Clothing the Troops
Clothing the Revolutionary soldier, furnishing him a blanket, and providing a steady supply of shoes posed problems of procurement and distribution that were not easily solved. Not much cloth could be obtained in the colonies, for America was not a manufacturing country. Linen was woven in most colonial homes, but wool and woolen cloth were scarce. Such fabrics as were produced were coarse woolens and linens-huckaback, osnaburg, and tow cloth. Blankets were exceedingly scarce; felt hats, wool knitted stockings, and shoes, as well as breeches, jerkins, and other items of apparel made of leather, were more readily available.
Though the supply of clothing in the colonies was scant, prize cargoes and importation added to the stock, and the exercise of adequate controls might have averted much of the suffering experienced by the troops. But the need for a centralized control of clothing supply was unappreciated by many. Reluctant to pool resources, each state was inclined to concentrate on providing for its own troops. Soldiers from states better situated for obtaining supplies fared better than those from states denied access to foreign markets. Both Continental and state agents participated in procurement, often in competition with each other. This lack of system was compounded by the absence of proper timing. Clothing was often not ready in the fall for delivery, Washington wrote. Instead, it had to be purchased at that time or "drawn from the Lord knows whither." Clothing was "eked out at different periods as it can be had through the winter, till Spring, and in such a piecemeal way" that the soldier derived little comfort from it and suffered both in appearance and pride.1
Lack of Uniformity in Dress
Uniformity in dress was essential to an army, but none existed among the soldiers in 1775. The New England militia came garbed in various outfits. Many men had no uniforms, some wore uniforms that had seen service in the French and Indian War, and others wore militia uniforms. Since all the colonies had militia and independent companies, uniform styles were almost as numerous as company organizations, ranging from simple homespun outfits
1. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 20:371-74 (to John Sullivan, 20 Nov 80).
to elaborate costumes. The twelve companies of riflemen that Congress had directed to be raised in June arrived at Cambridge in hunting shirts and round hats, having been instructed to find their own clothing. Washington wore the blue and buff of the Virginia militia, but this combination, popularly associated with the dress of the Revolutionary soldier, was the exception rather than the rule. Not only in the Boston campaign but during much of the war, green and brown predominated as the colors of the clothing worn by the troops. Blue was not adopted as the military color of the Continental Army until 2 October 1779.2
Recognizing the difficulty and expense of providing clothes of any kind, Washington proposed adoption of a uniform consisting of a hunting shirt, that is, a long loose coat worn with long breeches or overalls made of the same cloth, gaiter-fashioned about the legs and held down by straps under the shoes.3 Accepting his suggestion that the hunting shirt would make a cheap and convenient uniform, Congress recommended that he procure the necessary tow cloth. from Connecticut and Rhode Island. Washington promptly called upon the governors of those states to buy all available tow cloth and to set tailors to work. He added that a pattern for the shirt would be furnished for uniformity.
Unfortunately, the scarcity of coarse linen in the New England colonies had caused such a demand for tow cloth for family use that little was to be found.4 Washington was disappointed in his efforts to provide hunting shirts, and his troops continued in their varied garments. Since the New England men who had rushed to arms had brought no change of clothing with them, their garments were becoming exceedingly tattered by the fall of 1775. Washington urged Congress to act, pointing out that the clothing of the troops would do little to protect them from the winter cold; in fact, he reported, the troops were already "in a state of nakedness." Moreover, many of the men had been without blankets the whole campaign. As a result of Congress' failure to clothe the troops, one observer found, the Continental Army in general was "not badly accoutered, but most wretchedly clothed, and as dirty a set of mortals as ever disgraced the name of a soldier."5
Payment by Wage Stoppage
The need to replace the motley garb of the troops at Cambridge with an
2. (1) Washington Papers, 108:73 (13d of War estimate, 25 May 79). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 16:387-88 (GO, 2 Oct 79).
3. Force, Am. Arch., 4th ser., 6:426 (GO, 6 May 76); 5th set., 1:677 (GO, 24 Jul 76).
4. (1) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 3:387 (to Gov Nicholas Cooke, 4 Aug 75); 389 (to Gov Jonathan Trumbull, same date); 511 (to Pres of Cong, 21 Sept 75). (2) Force, Am. Arch., 4th set., 3:461 (Gov Cooke to Washington, 30 Aug 75).
5. (1) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 3:511 (to Pres of Cong, 21 Sep 75). (2) Henry S. Commager and Richard B. Morris, eds., The Spirit of 'Seventy-six (New York, 1967), p. 153.
acceptable uniform was among the many problems considered by Washington during the first council of war that he held with his general officers. They agreed that each general officer should "cloath a Person according to his own Fancy & Judgment" and that the best uniform should then be selected as a model for the Continental Army.6 There still remained the problem of providing the uniform. In the British Army soldiers purchased their own clothing, the government furnishing many of the articles and deducting the price from their wages.7 The American officers in council favored adoption of the same procedure in the Continental Army. A committee sent by Congress to confer with Washington made the same recommendation. When Congress authorized the enrollment of a new Continental force of a little more than 20,000 men in November 1775, it directed that clothing be provided by the United States and paid for by deducting 1 2/3 dollars per month from each soldier's wages. It also ordered that as much of the uniform cloth as possible was to be dyed brown. Regiments were to be distinguished by the use of different facings on the coats. Washington promptly directed the commanding officers of the newly established regiments to meet with the Quartermaster General "to fix upon the Uniform of their respective Regiments" so that there would be no delay in making the clothing.8
At the same time, Congress resolved that any man enlisting in the new regiments being raised at Cambridge and bringing a good blanket with him would be allowed 2 dollars for it and permitted to keep it at the end of the campaign.9 The Quartermaster General made every effort to procure blankets, but he was unable to supply the troops. Washington thereupon appealed to the Massachusetts legislature to help by a house-to-house collection of all spare blankets. It responded by calling for 4,000 blankets, apportioning this number among the towns, and providing funds to pay for and transport the blankets to camp. Rhode Island, too, forwarded blankets to Washington's troops.10
Having decided to provide clothing, Congress, within a year, was utilizing this decision as an inducement to enlistment. To encourage noncommissioned officers and soldiers "who shall engage in the service during the war," Congress offered them an annual clothing bounty despite the difficulties imposed by the scarcity of clothing. In 1776 this bounty, valued at 20
6. Washington Papers, 19:16 (council of war, 8 Oct 75).
7. Deduction of a fixed sum for clothing in the British Army dated from the days of Elizabeth, if not earlier. Sir John W. Fortescue, A History of the British Army, 13 vols. (London, 1899-1930), 1:284.
8. (1) Force, Am. Arch., 4th ser., 3:1155-57 (committee report). (2) JCC, 3:323-24 (4 Nov 75). (3) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 6:87, 96 (GO, 13 and 17 Nov 75).
9. Ibid., 6:17 (GO, 23 Dec 75). (2) JCC, 3:323-24 (4 Nov 75).
10. (1) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 4:214-15 (to Gov Cooke, 6 Jan 76); 4:178 (to Mass. legislature, 23 Dec 75). (2) Force, Am. Arch., 4th ser., 4:1374-78 (Mass. House of Representatives resolves, 4 Jan 76).
dollars, consisted of two linen hunting shirts, two pairs of overalls, a leather or woolen waistcoat with sleeves, one pair of breeches, a hat or leather cap, two shirts, two pairs of hose, and two pairs of shoes. If the soldier provided these articles himself, Congress authorized the paymaster to pay him the 20 dollars upon presentation of a certificate from the captain of his company.11
Shortages soon created arrearages in the clothing due soldiers. In September 1777 Congress directed that those who had not received their clothing bounty were to be furnished either with the designated articles or with substitute items of clothing. As a result of rising prices, the value of the bounty was then almost 48 dollars, and it increased further during the war as the rate of inflation mounted. In the face of continuing arrearages, Congress, in the summer of 1779, established a procedure for settling clothing accounts. The Clothier General was to estimate the value of the articles of a soldier's clothing bounty at the prices they were worth at the end of 1778. He transmitted this estimate to the regimental paymaster, who paid the soldiers for all clothing deficiencies on that basis with funds furnished from the military chest. This procedure was used thereafter to settle clothing accounts by the end of each year, or at the discharge of a soldier if that occurred before the close of the year.12
Problems Confronting Mease
Among the problems confronting James Mease when he became Clothier General in January 1777 was the multiplicity of colors in the Continental Army's uniforms. This problem was not readily solved. Mease went to Philadelphia, where he directed the production of clothing and tried to clothe each regiment in a uniform of one color. The choice of color, however, was left to the commanding officer of the regiment, whose judgment naturally was guided by his desire to clothe his men in smart attire. Officers did not always take into account the military implications of their choice. Col. Stephen Moylan, for example, selected a scarlet uniform-a red coat with blue facings-for his regiment of dragoons, much to the distress of Washington, who feared that the consequences would be fatal in operational areas because the colors were the same as those worn by the Queen's Dragoons. It was too late to alter these uniforms, but Washington's objections were met by providing "frocks" that could be worn over the red coats. Washington directed that all other red clothing on hand, some of which had been selected by infantry units, was to be dyed despite the high cost and the poor results predicted by Mease. Washington considered brown and white, and brown and buff, which
