If transportation was the crux of the supply problem during the American Revolution, the heart of the transportation problem was forage supply. Without an adequate supply of forage, the supply teams, the regimental wagons, the Artillery, and the Cavalry could not be kept in motion. Yet a scarcity of forage continually plagued the Continental Army. An administrative unit devoted solely to solving the problems of an adequate forage supply did not begin to develop in the Quartermaster's Department until the summer of 1777.
The Quartermaster's Department had a limited responsibility for pro-viding forage to teams bringing supplies to camps and posts. Under contract arrangements, such supply teams were customarily furnished with forage by their owners. In emergencies, or when supply teams were detained at camps by quartermasters for such a long period of time that the owners’ forage became exhausted, the Quartermaster's Department provided supplemental forage, deducting costs from the contract. The department was wholly responsible for furnishing forage for the horses of the Cavalry; for horses used to pull artillery pieces, ammunition wagons, and traveling forges; and for the many horses and at times oxen needed for the wagons that hauled regimental baggage, commissary stores, quartermaster stores, hospital stores, and the tools of artificers of the line.
When the war began, the number of animals to be supported was small. The horses of officers comprised most of them, but a scarcity of forage developed almost at once, as the Quartermaster General, who had responsibility for its supply, reported. Washington believed this scarcity was an artifi-cial one, created by persons monopolizing the supply of forage in order to raise prices and profit by the Continental Army's distress. He called upon the Massachusetts legislature to remedy the situation by fixing prices and by compelling sale if necessary.'
The request for state price regulation was to be repeated on many occasions
during the Revolution. The Continental Congress itself had included the
idea of price regulation in the articles of association it had adopted
in 1774. Economic regulation was an accepted fact of colonial life on the
eve of the Revolution. The introduction during the war of regulatory price
1. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 3:455-56 (29 Aug 75)
controls, as well as wage controls, was based on past practice.2 In time supply officers of the Continental Army themselves were forced to set prices for commodities and wages for artisans.
Supply and Cavalry
Forage demands increased as transportation needs expanded when Washington's army moved to New York. For the first time that army was engaged in a campaign of movement, and the policy of relying on hired teams, provisioned by their owners, failed. The department turned to impressment, but both hired and impressed teams now had to be furnished with forage. It had not anticipated the forage demands of operations involving the movement of large numbers of troops, and it was slow to develop adequate forage magazines. At the direction of the Quartermaster General, purchase orders for hay, oats, corn, and rye flowed from the office of Assistant Quartermaster General Hugh Hughes, but the supply by no means caught up with the demand.3 Early in July 1776 the forage on hand was only what was absolutely necessary to feed the army's work and artillery horses. In consequence, when Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut ordered three regiments of horse to New York, Washington had to send word quickly that he would welcome the men if they could be persuaded to leave their horses behind since forage could not be found to support them.4
This incident was later used by Charles Francis Adams to support his charge that Washington was ignorant of the importance of cavalry as a military arm. He added that the terrain in New York and New Jersey was especially suited to cavalry action. He further charged that Washington failed to develop a sufficiently large mounted force and that the legion organization used-that is, an organization comprising both infantry and cavalry-was, ill-advised.5 These views have been brought into question and refuted, but little or no attention has been given to the lack of forage as a factor restricting the use of the Connecticut horse.6 The difficulty of providing ample forage and pasturage in fact would limit any extensive use of the Continental Cavalry in the main army to the end of the war.
The supply of forage remained inadequate throughout the campaign of 1776. In that year the Continental Army had neither cavalry nor transportation
2. See Richard B. Morris, "Labor and Mercantilism in the Revolutionary Era," in Morris, ed., Era of the American Revolution (Harper Torchbook ed., New York, 1965), pp. 76 ff., for a detailed analysis of mercantilism in the Revolutionary period.
