George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Daniel Brodhead, 23 January 1781

From Colonel Daniel Brodhead

Fort Pitt Jany 23rd 1781.

Dear General.

A few days ago I received a Letter from Mr William Wilson of Skipton, informing me that, he had undertaken to furnish the Troops here with an hundred head of Cattle upon private Contract & with private money.1 This account, as there was no other prospect of obtaining meat, and the Troops were suffering for want of it, whilst we were scarcely supplied with Flour, was flattering, and cheered the drooping Spirits of both Officers & Men. But as meat could not be purchased, on account of the great scarcity, on this side the mountain; Mr Wilson immediately proceeded to the South Branch of Powtomack, to perform his Contract. and now I have the mortification to be informed by his Brother, who is just arrived from old Town, that a prohibitory Law of the State of Virginia, will prevent his getting the Cattle he may have purchased for consumption here.2

I sincerely wish there was no cause to trouble you with a further tale of Misfortunes But as I conceive it to be the interest of the United States, to retain in this District all the Grain that has, under the protection of their Troops, been raised in it, it might appear criminal in me, was I to remain silent respecting Instructions lately sent by Govr Jefferson for the Purchase of 200,000 Rations, on this side the Mountains, for the use of the Troops under Colo. Clark, for which purpose he has already advanced 300,000 pounds, and promised to furnish, upon the first Notice, any further sum that may be necessary to compleat the payment of that Purchase.3

Because this purchase, together with the Consumption of multitudes of emigrants, arrived & expected within this District (chiefly to avoid Militia Duty & Taxes) will scarcely leave a pound of Flour for the Regular or other Troops, which your Excellency may judge it expedient to employ, against the Enemy.

I have wrote his Excelly Govr Jefferson that I cannot consider myself at liberty to permit the transportation of such a quantity of Provisions from this District, untill your Excellencies pleasure is signified.4

A Grand Council of British and other Savages is now holding at Detroit, and I am informed, they are premeditating an attack upon this post, early in the Spring. without doubt the Indians will be more hostile next Spring than they have yet been.

As I have not been honored with a line from your Excellency, since the new arrangement of the Army was ordered.5 I am at a loss what to do with the 9th Virga Regt, late Rawlins’s Corps; & Captn Heth’s Company, and shall continue them here, untill I know your pleasure.6

The whole of my present force, very little exceeds three hundred Men, and many of these are unfit for such active Service as is necessary here. I hope your Excellency will be pleased to enable me to take Detroit the ensuing Campaign, for untill that and Niagara fall into our Hands, there will be no rest for the innocent inhabitants, whatever Sums may be expended on a defensive plan.

My Soldiers will be entirely naked by the first of March and yet I can obtain no Clothing for them. If it is agreeable to your Excellency, to permit me to wait upon you, and make personal applications at Philada, for such Articles as are necessary, for the Troops &c. before the opening of the ensuing Campaign, It would oblidge me much, not on account of any Business of my own, but if possible, to promote the public good.7

The Moravian Indians have a Considerable number of Cattle & Swine, which we might purchase cheap for Goods or specie, But without these we cannot obtain them; and they will probably, be drove to market at Detroit.8

I have never been furnished with any Article of Goods for the Indians, nor a Shilling of Money to enable me to transact Business with them, neither has any person been employed to take the trouble of them off my Hands. I take great pleasure in serving my Country, nor will I count it a troublesome Service But I am sensible it will be agreed, that it is necessary I should be supported, or our Interest with the western Indians must be lost.

It appears to me that two compleat Regiments, with the Volunteers that may be collected, will be equal to any enterprize that may be undertaken in this part of the Country. especially if goods could be furnished, for to pay some of the friendly Indians to act as Spies Guides &c. to prevent a surprize. And that number will be as great as can be supplied, without an immense Expence of transportation. I have the Honor to be with the most perfect respect & esteem your Excellencies most obedt Hble Servt

Daniel Brodhead

LS, DLC:GW. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman docketed the letter: “recd 23 Feby.”

1The letter to which Brodhead refers has not been identified.

The contractor may have been William Wilson (d. 1796), an Indian trader and interpreter who maintained a trading post north of Pittsburgh near the Beaver River (see Thwaites and Kellogg, Revolution on the Upper Ohio description begins Reuben Gold Thwaites and Louise Phelps Kellogg, eds. The Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 1775–1777. Madison, Wis., 1908. description ends , 202).

Oldtown, in Allegany County, Md., also known in the eighteenth century as Skipton, was the site of Thomas Cresap’s house and trading post during the French and Indian War (see Papers, Colonial Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends 5:368). It is located along the North Branch of the Potomac River about twelve miles southeast of Fort Cumberland (now Cumberland, Md.). GW visited the town after the war (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:12, 14–15).

2After Brodhead wrote Joseph Reed, president of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, about this issue, Reed wrote to Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson requesting that any such restrictions be removed. In his reply, Jefferson advised Reed that Brodhead had been misinformed and that no restrictions existed on purchasing cattle in Virginia for use at Fort Pitt (see Brodhead to Reed, 22 Jan., in Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 8:706–9; Reed to Jefferson, 27 March; and Jefferson to Reed, 18 April [misdated 1780] in Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 5:263–64, 3:353–54). Brodhead may have been referring to “An act for enabling the publick contractors to procure stores of provisions necessary for the ensuing campaign, and to prohibit the exportation of beef, pork, and bacon, for a limited time,” passed by the Virginia legislature in October 1777, under the provisions of which only “the agents, contractors, or commissaries, acting under appointment from the United States” could export pork, beef, or bacon from the state to support the Continental army or Virginia militia serving outside the state (Va. Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends [Hening], 9:385–87).

3For Jefferson’s instructions for the procurement of rations to support Brig. Gen. George Rogers Clark’s prospective expedition against Detroit, see Jefferson to James Francis Moore, 25 Dec. 1780, in Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 4:239–40.

4See Brodhead to Jefferson, 17 Jan. 1781, in James, Clark Papers description begins James Alton James, ed. George Rogers Clark Papers, 1771–1781. Springfield, Ill., 1912. In Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, vol. 8. Virginia Series, vol. 3. description ends , 494–95.

6GW had written Brodhead on 29 Dec. 1780 with instructions to give the fullest support to Clark’s expedition. In his reply to Brodhead of 28 Feb. 1781, GW did not address the status of the 9th Virginia Regiment, Col. Moses Rawlings’s corps, or Capt. Henry Heth’s independent company. The 9th Virginia Regiment, reorganized and redesignated the 7th Virginia Regiment, remained at Fort Pitt until disbanded on 1 Jan. 1783. Rawlings’s small corps was disbanded in January 1781. Heth’s company remained at Fort Pitt until its disbanding in January 1782.

7In his reply of 28 Feb., GW authorized Brodhead to make this journey.

8The “Moravian” Indians were Mahican, Munsee, and Delaware Indians who followed the teachings of the Moravians. In 1780 and 1781 they inhabited the villages of Gnadenhutten, Lichtenau, New Schonbrun, Salem, and Schonbrun, along the Tuscarawas and Walhonding rivers (both tributaries of the Muskingum River) in what is now eastern Ohio.

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