George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jean-Louis-Ambroise, chevalier de Villefranche de Genton, 21 June 1782


West Point June 21st 1782.

The Bomb proof in the interior part of fort Clinton is not at this present time in a proper condition to be a powder Magazin & there’s a great deal Stow’d in it. the least Spark of fire may Set the fascines to fire & if that unfortunate event happen’d, the whole garrison Should be lost. for that bomb proof is So near the main powder magazin that the fire Should Certainly be communicated to it & who don’t foresee the dread full accident occasion’d by the explosion of 1500 barrils of powder.

I am in duty bound to observe to your Excellency that they don’t be Cautious enough against accidents.

1st the air holes of the powder magazins, are without a grate to keep ill intention’d persons from throwing fire works or other things to blow up the Magazin with, or Cats from going in it. Some times Soldiers for amusement Sake, tie a fire brand to the tail of those animals, who being use to go dayly in the bombproofs, may fly there for shelter, & Set the magazin to fire.

2d the Lanterns which the Conductors of military Stores make use of are ill contriv’d. they are made of Tin pierc’d, which give but a very Small light, these people are by that reason often induc’d to be So imprudent as to open them while they are in the magazin; in which case it is just as if they had no lantern at all. I have myself been many times a witness of that.

The Lanterns ought to be made of transparent horn or Glass et water pour’d in the bottom when they are made use of, to extinguish the Sparks falling from the Candle’s wick, they must also be not open’d on any account whatever while in the powder Magazin.

3d I have often Seen large parties of Soldiers permitted to go into the magazin without being ordered first to leave their Shoes in the entry. they are Sometimes full of nails, or Small Stones are fast[ened] to their bottom, which Striking nails or Samll Stones,, may produce Sparks & inflame the powder dust lying Constantly on the floor.

I think it is necessary that nobody should be permitted to go in a powder Magazin with shoes or other iron implements but as it may be disagreable to an officer to take off his shoes, a number of woolen Socks might be provided in the entry, for every one to put over his Shoes.

altho’ they are Still more Cautious in Europe in their powder Magazins much better Secure, yet accidents of all Sorts happen often.


Major Commanding Engineer

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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