3. Hugh Hughes Letter Books (6 and 12 Apr; 14 May; 22, 25 and 27 Jul; and 6 Sep 76).
4. Am. Arch., 5th set., 1:124-25 (Washington to Lt Col Thomas Seymour, 8 Jul 76).
5. See Chapter 3, "Washington and Cavalry;" in C.F. Adams, Studies, Military and Diplomatic, 1775-1865 (New York, 1911).
6. (1) Wright, "Some Notes on the Continental Army," William and Mary College Quarterly, 2d ser., 11 (1931): 189-92.. (2) Frederic G. Bauer, "Notes on the Use of Cavalry in the American Revolution," The Cavalry Journal 47 (1938): 136-43.
organic to its divisions that had to be supported by the Quartermaster's Department. By the close of 1776 the Cavalry had been organized, and both Washington and Congress were taking measures to provide organic transportation. The forage responsibilities of the Quartermaster's Department increased accordingly. Yet no particular part of the Quartermaster staff had sole responsibility for handling forage supply.
Even after Congress established the Forage Department in 1777, problems in supplying forage remained. Congress had directed that the Cavalry be organized in four regiments.7 But the difficulty of supporting and equipping the Cavalry was such that it was impossible to bring the four regiments to full strength-it is doubtful whether the regiments were ever at full strength during the war-and by February 1778 the regiments had to be dispersed to separate localities to be supplied with forage. In the following September Congress, because of the great expense and difficulty of supplying forage, questioned whether the Cavalry should be retained with the main army or be dispersed to various states where the horses could be better provisioned.8
Washington's correspondence reveals that he fully appreciated the advantages of using the Cavalry, but the supply of forage was not the only limiting factor. Cavalrymen had to be clothed, equipped, and mounted. They needed pistols, carbines, and swords. Some swords were procured from James Hunter's ironworks in Virginia, but carbines and pistols had to be imported. Washington urged the importation of large quantities of horse accouterments from France. Saddles, boots, and other leather articles, he reported in 1780, were of such poor quality that they lasted only for one campaign.9 Horses suitable for Cavalry service were expensive and not always available. Throughout the war equipping the small Cavalry force continued to be a problem.10 When Col. Stephen Moylan's Cavalry regiment, for example, was ordered to join the Southern Army after Yorktown, it could not move for lack of horses, accouterments, arms, and clothing.11 It is doubtful whether the large mounted force envisaged by Adams could have been equipped and supported in the American Revolution.
Increased Demands in New York
When Thomas Mifflin was reappointed Quartermaster General in 1776, the increased demands for forage in New York required his immediate
7. JCC, 6:993 (29 Nov 76).
8. (1) RG 11, CC Papers, item 192, fols. 209-11 (Quartermaster Thomson to Lutterloh, 6 Feb 78). (2) JCC, 12:905 (11 Sep 78).
9. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, I 1:322-23 (to Moylan, 29 Apr 78); 18:148-50 (to Bd of War, 25 Mar 80).
10. In establishing the Cavalry in 1776, Congress had proposed a force of 3,000, but in 1780 it numbered only 1,000.
11. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 23:319 (to pres of Pa., 3 Nov 81). See also 17:21213 (2 Dec 79); 21:189 (to Pickering, 5 Feb 81).
attention. Congress furnished him 300,000 dollars to procure the supplies
he had indicated were necessary for the support of the main army. These
supplies included, among other items, 25,000 bushels of Indian corn, 15,000
bushels of oats, 10,000 bushels each of rye meal and spelts, and 1,800
tons of hay.12 Mifflin called upon William Duer, then
serving as president of the New York Convention, to purchase forage and
deposit it in magazines that Washington thought should be "remote from
the North River." Mifflin advised Duer that he would depend on him for
all his supplies of grain, hay, and straw. He added that since Congress
allowed a commission of 2 1/2 percent on such purchases, he expected Duer
to charge that amount. To avert competition, which would cause prices to
spiral upwards, Mifflin requested Duer not to send any of his purchasing
agents into Connecticut to obtain forage, since he had asked Jeremiah Wadsworth
to undertake forage procurement in that state.13
That the activities of Duer and his agents did not meet the forage needs of the main army became evident on the eve of the 1777 campaign. Washington had ordered Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene and Brig. Gen. Henry Knox to examine the fortifications on the Hudson and the conditions at each post. On 18 May Greene advised Assistant Quartermaster General Hughes that all the posts complained of a lack of forage and that some of his deputies attributed this lack to the neglect of Duer's agents. If this charge was correct, Hughes ought no longer to depend on the agents, Greene suggested, but should himself take immediate measures for establishing magazines that could provide a sufficient supply.14
First Regulatory Measure
When Congress enacted its first regulatory measure for the Quartermaster's Department on 14 May 1777, it authorized the Quartermaster General to appoint within his department a commissary of forage (subsequently designated commissary general of forage by Washington) for the Continental Army and one for each military department. These commissaries purchased and stored in magazines such quantities of forage as the Quartermaster General or the deputy quartermaster general of any military department ordered, in accord with whatever regulations those Quartermaster officers prescribed. In addition, the commissary general of forage appointed a foragemaster, paid 40 dollars a month, at each magazine, who received all purchased forage and delivered it as directed. The foragemaster gave a receipt for the forage he received to the commissary general of forage, who
