George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 23 September 1799

From Alexander Hamilton

New York Sept. 23d 1799

Dear Sir

I had the pleasure of receiving in due time your letter of the 15th instant. The Suggestions it contains will be maturely weighed. I postpone any thing definitive, till the return of General Wilkinson which is momently expected.1 The other Documents, besides No. 8, which accompanied his letter, were not material to the consideration of its contents, or they would have been forwarded—Even Number one does nothing more than exhibit in the form of a table the propositions which are found in the letter. I was afraid of burthening you with papers, which did not necessarily require your attention, being matters of mere detail.

Inclosed is a letter of this date to Col: Parker about Winter Quarters for the Eighth Ninth and Tenth Regiments. It is late to begin, but you perceive in it the cause of the delay.2

It is extremely desirable that you would be pleased to take the direction of this matter, and to have the business done in such manner as you shall deem eligible. Not having a right to presume that you would choose to take the charge of it, I have adopted the expedient of addressing my self to Colonel Parker. But perhaps you may think of some preferable Agent—In which case, you will be so good as to retain the letter and give complete directions to such other Agent. Compensation and the defraying of his Expences need not be Obstacles.3

At any rate, I hope you will not find it inconvenient to instruct Colo. Parker to conclude a bargain for such place, as upon his reports to you, shall be, in your opinion eligible. It is very necessary that these young troops should be early covered. Collateral Ideas with regard to Harper’s Ferry as a place for Arsenals and magazines may perhaps be combined. These will more readily occur to you than to me.4

Scotch Plains near Bound Brook will be fixed upon for the 11th 12th & 13th Regiments. A very eligible Spot, of about Ninety Acres, is offered there at 50 Dollars per Acre, for the fee simple. It affords the advantage of a good Summer encampment also; with a prospect for a supply, for years, of fuel and Straw at cheap rates—and the convenience of a pleasant and plentiful surrounding Country.5

Search has been, for some time past, making for a suitable position for the three most Northern Regiments, in the vicinity of Uxbridge in Massachusetts. With true respect & attachment I have the honor to be Dr Sir yr obedt servt

Alex. Hamilton

LS, DLC:GW; LS (duplicate), DLC:GW; ADfS, DLC: Hamilton Papers.

1James Wilkinson returned to New York on 6 Oct. (Hamilton to GW, 23 Sept., n.1, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 23:468–70).

2See Hamilton to Thomas Parker, 23 Sept., ibid., 464–65.

3Hamilton’s letter to Col. Thomas Parker is dated 23 Sept., and GW forwarded it to Parker on 28 September. The draft of Hamilton’s letter to Parker, which is printed in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 23:464–65, reads: “It is contemplated to establish the Eighth Ninth and Tenth Regiments in Winter Quarters somewhere in the Vicinity of the Potowmack and near Harpurs Ferry. As this station is within the territorial limits of General Pinckneys Command, the providing of quarters there did not fall within my province. But very urgent circumstances having suddenly induced General Pinckney to proceed to Rhode Island, which has deranged the natural course of the business, The Secretary of War has just directed me [on 20 Sept.] to take the requisite measures for effecting the object. The Quarter Masters Department not being yet organised I have concluded to confide the matter to your management. The plan is to hut the troops during the present Winter which method the experience of the last war shewed to be extremely conducive to comfort as well as convenience. For this purpose a situation is to be sought, where there will be proper wood for hutting and plenty of fuel; I mean on the premisses: It is scarcely necessary to add that it must be airy elevated and dry so as to secure the health of the troops and must command an ample supply of good water. About Eighty Acres will suffice. It is desireable, if practicable, to find out more than one spot, and even to extend the inquiry lower down the Potowmack towards the Fœderal City, but on the Virginia side. You will ascertain the terms upon which each spot may be purchased or hired. A purchase will probably, be found most convenient. When you have found a place, in your opinion fit, you will immediately report it with a particular description and the terms upon which it may be had to the Commander in Chief and transmit a duplicate of your report to me; and continuing your examination in the direction which I have mentioned you will successively report in the same manner. This letter will be transmitted to him to be forwarded to you with any directions he may think fit to give. You will make arrangements for the care of the recruiting service in your absence and you will lose no time in executing this service. The late period of the season renders dispatch indispensable.”

4In his letter to Parker of 28 Sept. covering that to him from Hamilton, GW seconded Hamilton’s instructions but was “more pointed” in urging Parker to build the winter encampment “at the confluence of the Potomack and Shanondoah” rivers, the site of Harpers Ferry. GW wrote to Hamilton the next day, 29 Sept., to tell him that he had forwarded his letter to Parker and had emphasized to him the desirability of building the encampment near the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. On 9 Oct. Parker wrote that the day before he had run into Tobias Lear in Charles Town (now in West Virginia) and had gone with him over to Harpers Ferry to choose sites for the camps on the banks of the Shenandoah River just above where it joined the Potomac. After informing Hamilton of this, GW received from Hamilton a letter in effect asking GW to take personal responsibility for assuring that the three regiments had suitable winter quarters (see GW to Hamilton, 15 Oct., and Hamilton to GW, 21 Oct. [second letter]). After difficulties arose about the campsites chosen by Parker and Lear, GW found himself deeply involved in searching for winter quarters for the regiments until Charles Cotesworth Pinckney returned to Virginia in November to resume his duties as commander of the forces in the South. For GW’s involvement in finding winter quarters for the 8th, 9th, and 10th regiments, see Parker to GW, 24, 31 Oct., 5 Nov., GW to Hamilton, 26, 27 Oct., GW to Parker, 26, 27 Oct., GW to Benjamin Ogle, 28 Oct., Tobias Lear to GW, 30 Oct., 4 Nov., GW to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, 3 Nov., and GW to James McHenry, 5 November. In addition Tobias Lear wrote several letters on GW’s behalf to Parker and Hamilton about this and received answers from them; all of these letters to and from Lear are quoted in part in notes.

5Scotch Plains is in Union County, New Jersey.

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