George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 10 April 1794

From Henry Knox

War Department April 10. 1794

The Secretary of War respectfully reports to the President of the United States1

That it appears from an examination of the Acts which have passed during the present session of Congress, that the duties hereinafter enumerated to be performed by the said Secretary under the directions of the President of the United States

to wit

1st. The act for the defence of certain ports & harbors.2

The purchase of the lands on which the fortifications are to be erected, provided such lands shall be private property, and shall not be ceded by the respective states, conformably to the third section of the said Act.

It is presumed however that those purchases are not3 to be made until a sufficient time shall elapse to ascertain whether the respective states will make, or not, the cessions in question. The other parts of the said Act are in a train of execution.4

2d. The act relatively to the naval armament.5

Preparatory arrangements are making by the master builders of this city to ascertain the sizes of the ships and to have drafts and models made of the same. The sizes of the cannon and the places where it may be expedient under all circumstances to build the frigates contemplated are also under consideration. As soon as these particulars shall be satisfactorily ascertained (which will be very shortly) a particular report thereon will be submitted to the President of the United States.6 But it is doubted whether any considerable progress can be made in this business until there shall be an appropriation to defray the expenses thereof.7

3d. The act for erecting and repairing of Arsenals and Magazines, and for other purposes.8

The first section of this act requires two places to be designated as Arsenals and Magazines in addition to Carlisle and Springfield either or both of which may be continued as part of the number of three or four setts of Arsenals and Magazines at the discretion of the President.

Springfield seems to combine all the requisite qualities of a permanent Arsenal and Magazine, but there are certain repairs which will be necessary.9

But a question arises as to Carlisle. The subscriber submits the opinion that the buildings there be put into repair which probably may be done in a respectable degree for one thousand or one thousand five hundred Dollars. This measure seems necessary whether the buildings be retained or sold. No doubt exists as to the defective qualities of the place as a national repository on account of the locality of the situation and the expences which would accrue in transporting the stores by land to and from the said place. At present however it does not seem that any authority is vested for the purpose of selling the buildings. The repairs therefore seem indispensible upon œconomical principles.10

If the idea of a permanent establishment at Carlisle be upon mature consideration deemed inadmissible then it would seem most proper to form a Magazine upon the Potowmac above the falls. The place most suitable to be sought, combining the greatest facilities of water transportation, populousness of the neighbouring country, and water for the necessary works. A person of accurate judgment ought to be appointed for this purpose, and to report the place for the decision of the President.11

The southern Magazine and Arsenal may probably be fixed upon the Santee so as to combine all the water communications, water for the works, and other advantages which properly belong to the establishment, and in like manner to report for decision. It would seem proper for the person or persons who should perform this business ought to be an able surveyor who should return an accurate plan of the proposed scites and of the elevation of the grounds and all other circumstances in the vicinity.12

A question may arise whether the Armouries specified in the second section of the said Act should be immediately commenced in the places which shall be decided upon and the proportions of stores destined to each place transported thereto with all convenient expedition. These measures seen to be the natural and immediate consequences of the places being fixed. And also that prompt measures should be adopted to have the permanent buildings erected of the nature and form which shall be adopted to the quantity of stores intended to be deposited. If these ideas should be approved proper characters for Superintendants and Master Armourers will be sought after and their names submitted.

The third section specifies a person to superintend the receiving safe keeping and distribution of Stores, and also for the due accounting of the same. It would seem by the law that this appointment is vested solely in the President of the United States, and it is so explained by the members of both houses. Samuel Hodgdon is submitted as the person most proper for this office. He has been in the practice of some of the most essential of its duties for sixteen years, and his integrity and competency appear to have been amply tested by experience.13

It is submitted that the arms ammunition and military stores contemplated the fourth section of the said Act should be purchased according to the following list.

Estimate of the expence of purchasing the following articles—

7000 Muskets and Bayonets at 9 Dolls. 63000

It is presumed the above number added to the good muskets in possession of the United states together with those which are deemed worthy of repair will amount to 50,000 the number directed.

2000 spare bayonets at 1 Doll. 2000
1000 large horseman’s pistols at 4 Dolls. 4000
10000 Knapsacks at 50 Cents 5000
10000 Cartridge boxes at 1 Dollr 10000
2000 Soldiers Tents at 10 Dolls. 20000
100 Horseman’s do for company Officers at 20 Dolls. 2000
20 Marquees for General & Field Officers at 150 Dolls. 3000
20 eight inch brass howitzers each weighg 1500 lb at 50 Cents 15000
20 field carriages for ditto at 180 Ds. 3600
100 tons of Saltpetre or 100 tons powder  
at 400 Ds. per ton or 20 D. per Cwt 40000
200 tons of Lead
  173. D. 20 C. per ton or 8 66/100 per Cwt 34640
    Dolls. 202,240

It is to be understood that all these articles are additional to any contained in preceding estimates.

The above is a copy of an estimate laid before Congress on the 4th march last,14 and therefore ought to be provided, and as they have appropriated the sum of three hundred and forty thousand Dollars it is submitted that the excess be expended in the purchase of one hundred and fifty tons of Powder, or Saltpetre and Sulphur equal thereto.

150 tons of Powder at 400 Dolls. 60000
400 tons of Lead   69280
    129,280

But it is to be apprehended that the rise of the above articles will greatly diminish the quantities specified in the estimate.

As the article of ammunition is now under consideration. This will not be an improper place to bring to the view of the President of the United States the following general ideas upon this subject.

