A Concluding Commentary
In the eighteenth century a military campaign began in the spring, not infrequently in the late spring. It lasted until winter brought a halt to operations and the troops withdrew to winter quarters, where they remained until another spring and the condition of the roads permitted renewal of operations. Military history in that century has been aptly characterized as "the study of summer campaigns begun late, prosecuted without vigor, and ending to the relief of all concerned when winter threatened."1 Washington and Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery ignored the calendar in their late December attacks on Trenton and Quebec, but these were exceptions to the traditional avoidance of military operations in winter months. This rule, however, had no application in the Southern Department, where fighting did not depend on seasonal weather. There, for example, a British expeditionary force captured Savannah, Georgia, on 29 December 1778, and a force of Continental regulars and militiamen overwhelmingly defeated British troops at Cowpens, South Carolina' on 17 January 1781.
It was in the winter months that the supply chiefs and their subordinates with the main Continental army prepared for the next year’s campaign by building up magazines, by contracting for the production of wagons and other essential supplies, and by repairing old equipment. Unfortunately, these supply efforts seldom resulted in the Continental troops’ being adequately supplied, equipped, and prepared to take the field against the enemy in the spring. Frustrations constantly hampered supply efforts; essential materials were often in short supply. On occasion, for example, tentmakers could neither make new tents nor repair old ones because canvas and twine were not available. Consequently, tentage available at the start of a campaign fell short of demand. As prices rose with inflation, lack of funds also restricted supply efforts. Wagon contracts negotiated early in the winter by quartermasters remained uncompleted in the spring if manufacturers saw no prospect of payment. Farmers similarly were reluctant to exchange their wheat and cattle for a depreciating currency and even more so for certificates. Depreciation also led to complaints from the teamsters, artisans, and laborers whose services were needed to support the troops. In preparing
1. French, The First Year of the American Revolution, p. 93.
estimates and making plans in the winter, the supply chiefs, the Commander in Chief, and the Board of War all relied on purchases abroad to provide the clothing, arms, and ammunition needed by the troops. In spring, however, the eagerly awaited ship carrying such supplies might be delayed, be lost at sea, or be captured by a British warship. The vessel might even arrive without the supplies, having left them on a French dock.
Commanders, well aware of the unforeseen delays that could occur in supplying their troops, resignedly accepted the inevitable supply deficiencies. Troops took the field supplied to the extent possible, often not to engage in a definitive battle with the enemy but to maneuver and delay until cold weather ended operations. Commanders always entertained the hope that the next spring would find the troops more adequately supplied. No better example of skillful maneuvering by ill-equipped troops can be found than in Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s campaign in the Carolinas that culminated in the battle of Guilford Court House in March 1781 and led directly to the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.2 Washington fully understood that regardless of the logistical shortcomings of the supply departments, only by holding his army together and evading irretrievable defeat could he prevent the collapse of the Revolution.
Given this nature of eighteenth century warfare, it is not surprising to find that nothing in the records ascribes the loss of any battle in the American Revolution to a failure of supply. On the contrary, the troops who trudged over icy and snowy roads on Christmas Eve to win victory at Trenton were compelled to "victual themselves where they could," were clad in threadbare summer clothing, and in many cases were shoeless.3 If battles were not lost by supply failures, military plans were certainly frustrated by supply deficiencies.
The restrictions imposed on military operations by supply deficiencies were immediately revealed in 1775. Although prewar preparations had been undertaken, at best they were limited in scope, and they were wholly inadequate to meet wartime demands. When Washington in mid-February 1776 thought the season and the frozen harbor afforded a golden opportunity for launching an attack on Boston, his general officers rejected the plan because they lacked sufficient men, powder, and cannon to take the offensive against the British. Washington could undertake the fortification of Dorchester Heights only after the states and the Continental Congress had sent powder
2. See Theodore Thayer, Nathanael Greene: Strategist of the American Revolution (New York, 1960), pp. 307 ff.
3. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 6:457 (to Robert Morris, 30 Dec 76); 7:60-61 (to Robert Ogden, 24 Jan 77).
and Col. Henry Knox had brought cannon from Ticonderoga. Meanwhile, the American thrust into Canada was not only blunted but reversed by shortages of food and clothing and, even more significantly, by the appalling lack of medical care for the troops. The disastrous retreat of the Northern Army laid open the Lake Champlain- Hudson River route to the British.
In the fall of 1777 Washington found his plans impeded by a lack of provisions for his troops. He had no hesitancy later in attributing this shortage to Congress’ reorganization of the Commissary Department in the midst of the campaign. By December the supply of rations had deteriorated to such an extent that he was unable to send out even small detachments to block the efforts of British foraging parties in the Philadelphia area. If the enemy had crossed the Schuylkill River, he warned the President of Congress on 22 December, his divisions would have been unable to move to meet them for the same reason.4 The supply crisis at Valley Forge was, in fact, so serious that if General Howe had violated military tradition by advancing in December on the Continental troops quartered there, he might have readily overwhelmed them and possibly ended the war.
There was no major engagement in the north after the battle of Monmouth in June 1778, and the war there moved into a stalemate. Supply problems multiplied as the financial situation of the country worsened. Conditions at Morristown in the winter of 1779-80 were far worse than the soldiers had experienced at Valley Forge. Washington nevertheless made plans for a possible attack on New York in 1780 to close that year’s campaign "with some degree of eclat."" These plans, however, had to be abandoned because "the means were inadequate to the end," as Washington advised Gouverneur Morris, who had written him about undertaking such a movement.5 The Quartermaster General could not put the main army in motion for lack of funds to complete purchases of wagons or to pay for repair work. Nor could he furnish the necessary horses; all transporation on the supply lines had to be accomplished by impressment. The Ordnance Department also was restricted in its efforts to make necessary preparations by lack of funds. Thus, it was not only the failure of powder and arms to arrive from France but also the dismal supply situation that called a halt to Washington’s plans in 1780.