11. JCC, 5:855 (8 Oct 76).
12. Ibid., 8:717-18 (6 Sep 77); 14:970-81 (16 Aug 79).
had been used in a considerable number of uniforms, as "good standing" colors. Mease hoped to achieve better results when cloth imported from France became available.13
From the beginning of the war the supply of clothing had been dependent upon sources within the states. Clothing had been obtained by making collections from house to house of all articles that could be spared, by purchasing supplies that had been imported privately, and by utilizing what was found in cargoes of captured vessels. This last source of supply was too unreliable to depend upon despite the boldness of privateers. The only other way to meet the clothing deficiency was through purchase abroad by the United States. The Continental Congress soon tried this method of supply, but it was dangerous because vessels ran the risk of capture by British cruisers. Even when cargoes were landed successfully, difficulties in transportation delayed use of the supplies. From 1776 the port of New York was in the hands of the British, and for a time they also held Philadelphia. Cargoes could be landed safely only in New England-at Boston, Portsmouth, and elsewhere. Supplies then had to be hauled laboriously by wagons hundreds of miles from these ports to the Continental forces operating in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
This long overland transportation, moreover, provided opportunities for loss and misappropriation of clothing, which Mease was never able to control. State authorities had no hesitancy in appropriating Continental supplies for their own use. The Secret Committee, for example, gave orders in 1777 that blankets at Bedford, Massachusetts, were to be delivered to the Clothier General. But as the blankets were being transported through Rhode Island and Connecticut, the authorities in those states, in need of supplies for the troops they were raising that summer, seized not only the blankets but also twenty bales of cloth. This action was particularly unwarranted, Clothier General Mease reported, because 1,000 blankets and 1,000 suits had been deposited in March with agents in Rhode Island for the needs of that state. Washington agreed with Mease that unless Congress acted to prevent such seizures, "every State will think itself intitled to seize what is passing thro' it." In response to Mease's appeal, Congress directed that Continental agents in the states were to deliver clothing only on the express orders of the Clothier General.14 Late in the war the practice of opening packages that were en route through the southern states to troops under Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene and the appropriation of supplies for purposes other than those
13. (1) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 7:420 (to Mease, 17 Apr 77); 8:33, 55-56, 98 (to same, 9, 12, and 20 May 77). (2) Washington Papers, 47:11, 56 (Mease to Washington, 12 and 18 May 77).
14. (1) Ibid., 48:74 (Mease to Washington, 6 Jun 77). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 8:237-38 (to Mease, 13 Jun 77). (3) JCC, 8:473 (17 Jun 77).
intended caused the Board of War to complain that it would never be able to determine the sufficiency of supplies sent to the Southern Army.15
Commanding officers also felt free to plunder clothing supplies. In July 1777 Mease's assistant informed him that packages coming from Fishkill to headquarters were being stopped on the road and opened by Brig. Gen. John Sullivan, who took from them whatever he thought he needed. Mease complained that he could not properly conduct his business if every commanding officer at every post was at liberty to stop goods being transported from one post to another and take whatever he wanted. Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam at Peekskill later was guilty of seizing 400 blankets and a cask of shoes intended for the main army, which was then preparing to go into winter quarters at Valley Forge. Washington sharply called him to account. He pointed out that appropriating part of a shipment intended for the main army, after the Clothier General had allotted a due proportion to the other military departments, was "highly injurious to the Service," and he ordered that no such detention was to occur in the future.16
Loss of clothing en route because of inadequate controls over shipment was even more prevalent than its appropriation by state authorities or commanding officers. It was customary for procuring agents to forward clothing in small parcels, shipping them on wagons without guards or conductors. The result, Washington contended, was "in every case, loss of time, in many cases, the loss of the cloathing itself."17 Drivers abandoned parcels at different places on the road, and in consequence their contents frequently were converted to private use. This mismanagement of clothing transportation during the first year of Mease's administration of. the Clothing Department led Washington to advocate the use of a system of guards and conductors in the future. Such a system had been adopted by Otis and Andrews, Boston merchants who purchased clothing for the Continental Army. They had forwarded clothing from Boston to Fishkill only under the care of conductors. The latter were required to obtain a certificate of delivery from the deputy quartermaster general or the deputy clothier general at Fishkill and return it to Otis and Andrews.18 This method eventually became the accepted way of handling clothing shipments, though its importance often had to be reemphasized.
Even when shipments were made under the care of an officer, delivery was not guaranteed, for wagoners frequently refused to comply with orders. In the winter of 1777-78, when the need for clothing was desperate at
15. Greene Papers, vol. 31 (Bd of War to Greene, 11 May 81). For deficiencies in clothing sent from Philadelphia to the Southern Army, see vol. 43 (John Hamilton to Greene, 10 Sep 81).
16. (1) Washington Papers, 51:129 (Mease to Washington, 22 July 77). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 10:41-42 (to Putnam, I I Nov 77).
17. Ibid., 12:445-47 (to Heath, 14 Sep 78).
18. Washington Papers, 85:14 (Otis and Andrews to Washington, 19 Sep 78).
Valley Forge, twelve wagonloads were sent from Boston under the care of an officer, yet the latter arrived at camp without the clothing. He had left it at Fishkill because the wagoners had refused to go any farther. Washington impatiently dismissed this "trifling excuse"; he did not think the officer had made every possible effort to procure other wagons. He hoped the packages had not been broken into, and he sent off an express to Fishkill ordering the deputy clothier there to forward the clothing in wagons to be furnished by the quartermaster. 19 Hiring wagons and teams proved particularly troublesome during most of the war. In the fall of 1778 when a concerted effort was being made to forward clothing to deposit points, Quartermaster General Greene found it difficult to procure a full supply of teams because of competition from private commerce in the Boston area, where merchants were giving as high as "12s. a mile per ton for transportation."20
Had Mease been able to exercise efficient control in transporting his supplies, he still would have been hampered in promptly and adequately clothing the soldiers by his lack of knowledge of the number of troops to be supplied and the destination at which they were to claim their clothing. In the spring of 1777, for example, some regiments from Massachusetts were ordered to Ticonderoga. The purchasing agents of the Clothier General placed about 2,500 uniforms at Bennington on the route the troops were to take to Ticonderoga. That route, however, was changed without notice to the Clothier General. Consequently, the troops arrived at Peekskill to find no clothing awaiting them. "The men," reported Maj. Gen. William Heath, "are almost naked and many of them Lousey and not a second Shirt on their Backs." In the meantime, Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates, then commanding the Northern Department, ordered the clothing at Bennington to be removed to Albany. He refused to give it up even though the troops for whom it was intended were at Peekskill. "This," Washington wrote Mease, "accounts for one half of the troops of that State [Massachusetts] being left naked." Before the arrival of this letter, Mease had sent his assistant to Peekskill. The latter satisfied the needs of ihe troops there by diverting to that post other clothing that was on its way to Philadelphia.21
The quality of the clothing supplied was so inferior that deliveries could scarcely keep pace with demands for replacements. Moreover, sizes were generally too small. In July 1777 Washington suggested to Mease that uniforms would give better service if they were made larger. Small sizes "may look like economy," he added, "but it is a, false kind, as the Clothes do not
19. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 10:330-31 (to Mease, 21 Jan 78); 334 (to Gen Putnam, 22 Jan 78).
