George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Board of War, 17 February 1781

From the Board of War

War Office [Philadelphia] Feby 17. 1781


There are about four hundred of the Oneidas & Tuscaroras in & about Schenectady who from their Attachment to the Cause of the United States have been under the Necessity of abandoning their Settlements & taking Refuge under the Protection of the United States. These People are extremely wretched being destitute of Clothing & but precariously supplied with Provisions. It is unfortunately but little in our Power to relieve their Necessities in either Case. We gave General Schuyler an Order on the Clothier General for any Quanitity of refuse Cloathing he might require supposing that there might be a Number of Articles rejected by the Army but which might be of Use to the Indians. We have however at this Time Reason to believe that little can be done for them in this Way.1 From the Prospects we had of the Quantities of Cloathing procured at the Eastward it should seem that some Blanketts & under Cloathing could be spared from the Magazines for the Use of these faithful Indians whose Attachment to us cannot possibly resist much longer the pressing Cutts of Hunger & Nakedness & the Temptations they have to abandon our Interest & join that of the Enemy. But we did not choose to give a positive Order in the Case lest the actual Provision should be as it too often has been much short of our Expectations. We have therefore concluded to leave the Matter to your Excellency that if you think any Quantity of Cloathing of any Species can be spared from the Army you may either order it out of the Magazines or direct it to be sent from Boston to Albany addressed to General Schuyler as you shall think proper. Should you deem it expedient to take any Measures in this Bussiness we beg the Favour of you to inform General Schuyler who has had infinite Trouble much Expence & little Assistance in the Charge & Support of these our helpless & unfortunate Allies. We some time ago reported an Estimate of Monies wanted for the Use of the Indians & a Warrant was drawn on the Treasury of New York for a Sum which we believe could not be procured & if it had been as we are informed the requisite Articles could not be had in that State & the Money would not provide them in any other.2 We have the Honour to be with the greatest Respect & Esteem Your very obedt Servant

Richard Peters By order


1Philip Schuyler had written his son-in-law and GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton from Albany on 5 Feb. that he had sent “to Mr Moylan for some refuse cloathing for the Indians. Permit me to Intreat your interposition to procure him carriages for the transportation hither” (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 2:551–53, quote on 552). For John Moylan’s involvement in clothing administration, see GW to Moylan, 23 Feb., and n.1.

2For the board’s report, dated 10 Nov. 1780, and Congress’s resolution of 17 Nov. ordering the warrant, see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 18:1066–67.

GW replied to the board from headquarters at New Windsor on 23 Feb. 1781: “I have been honored with your favor of the 17th inst. I am so well convinced not only of the policy, but of the justice of giving support to a tribe, who have manifested so strong an attachment to us as the Oneidas have done, that I shall endeavour to select, from our scanty supply of Cloathing, such Articles as are least suitable, on account of their quality, for the troops, but which will serve to make the Indians, at least, comfortable, and send them up to General schuyler as soon as the navigation is open.

“I can promise nothing certain on the score of provision—The troops at Albany and Schenectady have been, all the winter, most distressed on that account—When our magazines are full, the Indians will participate—when scanty—they must share accordingly” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). The board acknowledged receipt of this letter when it wrote GW on 3 March.

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