George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major Henry Lee, Jr., 5 September 1780

From Major Henry Lee, Jr.

Sep. 5th 1780 Hackinsack [N.J.]


I have the honor of your Excellency’s letr of the 3d inst. transcribing a complaint exhibited by the Cheif Justice of this state against three officers of my corps.

the following is the exact state of the matter. When orderd to Monmouth,1 I posted a party of horse in the vicinity of Brunswic for the speedy communication of intelligence. the inhabitants on whom they were quartered, being people whom we had often visited, received us, as usual, with hearty welcome, nor did they wish or require the formality of billets.

On moving to Easton, I encreased this party by leaving with them the horses unfit for service, & directed the officer (Cornet Lewis) to move them to a more abundant country. He accordingly fixed them in & about Souerland meeting house—the people voluntarily agreed with him to keep a given number at their respective farms for a given number of days; this compact superseded the Necessity of waiting on the magistrates. Mr Lewis therefore omitted it. Previous to my return from Easton, Capt. Rudulph of the Cavalry joined with his troop from Monmouth. He according to the usage of the corps, & standing orders, got billet & forage warrants from the magistrate, & acted by virtue of them only. On my junction, the troops with me were also quartered by the authority of the warrant given Capt. Rudulph, which was general & designed for the quartering of the whole. I Saw & read the warrants given Capt. Rudulph, & also saw a letr from the Contractor of the county to Capt. Rudulph (in consequence of his application) promising payment to the people for the supplys furnished.

To the best of my recollection we continued in that country one day only, after my arrival—During that day I visited the quarters of the 2d & 3 troops—I never saw people more pleased, or more affectionate. Not a single complaint was or had been uttered, but the soldiers civility was exalted as surpassing any thing they had met with during the war. This is language which I have the happiness of always receiving from the inhabitants. I was not at the cantonment of the 1st Troop, but received the same report from the com. officer, only in the instance of a Mr Senbrook where Ca[p]t. Rudulph, of the infantry then an invalid, Doctr Irvin & Cornet Lewis quartered. I enquired of the three officers & was convinced from what they said that the origin of the complaint was the putting a distempered horse into the stable contrary to the will of the farmer. My enquiry was made in the presence of Gen. Heard & another respectable inhabitant—They both replied That it was not worth attending to, as Mr Senbrook & wife were notorious among their neighbors for their ill nature, muttering & discontent. The officers quartered on Mr Senbrook but six days, two of them very sick. They were recommendd there by a magistrate Mr Hoglan, who informed them of the character of the house,2 & they compacted with Mr Senbrook for the time which they should stay with him. He agreed & received them. This was the party mentioned in the first of my let. On hearing of the ill nature of Mr Senbrook, on receiving no complaint from him & on understanding the general happiness which had subsisted between the soldiers & the people I did not wait on Mr Senbrook, but moved on my way to the army.

The gentlemen complained off, say that they were treated with much abuse by the gentleman & his wife the two last days, from An apprehension that they would continue to quarter on Them till my return, which they presumed would be longer than the days agreed On—that one of them, to stop a vein of scurillity, into which the farmer got, replied passionately, “that unless he held his tongue he would throw him down his well” this is the only expression of passion which escaped from the three, tho’ the subjects of perpetual abuse from morning to night, for two days, & two of the Three invalids.3

Having given your Excly a particular relation of the matter in question, I beg leave to assure you, that it is my generall rule to conduct every business of my corps, in which the people are concerned by authority from the magistrate—I do not do this when on the lines or on a speedy march thro’ the country. My orderly book & the affectionate treatment we receive from a neighborhood when we return among them are proofs of this assertion—In our variety of movements the ill nature of some, will cause complaints. this is to be expected, & we bear with patience the violence of their spleen. It is my interest as com: officer to introduce such a disposition, because it preserves discipline, & procures better fare for my men. It is my duty, as an obedient officer, & it is my pride as a patriot soldier—My officers participate in the same feelings, & no complainant or advocate for complainants, can assert that my men are deficient in discipline—of course the incidental complaints which may be exhibited are the issue of [P]assion on the side of the owner of property about to part with it, for a piece of paper, or the mistaken Zeal of the soldier. I beg leave to mention what has happened the other day—Forage masters from the army went to Newark & its vicinity, & siezed forage wherever they saw it. The very same day my officer on forage duty was riding about to the magistrates & the contractor, with a letr from me, praying their aid—The Magistrates gave their warrant, the contractor in writing promised to notice our certificates—The officer went about from farm to farm with both instruments of writing in his hands—the farmer would give nothing, & he returned to me without a sheaf of oats—the forage mastrs who acted from themselves, passed my quarters with waggons loaded—I found from my officers report, nothing could be done but by force; my horses were starving notwithstanding which, I preferred sending to Trenton for corn, & wait its arrival which came but last night, rather than force the will of the people. This sir, is recent, & this is the spirit of every part of my conduct with the inhabitants.4 I have the honor to be sr with the most perfect respect your Excellencys most ob. svt

Henry Lee Junr ⟨illegible


1See GW to Lee, 24 July, and n.2 to that document.

2Christopher Hoagland (1727–1805) served as justice of the peace in Somerset County, N.J., beginning in 1776 and joined the New Jersey legislature in 1778.

3GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote at this point: “so far transmitted Chief Justice Brearly 6th Sepr” (see GW to Lee, 3 Sept., n.1).

4For previous complaints about Lee’s force, see GW to Lee, 20 Aug., and Daniel Marsh to GW, 26 August.

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