20. Greene, The Life of Nathanael Greene, 2:145-46 (to Washington, 19 Sep 78).
21. (1) Washington Papers, 47:109 (Heath to Washington, 27 May 77); 48:74 (Mease to Washington, 6 Jun 77); 49:36 (Mease to Washington, 14 Jun 77). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 8:207-08, 237-38 (to Mease, 8 and 13 Jun 77).
wear out fairly, but tear to pieces."22 As in many a later war, criticism of clothing sizes was a perennial complaint, and Mease's response was to become only too familiar. It was not the sizes that were at fault, he argued, but the fitting. He was having clothing made up in three different sizes, but "in general so little pain is taken by the officers to fit the Men that I have often seen a large coat hanging like a sack on a little fellow, whilst you see at the same time a lusty fellow squeezed into a small one." Blankets also were scanty in size, and Washington warned procurement agents against being cheated in their purchases.23
The sparing use of cloth was so widespread in the production of uniforms that Congress in December recommended that the states employ special superintendents to inspect the work and see that the tailoring conformed to specifications laid down by the Board of War. Mease and his agent Samuel Caldwell, who inspected most of the clothing being made, took offense at the preamble of a congressional resolution which stated that "great waste of clothing has arisen from the want of fidelity or skill in the persons employed to make up the same." Mease considered this charge so serious that he felt an inquiry ought to be made into its merits, and Caldwell asked for an investigation to vindicate his honor. He went to the trouble of procuring affidavits from officers concerning his integrity. He also sent a tailor to appear before the investigators with evidence in the form of coats.24
Clothing Crisis, 1777-1778
The clothing crisis grew steadily worse during the fall of 1777. The prolonged campaign had been hard on clothing. So depleted did the stock become that Washington declared it a wonder that the troops could be kept in the field. Even the men in hospitals had no clothes and could not leave for that reason. Mease complained that lack of transportation prevented his sending supplies to Germantown, Pennsylvania. Washington thereupon authorized him to purchase, hire, or impress, "as circumstances may require from time to time, such number of horses and wagons as he needed." Moreover, since some persons had clothing in their possession but refused to sell it at reasonable prices, he empowered Mease to seize such articles as were necessary, "paying a generous price for the same." He cautioned the Clothier General, however, to use this authority with discretion.25
22. Ibid., 8:432-33 (to Mease, 18 Jul 77).
23. (1) Ibid., 13:105, 170-71 (to Bd of War, 18 and 27 Oct 78). (2) Washington Papers, 51:129 (Mease to Washington, 22 Jul 77).
24. (1) JCC, 9:1044 (20 Dec 77); 10: 103 (31 Jan 78). (2) RG 11, CC Papers, item 78, 15:301-02 (Mease to Henry Laurens, 29 Jan 78); 385-87 (Caldwell to Mease, 27 Jan 78); 393-94 (Caldwell to Francis Lightfoot Lee and James Novel, 6 Feb 78).
25. (1) Washington Papers, 56:42 (Mease to Washington, 13 Sep 77). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 9:374-75 (to Mease, 15 Oct 77).
At the same time, Washington sent Congress lists of clothing needed by his army. Congress requested that Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts send all the clothing that could be collected and that was not immediately needed by their regiments which had not yet joined the Continental Army. Congress reiterated its plea a month later.26 In Pennsylvania, where the British occupation of Philadelphia had been a shattering blow to patriots and where criticism of Washington, in some quarters, was not muted, reaction to the pleas was slow and carping. "There is great reason to fear that the increasing number of purchasers, by overbidding each other, will rather tend to raise the prices of goods still higher, than to procure greater supplies," the president of the Pennsylvania Executive Council wrote to President Henry Laurens of the Continental Congress. When the council conferred with the Clothier General, Mease probably presented a too flattering view of his efforts to clothe the troops. Noting the discrepancy between the quantity of clothing the Clothier General said had been delivered and the existing lack of it, the council tartly commented that officers had not supervised the soldiers closely enough to prevent them from selling their clothing to buy whiskey. The enormous price demanded for whiskey by sutlers at camp was enough "to strip a soldier to the skin" in a few weeks. Sale of clothing by soldiers was a "pernicious practice" throughout the war; Washington was taking action against it as late as 1782.27
The large supply of clothing that the Secret Committee had ordered from abroad in the spring of 1777 failed to arrive in the fall. By November Congress was urging the commissioners in France and Spain to complete clothing orders. It pointed out that clothing had been "seasonably ordered," but its failure to arrive was attributable to a variety of causes, not the least of which was the effectiveness of the British cruisers in patrolling American shores.28
As the British entered Philadelphia late in September 1777, Washington supplemented Mease's efforts to obtain clothing by dispatching staff and line officers to impress clothing and blankets, primarily from the disaffected and the Quakers in the area of operations. They were to give receipts for the articles taken, which were to be paid for by the Clothier General.29 The supply obtained was meager. By November the main army's need for clothing and blankets was so desperate and the prospects of relief so slender that Washington
26. JCC, 9:809, 906-07 (16 Oct and 15 Nov 77).
27. (1) RG 11, CC Papers, reel 83, item 69, fols. 429-32 (Wharton to Laurens, 3 Nov 77). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 25:131 (After Orders, 5 Sep 82); see also 13:250 (to Col Daniel Morgan, 12 Nov 78); 14:185-86 (to Gov William Livingston, 3 Mar 79).
28. JCC, 9:883, 968-69 (10 and 26 Nov 77).
29. (1) See Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 9:248-49 (to Lt Col Alexander Hamilton, 22 Sep 77); 269 (to Clement Biddle, 26 Sep 77); 318 (to Col John Siegfried, 6 Oct 77). (2) JCC, 8:755 (27 Sep 77).
sent out officers to purchase and, where necessary, to impress supplies in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware. He had little faith, however, that seizing supplies would prove adequate to the demand; rather, it would "embitter the minds of the People, and excite perhaps a hurtful jealousy against the Army."30 As soon as a state indicated that it would make the necessary collections itself, Washington recalled his officers. He urged Clothier General Mease to "set every Engine to work" to procure clothing, and he suggested to Congress that it appeal to the states both to procure supplies and, if necessary, to make "an immediate assessment on their Inhabitants."31
Congress responded by urging the states "to exert their utmost endeavours to procure" all the clothing and blankets possible. It further recommended that they each appoint one or more persons to issue the articles to their officers and soldiers in such quantities as the general officers from each state directed. Reasonable prices were to be set by the Clothier General or his deputy in proportion to the wages of the officers and soldiers. Convinced that some citizens would try to profit at the expense of their countrymen by withholding supplies from the market to raise prices, Congress less than a month later recommended that the states enact laws authorizing the appointment of agents to seize for the Continental Army all suitable woolen cloth, blankets, linens, shoes, stockings, hats, and other necessary articles of clothing that were being held by speculators or hoarded by individual families. A certificate stating the quality and quantity of the seized supplies was to be issued. State commissioners were to fix the prices at which payment would be made for the seized merchandise, and they were to draw on the Clothier General for payment.
Congress recommended also that the states use whatever cloth was seized to make up as much clothing as they could within a reasonable time, sending the finished garments as well as any remaining cloth to the Clothier General. It proposed that the latter distribute the clothing to the troops of the state furnishing it. Since there had been much criticism of the quality of the clothing provided in the past, Congress urged that the states appoint inspectors to superintend and direct the work of those employed in making the clothing so that it would conform to instructions from the Board of War. The states were to authorize suitable persons to collect and supply, at stipulated prices, the cotton, wool, flax, leather, and other articles needed in producing the clothing. Congress further recommended that the states employ a sufficient number of tailors and other artisans to supply the clothing for their battalions, exempting these workers, under proper regulations, from military
30. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 10: 14- 16 (to Gov Thomas Johnson, 6 Nov 77); 20-21 (to pres of Del., 8 Nov 77); 36-37 (to Pres of Cong, I I Nov 77).
31. Ibid., 10:45-46 (to Mease, 12 Nov 77); 79 (GO, 18 Nov 77).
duty.32 The following May Mease remarked that the commissioners appointed in Pennsylvania-hired for 4 dollars a day at government expense-had not been usefully employed. They had interfered exceedingly with his efforts. At Lancaster they had seized clothing in the hands of people who were working for the Clothier General. Rather than causing "any difference between interfering authorities," Mease informed Congress, he had submitted to the seizure.33
In writing to the congressional committee at camp in January 1778, Washington hoped that the resolutions of Congress calling on the states for action would bring a change in the existing clothing deficiency. He felt the resolutions would put "the business into a greater variety of hands, than it has heretofore been in, and under the providence of a more diffusive attention, besides exciting a laudable rivalship, and operating upon the attachments of the different states," they would probably be productive of the needed supplies. Washington cautioned, however, that effectual measures would have to be taken to prevent any competition between the agents of the states and those of the Clothier General. And he warned that the recommendations of Congress would only partially meet the clothing needs of the troops.34
In response to the congressional appeal, the states sent supplies for their respective regiments. Governor Patrick Henry, for example, dispatched nine wagonloads of supplies to Virginia's troops and promised to send an additional 15,000 pounds worth of woolens. Connecticut troops were always well supplied, but the Pennsylvania authorities lagged in their efforts. In mid-January 1778 Washington informed the latter that no clothing had come to his troops from them despite the fact that the "quantity of raw materials and the number of Workmen among your people, who being principled against Arms remain at home and Manufacture, [should make] it more in your power to cover your Troops well, than any other State."35 The clothing supplies sent by the states were intended, however, strictly for the troops of the state providing them and could not be diverted to the use of needy troops from other states without causing dissatisfaction. There was little understanding of the necessity to pool resources. When Pennsylvania later complained that clothing collected in that state for the use of its troops had been issued to the main Continental army in general, the Clothier General denied the charge and contended that the state instead had been guilty of taking for its own use cloth purchased for the United States.36
32. JCC, 9:968-69, 1043-44 (26 Nov and 20 Dec 77).
33. RG 11, CC Papers, item 78, 15:343-46 (to Laurens, 20 May 78).
34. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 10:382-83 (to committee at camp, 29 Jan 78).