The troops were on the verge of famine, for the system of specific supplies had failed to produce adequate stores of provisions where they were needed. Reviewing the distress of his army in December 1780 and the difficulty of moving it to its places of cantonment that winter, Washington added that "it would be well for the Troops, if like Chameleons, they could live upon Air, or like the Bear, suck his paws for sustenance during the rigour of the approaching season."6 Actually, there was no real lack of available provisions in
4. Ibid., 9:238 (to Pres of Cong, 19Sep77); 10:183-84, 193-94 (to same, 22 and 23 Dec 77).
5. Ibid., 14:457-59 (10 Dec 80).
1780. What was lacking, as Greene protested, was the means to draw out the resources-that is, cash in hand to pay for the wheat, flour, cattle, and other subsistence items which farmers otherwise were reluctant to release. The French found no difficulty in exchanging cash for flour, nor did the agents sent out by Robert Morris on the eve of the Yorktown campaign. At a later date Washington attributed the prolongation of the war to Congress’ lack of powers. "More than half of the perplexities I have experienced in the course of my command, and almost the whole of the difficulties and distress of the Army, have their origin here."7 Neither Congress nor the states, however, were in a position to create a strong central government with adequate powers, particularly the essential power to finance the war through taxation.
Importance of French Aid
In the spring of 1781 lack of funds continued to hamper all supply operations. The deputy quartermaster for New York advised that there was "an entire loss of confidence in public faith." Individuals in consequence were seizing public property and either selling it or converting it to their own use. At Albany the assistant quartermaster feared he would be left without anyone to assist him. The coopers had already quit. He had prevailed upon the oarmakers to work another week, but if he got no cash by that time to pay them, he would have to "hide myself from them." At Peekskill another assistant quartermaster found his situation equally disagreeable as artificers, teamsters, and boatmen called on him for payment of back wages. Most of these people, he informed the Quartermaster General, had one year’s pay due them. Many of them had been in service "upwards of four years and for want of the common necessaries of life cannot do their duty." The deputy quartermaster in Virginia also reported an insistent demand for the payment of old debts. "I never saw a country so loaded with certificates as the State of Virginia," he wrote the Quartermaster General. "There is not an article scarcely that can be mentioned but what has been taken, and nothing but a bare certificate left in payment even to breakfasts and dinners for officers and likewise for many Soldiers."8
In view of this deteriorating logistical support, French assistance was crucial. French aid extended through Roderique Hortalez and Company opportunely provided the arms and military stores needed for achieving victory at Saratoga in 1777. That aid was "predicated and carried out on the basis of sustaining and aiding a fighting American Army."9 The success of American arms on the battlefield made possible an alliance with France and
7. Ibid., 26:277 (to Alexander Hamilton, 31 Mar 83). See also 26:495 (circular to states, 8 Jun 83).
8. RG 11, CC Papers, item 192, fols. 57-63 (Pickering to Pres of Cong, 30 Mar 81).
9. Peckham, The War for Independence, p. 201
its open support of the war. When in 1781 the rumor of an approaching French fleet was confirmed, past disappointments concerning joint action were forgotten. Washington galvanized his army and the country into making one last, supreme effort to defeat the British. More than ever he acted as his own chief supply officer, ably supported by Robert Morris and aided by those states that responded to his appeals for assistance. Understandably, much of what was required to support the allied forces at Yorktown was obtained through impressment, but French help was indispensable. One can only conclude that without that aid the Americans could not have defeated Cornwallis or won the war.
Responsibility for Supply Shortages
Supply officers are usually given little recognition in the annals of war, as Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene was quick to point out in 1779.10 When notice was taken during the Revolution, it was frequently unfavorable. It occurred when commanding generals, including Washington on occasion, blamed supply officers for impeding their battle plans. A more unsavory notoriety grew out of the inevitable investigations conducted to expose abuses and frauds. Supply deficiencies in the American Revolution, however, have to be charged not only to the shortcomings of quartermasters and commissaries but also to the Continental Congress, state governments, line officers, and the populace itself, as a brief summary will make clear.
The first ration shortages occurred among the troops in Canada. For the first time in the war commissaries had to provision a moving army, forwarding supplies over great distances. Transportation on the supply lines was disrupted by line officers who appropriated wagons and boats needed for hauling provisions to support the troops. On later occasions line officers commanding in military departments stopped wagons en route and seized for their own troops in garrison parcels of clothing or forage that were destined for the troops of the main Continental army in the field. In consequence, the latter were inadequately supplied, since the supply officer with the main army was deprived of the quantities he had counted on receiving. Line officers also at times flouted regulatory measures of supply officers intended to protect and preserve supplies at deposit points. On occasion, too, commanding generals ignored the efforts of the supply departments and designated their own purchasing agents, thus promoting competition between the latter and the departmental supply personnel who had been authorized to support their activities.
State authorities, whose agents competed with Continental agents in the
10. Taking the post of Quartermaster General only with reluctance, Greene protested that no one had ever heard of a quartermaster in history. Washington Papers, 104:82 (to Washington, 24 Apr 79).
procurement of military supplies, also were guilty in certain instances of diverting Continental supplies to equip and clothe their militia. Competition extended not only to foreign markets but also to port areas within the respective states where private merchants disposed of clothing, powder, and other supplies on the domestic market. Moreover, state governments failed to appreciate the need to pool resources for the support of the Continental Army. They insisted, for example, that the Clothier General restrict distribution of any clothing and blankets sent by a particular state to the, troops of that state and retain any surplus articles for their use only. Such parochial views promoted dissatisfaction among those troops drawn from states without access to ports and thus unable to clothe their soldiers. State governments always responded, though sometimes tardily, to Washington’s pleas for transportation and supplies, but they regarded their first obligation as defense of their states. Their restrictive laws, particularly those governing the use of wagons, pasture lands, and forage, were enacted to protect the interests of their citizens and did much to hamper the efforts of Continental commissaries and quartermasters to supply the transportation needs of the Continental Army. The Continental Congress itself failed to see any immediate need for centralized control of procurement in the administrative supply agencies it created in 1775. It frequently diminished the authority it had granted to the head of a supply agency by appointing independent purchasing agents, a practice that promoted confusion by creating overlapping authorities and stimulating competitive procurement.
Although the times were not propitious for a strong central government, the Continental Congress was often most dilatory in exercising the authority it did possess. The sufferings of the soldiers at Valley Forge were in large part the result of congressional delay in appointing a new Quartermaster General. The Continental. Congress left that post vacant for about five months at a time when energetic action by that department was required for the transportation of supplies. It permitted the Clothing Department to be without a chief for an even longer time. 0n the other hand, its insistence on reorganizing the Commissary Department, in the midst of the campaign of 1777 had led to a deterioration of the supply of subsistence without its even being aware of the fact. The successive appointments that Congress made to fill the posts under that reorganization were time-consuming and had a disastrous impact on subsistence supply at Valley Forge. By 1780 Washington lamented the relinquishment of congressional powers to the states under the system of specific supplies. All business, he declared, was "now attempted, for it is not done, by a timid kind of recommendation from Congress to the States." Instead of pursuing one uniform system, each state was determining for itself whether it would comply, in what manner it would do so, and when.
11. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 19:131-33 (to Fielding Lewis, 5 May-6 Jul 80).
Still another factor had an impact on supply preparations during the latter years of the war. Toward the close of each year the states. and Congress hoped that peace would soon be at hand. This expectation, Washington wrote, "never fails to produce an apathy which lulls them into ease and security, and involves the most distressing consequences at the opening of every Campaign."12 Contracts were canceled and supply operations were delayed by these false hopes of peace. As a result, adequate supply preparations were not made in due time for the approach of each campaign.
Supply abuses have undoubtedly occurred in every war, and the American Revolution was no exception. An account of abuses practiced from the lowest to the highest echelons of authority in the supply agencies does not provide an edifying story. The purchase of supplies was quite naturally placed in the hands of merchants. While one may find their practice of conducting private and public business at one and the same time unacceptable in terms of today’s standards, it is necessary to place their actions in the framework of eighteenth century mercantile capitalism. Similarly, the outraged cries against speculators that rang through the land and the price and wage controls against monopolistic practices that both Congress and state governments enacted have to be viewed against a long colonial history of such denunciation and regulation.
At the same time, one has to recognize that some genuine abuses did exist. As early as 1775, when quartermasters were experiencing difficulty in procuring wood and forage for the troops at Cambridge, Washington denounced monopolizers who withheld needed supplies from the market to raise prices and thereby gain profits at public expense. To monopolizers he added "speculators, various tribes of money makers, and stock jobbers of all denominations," declaring that their avarice and thirst for gain would ruin the country.13 Washington would make this criticism again and again throughout the war. In such denunciations he and other men were "voicing sentiment deeply rooted by the eve of the conflict" in colonial experience and were not making accusations unique to the American Revolution.14 Speculation was so commonly pursued that even some delegates to the Continental Congress engaged in it. By the spring of 1779, however, there had been so much criticism that most of the speculators who had been in Congress were said to have withdrawn. A delegate prayed that if there were
12. Ibid. See also 19:317-18 (to Bd of War, 3 Aug 80).
13. Ibid., 14:300 (to George Mason, 27 Mar 79). See also 3:455-56 (to Mass. legislature, 29 Aug 75); 13:21 (to Gouverneur Morris, 4 Oct 78), 383 (to Joseph Reed, 12 Dec 78); 467 (to Benjamin Harrison, 18 Dec 78).
14. Morris, "Labor and Mercantilism in the Revolutionary Era," Era of the American Revolution, p. 89.
"more of these reptiles among us God send us a thorough deliverance." One such speculator was the Maryland delegate Samuel Chase. On the approach of the French fleet in 1779, he cornered the supply of flour in the expectation of making a profit at the expense of the French forces.15
Conduct of the Populace
It was characteristic of the populace in the American Revolution to be extremely suspicious of any supply officer engaged in procurement for the Continental Army. Regardless of whether the procurement officer was paid a salary or collected a commission on his purchases, the citizen was convinced that he was growing wealthy at the expense of the public. This attitude likely reflected the fact that many of the purchasing agents were merchants who continued to conduct their private businesses. Sharp practices by merchants in the past had not been unheard of, and few colonial citizens could believe that merchants, were not using public business to promote private interests. As pointed out by Robert A. East, "the colonial mind was predominantly agrarian" in many respects. When Arthur Lee bitterly attacked Silas Deane, the insinuations and accusations against Deane, Morris, and their commercial and land-speculating associates that emerged in speeches and publications divided Congress itself into bitter camps and confirmed most colonists in their agrarian prejudices and hostility to merchants.16 The sufferings of the inhabitants living in the path of the armies, both British and American, as they marched and countermarched through the land destroying crops and impressing whatever they needed, undoubtedly generated further hostility and a determination to outwit supply officers. The perception of waste in the Continental Army also promoted a conviction that more was taken than what was needed, while the prosperity of some supply officers only deepened the suspicions of the citizens.
The sharp practices of some of the citizens themselves perhaps also accounted for their ready acceptance of charges of corruption on the part of all supply officers. Cobblers used green leather in producing shoes for the troops; tailors skimped on cloth in making uniforms; farmers used false bottoms in measuring and selling forage to the Continental Army; and millers turned out flour that was deficient in quality and short in weight per barrel. So prevalent was the abuse in the supply of flour that it was proposed that each barrel be marked with the brand of the miller who had produced it. Not a few citizens also traded with the enemy when it was safe to do so.17
15. Burnett, Letters, 4:235-36 (Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer to _, 26 May 79).
16. (1) East, Business Enterprise in the American Revolutionary Era, p. 26. (2) For land speculation, see Thomas P. Abernethy, Western Lands and the American Revolution (New York, 1959), pp. 183 ff.
17. Force, Am. Arch., 4th set., 3:844 (Albany Committee to N.Y. Convention, 28 Nov 76).
Pilferage was common on the supply lines and at magazines. Government-owned clothes, tents, shovels, picks, axes, and horseshoes; as well as vinegar, salt, and other provisions, were found in the hands of private citizens. Wagoners on the supply lines helped themselves from the cargoes they carried. Citizens appropriated any government supplies left unguarded. At times supplies expressly placed in their care because of a breakdown of teams or wagons or because of the bad condition of the roads were never again reported by them. From government-owned muskets placed in the hands of militia when they were called into service to government-owned horses and cattle delivered to farmers to be pastured, all were readily converted to private use; few people had any regard for public property rights. So widespread was pilferage that the Continental Congress recommended that the legislatures enact laws imposing heavy fines or other penalties on those who did not deliver government-owned supplies on the demand of the proper officer or who failed to report such supplies to the executive power of the state in which they resided.18
Poor products, outright theft, and diversion of government-owned articles diminished the supplies available to the Revolutionary soldier. Citizens, however, felt justified in retaining government-owned supplies because the supply departments often failed to pay for the work done for them. A warrant to impress was the only resource the purchasing agent had for obtaining badly needed supplies during the last years of the war. Citizens soon accepted certificates only under duress. The deteriorating financial situation largely explains why manufacturers refused to complete contracts for various products ordered by quartermasters and why farmers were reluctant to sell their produce to purchasing commissaries.
