George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Udny Hay, 12 November 1780

From Lieutenant Colonel Udny Hay

Fish Kill [N.Y.] 12th Novr 1780


The State of our provisions to the northward during our late alarms there detaind me much longer in that Quarter than I expected,1 I now however think I may venture to offer in to your Excellency, except in the article of beef, for which we must depend on other States, there is every probability they will during the course of the winter be tolerably supplyd; these alarms having in many instances prevented the farmer from threshing, added to the total want of Money and partial want of water at the Mills, has been the means from which arise the great scarcity of flour at West Point and its dependency’s, of which I am informd your Excellency has been acquainted,2 I flatter myself however we shall be able to grant a better supply in future, and throw in a considerable quantity before the Navigation shutts up, at least every possible exertion shall be made for that purpose.3

I am extremely sorry at being oblidged to request your Excellency’s attention even for a moment to a business that has in it the appearance of private, but the situation of Major Hale the bearer of this is so extremely distressing, and peculiar in its circumstances that I hope for forgiveness for the trouble I now give you, especially as his misfortunes arose from perhaps a too rigid impartiality in the execution of a public though not official duty enjoind on me at a very critical moment.

In the month of June last I was desired by General Howe then commanding this Department to procure either by seizure or otherwise a quantity of rum for the use of the Garrison at West Point, which he at that time every moment expected to be attacked,4 amongst others I seized from Major Hale six hundred and fifty four Gallons of West India, and one thousand and forty nine Gallons of New England rum, and agreeable to orders promised him payment on or before the first day of October, at that time not doubting but I should be able to comply with my promise, in doing which I have been altogether disappointed, and he is thereby drove to the utmost distress, and must in all human probability meet with a certain temporary ruin unless by the kind and generous intervention of your Excellency the Treasury board should be prevaild upon to give him relief by ordering payment agreeable to the tenant of the Certificate.

Major Hale having been formerly my Assistant in the Quarter Masters Department, in which station he gave universal satisfaction, young in trade and all his future prospects depending on the strict maintenance of his Credit at present, it gives me much pain to reflect that through an act of mine though disinterested and done from the meer motive of serving the public cause, all his views and future Schemes of life should at once be totally disappointed.

General Howe can and will if necessary take a pleasure in acquainting your Excellency with any circumstances relative to this matter you might wish to be made acquainted with.5 I have the Honour to be with every sentiment of respect Your Excellencies most obedient & very humble Sevt

Udny Hay


1British attacks along the New York frontier earlier in the fall had caused legitimate concern (see George Clinton to GW, 18 and 30 Oct.; see also William Malcom to GW, 12 Oct., n.4). Reports of renewed British incursions proved erroneous (see Clinton to GW, 5 Nov., and notes 1 and 2; see also Malcom to GW, 7 Nov.).

3Hay’s anxiety persisted regarding provisions for West Point (see his letter to GW, 23 Nov.).

4See Robert Howe to GW, 16 [letter 1; letter 2], 18 [letter 1; letter 2], and 19 June [letter 1; letter 2] (two letters on each date); see also Howe to GW, 24 and 27 June. The British movements that worried Maj. Gen. Robert Howe actually preceded operations in New Jersey (see Battle of Springfield, 23–24 June, editorial note).

5Daniel Hale apparently received compensation for the rum (see GW’s reply to Hay, 27 Nov., and n.2 to that document).

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