35. Ibid., 10: 172 - 73 (to Gov Patrick Henry, 19 Sep 77); 317 - 19 (to Pres Thomas Wharton, 18 Jan 78); 344-45 (to Gov Jonathan Trumbull, 24 Jan 78).
36. Ibid., 10:250-51, 443-44 (to Bd of War, 2-3 Jan and 10 Feb 78).
Arrival of Imports
In the spring of 1778 the clothing supply situation improved as a result of the arrival at New England ports of many vessels carrying cargoes of clothing and cloth. Indications were that the Continental Army was likely to be better clothed than it had been at any previous period. From his headquarters at Valley Forge, Washington in May suggested to Congress that it act quickly to relieve the distress of the troops. Half his army was without shirts; the need for blankets was "quite painful," and hundreds of lives had been lost, according to the doctors, because of the scarcity of clothing during the winter months. He also questioned the wisdom of allowing supplies to remain for any length of time at places easily accessible to the British Navy. It would be advantageous to store surplus clothing at inland posts.
Acting with unusual promptness, Congress on 28 May directed that all the imported linen, shirts, stockings, shoes, and blankets be sent forward from Boston, Portsmouth, and other New England ports to the Clothier General. It ordered that all other clothing be stored at Springfield or Worcester, Massachusetts, under the care of a storekeeper. Congress directed the Board of War to carry out these orders.37 At the same time, citing the large volume of importations, Congress resolved to suspend all further purchases of clothing on the account of the United States by the Clothier General and his agents in the states. It recommended that the states provide their respective quotas of troops with shoes, stockings, and shirts, and it directed the Board of War to purchase these articles for the Continental Army until the Clothing Department was reorganized.38 Since the main army was moving eastward, the Board of War changed the instructions of Congress. It ordered the imported shirts, shoes, stockings, and blankets to be transported directly to the deputy clothier at camp instead of to the Clothier General. The board also placed its agent, Samuel Fletcher, in charge of collecting the parcels of clothing that had been arriving for some months at the various New England ports.39 He forwarded, them to Springfield and Hartford, where the storekeepers were instructed to air, sort, and repack them before sending the clothing to camp. On 24 September Washington sent George Measam, the deputy clothier stationed at Fishkill, to superintend this work.40
Congressional orders forbade the firm of Otis and Andrews to purchase
37. (1) Ibid., 11:416-17 (to Pres of Cong, 18 May 78). (2) JCC, 11:548-49 (28 May 78); see also 11:811 (18 Aug 78).
38. (1) Ibid., 11:517, 545-46 (21 and 28 May 78). (2) Believing that sufficient clothing and materials were now on hand, Mease himself had suggested the possibility of suspending further purchases. RG 11, CC Papers, item 78, 15:343-46 (to Laurens, 20 May 78).
39. The Board of War initially appointed George Williams of Salem, Mass., to transport and store these supplies, but when he declined, the Massachusetts Council, at the board's request, appointed Fletcher. Ibid. reel 157, 2:300-29 (13 Sep 78).
40. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 12:494-95 (24 Sep 78).
uniforms, but Fletcher, at the direction of the Board of War, turned over to it large quantities of imported woolens to be made into uniforms and linens for shirts. Washington directed Otis and Andrews to make a distinction both in the texture of the fabrics used and in the finish of the garments between clothing for soldiers and for noncommissioned officers. The firm was also to make certain that the clothing produced was not too small in size, to expedite production, and to pack the finished uniforms of different colors in separate parcels, each marked with the number and the color of the contents. Clothing of a particular quality and style of uniform, Washington instructed Measam in October, was to be packed in parcels of different sizes, containing 200, 300, 400, or 500 uniforms, each marked and numbered accordingly. Only a few parcels, however, were packed with 500 uniforms.41
To speed shipment, Washington in September 1778 directed the Quartermaster General to give Fletcher all aid possible. Past experience made him fear that the clothing would not reach the troops, and he therefore insisted that guards and conductors be sent with the parcels of clothing. There was good reason for his apprehension. Months later he learned that General Putnam had discovered at Danbury a considerable parcel of cloth, blankets, and clothing for a regiment that had been left there for over a year and had been "almost damaged by Moth." He believed that "near as much has been heretofore lost as has been used," as he wrote Measam, reiterating the necessity of employing guards and conductors.42
Washington had impressed upon Congress the necessity for speedily clothing the troops, and the latter directed the Board of War to exert itself to the utmost in transporting clothing to camp. In consequence, the board wrote to the Marine Committee to request the assistance of Maj. Samuel Nicholas of the Marines, who had been particularly successful in moving a quantity of arms. The board instructed him to take any additional measures necessary for expediting the transportation of clothing, gave him letters to Fletcher, Otis and Andrews, and the deputy quartermaster general in Boston, and furnished him with money for emergencies.43
The Board of War intended putting the whole Continental Army in complete new uniforms by early October 1778 if possible, and it proposed delivering all the new clothing at one time.44 Adopting an idea long advocated by
41. (1) Otis and Andrews reported they could have 1,500 shirts, and more if necessary, made per week, and 2,000 uniforms per month. RG 11, CC Papers, reel 157, 2:300-29). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 13:53 (to Measam, 9 Oct 78); 12:451-52 (to Otis and Andrews, 14 Sep 78). (3) Washington Papers, 85:14 (Otis and Andrews to Washington, 19 Sep 78).
42. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 12:453-54 (to Fletcher, 14 Sep 78); 450-51 (to Greene, 14 Sep 78); 14:217 (to Measam, 10 Mar 79).
43. (1) RG 11, CC Papers, reel 157, 2:300 - , 30. (2) See also JCC, 12:973-74 (2 Oct 78).
44. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 12:453-54 (to Fletcher, 14 Sep 78); 454-57 (to Bd of War, same date).
Washington, it decided to replace breeches with overalls, thus eliminating the need for stockings in the summer. In the winter stockings were to be provided as in the British Army, but if the supply continued deficient, socks made out of old clothes could be substituted. The new uniform coats were brown or blue, faced with red. In order to prevent disputes in distribution, the Board of War decided that the clothing for the troops of each state would be drawn by lot. On 28 October Washington directed George Measam, in charge of issuing the clothing stored at Springfield, to govern his issues according to the drawings.45 Despite the increase in the supply of clothing, shortages still existed in certain items, particularly in hats and blankets. Shortages in the last item were increased by the fact that many purchased blankets were so small that it took four to make one of the size needed. When the distribution of clothing occurred, the insufficiency in the quantity of these two articles prompted a "disagreeable oeconomy." Measam issued only one-fourth of the hats required. Caps were proposed for issue in lieu of the hats that were in short supply.46
The Board of War ordered that when the distribution was made, the old clothing-coats, jackets, and breeches-was to be turned in to the Clothier General for the use of hospitals and female followers of the troops. Washington's anticipation of trouble on this score was well founded, for within a week of publishing a general order on the subject, he had to rescind it. He found it impracticable to carry out the Board of War's recommendation since the soldiers looked upon the order as an attempt to deprive them not only of what they had earned by their service but also of what would make them more comfortable during the winter. He found one of their arguments particularly unanswerable. They pointed out that upon a "fair settlement there would be found a considerable deficiency of the bounty Cloathing for a year or two past, and that therefore it would be more equitable to make up the deficiency than to draw in the remains." He therefore dropped the matter, explaining to the troops that the quantity of the new clothing was greater than had been expected and that the old clothes, used for fatigue duties, would extend the life of the new uniforms. The issue of new clothing afforded him the opportunity to reiterate the need for cleanliness and care in preserving clothing and to reiterate earlier orders on weekly clothing inspections by company officers.47
As the winter of 1778-79 began, conditions were vastly different from what they had been the preceding year at Valley Forge. Now the men were clothed in stout serviceable uniforms, although blankets continued to be in short supply. Shoes also could not be supplied in the quantity needed. Washington
45. (1) Ibid., 13:172-73 (to Measarn, 28 Oct 78). (2) Washington Papers, 90:30 (certificates of drawing, 28 Oct 78).
46. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 13:164 (to Maj Gen Horatio Gates, 27 Oct 78).