12. JCC, 5:839-40 (2 Oct 76).
13. Force, Am. Arch., 5th ser., 2:1137, 1252 (Mifflin to Duer, 20 and 26 Oct 76); 1266 (Hughes to a Capt Kierse, 27 Oct 76).
14. Washington Papers, 47:51 (Greene to Hughes, 18 May 77).
then submitted it to the Quartermaster General or the deputy quartermaster general of a military department as a voucher in support of his account. Congress also attempted to spell out in general terms the forage to be allowed to each Continental Army officer.
The regulation further directed the commissaries of forage to make a monthly return to the Quartermaster General or to the deputy quartermaster general of a military department of all their purchases, specifying to what foragemaster and magazine delivery had been made so that the foragemaster could be held accountable. The foragemaster, for his part, could issue only on the written order of the Commander in Chief, the commanding officer of a military department, the commanding officer of the post where the magazine was established, the Quartermaster General, the deputy quartermaster general of a military department, the wagonmaster general, or any other wagonmaster. The foragemaster was to keep an account of all such issues and make a monthly return to his superiors in the Quartermaster's Department, indicating the amount of forage in the magazine at the beginning of the period covered, the quantity received since the last return, the expenditures since that return, and the remainder on hand.15 Had the records called for been maintained, the status of forage supply at any given time would have been available, but the maintenance of supply records was always haphazard during the Revolution.
On the basis of the congressional regulation, an adequate organization for handling forage supply should have been developed. Unfortunately, in the months that followed Quartermaster General Mifflin was preoccupied with recruitment, and he resigned before the end of 1777. Mifflin made little contribution to the development of the Forage Department. On 1 July 1777 Washington in a General Order announced the appointment of Clement Biddle as commissary general of forage for the main army.16 He had been serving as a deputy quartermaster general and acting as a commissary of forage. Such organizational developments as occurred-and these were mainly with the troops in the field-were made under his guidance. The field organization with the main Continental army by the end of the year included three foragemasters stationed near the army to receive forage from the inhabitants and to issue it. A fourth foragemaster supervised the Moorhall magazine at Valley Forge; he had an assistant and two measurers detailed from the army. In addition, each division of the main Continental army had a foragemaster as well as an assistant and a measurer, the last two usually detailed from the army. The Artillery Park had two foragemasters, an assistant,
15. JCC, 7:355-59 (14 May 77).
16. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 8:327-28. Biddle's appointment carried no rank in the Continental Army, for Congress had attached none to this position. He was addressed as colonel, however, perhaps by reason of his membership in the Philadelphia regiment known as the Quaker Blues.
a straw cutter, and a measurer; the Cavalry had a foragemaster and an assistant; and headquarters also had a foragemaster. The field organization totaled forty-five in addition to Biddle.
The civil arm of the Forage Department included the purchasers and the personnel employed at deposit points where magazines were established. In Pennsylvania there were three magazines, each of which had a foragemaster, an assistant, and a measurer. A fourth magazine in the state employed only a foragemaster. In New Jersey there were eight magazines, each employing a foragemaster and a measurer. All of these personnel were employed on a salaried basis. Additional personnel were hired occasionally for storing and forwarding forage deposited at temporary locations, and laborers were sometimes hired to cut straw and to load or unload forage.