The Secret Committee and Abuses
It is only too evident from any survey of supply operations that there was justification for the suspicions that people harbored about supply, officers and their activities. At the same time, quartermasters and commissaries usually did not possess the large amounts of capital and the extensive business connections necessary for large-scale, highly profitable trade ventures. Although there were abuses in the administrative supply agencies established by the Continental Congress, far greater opportunities for commercial speculation were taken advantage of by certain delegates in Congress.
These opportunities grew out of the work of the Secret Committee, which was authorized to import supplies for the Continental Army and to pay for them by shipping abroad tobacco and other American produce. Imbued
18. (1) JCC, 14:869 (23 Jul 79). (2) See also APS, Greene Letters, 5:55, 68 (James Abeel to Greene, 22 and 23 May 79).
with the business spirit of the time, the Secret Committee saw to it that its members were awarded contracts to supply Army needs. None was more successful in combining war finances, Army contracts, and mercantile enterprise than Robert Morris, who exercised a dominant control over foreign procurement as chairman of the Secret Committee and member of the Committee of Secret Correspondence.
Morris profited through the utilization of his public service connections.19 His associates ranged from Oliver Pollock, agent at New Orleans, through William Bingham, agent at Martinique, to Silas Deane, agent at Paris, and included numerous merchants who were given commission business by the Secret Committee. Large amounts of money were involved in this business. Between 1775 and 1777 the committee spent over 2 million dollars, and it disbursed 483,000 dollars, or nearly a fourth, directly to the firm of Willing and Morris, at a time when inflation had not yet brought depreciation of the currency.20
A commission agent procuring supplies for the government at times would be owed money by the government as he extended his credit to procure supplies for it, but at other times he would have government funds on hand to use in purchasing new supplies or to pay for those already procured. The agent, however, could use such funds for private ventures, replacing them later when the investments were successful. Morris took advantage of his position to divert 80,000 dollars to his own use in 1776. This money had been granted by the Secret Committee for buying and forwarding goods to France in payment for supplies purchased there. The goods were not exported, but Morris did not return the money. Long after the war ended he was still indebted, to the government for large sums for which he had not accounted. As E. James Ferguson observes, 80,000 dollars in 1776 was enough capital to provide the basis for making a mercantile fortune.21
Robert Morris and his associates also participated in privateering ventures and engaged in private trade. In support of the latter, he employed public vessels, for which he paid no freight charges, to transport private cargoes. While some of these goods were purchased by Continental procurement agents, others were intended for, and brought high prices on, the civilian market. Thus Morris advised Silas Deane that he would miss making a fortune if he neglected to ship Morris European manufactured goods.
The prices of all imported articles have been enormously high. I could have sold any quantity of European manufactures for 500 to 700 percent and bought tobacco for
19. (1) William G. Sumner, The Financier and the Finances of the American Revolution, 2 vols. (New York, 1891), 1:206. (2) For an analysis of Morris as a businessman, see Ver Steeg, Robert Morris: Revolutionary Financier. (3) See also East, Business Enterprise in the American Revolutionary Era, pp. 12 ff.
20. Ferguson, The Power of the Purse, p. 77.
21. (1) Ibid., p. 78. (2) See also East, Business Enterprise in the American Revolutionary Era, p. 130.
25s. to 30s. per ct. It is not too late, but goods are becoming rather more plenty and tobacco is rising, but there is plenty of room to make as much money as you please.22
The growing demand for consumer goods and the increasing means to satisfy a taste for luxuries among those profiting from the war stimulated a desire for a financial killing among all merchants. It would appear, however, that Morris stretched the business code of his day to its limit.
Supply Chiefs and Trade
Since the concept of conflict of interests was largely Unknown in eighteenth century America, when traders and merchants accepted appointments in the supply departments during the American Revolution, they saw no need to divest themselves of their business interests. As supply officers they still concerned themselves with their family business interests and with those of their immediate circle of partners and close contacts in trade.
Thomas Mifflin, the first Quartermaster General of the Continental Army, was a prominent Philadelphia merchant. Though he devoted his attention wholly to his office when not engaged in other duties assigned him by the Continental Congress, he took care of family interests by giving government business to his cousin Jonathan Mifflin and to his partner, William Barret; both were important Philadelphia merchants. Since Mifflin was handling clothing supply, he was in a position to advise them on the kinds of fabrics in demand, though he was careful to inform them that he wanted no part of their profits. He did as much also for Matthew Irwin, another relative and Philadelphia merchant .23 Although he urged these men to exercise discretion, speculation about the link between their commercial activities and their relationship to the Quartermaster General soon arose. Fearing possible irregularities, Washington hinted to Mifflin of his apprehensions, but the Quartermaster General protested that his only profits came from the 5 percent commission allowed him by Congress on the goods he purchased. Aside from directing business to his relatives, Mifflin, according to his biographer, engaged in no improper or dishonest dealings in trade while he held the office of Quartermaster General .24
Like his predecessor, Nathanael Greene also took care of family interests when he became Quartermaster General. He offered his brother Jacob the post of purchasing agent for the Quartermaster’s Department in Rhode Island. At that time Jacob Greene and Company, consisting of Jacob and
22. Commager and Morris, The Spirit of 'Seventy-Six, p. 806.
23. Kenneth R. Rossman, Thomas Mifflin and the Politics of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, 1952), pp. 47-49.
24. (1) Ibid., p. 51. (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 4:432 (to Joseph Reed, 25 Mar 76).
Nathanael Greene and their cousin Griffin Green, operated the family-owned Coventry Ironworks and engaged in trade, financed privateers, and sold supplies to the Continental Army. The company appears never to have had any extensive business with the Army despite the Quartermaster General’s aid and advice, and, so far as Greene’s biographer could determine, it received the prevailing market price for goods sold to the Quartermaster's Department.25
That supply officers shared the spirit of gain sweeping the country is clear. No venture looked more alluring to investors than privateering, especially since the activities of privateers were considered beneficial to the country. Henry Knox, Chief of Artillery, abominated the idea of making any profit at public expense, yet he, too, speculated in privateering. At a time when inflation was increasing sharply, he urged his brother to invest in a privateer. "I am exceedingly anxious to effect something in these fluctuating times, which may make us lazy for life."26 Greene found the commissions he earned as Quartermaster General equal to his "utmost wishes," and for two years he supplied Jacob Greene and Company with large sums to be invested in privateering and shipping. According to a "List of Vessels that belong to Jacob Greene & Co.," the latter owned varying shares in 20 vessels, ranging in size from 14 to 150 tons. Unlike some others in public life, Greene never used public funds for private purposes. But like Knox and many other investors, the Quartermaster General had little return on his wartime investments through Jacob Greene and Company, for it suffered heavy losses in privateering.
