George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Benedict Arnold, 16 August 1780

From Major General Benedict Arnold

Head Quarters Robinson’s House Augt 16th 1780.

Dear Sir,

Your Excellency’s Favor of the 13th I had the Honor of receiving the last Evening, I have ordered particular Inquiry to be made into the Treatment of the Prisoners and every Abuse to be remedied. No Complaint had ever reached me on the Subject previous to your Excellency’s Letter.

Inclosed is a Return of Provisions on Hand, the daily Issues and a Copy of a Letter from Mr Stevens D. Commy General of Issues, respecting the Supplies which were expected for this Garrison, which he is of Opinion will be very deficient;1 I believe little Beef can be expected from this State for some Time. Your Excellency is undoubtedly better informed by the Commissary General what Supplies are ordered for this Garrison and of Course what Orders will be necessary to give on the Subject; I hope the Supplies will be ample notwithstanding Mr Stevens’s Fears.

Two hundred Men are draughted for the Purpose of cutting Wood; the remainder of the Garrison are employed on the Works, but are much retarded for Want of Waggons. The Engineer has demanded nine with four Horses each. The Quarter Master can furnish only four. He has Horses but says there are neither Waggons or Giers2 for more, in the Department.

A Mr Moody, an Officer in the Enemy’s Service who was taken up on the Lines & confin’d in the Provost at this Post, still remains here; I beg to be advised by Your Excellency, whether he is to be considered & treated as a Prisoner of War, or as a Spy & put in Irons.3

One Burtis also has been confined here some Time, under Sentence of Death; I beg to know Your Excelleny’s Pleasure respecting him.4

Agreeable to Your Excellency’s Letter of the 14th I have directed Colo. Sheldon to furnish Colo. Hays Agent in West Chester with an Escort while in the Execution of his Duty. With Sentiments of the most profound regard & respect, I am Your Excellency’s Most Obedt & Most Hble servt

B. Arnold

P.S. Mr Stevens has this minute called upon me & says he has no Expectation of any Beef for some Days; and as the Quantity of Salt Meat at this Post is so small, that there is a Necessity of reserving the whole, I have directed Colo: Livingston to stop forty Cattle out of the first Drove that shall arrive at Kings Ferry & send them to this Post;5 Which Order I make no Doubt Your Excellency will approve.

Mr Stevens has sent several Expresses to the Purchasers in New England to hurry on the Cattle. He informs me that this is the second Instance of Mr Foots leaving his Post without Permission from the Officer commanding in this Quarter, when the Garrison was streighten’d in Point of Provisions. Of the first, M. Genl Howe is able to give Your Excellency full Information; For which reason I think it will be proper to order him in Arrest on his return.6


ALS, DLC:GW; Df, DLC:GW. GW replied to Arnold on 19 August.

1The enclosed copy of a letter from Nathaniel Stevens to Arnold, dated at Fishkill, N.Y., on 14 Aug., reads: “Appearances indicate the greatest immediate Want of Meat for the Troops at West Point & its Vicinity. Our Dependance for Supplies of Cattle was entirely upon Mr [Ebenezer] Foot at Crumpond. (whose Business it has been to collect from the Purchasers & deliver them to the Issuers occasionally) from whom the Butchers returnd last Evening with Account that he was gone home to Connecticut, that there was no Cattle, nor any Person left by him to give Information about them, I have applied to Colo. Hay Agent for this State but he can give no Encouragement, have also wrote by Express to Mr Barnes at New Fairfield (about 40 miles from this) but don’t expect he will be able to furnish but few. I must confess I am really at a Loss with regard to further Supplies of Meat, unless Cattle are stopped at Kings Ferry, that are consigned to the Main Army.

“I inclose You my weekly return, Also a Copy of a Direction for the receiver of Cattle, which I would thank You to correct & put in Orders” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of a “Return of Provisions & Stores on Hand & the Number of Rations issued daily at West Point & its Vicinity,” dated 13 Aug. and signed by Stevens, listed, among other items, the following quantities of provisions on hand: 60 cattle, 43 barrels of hard bread, 182 barrels of beef, 16 barrels of pork, 1 barrel of shad, 25 barrels of codfish, and 2 barrels of beans. Daily issues were 3,839 gallons of rum and 5,170 rations (DLC:GW).

2Geir is an obsolete form of “gear,” which, in this sense, is “Harness for draught animals” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray et al., eds. The Oxford English Dictionary: Being a Corrected Re-Issue with an Introduction, Supplement, and Bibliography of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. 12 vols. 1933. Reprint. Oxford, England, 1970. description ends ).

3For the capture of Loyalist ensign James Moody, see William Helms to GW, 4 August. For more on his confinement, see William Alexander Livingston to William Livingston, 17 Aug., in Prince, Livingston Papers description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends , 4:37–38.

4William Burtis, Jr., a Loyalist, was confined for spying. He evidently escaped punishment, because in July 1783 he became a lieutenant in a company of the New York City Associated Loyalist Militia.

5The draft of Arnold’s letter to Col. James Livingston, dated 17 Aug., is in DLC:GW.

6Connecticut native Ebenezer Foot (1756–1829) was a “Recvr of Cattl⟨e⟩” operating at various stations on the east side of the Hudson River in New York (Foot to Arnold, 19 Sept., DLC:GW).

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