47. Ibid., 13:197-98, 214-15 (GO's, 2 and 8 Nov 78); 244-46 (to Bd of War, 11 Nov 78).
learned that the whole number, in fact, would not exceed 7,000 pairs. Moreover, the shoes imported from France were exceedingly flimsy in quality.48
Clothing for Officers
While soldiers were being supplied with clothing in the fall of 1778, officers were facing the problem that Congress had made no clothing provision for them when it had established the Continental Army. They consequently were finding it extremely difficult, Washington wrote, to procure clothing, and then only "at the expense of all [their] pay." Given the circumstances, the Commander in Chief thought the "intervention of publick aid" was necessary, for otherwise officers would be obliged to quit the service. In November 1777 Congress had recommended that the states procure and sell articles of clothing to the officers as well as to the soldiers at such reasonable prices as the Clothier General assessed in proportion to their wages. This recommendation had induced the officers to look for some relief, but the intent of Congress had not been carried out; on the contrary, Washington reported, the officers maintained that in the few instances in which they had been able to obtain clothing from Army stores, they had been obliged to pay exorbitant prices.49
Washington had sounded out Otis and Andrews concerning the kind of cloth they had on hand suitable for officers' uniforms and about what could be procured if the Board of War authorized purchase. He then proposed that the board submit to Congress an estimate of clothing needed for the officers and obtain approval for importing the necessary textiles. The board sent his letter to Congress, which referred it to a committee. By that time Washington had again returned to the subject of the officers' distress. He
proposed an alternative. If clothing could not be conveniently procured, an adequate sum of money ought to be allowed each officer in lieu of it.50 This letter also was referred to the committee on the Clothing Department.
On 24 December 1778 Congress appointed a committee to confer with the Commander in Chief on the general operations of the next campaign. Washington seized this opportunity to enlarge upon the needs of his officers and to refer to his earlier proposals. He added that it would be necessary for Congress to ascertain the quantity and the prices of the clothing to be allowed and to fix a payment for each item when it could not be furnished, taking into account the real present cost of the article. This method, he suggested, would be preferable to that of the November 1777 recommendations which left
48. Ibid., 13:105 (to Bd of War, 18 Oct 78).
49. (1) Ibid., 12:454-57 (to Bd of War, 14 Sep 78). (2) JCC, 9:968-69 (26 Nov 77).
50. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 13:64-66, 244-46 (to Bd of War, 11 Oct and 11 Nov 78).
allowances and charges to the discretion of the Clothier General.51
The committee on the Clothing Department prepared a report in January 1779 embodying Washington's ideas, but its recommendations dissatisfied him. The number of articles that the committee proposed to furnish officers was ample and suitable, but the money to be paid in lieu of the articles was entirely inadequate. It proposed that the rate to regulate the prices of the clothing supplied be set at two-thirds of a dollar for one shilling sterling. When one considered, he wrote the committee sent to confer with him, that the officers' pay was moderate and that they had to exercise considerable economy to make it cover their needs even when articles were cheap, this price rate appeared to be rather high "now that every item was greatly increased in price." Compensation should be either made real and sufficient or laid aside entirely. "As it now stands, it will rather have a bad than a good effect. The Committee will easily conceive the reasonings and feelings of the Officers when they find that the, at present, trifling Sum of 102 dollars is given as an equivalent for the advantage of having been supplied with a complete Stock of Cloathing at a moderate price in proportion to their pay."52
The report that Congress finally accepted about two months later retained the proposed annual clothing allowance for officers that Washington had approved. This allowance included a plain regimental coat, a cloth and linen waistcoat, two pairs of cloth breeches, six fine linen shirts, six cambric or muslin stocks, a fine caster hat, six pairs of thread or fine worsted hose, four pairs of shoes, one pair of boots, and one blanket. In addition, Congress' resolution offered a more advantageous rate than the committee on the Clothing Department had proposed; prices were to be set at the rate of 10 dollars for one pound sterling in cost.53
During 1779, as inflation spiraled upward and caused even greater distress to the officers, Washington again and again made pleas for their relief. When the Board of War in May proposed adoption of a blue uniform for the Continental Army and prepared an estimate of the clothing that would be required, Washington quickly pointed out the need for submitting an estimate for officers' clothing and for devising some intermediate relief until the proposed long-range plan could go into effect. In August he again took up the subject with the board and at the latter's suggestion addressed a circular to the states in which he appealed to them to aid their officers. The Board of War had made available to the officers a small quantity of linen, to be sold to them at the price it would have brought in 1777. Washington appreciated this effort
51. Ibid., 13:485-91 (to Committee of Conference, 8 Jan 79); 14:28-30 (to same, 20 Jan 79).
52, (1) Ibid., 14:41-42 (to Committee of Conference, 23 Jan 79). (2) See JCC, 10: 10- 12 (unadopted report of the committee on Clothing Department).
53. Ibid., 13:358-60 (23 Mar 79).
but added that "three hundred Shirts which is said will be the amount of it, will contribute so little to the relief of the Officers, that it will scarcely be known, unless by the difficulties and complaints that will attend the distribution."54
Congress finally took action in November 1779. Referring to its earlier recommendations for providing clothing to officers at prices proportioned to their pay, it laid down rules for delivery and payment. Officers of the line and staff were each entitled to receive annually the following articles of clothing: 1 hat, 1 watch coat, 1 body coat, 4 vests (1 for winter and 3 for summer), 4 pairs of breeches (2 for winter and 2 for summer), 4 shirts, 4 stocks, 6 pairs of stockings (3 worsted and 3 of thread), and 4 pairs of shoes. On receipt of these items the officers were to pay 50 percent more than the prices of the same items in April 1775. The regimental clothier was to handle distribution of this clothing except that for staff officers not taken from the line. If the latter were attached to the corps of, or residing in, any state at a distance from the Clothier General's store, they were to receive their clothing from the sub-clothier of their respective state. Staff officers who received commissions on their expenditure of public money were not entitled to clothing at government expense.55
No article of clothing was more important to the soldier than shoes. Two pairs were included in the clothing bounty offered in the fall of 1776. While the troops Jay at Boston the problem of supply did not become acute, but thereafter long marches over rough terrain wore out shoes faster than they could be supplied. On the retreat from New York in November 1776, Sgt. John Smith recorded that "our soldiers had no shoes to wair; was obliged to lace on their feet the hide of the cattle we had kill'd the day before."57 The shortage of shoes first received attention in the Northern Army. Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler, then commanding that army, suggested in September 1776 that Congress appoint agents to erect and operate a tanyard wherever materials for tanning could be most readily procured and where hides-from cattle slaughtered to feed both the Northern Army and the main army-could be most easily conveyed. This method, he thought, would be the cheapest way of supplying the Continental Army with leather for shoes.58
54. (1) Washington Papers, 108:72-73 (Bd of War to Washington, 25 May 79); 115:67 (same to same, 17 Aug 79). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 15:160-61 (to Bd of War, 27 May 79); 16:176-78 (to same, 26 Aug 79); 173-74 (circular to states, 26 Aug 79).
55. JCC, 15:1304-06 (25 Nov 79).
56. Ibid., 5:855 (8 Oct 76).
57. Matthews and Wecter, Our Soldiers Speak, pp. 27-28.
58. Force, Am. Arch., 5th ser., 2:246 (to Pres of Cong, 8 Sep 76).
Congress referred his proposal to the Board of War for consideration, but his suggestion apparently produced no results.
A congressional committee was sent to the Northern Department in the fall of 1776 to confer about the problems of the Northern Army. The disposition of the hides of cattle killed during the 1776 campaign was an aspect of operations that interested the committee. Its members soon discovered that agents of the Commissary Department at Ticonderoga, Albany, and elsewhere in the Northern Department had been disposing of hides at prices far below their real value because they would have spoiled during the summer. The committee halted any further sales and directed Commissary General Joseph Trumbull to have all hides dried and transported to Albany, where they could be sold or shipped elsewhere as Congress directed. Information on these low prices also reached the New York delegates in Congress through William Duer. Late in November Congress took action to prevent waste. It directed the commissaries in each military department to employ proper persons to take charge of the hides, cure them to prevent spoilage, and store them for the use of the Continental Army, subject to the orders of Congress.59 Congress, however, took no steps specifically to provide a better supply of shoes until the summer of 1777. By then shortages were so great, Washington informed Clothier General Mease, who was responsible for shoe procurement, that some corps were "almost entirely incapable of doing duty" for lack of shoes. Such shoes as Mease had supplied were too small and consequently of little use. Imported shoes were "thin french pumps" that tore to pieces whenever they got wet. He urged Mease to procure as many shoes as he could, adding that 50,000 pairs would not be too many.60
In June Congress resolved to establish a Hide Department under the direction of a commissary who would receive all rawhides belonging to the United States and exchange them either for tanned leather or for shoes at the customary rate of exchange. He would then deliver the shoes to the Clothier General, who would distribute them to the troops. If such exchanges could not be made on reasonable terms, Congress authorized the Commissary of Hides either to provide tanyards, materials, and workmen himself, or to contract with proper persons for converting the hides into tanned leather. Congress placed the Hide Department under the supervision of the Board of War. At the latter's direction, the Commissary of Hides also made deliveries of leather to the Commissary General of Military Stores for making accouterments. Congress elected Peter Phillips to the office, which carried a monthly salary of 80 dollars. When he declined the post, Congress appointed George Ewing.61
59. (1) RG 11, CC Papers, 21:109-10 (George Clymer et al., to Trumbull, 10 Nov 76). (2) Force, Am. Arch., 5th set., 3:1351-52. (3) JCC, 6:973-74 (22 Nov 76).
60. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 8:292, 432-33 (to Mease, 23 Jun and 18 Jul 77).
61. JCC, 8:487-89, 607 (20 Jun and 5 Aug 77).
Only the exchange of hides for shoes, Washington later informed the Board of War, saved soldiers from being "rendered totally unfit for Service."62 No immediate improvement in shoe supply was apparent, and three months after Ewing's appointment, Washington demanded to know on what terms he was disposing of hides. If the hides of all cattle consumed by the Continental Army were returned in leather, "they would much more than shoe the soldiers." Commissary Ewing reported that he had received 144,376 pounds of hides since 2 September 1777. He was in the process of exchanging them for leather at the rate of five pounds for one pound of sole leather, and eight pounds per one pound of upper leather. Despite his efforts, the tanned leather was coming in slowly.63 The poor quality of the shoes procured, including those imported from France, and the continuing shortages led Washington to direct commanding officers to select their most suitable men and set them to work making moccasins for their corps. On the basis of returns by the officers, he directed commissaries to issue them hides. At one point the Commander in Chief offered 10 dollars to any person who produced the "best substitute for shoes, made of raw hides."64
Ewing was beset by difficulties in managing the Hide Department. He needed wagons to haul hides but found it impossible to obtain them from the Quartermaster General. To enable him to operate more effectively, Congress authorized the Commissary of Hides or his deputy at any military department to hire or impress one or more wagons for the use of the Hide Department. These wagons were not to be subject to any further impressment by officers of the Continental Army for any other service. Moreover, commanding officers of military departments, posts, or detachments were to supply guards for the wagons at the request of the Commissary of Hides. Since hides were a valuable asset in the market and since the method of exchanging them for tanned leather or shoes was susceptible of much abuse by dishonest agents, Congress soon found it necessary to direct the Board of War to draft regulations for the guidance of the Hide Department. It also gave the board authority to appoint and dismiss personnel in the department.65
The winter of 1778-79 again found the troops suffering from a lack of shoes. Washington went to Philadelphia to confer with Congress, and Brig. Gen. William Alexander (Lord Stirling) was left in command of the main Continental army. To meet the army's need for shoes, he directed the Commissary of Hides, on 1 January 1779, to issue upon the order of the brigade commanders whatever number of hides they needed to exchange for shoes.
62. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 11:35 (to Bd of War, 6 Mar 78).
63. (1) Ibid., 10:45-46 (to Mease, 12 Nov 77). (2) Washington Papers, 62:90 (Ewing to Washington, 2 Dec 77).
64. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 9:341 (GO, 8 Oct 77); 10:94 (GO, 22 Nov 77).
65. JCC, 9:794-96 (11 Oct 77); 10:371 (21 Apr 78).
The officers then entered into contracts with shoemakers in their immediate vicinity to make shoes for the troops at an established rate of exchange for hides. Upon his return, Washington rescinded this order on 6 February, since it ran counter to the efforts of the Board of War to reduce shoe supply to a system in which only a few appointed commissaries handled the contracts. Those contracts that had been made, however, were completed.66
The Board of War had been attempting to satisfy the demands of the Continental Army and to perfect a regulatory plan for the Hide Department at the same time. To meet immediate needs it had established a factory at Newark, New Jersey, where shoes were produced with labor provided by soldiers drawn from the Maryland line. The board proposed establishing other production centers in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, but Washington objected to utilizing soldiers for this purpose in view of the small size of his army. "The numerous demands upon the line for purposes that cannot be dispensed with," he informed the board in April, "make it altogether inexpedient to increase them by any other, that can possibly be avoided." He thought supply ought to be maintained by continuing the system of bartering hides for shoes. The board placed other factories in operation-one at Allentown, Pennsylvania, and another at Middletown, Connecticut-that employed civilian labor. Even then the board ran into labor problems because the workmen who were also militiamen were subject to being called into service. Washington therefore requested governors to exempt these workers from militia duty on the grounds that they were more useful in the shoe factory than in the field.67
In the meantime, the Board of War had drafted a regulatory plan for the Hide Department that Congress adopted in the summer of 1779. Under this plan the board could appoint a commissary of hides in any state or grouping of states whenever the business of the Hide Department required it. The commissaries were allowed as many assistants and clerks as the board thought necessary to accomplish their business of receiving hides, converting them into tanned leather, and manufacturing shoes by using factories under their supervision or by contracting for the work. Responsibility for supervising the commissaries was now vested in the Clothier General, who received quarterly returns from them and, in turn, sent a consolidated quarterly return to the Board of War. All shoes were forwarded to the Clothier General, who distributed them to the Continental Army. The Board of War appointed five commissaries of hides-William Henry of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware; John Mehelm for
66. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 14:71 (GO, 6 Feb 79); 16:176-78 (to Bd of War, 26 Aug 79).
67. (1) Ibid., 14:391-92 (to 13d of War, 15 Apr 79); 15:284-85 (to Gov Jonathan Trumbull, 18 Jun 79). (2) Washington Papers, 108:43 (Pickering to Washington, 24 May 79).
New Jersey; Moses Hatfield for New York; Robert Lamb for Massachusetts; and George Starr for Connecticut.68
The Board of War must have felt that it finally had the problem of shoe supply well in hand. By the fall of 1779, however, Washington was once again reporting that a "considerable part of the Army is now unfit, even for fatigue duty in these stony Grounds, and should circumstances require a move, must inevitably be deprived of the services of a number of Men fit for duty in every other respect but that of want of shoes." He had written to Commissaries Hatfield, Mehelm, and Starr for supplies and had requested the members of the board to put the forwarding of shoes from those commissaries "more immediately under their Eye." The shortages struck Washington as worthy of investigation:
I cannot help thinking that there must be some mismanagement in conducting the Business, by those at present engaged in the Hide department. While the Brigadiers, thro' the necessity of the Case, undertook to make contracts of Hides for shoes, the Brigades were not only well shod, but generally had a stock on hand. Why matters should have taken a contrary turn the moment they were put into the hands of persons who have nothing else to attend to, deserve some investigation.69
Replies from the commissaries revealed that only small quantities of shoes could be supplied by late November. Commissary Hatfield had delivered 1,400 pairs of shoes in October and expected to turn in 1,500 pairs in November, yet he had 10,000 hides on hand. The Board of War had instructed the commissaries to confine their activities to their own districts in order to avoid competition. This regulation was sound, but Washington suggested that it would be advisable to direct the commissary of the state in which the main Continental army was located, and where the principal slaughter of cattle thus occurred, to correspond constantly with the commissaries in the states nearest to him and supply them with hides when he had more than he could handle. He instructed Moses Hatfield to send 2,000 dried hides to Philadelphia where they could be exchanged for shoes.70 Since criticism of the shoes was continuing, Washington also advised the Board of War that it might be well to caution all the commissaries to pay particular attention to the quality of the shoes:
It has been found that great abuses both with respect to the Public and the Soldiery have been practised in many cases and especially in the latter instance, by putting in small scraps and parings of Leather and giving the Shoes the appearance of strength and substance, while the Soals were worth nothing and would not last more than a day or two's march.71
68. (1) JCC, 14:870-71 (23 Jul 79). (2) Washington Papers, 116:57 (Richard Peters to Washington, 3 Sep 79).
69. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 16:389-90 (to Bd of War, 2 Oct 79).
