George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Susan Blair, 8 December 1780

From Susan Blair

Philada Decr 8th 1780

As I have the honour to succeed the late Amiable Mrs President Reed as Treasuress of the Ladies Donations in this State, I presume it is necessary to inform your Excellency, what has been done agreeable to the directions she had received.1

We have disposed of all the Money in our hands, a few small Sums excepted, which we have within a few days received from the Country, for materials for Shirts, the greater part of which were generously made by the Ladies of this City—and I may venture to Assure your Excellency—that had it not been for the Sickness & Mortality which prevailed, the whole Number would have been finished much sooner, & without expence.

Two Thousand & five Shirts are now compleated, & ready to be delivered to any person your Excellency may be pleased to appoint to receive and transport them to such place, or places, as shall be judged most convenient for their distribution.

What remains in hand & may be received from the Country we shall dispose of in the same manner unless your Excellency shall be pleased to honour us with different directions.

Had the Ladies success, been equal to their wishes, every Soldier in the Army should have enjoyed the fruits of their attention—They are however happy in the prospect of the good effects which your Excellencys most prudent application of their Mite may produce.

Mr Blair who still continues in an ill State of health, Unites in most respectful Salutations to your Excellency, and Mrs Washington, with Dr Shippen,2 and Your Excellencys Most Obedient & Very humble Servt

Susan Blair


Susan (Susanna) Shippen Blair (1743–1821) married Samuel Blair (1741–1818), who graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1760 and served as a Continental army chaplain until his resignation in June 1780 due to ill health. Her father, William Shippen, Sr. (1712–1801), was a prominent physician, and her brother William Shippen, Jr., had created controversy as director general of Continental army hospitals. GW had dined at the home of Shippen, Sr., on 26 Sept. 1774 while a delegate to the First Continental Congress (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:280).

1Susan Blair and four other women had assumed management of the Pennsylvania Ladies Association for the Relief of American Soldiers following the death of Esther de Berdt Reed in September 1780. For the subscription and GW’s directions to spend the money on providing shirts, see Reed to GW, 4 and 31 July, and GW to Reed, 14 July and 10 August.

2GW replied to Blair from headquarters at New Windsor on 22 Dec.: “I had the pleasure, a few days ago, of receiving your favor of the 8th inst. I am to thank you, in behalf of the Army, for the trouble you have taken in prosecuting the very benevolent business begun by the late worthy and amiable Mrs Reed. You will be good enough to deliver the shirts which are made to Colo. Miles Dy Qr M. Genl in Philada who will have my particular orders to forwd them on to the Pensa. line (at Mor[ri]s Town) & to this place.

I have a sum of Money which was sent to me by the Ladies of Trenton, and which I shall take the liberty of forwarding to you by the first safe opportunity, with a request to dispose of it in the same manner as the donation of the Ladies of Pensylvania.

“My Compliments to Mr Blair, whose indisposition I hope will be but of short continuance” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; GW wrote from “particular orders” to the end of that paragraph on the draft; he also wrote the final six words of the next paragraph on the draft). For the donation from women in New Jersey, see GW to Mary Dagworthy, 6 August.

GW subsequently wrote Samuel Miles, deputy quartermaster general, from New Windsor on 23 Dec.: “Mrs Blair will deliver you about two thousand soldiers shirts, the production of the Contributions of the Ladies for the supply of the Army. You will be pleased to have these put up in tight Casks in the following proportions—eight hundred to be directed and forwarded to Genl Wayne or Officer commanding the Penna line near Morris town. two hundred to Colo. Shreve or Officer commandg the Jersey line near Pompton—The remainder to the Deputy Cloathier Genl at Newburgh—You will inform each of the above, at the time of forwarding, from whence the shirts came. I shall give more particular directions for their distribution” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; Tilghman wrote “eight” above the line after striking out “seven” on the draft; he also wrote “two” above the line after striking out “three” on the draft).

Miles replied to GW from Philadelphia on 3 Jan. 1781: “I yesterday had the Honor of receiving Your Excellencies Letter of the 23d Ulto and I should with pleasure have complyd exactly with your directions respecting the shirts, had it been in my power, but, previous to the receipt of your Orders those shirts had been pack’d into three cases, and forwarded to Trenton; and I find Mrs Bache, under whose care they were, has taken no account of the perticular number in the respective cases, but as they are nearly of One size, they must contain between six & Seven hundred each. I have directed one of those cases to be sent to General Wayne or the Officer Commanding the Pennsya line near Morristown. the other two are to be forwarded immediately to the Deputy Cloathier Genl at New burg, from whence Colonel shrieve I suppose can draw what is alotted to the Jersey line. I hope this part of my Conduct will meet with your Approbation” (ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; Sprague transcript, DLC:GW; see also Sarah Franklin Bache to GW, 26 Dec. 1780, and Miles to Anthony Wayne, 3 Jan. 1781, PHi: Wayne Papers).

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