In 1779, while still Quartermaster General, Greene entered into a business partnership with Jeremiah Wadsworth, then Commissary General of Purchases, and Barnabas Deane, brother of Silas Deane. Greene was not as scrupulous as Washington in avoiding any acts that might provide a base for charges of wrongdoing, but he was discreet enough to clothe with secrecy his business operations with Barnabas Deane and Company. The partners even used a code in their correspondence.27 Much later this secrecy gave rise to speculations that the company had been created expressly to sell supplies to the Quartermaster’s Department. Examination of all pertinent records has led Greene’s biographer to conclude that this was not the case; most of the capital was invested in shipping and privateering, and only occasionally were there any records of sales to the Continental Army. The latter were small, incidental orders.
25. (1) See Thayer, Nathanael Greene: Strategist of the American Revolution, pp. 230-38. (2) See also Freeman, George Washington, 5:505-07.
26. Francis S. Drake, Life and Correspondence of Major General Henry Knox (Boston, 1873), p. 61.
27. For an example of a coded letter, see "Letters of General Nathanael Greene to Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 22:211 16.
Offers to participate in privateering ventures also were made to supply officers by New England promoters. In 1779 Quarten-naster General Greene, Commissary General Wadsworth, and Clement Biddle, then commissary general of forage, were each offered an interest in a privateer being built by Joseph Webb. Greene did not accept the offer, for he was not inclined to invest in privateering, yet because privateers were "calculated to annoy the enemy and consequently to favor our cause," that fall he bought a thirty-second share in a privateer offered him by Samuel Otis of Boston.28 He also invested with Assistant Quartermaster General Charles Pettit in a number of other privateers, but by the summer of 1780 they had losses rather than returns on their investments.
There has been considerable speculation that Greene may have been a partner in the subsistence contracts that the firm of Wadsworth and Carter held for supplying French and American forces between 1780 and 1783. By this time both Greene and Wadsworth had resigned their respective supply posts. While not conclusive, the frequent correspondence between the two men has stimulated the speculation.
In pursuit of a profitable investment, Quartermaster General Greene and Assistant Quartermasters General Pettit and John Cox bought shares in the Batsto Ironworks in southern New Jersey. They anticipated selling cannon, shot, shells, and bar iron to the Board of War, and cannon and shot to shipbuilders and privateers. In August 1780 the ironworks had a contract with the Board of War for about 100 tons of shot and shell, which it completed. As in the case of many other ironmasters, however, the account went unpaid for a long time. Poor sales, high operating costs, and the disastrous effects of a flood and fire at the ironworks so discouraged the investors that they tried to dispose of their shares before the war ended. There is nothing to indicate that the investors in the Batsto furnace sold their products to the Board of War at anything other than a fair price, competitive with that asked by other ironmasters. Thus Greene was largely unsuccessful in both manufacturing and privateering. Perhaps this outcome was to be expected, since he devoted little time to his private financial affairs and left their management, as well as the actual selection of his investments, to other men.
If the Quartermaster General, the Commissary General of Purchases, and the commissary general of forage engaged in no illegal activities and avoided public censure in their investments, other supply chiefs were not so successful. Dr. William Shippen, Director General of the Hospital Department, claimed there was no regulation or law prohibiting speculation in hospital stores, but a court-martial viewed such conduct as reprehensible even though it had to acquit him of all charges for lack of evidence. He was discharged from arrest and resumed his post. James Mease more clearly
28. Greene Papers, vol. 5 (Greene to Samuel Otis, 17 Sep 79).
strayed beyond legal bounds. In 1778, when he had submitted his resignation as Clothier General but was still reluctantly continuing to fill the office until Congress appointed a successor, Mease entered into an agreement with Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold, commanding the American troops reoccupying Philadelphia after the British had evacuated the city. Under Washington’s orders, Arnold closed all shops and suspended all private trade in the city until Continental procurement agents had an opportunity to buy any imported goods found there that could be useful to the troops. By arrangement with Arnold, the Clothier General and his deputy bought goods in excess of need, the surplus being sold for the benefit of Arnold, Mease, and his deputy. This activity was not uncovered until long after Mease had ceased to be Clothier General. It was January 1781 before the president of the Pennsylvania Council called the attention of Congress to the "high abuse of office" by Mease and his deputy in taking unnecessary quantities of merchandise from the people for their private gain. Congress recommended that the president direct the state’s attorney to prosecute the two men.29
Charges Against Subordinate Supply Agents
General Arnold’s activities in 1778 also involved Deputy Quartermaster John Mitchell at Philadelphia in a threatened prosecution by Pennsylvania. Arnold was in partnership with two New York traders who had arrived to buy goods before the British evacuation of Philadelphia. To avoid a forced sale to Continental agents, Arnold gave them a pass to move a cargo out of the city. Later he sent a brigade of twelve wagons, which had been called up under Pennsylvania law for the transportation of public goods, to bring this merchandise back to the city. Arnold did not pretend these goods were public property, and he arranged to pay for the use of the wagons. Mitchell, who at Arnold’s request had furnished the wagons, said that the action in no way had hindered the transportation of public goods, but when the Pennsylvania Council brought charges against Arnold, it nevertheless held Mitchell "highly blameable" by reason of alterations made by his clerk in the office record book of teams used. The congressional committee to whom this matter was referred, however, brought in a report that Mitchell had not acted criminally or fraudulently in directing his clerk to make the alterations.30
The charge of using public wagons for hauling private property was much more frequently lodged against a quartermaster than a line officer. Robert Lettis Hooper provides a case in point. A deputy under Mifflin, Hooper was continued in office by Quartermaster General Greene. The Pennsylvania
29. (1) Carl C. Van Doren, Secret History of the American Revolution (New York, 1941), pp. 169-70. (2) JCC, 19:40 (9 Jan 81).
