George Washington Papers

General Orders, 17 January 1781

General Orders

[New Windsor] Wednesday January 17th 1781.

Parole. Countersigns:——

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

On this date, Q.M. Gen. Timothy Pickering wrote GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton from Newburgh, N.Y.: “The Bearer Mr John Lewis is master of a sloop which almost from the Commencement of the war has been in the public service. At the close of the present season his vessel with all the other craft in the like employment were discharged; but without being paid for a long time, even from eight months to two years past as he informs me. Since their discharge they have drawn no provisions; and being destitute of money to buy any, they are of course greatly distressed. They are chiefly refugees from New-York. If they can be allowed a single ration for each shipper and each hand, it will give satisfaction: the value of the rations so furnished to be deducted in the settlement of their accounts. I cannot but be aware how precarious are the supplies of provisions for the army; and how ill any can be spared: but the condition of these people claims attention. Most of them have families; and if left to suffer during the winter, they will be discouraged from engaging in the service another year; at the same time Humanity pleads for their relief. The bearer informs me they have been accustomed in former winters to draw their rations Yet as they are not now in service I did not think myself authorized to direct provisions to be issued without the approbation of the Commander in Chief, to whom I request you will represent the condition of these people. … Inclosed is a list of all the skippers & the number of their crews & families” (DLC:GW). The enclosed return, dated 2 Jan., listed twenty-four masters, gave the total number of crew members as thirty-one, and stated the number of family members at forty-four (DLC:GW).

On 21 Jan., Hamilton wrote Pickering a letter that reads in part: “The General approves of your allowing a ration ⅌ individual to the Capt and crews of the dismissed craft not to the families, to be charged as you mention in a settlement of accounts” (DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 23633).

On the same date, Hamilton wrote Charles Stewart, commissary general of issues, “By His Excellency’s order”: “The Commissary will issue a ration ⅌ individual to the Commandants and their crews that is per the enclosed return to fifty five persons till further orders[;] a return of the issues to be made to the Q.M. General that the rations may be paid for in a settlement of accounts with the said persons” (DLC:GW; filed under 2 Jan.).

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