The United States have now in store about four thousand four hundred barrells of powder, but the four hundred may be considered as in a train of expenditure, a considerable proportion thereof being with the army. If to this quantity be added the two hundred and fifty tons for which the appropriations are made, there then would be about nine thousand barrells. This quantity would have been pretty respectable were it not for two circumstances which have been created by late laws to wit—

The first is the fortification of certain ports and harbours.

The second, the creation of six frigates.

These objects will require and bring into use seven hundred pieces of cannon, which may be averaged as of the caliber of twenty four pounders. Each of these pieces ought to be provided with two hundred pounds of powder each round of eight pounds. This additional demand alone requires a provision of five hundred and sixty tons which with the consumption for experiments signals &c. ought to be encreased to six hundred tons or twelve thousand barrells.

If we are to make provision for a war we ought to have in possession for all purposes the amount of twenty four thousand barrells of powder; from this quantity is to be deducted the quantity on hand and the quantity for which appropriations are made amounting to nine thousand barrells.

The quantity then of fifteen thousand barrells would remain to be provided. The cost of this quantity at five hundred Dollars per ton would amount to the sum of four hundred thousand Dollars for which an appropriation by law will be necessary.

It may however be doubted whether the powder could be obtained for the five hundred Dollars per ton unless arrangements shall be made for procuring it from abroad.

The following is a Summary View of this subject.

Required
A provision of two hundred rounds   tons   barrells
for the frigates & sea coast   560   11200
contingencies   40   800
For the troops which may be raised, estimated at three years supply at 10 pounds per man.   300   6000
One half being estimated for exercise for the artillery   300   6000
    1200   24000
On hand 200      
Appropriation for 250 450   9000
Deficient and to be provided   750 or 15000
barrells

A question arises on this statement whether any further measures should be taken for to obtain an appropriation for this essential article to carry on a war.15 All which is humbly submitted to the President of the United States.

H. Knox

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC, GW. The docket reads, “Report of the Secy of War 10 April 1794. of things required by law to be done by the President.”

1GW requested this report in his letter to Knox of 9 April.

2See “An Act to provide for the Defence of certain Ports and Harbors in the United States,” 20 March (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:345–46).

3The word “not” is missing from the letter-book copy.

4For the cessions of land made by Maryland and North Carolina and for Knox’s efforts to implemented this act, both now and throughout the remainder of 1794, see ASP, Military Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:71–107.

5See “An Act to provide a Naval Armament,” 27 March (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:350).

6Knox’s report, if written, has not been identified.

7Section 3 of “An Act to authorize the President of the United States during the recess of the present Congress, to cause to be purchased or built a number of Vessels to be equipped as Galleys, or otherwise, in the service of the United States,” 5 June, provided an appropriation of $80,000 (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:376).

8See “An Act to provide for the erecting and repairing of Arsenals and Magazines, and for other purposes,” 2 April (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:352).

9The repair of the Revolutionary War-era magazine and armory at Springfield, Mass., probably was approved at some point later this year, because David Ames received an appointment as its superintendent in July (Knox to GW, 17 July, DLC:GW). On the operation of this armory from 1795 until 1 Oct. 1799, see James McHenry’s report of 6 Jan. 1800 (ASP, Military Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:130–32).

10Carlisle, Pa., was the site of a British post during the French and Indian War, and the British built an armory there in 1769. Under American control during the Revolutionary War, it continued to serve as armory and was the Quartermaster Supply Headquarters for the Western Department. It was not until 1801 that the federal government acquired this site, but a federal armory or arsenal was not built on it (Roberts, Historic Forts description begins Robert B. Roberts. Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States. New York, 1988. description ends , 675–77). Instead, a location on the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia was designated for a new federal arsenal (see Knox to GW, 17 July, DLC:GW).

11John Hills subsequently was appointed to report on proper spots for erecting arsenals (Knox to Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., 13 June, DLC:GW). About his report, see GW to Burgess Ball, 27 July (NNGL); Knox to GW, 14 July (second letter, DLC:GW); and GW to Knox, 30 Sept. (DLC:GW). On the selection of a specific site, see Timothy Pickering to U.S. Senate, 12 Dec. 1795 (ASP, Military Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:109–10; see also GW to James McHenry, 13 Dec. 1798 [source note to first letter, Papers, Retirement Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series. 4 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1998–99. description ends , 3:250–65]). In 1796, the federal government purchased a 125-acre tract bounded by the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and construction of the armory began at Harper’s Ferry in 1799.

12On the selection of a location in South Carolina, see Pickering to U.S. Senate, 12 Dec. 1795, ASP, Military Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:109–10. The proposed site was situated near Columbia, S.C., which lies at the head of navigation on the Congaree River (Knox to GW, 14 July 1794 [third letter, DLC:GW]; see also GW to McHenry, 13 Dec. 1798 [source note to first letter]). The confluence of this river with the Wateree River forms the Santee River. The eventual site chosen for a federal arsenal was at Rocky Mount on the Wateree River, but construction did not begin until 1803 (Statement of Sums Expended . . . on Fortifications, Arsenals, Armories, and Magazines, 6 Feb. 1805, ASP, Military Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:178–84).

13Samuel Hodgdon’s experience included his service as field commissary, deputy commissary general, and commissary general of military stores during the Revolutionary War. During the Washington administration he served as commissary of military stores, 1788–91, and then as quartermaster general, 1791–92, before becoming commissary of military stores again. He received the title of superintendent of military stores later in 1794 and retained this position until 1800.

14See Knox’s report to the U.S. House of Representatives of 5 March (ASP, Military Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:65–66).

15“An Act making appropriations for certain purposes therein expressed,” 9 June, provided additional funding for War Department expenses connected with the defensive measures passed in the first session of the Third Congress (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:394–95).

Index Entries