30. (1) JCC, 13:345 (20 Mar 79), (2) APS, Greene Letters, 10:2, 3 (Pettit to Greene, 22 and 25 Feb,79); 2:35 (same to same, 26 Feb 79). (3) Van Doren, Secret History of the American Revolution, pp. 172-75.
Council charged that when Washington’s army had been encamped at Valley Forge without rations and the means of transportation, Hooper had sent a number of public wagons loaded with private property to Boston. They had also returned with private merchandise. Mifflin, who thought the charges were politically motivated, called on Hooper to justify his conduct before the Board of War. He described Hooper as a "most excellent officer" to whom the country was indebted for the removal of stores from Philadelphia on the approach of the British. Moreover, he had been responsible for furnishing forage and teams during the last three months of the 1777 campaign. Without giving the Pennsylvania Council a hearing, the Board of War in 1779 acquitted Hooper of the charges. Thereupon, Hooper fell upon and beat the state's attorney general who had drawn up the charges against him.31
In 1780 a congressional committee investigated the conduct of a quartermaster who had superintended the transportation of provisions and stores from Philadelphia to Trenton in the summer of 1779. It reported that prices far higher than necessary had been paid for the shipment by water. These high freight charges, it asserted, were paid because several persons in the Quartermaster’s Department owned or were part owners of the vessels employed. So often had charges of misconduct been made against quartermasters in the transportation of supplies that another committee had already brought in a report in 1779 proposing that no quartermaster or commissary was to own or have an interest in any boat, wagon, cart, or horse hired to transport public supplies under penalty of dismissal and forfeiture of all pay for the whole time of his employment. The 1780 committee proposed that the guilty individual in addition be ineligible thereafter for appointment to any office in the United States.32
Giving higher prices and in consequence collecting larger commissions was a temptation hard to resist. One who succumbed was Commissary Carpenter Wharton, who in the summer of 1777 was charged with purchasing large quantities of flour, pork, and rum at prices which were far greater than the market price. He was removed from office and ordered to close his accounts, and the auditors were furnished with all information against him so that any frauds might be detected.33 His case only fed the charge frequently made against quartermasters and commissaries after 1778 that they were responsible for the depreciation of the currency. It was far easier to blame them for depreciation than for Congress to solve the complex problem of restoring the credit of the country’s currency. It was a charge, too, that was more readily understood by the citizen than the relationship between effective taxation and a stable currency.
31. (1) JCC, 13:453-55 (15 Apr 79). (2) Lee, Memoir of the Life of Richard Henry Lee, 2:173-74.
32. JCC, 14:813 (9 Jul 79); 17:604-05 (11 Jul 80).
33. Ibid., 8:498-501 (26 Jul 77).
By 1779, when the expenditures of the Commissary Department and the Quartermaster’s Department were running at 200 million dollars a year, even greater weight was given to the charge that their supply officers were responsible for the mounting war costs and the depreciation of the currency. Assistant Quartermaster General Pettit, while acknowledging that Congress had granted large sums of money to his department, maintained that depreciation made them far less than what the department required for operation. Although some delegates accepted the fact that the supply departments were also victims of depreciation, others continued to voice charges against them on the floor of Congress.34 Most citizens would have agreed in 1779 with Dr. William Shippen, delegate from Pennsylvania, who wrote:
Only think of a two penny Jack who never in his life was capable of any business he had been engaged in, of making a Shilling more than maintained his family and that but in a very so so manner shall now be making 40 or 50,000 pr. annum and that by lowering the value of our Money and raising the prices of every Article he purchases a truth acknowledged by all and yet the mischief suffered to go on and increase…..35
Undoubtedly, there were purchasing agents who increased their commissions by raising the prices offered for forage, provisions, and other supplies. In the midst of the storm of criticism and reforming zeal that swept through Congress in 1779, Greene was perhaps justified in believing that commissions had "been improv'd into one great source of jealousy and discontent." He considered their abuse to be a comparatively small evil. A majority of staff officers served upon a salary basis, yet little was heard of the hardships that they suffered in the midst of inflation. In 1779 the pay of quartermasters, he pointed out, had remained unchanged for two years.36 But even if some citizens recognized this fact, they had little sympathy, for they too had suffered from the evils of inflation, and the issue of corrupt purchasing agents had become an emotional one.
Supply personnel were held guilty of other abuses. Storekeepers and personnel at magazines were often charged with theft. Charges of embezzlement of public stores for private gain were made even more frequently against regimental quartermasters and commissaries serving with the Continental Army in the field. Subject to a closer surveillance than the departmental personnel, who often operated in areas remote from the control of, either the Quartermaster General or the Commissary General, regimental quartermasters and commissaries were promptly court-martialed for their offenses.37
34. (1) RG 11, CC Papers, item 155, 1:257 (Pettit to Pres of Cong, 17 Nov 79). (2) Bumett, Letters, 4:215 (Henry Laurens, Notes of Proceedings, 17 May 79); 235-36 (Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer to_, 26 May 79).
35. Ibid., 4:282 (to Richard Henry Lee, 22 Jun 79).
36. RG 11, CC Papers, item 173, 2:157-73 (Greene to Jay, 28 Jul 79).
37. For examples, see Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 12:242 (27 Jul 78); 13:183 (31 Oct 78); 14:425 (22 Apr 79).
Inquiries and Court-Martials
The reform spirit that swept through Congress in 1777 was aroused by the growing criticism of the activities of Carpenter Wharton and other purchasing commissaries in the Middle Department. It was fed further by the dismay that many felt in the wake of the disheartening retreat of Washington’s army during the 1776 campaign and by the British threat to Philadelphia at the end of the year. This reform spirit expended itself in the enactment of measures reorganizing the supply departments, particularly the Commissary Department. Congress anticipated beneficial results and provided considerable funds for the support of the 1777 campaign.
These congressional efforts, however, did not bring improvement, and delegates were appalled by the reports received from Valley Forge. Charges of neglect, of duty and peculation began to be heard against Mifflin and the officers of his department. These charges culminated in a congressional order on 11 June 1778 directing Washington to make an inquiry.38 The latter took no action while the campaign of that year was in progress. In August, after some supply officers had resigned, Mifflin proposed that Congress appoint a committee to undertake the inquiry, but Congress rejected this proposal. By the time Washington received orders to proceed with the inquiry, Mifflin himself had resigned from the Continental Army, and thus, as Washington pointed out, no court-martial proceedings in his case could take place.39 No formal inquiry into Mifflin’s conduct of the Quartermaster's Department was ever made. In the meantime, accusations circulated, rumors multiplied, and Mifflin resorted to the newspapers in his defense, as Dr. John Morgan and Dr. William Shippen of the Hospital Department would do at a later date.40 Inquiries repeatedly petered out without any action being taken.
