George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Walter Stewart, 11 February 1781

From Colonel Walter Stewart

Philadelphia Feby 11th 1781

Dear General

Thinking, that since the day on which the Unhappy Affair took place in our Line; your Excellency, has been from time to time made Acquainted with the different steps pursued, And the different Situations in which it was; by Generals St Clair Wayne, & Irvine; my Addressing you was not of any Consequence; but as we have the prospect in a few days, of Vigorously setting to Work, on the recruiting Business, or of falling upon some mode for filling the Regiments belonging to this State; I flatter myself, my Ardent Wish to lessen Your Excellency’s Anxiety on this Subject, will plead an Excuse for my now, & then, troubling you with a Letter.1

While we were at Trenton a most Unhappy dispute took place between the Merchants of this Town, And president Reed, the Want of money in the Treasury, Occasion’d his Application to them for a Loan; but unfortunately his desire was Attended with a kind of Threat “that should they not subscribe an Embargo must take place, And the Vessells be prevented leaving the Port[.”] This Expression Occasion’d so much Warmth between the Partys, as to cause the Subscription Papers being Call’d in, And the Treasury remain Empty.

On Genl Irvine & myself getting to Town, we Waited on the Principle Merchants, Made known the Situation of the Line, the Treasury &ca, & begg’d to know if Application was again made, whether a Sum could not be raisd to Carry on the recruiting Service, untill the meeting of the Assembly; they gave us for Answer, that if the President, And Council, would Nominate the sum requir’d (& it not Exceeding £25000 State Money) they would be Answerable for its being Immediately Collected, but the President & Council thinking their Consequence lessen’d by the two former Applications, would not Attempt a third.

Thus the Almost total Want of money has since our Arrival at this place kept us very Inactive; £2000 was Offerd to be divided between the officers of the Six Regiments for the recruiting service, the sum was so Small, that it was thought unnecessary to Spread them over the State, Especially as the Assembly was to meet in so short a time; And we fear’d, that they thinking the recruiting business was going on might be tardy in taking up the Subject.

We however have not wholly been Idle the £2000 was put into the hands of a Magistrate, And on An Officer’s procuring a recruit, He sent Him there for His Bounty, And to be Attested, by this partial Mode, we have Pick’d up about 120 good men in this City.

The Assembly will make a House tomorrow, the officers in general have mix’d much with the Members, ⟨illegible2 regularly of the Immediate Completion of the Line, And the Almost total Impossibility at this late Hour of filling it by Voluntary Inlistment; Although that mode Should with Vigour be pursued, but not much depended on.

They Promise their first business will be to fall on some Effectual mode of raising Money, And Procuring Men; And that no business shall come before them, previous to the Accomplishment of these Bills. On what footing, or on What Plan they will be brought in is not yet Ascertain’d.

From Reports we are led to believe that the People in the Country have pick’d up several Hundred Men, as Substitutes under the late law,3 but it is not Positively known.

The Men belonging to the different Regts ⟨no⟩w in Town are to March to their respective rendezvouzes tomorrow Morning, And the Officers being Collected at those places, will be ready to proceed on any plan which may be form’d by the Legislature.

I was most particularly Unfortunate on this Occasion, my Papers did not Arrive from Morris Town Untill the day After my men took the Oath, when it was too late; I by this means lost the Whole of them, about Thirty only Excepted, who were men of Virtue, And would not receive the terms offer’d.

I heartily Congratulate Your Excellency on the Glorious And Important Victory gain’d to the Southward.4 And Am Dr sir With the Most Perfect regard, And Esteem, Yr Excellency’s Most Obedt & Hble servt

Walter Stewart


GW replied to Stewart from headquarters at New Windsor on 22 Feb.: “I have received your letter of the 11th instant, and thank you for the account you give me of the operations and prospects relative to your line. It is unfortunate that any thing should have happened to put a stop to the subscriptions of the Merchants which would no doubt have been very useful. I sincerely hope the legislature will take decisive and effectual measures to furnish its complement. It is certain no state in the union has it more in its power—and by the accounts I receive, it appears not to be doubted, that all the states to the Eastward from this inclusively will have their batalions full or nearly so.

“I have been well informed of your exertions during the whole of the unhappy disturbance in your line—they do you honor and afford a fresh motive to me for that esteem which you have always possessed” (Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

1For the Pennsylvania line mutiny, see Anthony Wayne to GW, 2 Jan., and the source note to that document; see also William Irvine and Wayne to GW, 17 Jan., and GW to Arthur St. Clair, 3 February.

2Archival tape obscures two lines along a torn fold.

3For this law, see Joseph Reed to GW, 5 June 1780, and n.2 to that document.

4Stewart refers to the Battle of Cowpens (see Nathanael Greene to GW, 24 Jan. 1781 [first letter], n.3).

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