70. Ibid., 16:459-60 (to Bd of War, 12 Oct 79); 17:24-25 (to same, 25 Oct 79); 27-28 (to Hatfield, 25 Oct 79).
71. Ibid., 17:222 (to Bd of War, 6 Dec 79).
The Board of War had its own grounds for complaint. There was little hope of installing an orderly system, it reported, if regulations were violated. Officers of the line made a habit of bartering government-owned hides for supplies for their men. They thereby obtained partial supplies, but in, the process increased competition and prices. Moreover, such action prevented the head of the supply department from knowing what stocks were on hand. In December 1780 regulations forbade officers of the line from making any contract or giving any orders for the purchase of any article without express authority from Congress. The only exceptions permitted were in cases of necessity where food and forage had to be provided for detachments or parties in places where those supplies could not be drawn from a store or magazine.72
If the troops suffered because tanners did not cure hides long enough to produce sound leather and shoemakers cheapened the quality of their shoes, they also were victimized by the fraudulent practices of some of the commissaries in the Hide Department. Upon assuming supervision of that department when he was appointed Clothier General, James Wilkinson discovered that there were irregularities and much confusion in the accounts of Moses Hatfield, commissary of hides for New York. Wilkinson thought that Hatfield had "acted with good designs," but his incompetence and implicit confidence in his deputy had involved him in fraud. He had obtained only a small number of shoes for a large number of hides. Wilkinson had no authority to remove a dishonest subordinate, and a year later Hatfield's accounts remained unsettled; large arrears were still due, and his deputy was still disposing of government property for his own benefit. Quartermaster General Pickering characterized Hatfield as "an arrant villian" and inquired, "Is there no way of bringing this fellow to Justice?"71 Agents in the Hide Department managed to defraud the government in other ways. One Obediah Taylor made shoes for the Virginia line, but when he put in his claim for hides on the basis of the receipts he held for the shoes he had delivered, he failed to deduct the work performed by soldiers in making the shoes. Mehelm, who had uncovered this fraud, was sure that Taylor had been defrauding the government for some time, since he had purchased real estate worth 16,000 pounds despite the fact that he had not been "worth a Single Shilling" three years earlier.74
The operations of the Hide Department were largely confined to supporting the main Continental army, and like all other staff departments it was
72. (1) JCC, 18:1117 (4 Dee 80). (2) See also Washington Papers, 122:78 (Pickering to Washington, 30 Nov 79).
73. (1) RG 93, Pickering Letters, 124:83 (to Bd of War, 23 Dec 80). (2) See also Washington Papers, 124:84-86 (Wilkinson to Bd of War, 4 Jan 80). (3) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 17:379 (to Maj Gen William Heath, 12 Jan 80).
74. (1) Ibid., 18:110-11 (to Mehelm, 13 Mar 80). (2) Washington Papers, 131:113 (Mehelm to Washington, 28 Mar 80).
hampered by lack of money. Shortly before he resigned, Wilkinson informed Washington that the total absence 6f money had thrown the Hide Department into such disorder and confusion that the Commander in Chief could not expect the substantial assistance hitherto furnished. Lack of money might put a stop to the manufacture of accouterments, Washington replied, but he failed to see how it could affect the supply of shoes inasmuch as any number could be procured by contract with tanners and shoemakers, who would take hides from the places where cattle were killed and return shoes to the deposit point or store without "requiring a farthing of money." Washington suspected that some commissaries of hides were appropriating both hides and leather in order to pay their salaries and those of their deputies. Such irregularities, he informed the Board of War, ought to be checked by the Clothier General, "whose Business it is, could I by any means prevail upon him to give attendance at the Head Quarters of the Army."75 But Wilkinson was at Philadelphia, settling his accounts preparatory to resigning.
Actually, the number of hides available for conversion into leather and shoes was diminishing because of the changes introduced by the system of specific supplies. When the states furnished their quotas of salted beef under this system, they apparently failed to turn in the hides of the slaughtered cattle, thereby reducing the supply available to the Hide Department for shoes.76 With the introduction of the contract system of provisioning the Continental Army, the Clothier General, who on 18 June 1781 had been made responsible for the management, direction, and superintendence of hides in addition to his other clothing duties, had to adopt the contract method for procuring shoes since hides were no longer available for continuing the barter system. Accordingly, during the last year of the war, the Clothier General, at Morris' direction, made contracts for shoes, but the change was not effected without complaints about the quality of the shoes furnished and the shortages that developed when the shift to the new system was first inaugurated.77 Throughout the war no single item of clothing gave more trouble than shoes.
Continuance of Clothing Shortages
If the Hide Department failed to meet the shoe requirements of the main Continental army, the Clothing Department was not much more effective in supplying other items of apparel. The steady and regular flow of supplies
75. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 21:362 - 63 (to Bd of War, 23 Mar 81).
76. Ibid., 22:166-67 (to Col Elisha Sheldon, 6 Jun 81); 247 (to Bd of War, 21 Jun 81).
77. Washington Papers, 193:79 (Moylan to Washington, 19 Mar 82); 195:39 (same to same, 17 Apr 82); 204:87 (Col Walter Stewart to Moylan, 22 Aug 82); 205:62 (Moylan to Secretary at War, _ Aug 82).
that Washington had hoped to see established with the reorganization of the Clothing Department did not materialize. By the time the main army was preparing to go into winter quarters late in November 1779, he was repeating familiar complaints. The "distribution of Cloathing, owing to its late arrival; the scantiness of the stock; the diversity of colour and in quality; its not having been properly assorted when packed; and absence of Cloathiers . . . has proved a matter of the most irksome delay and difficulty."78 Washington's army went into winter quarters around Morristown, but four brigades were left at West Point and one at Danbury. These brigades were furnished clothing from the store at Newburgh, New York. Washington directed that the removal of supplies from Newburgh to Morristown could be left to James Wilkinson's assistant, John Moylan, while the Clothier General hurried to headquarters to issue the clothing to the troops. Two weeks later, however, Wilkinson had not arrived, and the soldiers were in a wretched and miserable condition. Washington again urged the Clothier General to speed the clothing to camp, but lack of transportation delayed delivery of the supplies. The Commander in Chief directed Quartermaster General Greene to lend all assistance possible. Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne welcomed any promise of clothing for his poorly clad officers and soldiers, but he seemingly had no great expectations of filling their needs. He wrote derisively to Brig. Gen. William Irvine on 14 December:
I must confess that the latter would make a better appearance had they a sufficiency of hats, but as Congress don't seem to think that an essential ... part of uniform, they mean to leave us uniformly bare-headed-as well as bare-footed-and if they find that we can bare it tolerably well in the two extremes, perhaps they may try it in the center.79
Even when the Clothing Department delivered woolen clothing, the amount was less than required and had to be proportioned among the troops. The ill-clad soldiers suffered throughout the bitter winter at Morristown.
Harassed by existing shortages, Washington inquired of Wilkinson what preparations were under way for the summer campaign. If his troops were provided with an adequate supply of shirts, linen overalls, and shoes, they would be able to manage very well through the summer and early fall of 1780. The early preparation of an estimate for the Board of War was essential, he wrote to his Clothier General. The latter, however, knew little about clothing prospects for the ensuing year. He was not on a "confidential footing" with the Board of War, he wrote Washington in March 1780, complaining that "I neither hear, see or know anything of the clothing until it is delivered into my Magazines." As far as he knew, only 14,000 linen
78. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 17:178-80 (to Pres of Cong, 24 Nov 79).
79. (1) Scheer and Rankin, Rebels and Redcoats, p. 421. (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 17:221, 287 (to Wilkinson, 6 and 19 Dec 79); 287-88 (to Greene, 20 Dec 79).
overalls comprised the whole stock of summer clothing, and "many of them are of Vile Quality." When he had ventured to urge the adoption of what he deemed an advantageous plan, he had been accused of "the sordid vice of self-Emolument." Despite such treatment, he assured the Commander in Chief, he would be assiduous in carrying out the duties of his office.80
The Board of War itself was handicapped in its efforts to provide supplies by lack of funds. Since the Treasury could not furnish money, the board thought "it needless to involve either ourselves or the Officers under our directions in the persecution of being dunned for Debts it would have been impossible to pay." All its hopes were fixed on supplies from Europe.81 But the clothing brought by the French fleet in 1780 proved to be far less than what had been expected.82 Late in 1780, with the main Continental anny facing another distressing winter encampment, 10,000 complete uniforms remained in France because the American agents there could not agree whose business it was to ship them. For much the same reason another quantity of clothing had been waiting in the West Indies for more than eighteen months.83
To clothe the soldiers for the campaigns of 1780, reliance had to be placed on the states. The disparity in the provision made by the states for their respective troops, however, caused discontent. An army ought to be raised, paid, subsisted, and regulated upon an equal and uniform basis, Washington insisted. The system of state supplies had proved "pernicious beyond description" in operation, he charged, for some states had furnished their troops amply not only with clothing but with many small comforts and conveniences; others had supplied their troops on a more limited scale; and still others had been able to do little or nothing at all. When officers and men compared their circumstances resentments grew.84
Clothing shortages were exasperating to Washington because he was certain that they resulted not from actual lack of supplies but from the fact that Congress did not have the time to give adequate attention to clothing supply. Nor could boards, composed of an always fluctuating membership drawn from Congress, give that "close application" and "uniform thinking and acting" that were required to direct supply. Only permanent, executive bodies could do that. Even when the troops were most in need of clothing, divided attention, Washington charged, permitted stocks to accumulate at
80. Washington Papers, 129:52 (Wilkinson to Washington, 1 Mar 80).
81. ]bid., 130:90 (Bd of War to Washington, 17 Mar 80).