In its report rejecting Mifflin’s proposal, a congressional committee had included evidence of the misconduct of Deputy Quartermaster General Hooper and had called for a court-martial. No further action, however, appears to have been taken. In the midst of these developments in 1778, charges and countercharges were exchanged between Arthur Lee and Silas Deane on abuses in foreign procurement, charges which also involved Robert Morris and the Secret Committee. When these accusations were aired in newspapers, they only deepened suspicions and sharpened divisive animosities in Congress without bringing about any reforms in supply operations. The atmosphere was such that Congress angrily ordered the Board of War to arrest the Commissary General of Military Stores, Col. Benjamin
38. (1) JCC, 11:591-92. (2) See also Burnett, Letters, 3:287 (Laurens to Rawlins Lowndes, 12 Jun 78).
39. (1) JCC, 12:1245-46 (22 Dec 78); 13:106-07 (23 Jan 79). (2) RG 11, CC Papers, item 161, 1:40-41, 52-53, 60 (Mifflin to Pres of Cong, 10 and 17 Aug 78, 25 Feb 79).
40. See The Pennsylvania Packet, 20 Aug and 15 Sep 78.
Flower, on the basis of charges made by his deputy, Cornelius Sweers, who was himself being prosecuted for forgeries and frauds. When two members of the board, Timothy Pickering and Richard Peters, did not wish to arrest the seriously ill colonel, Congress held them guilty of disobedience to orders and directed them "to attend the bar of the house." Flower was released in about two weeks after an inquiry proved that the charges by Sweers were groundless.41
Evaluation of Supply Agencies
In view of the abuses, how adequate were the organizations established for supplying the Continental Army, and how effective were supply officers in performing their duties? Only on two occasions did Washington find the work of any supply officer in the Revolution worthy of favorable comment to the President of Congress. He had high praise for Commissary General Joseph Trumbull in June 1776. "Few Armies, if any," he wrote, "have been better and more plentifully supplied than the Troops under Mr. Trumbull’s care." In the summer of 1778 he was again pleased, this time with the efficiency shown by Commissary General Wadsworth and Quartermaster General Greene. He found the former "indefatigable in his exertions to provide for the Army, and since his appointment," Washington informed the President of Congress, "our supplies of provision have been good and ample." In the same letter he wrote that Greene had so overcome the deficiencies that had marked the complete breakdown of transportation in the winter of 1777-78 that Washington had been able "with great facility to make a sudden move with the whole Army and baggage from Valley Forge in pursuit of the Enemy and to perform a march" to the Highlands.41 Occasionally he wrote a letter of appreciation to a supply officer who was resigning from his post. Generally speaking, however, Washington had a low degree of toleration for any shortcomings of supply officers regardless of cause.
A brief review may set in proper perspective the adequacy of the supply organizations established in the Revolutionary War. With one exception, Congress directed no attention to organizational details in the supply departments during the first two campaigns of the war. The exception was its establishment of a Hospital Department, for which it drafted a regulation without seeking the advice of any physician. Probably as a result, the organization was skeletal, and the department was underfunded. Moreover, Congress overlooked the need for regimental surgeons and surgeon’s mates, as well as the urgent need to resolve the contest already joined between
41. JCC, 11:741-43, 761-63, 830-31 (3, 7, and 24 Aug 78).
42. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 5:192 (28 Jun 76); 12:277 (3 Aug 78).
regimental and general hospitals. When it provided for a Quartermaster General and a Commissary General of Stores and Provisions, it left to those two officers the development of their respective supply organizations. As developed by Mifflin and Trumbull, these were well adapted to the needs of a stationary army. Each might be described as being primarily a field organization supported by a purchasing arm. There were few problems, and both agencies operated effectively in support of the troops at Cambridge. In 1775 Washington appointed a Commissary of Military Stores, who was primarily a field officer, but Congress made no provision for an Ordnance Department and overlooked entirely the need for a Clothing Department.
When the troops left Boston for New York, the situation changed. Not only did a moving army pose new supply problems but the seeming predilection of Congress for appointing independent deputy commissaries and directors of hospitals only promoted confusion in both the Commissariat and the Hospital Department. The consequences were unnecessary competition for supplies as well as a struggle for control within these supply departments. It soon also became apparent that clothing the troops could, not be satisfactorily accomplished by making the Quartermaster General responsible for the production and distribution of clothing. That officer, heavily burdened with a variety of duties, was beset by transportation problems as Washington’s army retreated before the enemy. The widening area of operations necessitated the appointment of assistants in the supply departments. Mifflin and the main Continental army were well served by the appointment of the able, Hugh Hughes in New York; Trumbull was not so fortunate in his appointment of Carpenter Wharton in Pennsylvania. By the close of the 1776 campaign complaints in both the Northern Army and the main Continental army about shortages of subsistence and clothing, lack of transportation, and neglect of the sick and wounded had reached alarming proportions. The three existing supply agencies had not developed organizations that could adequately supply a moving army.
The wave of reform that swept through Congress in the spring of 1777 resulted in the passage for the first time of a number of regulatory measures. Applicable to the Hospital, Quartermaster’s, and Commissary Departments, they all included some desirable features for improving supply operations. Providing a Wagon and a Forage Department within the Quartermaster’s Department promoted efficiency in transportation, which was much needed, as the campaign of 1776 had clearly demonstrated. Similarly, the new regulation for the Hospital Department provided improved departmental staffing for the general hospitals; arranged for the first time for a flying hospital in the field, undoubtedly in the hope of resolving the persistent controversy between regimental and departmental hospitals; and eliminated former errors by bringing all hospitals, except those in the Southern District, under the superintendency of the Director General of the Hospital Department. The Commissariat was the particular target of
congressional reform in 1777. Dividing it into two departments-one for the purchase and the other for the issue of rations-was organizationally sound and an improvement approved by Trumbull and Washington. The latter had concluded that the department was too large for any one man to supervise, and that Trumbull in several instances had "been infamously deceived by his Deputies."43
Unfortunately, the anticipated improvements from the new regulations failed to materialize in 1777. Introducing the changes in the midst of the campaign posed many difficulties. In addition, some of the regulatory provisions at once provoked criticism and demands for amendments. For example, uniting responsibility in one man for directing the military hospitals, caring for the sick and wounded, and procuring all hospital supplies was considered ill-advised by many physicians, who argued that no precedent could be found in any European army. Providing an inordinately detailed regulation for the Department of the Commissary General of Purchases and the Department of the Commissary General of Issues served only to paralyze subsistence supply for the last six months of 1777 and to bring hardship at Valley Forge. On the other hand, while there was no criticism of the changes made in the Quartermaster’s Department, the failure of Congress to appoint a successor to Mifflin immediately after receiving his resignation contributed immeasurably to the distress of the troops in the winter of 1777-78.
