To James McHenry
Mount Vernon Octr 27th 1799
The enclosed letters, from Genl Morgan and Captn G. S. Washington, recommending the Revd Mr Hill, as Chaplin to the Troops about to be stationed at Harper’s Ferry, have come to my hands, and are now forwarded for your inspection.1
I do not observe in the “Act for the better organizing the Troops of the U.S. &c.” that any provision is made for Chaplins. Whether they are provided for in any other existing law, you can best tell. Mr Hill appears to be a deserving and valuable Character; but from the tenor of General Morgan’s letter, he seems rather to have it in view to officiate for a time with the Troops that may be at Harper’s Ferry, than to wish a permanent appointment. Whether this is his intention or not I cannot say, neither do I know whether his services could be admitted on those terms. With your first convenience I will thank you to inform me on this subject.2 With due consideration I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most obedt Sert
1. William Hill (1769-1852) performed missionary work throughout the state of Virginia. In 1799 he moved to Winchester, becoming the first pastor of the Presbyterian Old Stone Church (James R. Graham, The Planting of the Presbyterian Church in Northern Virginia . . ., 106-10). The letters from Daniel Morgan and George Steptoe Washington have not been found, but GW wrote Morgan on 26 Oct.: “Dear Sir, I have been duly favoured with your letter of the 19th instant, recommending the Revd Mr Hill as Chaplin to the Troops to be stationed at, Harper’s Ferry.
“I do not know whether any provision has been made for Chaplins, and, at any rate, I cannot tell whether or not it will be thought proper to engage a temporary Chaplin, which, from the tenor of your letter seems to be Mr Hill’s object. I shall, however, transmit your letter to the Secretary of War, and will communicate to you whatever he may give me in reply on the subject.
“If provision is not already made for Chaplins I think it will be done; and it would certainly be very desireable to engage in that capacity such respectable Characters as Mr Hill appears to be. Wishing a perfect restoration of your health, I am, with very great regard, Dear Sir, Your most obedt Servt Go: Washington” (LS, PHi: Dreer Collection; Df DLC:GW).
After receiving GW’s letter Morgan wrote from Soldiers Rest in Berkeley County on 7 Nov.: “I take the liberty to inclose you a duplicate of a letter I wrote to the Secretary of War respecting the Revd William Hill, since I was honored with your answer to my letter on that occasion” (DLC:GW). The enclosed copy of Morgan’s letter of 6 Nov. to McHenry reads: “I wrote to the Commander in Chief recommending the Revd William Hill as Chaplin to the three Regiments to be stationed at Harpers ferry; he writes me in answer to my letter that he does not know whether any provision has been made for Chaplins to the Army, or at any rate, cannot tell whether or not it will be thought proper to engage a temporary Chaplin. I have shewed his answer to Mr Hill who says he is willing to continue so long as his services are wanting, and to march with the Troops—in case it should be thought necessary that they move. I have only to add that Mr Hill is a man of great information and withal a very amiable character, a great Supporter of our present Government and contributed greatly to give us a federal representative in this District; if he is appointed he wishes to be annexed to the Southern Brigade, and I wish this myself, as a man of his talents and application may be of great benefit to the Southward Citizens” (DLC:GW).
2. No response from McHenry to this inquiry has been found, nor is there any further reference in GW’s papers to a chaplain for the troops. On 29 Oct. Col. Thomas Parker wrote Alexander Hamilton that “the Reverend Mr Hill of Berkley offers his Services,” and he then went on to say that if there was to be a chaplain at Harpers Ferry, Hill would be a good choice (DLC: Hamilton Papers).