82. (1) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 20:21-22 (to Pres of Cong, 9 Sep 80); 30 (to Gov Jefferson, 11 Sep 80). (2) Burnett, Letters, 5:447 (Sullivan to Meshech Weare, 15 Nov 80); 576 (Jesse Root to gov of Conn., 20 Feb 81); 577 (Va. delegates to Jefferson, 20 Feb 81).
83. (1) Ibid., 5:460-61 (Sullivan to Washington, 26 Nov 80). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 20:462-63 (to Gen Lincoln, 11 Dec 80). (3) JCC, 18:973-78 (25 Oct 81).
84. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 18:209 (to Pres of Cong, 3 Apr 80).
different places where they fell "prey to moth, and cankerworms of a worse kind." The clothing system, if it could be called a system, afforded a "fruitful field" for fraud. And Washington had found that preparations were never made on a timely basis. While he recurred to organizational suggestions that he had made in past years, Washington once more had to eke out a clothing supply as the soldiers went into winter quarters at the end of 1780.85 He appealed to the states, but he was convinced that all the available clothing between Boston and Philadelphia would not meet the needs of more than half the number of men who would be left in service after December 1780. He advised that a "most parsimonious distribution" would be necessary.86
Otis and Henley, who were still supplying clothing, lamented that "in vain do we exert if there can be no energy given to the Quarter Master's Department." Eight wagonloads of clothing had remained all summer at Springfield, Massachusetts, for lack of transportation, and lack of care had resulted in large losses. To Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln's suggestion that enough clothing had arrived in "private Bottoms" to supply the main army, Washington replied that he was "only tantalizing the naked," for the miserable condition of the government's credit made it impossible to obtain one yard of Cloth.87 Even by collecting "all our Remnants, and those of a thousand colours and kinds," he informed Lincoln, he would scarcely be able to make his troops comfortable. Of necessity he was compelled to discharge the levies when the troops went into winter quarters. "Want of clothing rendered them unfit for duty, and want of Flour would have disbanded the whole army if I had not adopted this expedient," he wrote Greene, then commanding the Southern Army and equally desperate for lack of clothing.88
When the opportunity arose to attack Cornwallis late in the summer of 1781, Washington called on Virginia to furnish clothing for its troops, but that state was as lacking in transportation to move supplies as was the United States itself. Nor were its supplies, the Virginia Board of War informed Washington, by any means as plentiful as had been represented to him. The state was issuing clothing as fast as it could be collected.89 To expedite the transportation of clothing that had arrived on transports from France, Robert Morris and the Board of War agreed to send Clothier General John Moylan to Boston in September 1781 to bring the supplies to Philadelphia.
85. Ibid., 20:371-74 (to Sullivan, 20 Nov 80); 21:14 (to Duane, 26 Dec 80).
86. Ibid., 20:331-32 (circular to states, 10 Nov 80); 329-30 (to Gen Heath, 9 Nov 80).
87. (1) Washington Papers, 156:129 (Otis and Henley to Washington, 8 Nov 80); 158:24 (Jonathan Trumbull to Washington, 21 Nov 80); 41 (William Story to Washington, 22 Nov 80). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 20:462-63 (to Lincoln, 11Dec 80).
88. Ibid., 20:470 (to Greene, 13 Dec 80).
89. (1) Ibid., 23:121-22 (to Va. Bd of War, 16 Sep 81). (2) Washington Papers, 184:84 (William Davies to Washington, 19 Sep 81).
Washington arranged for the necessary escorts to be ready along the route that Moylan was to take from Springfield, Massachusetts, to Easton, Pennsylvania. The Clothier General experienced "no small uneasiness" when he arrived in Boston and found that the funds to pay for the transportation had not yet been collected. The Massachusetts General Court did not vote the money until 23 October. On 3 November Moylan wrote Washington that he had thirty-five wagonloads on the way to Fishkill.90 By that time, however, the original orders to Moylan had to be changed. After conferring with the Board of War, Morris directed Moylan to halt the wagons near General Heath's army on the Hudson River and deposit and make distribution of the clothing to the troops there. Only officers' clothing was to be sent on to Philadelphia. Robert Morris had decided to purchase clothing for the Southern Army there.91
For the remainder of the war the Clothing Department looked to the Superintendent of Finance to provide the clothing needed by officers and soidiers in Washington's army as well as in the Southern Army. In 1781 the main army had waited for the arrival of a store ship from France-the Marquis de la Fayette-to supply its officers with necessary articles of clothing. But no news of the ship was received during the summer, and by the winter of 1781-82 Washington considered it lost.92 Other ways for providing clothing to the officers then had to be devised. The Superintendent of Finance, lacking funds, sought to anticipate the taxes he would receive before the end of 1781. He found certain men in Philadelphia who were willing to supply, on 6-months' credit, the necessary quantity of officers' clothing and to deliver it at the officers' places of cantonment. To enable the officers to pay for these articles, Morris gave each subaltern a promissory note equal to 3 months' pay and a note equal to 2 months' pay to each captain and all other officers of superior rank, the notes to be payable in 6 months. The suppliers of the goods were to take these notes at their full value. Morris anticipated that the goods would be supplied at camp as cheaply as they could be bought for cash in Philadelphia. An officer did not have to take the promissory notes, or if he did, he did not have to purchase clothing. He could keep the notes till the time of payment, he could discount them, or he could use them to purchase other supplies for the campaign.93
The closing months of the conflict were characterized by an almost constant tug of war between the Clothing Department and the office of the
90. Ibid., 184:112 (to Moylan, 24 Sep 8 1); 185:122 (Bd of War to Washington, 13 Oct 8 1); 182:91 (Moylan to Washington, 3 Nov 81).
91. (1) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 23:273 (to Bd of War, 27 Oct 81). (2) Morris Diary, 1:89, 90 (29 and 30 Oct 81). (3) Morris Letter Book B, fols. 82-83 (to Heath, 2 Nov 81; to Moylan, same date).
92. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 22:367 (to Supt of Finance, 13 Jul 81).
93. (1) Ibid., 23:481 -82 (to Morris, 2 Feb 82); 24:25-26 (to Gen Heath, 28 Feb 82). (2) Morris Letter Book B, fols. 405-06 (Morris to Washington, 26 Jan 82).
Superintendent of Finance. Washington exerted pressure on both as well as on the Secretary at War to get the clothing he needed for his troops. Under the straitened financial circumstances, however, supply always remained inadequate in some articles. Moylan reported, for example, that hats were in particularly short supply, much to the distress of Washington, who wanted his men to make a military appearance. The best the Clothier General could do was to substitute leather caps. Shirts also were much needed, and by August 1782 Washington reported that the men generally had only one and would soon be without any unless an immediate supply was provided.94 As usual, Moylan applied to Morris for funds, but he was not too hopeful that his appeal would be granted. When a supply of linen arrived from Holland, the Clothier General expected to furnish two shirts to each man if he could get the money to have them sewn. Washington suggested that if all other means failed, Moylan might appeal to the women of the country to contribute their services in sewing these articles. Washington knew that such an appeal would find a ready response, since at various times his army had been the recipient of shirts through the philanthropic efforts of groups of women.95
Robert Morris would have liked to remove all grounds for complaint, but the means at his command made this impossible. In order to obtain funds to pay debts contracted by the Clothing Department-and in the fall of 1782 these included 12,000 dollars for work done by tailors-Morris was actually selling those items of the imported clothing that were not suitable for military use.96 By one means or another, however, he did manage to clothe the troops during the closing months of the war. Washington undoubtedly desired a more complete issue of authorized clothing, but despite some shortages, the Continental Army was more adequately clothed than it had been during much of the war.
94. (1) Washington Papers, 193:79 (Moylan to Washington, 19 Mar 82); 195:39 (same to same, 17 Apr 82). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 24:110-12 (to See at War, 10 Apr 82); 457-58 (to Moylan, 3 Aug 82).
95. (1) Washington Papers, 206:67 (Moylan to Washington, 13 Sep 82). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 25:207-08 (to Moylan, 25 Sep 82); see also 21:4, 35, 77 (22, 23, and 29 Dec 80).
96. Washington Papers, 208:97 (Morris to Washington, 15 Oct 82).
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