Incorporated in the regulations of 1777, and retained until 1780, was the idea of including in each military department a completely staffed subordinate unit of each of the three affected supply departments. This organizational concept resulted in an unnecessary increase in supply personnel. In the case of the Hospital Department, it eventually kept idle some of the physicians serving in these units in the military departments at a time when they could have been more usefully assigned to the active theater of operations to relieve its shortage of physicians. On balance, the reform efforts of Congress to improve supply in 1777 were counterproductive, while the supply chiefs themselves made no notable contributions to the development of more effective supply organizations.
In 1778 Congress relinquished its reform efforts as far as the Quartermaster’s Department and the Department of the Commissary General of Purchases were concerned. The newly appointed supply chiefs, Greene and Wadsworth, were left free to administer their agencies as they desired. They made relatively few changes in either personnel or organization, although Greene did centralize transportation control by implementing separate Wagon, Forage, and Boat Departments in his agency. That the two supply chiefs effectively operated the agencies, however, is evident in the praise that both won from Washington. Congress stilled at least some of the
43. Ibid., 8:25-26 (to Brig Gen Alexander McDougall, 7 May 77).
criticism of the Hospital Department by creating the post of purveyor and relieving the Director General of all procurement responsibility. On the other hand, in enacting the first regulation for the Ordnance Department, Congress exhibited a woeful lack of understanding of the proposals made by General Knox. So thoroughly did it confuse field and department matters that the Chief of Artillery was left without information on where to turn for supplies, and Ordnance operations were considerably hampered during the campaign of 1778. Another year went by before Congress provided clarification by amending the regulation, and only at that late date did it enact the first regulation for the Clothing Department.
The 1778 campaign was the last in which any supply agency operated effectively. This loss of effectiveness occurred not because the intrinsic organizations of the supply services were faulty, but because the deteriorating financial situation of the country left them without funds. A "vicious circle" was created. Lacking funds, the Quartermaster General and the Commissary General of Purchases had to use a greater number of agents to collect supplies, by force if necessary. Employment of these additional personnel only served to increase operating costs in agencies that were already overstaffed. Moreover, to draw supplies from every part of the country, many agents were located in areas remote from supply headquarters. Neither the supply chiefs nor Congress ever solved the problem of controlling such subordinates. Supply chiefs had to depend on selecting men who were capable of acting without minute instructions or supervision. Unfortunately, such independence allowed considerable leeway for abuses by those imbued with the acquisitive spirit of the times. A system of accountability was never developed in the Revolutionary War.
The supply organizations never evolved any units whose personnel were devoted to handling storage problems. There were magazines, primarily stocked. with rations or forage needed for a given campaign, but there were no depots in which other supplies were accumulated. The latter were acquired only as needed, despite Washington’s pleas for a long-range accumulation of ordnance supplies and of cloth that would be available for conversion into uniforms as required. Supplies were passed from agent to agent until placed in the hands of the troops by the issuing supply officer. In the process it was not unusual for wagoners to leave supplies in a barn under the care of a private individual. Much-needed clothing, for example, was found abandoned in barns many months after being deposited there, forgotten and made useless by mildew and moths. Nor was it uncommon for supplies to lie exposed to the elements wherever they were deposited. Waste is a concomitant of war, but the waste resulting from the lack of any storage system added considerably to expenditures in the American Revolution.
Patriotism and Profits
Although some purchasing agents prospered by collecting large commissions, the majority of the personnel employed in the supply departments were paid salaries, which were inadequate and frequently months in arrears. This situation was conducive to abuses because men found fraudulent or illegal ways to supplement their incomes. Not a few salaried supply officers were able to continue in service only by drawing on their family resources. Pleading for adequate pay for his staff, Quartermaster General Timothy Pickering pointed out that a line officer could bear such hardship with more patience because he had "honour and promotion in view" and expected "a continued recompense" as long as he lived. The supply officer gained nothing but abuse and reproach, and his reward lasted no longer than his service.44 Only medical personnel received the same rewards as line officers.
Although congressional delegates were critical of supply officers, they certainly did not view all of those officers as malefactors who were best dismissed from public service. Despite accusations against Mifflin and the fact that Trumbull refused to serve unless paid a commission, Congress thought well enough of both men to appoint them to the Board of War. Some delegates might grumble that Greene was making a fortune too rapidly, but at Washington’s insistence they appointed him commanding general of the Southern Army. And despite their suspicions of the trade practices of Robert Morris, they were happy to designate him Superintendent of Finance, fully expecting him to perform financial miracles.
The work of a supply officer was arduous. It entailed much traveling and continuous activity not only during campaigns but also when the troops were in winter encampments. Nevertheless, a number of men held a succession of supply positions during the war, sometimes operating as state agents, at other times as supply officers for the Continental supply agencies. In one capacity or another Jeremiah Wadsworth, for example, procured subsistence for the Connecticut troops, the Continental Army, and the French forces in America. The lure of profits was not the only motive of these supply personnel. Motivated by patriotism, Hugh Hughes rejected commissions offered by Greene and served as a salaried deputy under Mifflin and again under Pickering. Ephraim Blaine served throughout the war whether paid a commission or a salary.
Supply personnel-from laborer and artisan to deputy and chief of a. supply agency-performed an essential role in the war. Washington’s army could not have been maintained in the field or in winter quarters without the work performed by supply officers. A detailed analysis of the logistical support of the main Continental army reveals a mixture of acquisitiveness
44. RG 93, Pickering Letters, 82:191-94 (to Bd of War, 20 Sep 81).
and patriotism, but that mixture was more common among the people of that day than has been readily admitted. Supply officers shared with line officers the achievement of winning victory in the American Revolution.
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