certificates be given by you or the proper Officers under you for the Value of such Forage so taken by you or them.

“This warrant to continue in force for ten days from the date hereof & no longer. Given under my hand at head Quarters Perackness this Eleventh Day of July 1780.” The words in italics indicate where Biddle left blank spaces. GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison also signed the document, attesting that the warrant was issued “By His Excellencys Command” (DS, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence).

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