The magazines at Berks, Lancaster, and Northampton Counties, Pennsylvania, were under the immediate direction of Quartermaster General Mifflin. No records have been found to indicate the number of men Mifflin employed at these magazines or the number of agents who purchased forage under his orders. At Chatham, Princeton, and Trenton, New Jersey, forage was supplied by Assistant Deputy Quartermaster General Moore Furman. Deputy Quartermaster General Henry Hollingsworth, stationed at Head of Elk, stored and sent forward the grain brought from Maryland and Virginia. Biddle employed additional purchasing agents in other parts of Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. He also hired a number of wagons for hauling forage, each twelve wagons being supervised by a wagonmaster assisted by a conductor. These employees were generally from
the place where the wagons had been hired and were constantly changing as wagons were relieved by others every month.17
In part, the lack of forage in the winter of 1777-78 was attributable to the absence of a functioning Quartermaster General and the limited scope of Biddle's authority. On becoming commissary general of forage for the main army in the summer of 1777, Biddle had sought instructions from Quartermaster General Mifflin. As directed by Congress, Mifflin was supposed to formulate regulations for this branch of his department. He failed to do so, but from time to time he responded to Biddle's inquiries for guidance. Thus, he directed Biddle to extend his area for purchasing forage as far as necessary without interfering with other commissaries who were establishing forage magazines on Mifflin's orders. When Biddle wanted information on the location and size of magazines, Mifflin replied that the magazines would be proportioned according to troop strength, but that he could not settle the question until late June. In response to Biddle's inquiry, Mifflin authorized him to appoint his own assistants, allowing them a captain's pay or 2 1/2 percent commission on their disbursements until ordered otherwise by Congress. Biddle himself was allowed the same commission on his purchases. As to prices to be paid for forage, Mifflin directed Biddle to buy as cheaply as he could and to be careful not to inflate prices.
By the end of 1777 Biddle was being left to his own devices, for Mifflin
wrote, "You will use your own Judgment and collect Grain &ca wherever
you think proper." In January 1778 he advised Biddle to request Deputy
Quartermaster General William Finnie at Williamsburg, Virginia, to send
50,000 bushels of corn and wheat to Head of Elk. The Board of War had given
Finnie orders to purchase for the Forage Department. The next month Mifflin
reiterated his former position. "You will take your own measures to procure
Forage for the Army," the Quartermaster General wrote, for it was impossible
for him to assist Biddle.18
The forage deficiency resulted also from the complete breakdown of transportation. Conditions at Valley Forge steadily deteriorated. In view of the dire straits of Washington's army, the Pennsylvania General Assembly empowered Washington to appoint any number of persons to buy all the forage that was necessary to support the army or in danger of being seized by the enemy. When an owner refused to sell, the forage could be seized, and a certificate could be given specifying price, quality, and quantity if payment
17. RG I I, CC Papers, item 155, 1:379-81 (return, 30 Jan 78).
18. Ibid., 1:365-67 (Queries and Answers, 28 Jun 77, and later notations).
could not be made at the time.19 Neither impressment nor purchase of forage, however, could bring relief when the army was sadly handicapped by a shortage not only of wagons but also of horses. The committee of Congress at Valley Forge reported to Congress on 12 February 1778 that "if the enemy attacked at this point, the Artillery would fall into their hands for want of horses to remove it.”20
A few days later Washington directed Biddle to impress all the wagons he could find and send them to camp loaded with forage. If some forage was not delivered soon, he wrote, not a horse would be left alive, but Biddle informed General Greene that the prospect of getting any wagons was poor. Greene therefore asked Washington to send from camp all wagons that could be spared. He planned to impress wagons beyond Brandywine, Greene reported, but if the inhabitants had any wagons or harnesses, they were concealing them. If they were, Washington replied, make "severe examples of a few to deter others-our present wants will justify any measures you can take."21 Greene then sent out impressment parties to relieve the distress of the camp at Valley Forge.
In March Biddle explained the handicaps under which he had operated. As early as December 1777, he wrote, he had called on Deputy Quartermaster General Lutterloh for wagons. He had obtained only a few, and thus on 26 January 1778 he had submitted an estimate for 150 wagons, stating they were absolutely necessary for foraging. Lutterloh had asked the president of the Pennsylvania Executive Council for 260 teams, including those demanded by Biddle, and President Thomas Wharton had issued orders for them. Late in February between 20 and 30 had come from Northhampton, had made one trip for provisions to Head of Elk, and had then deserted. Eleven more teams had come from Lancaster County on 4 March, but these also had been employed to carry provisions, not forage. Biddle had received not one of the 150 wagons he had requested, while those already in his possession had been prevented from bringing supplies by the extremely bad roads and the distance the forage had to be hauled.
Biddle wrote that he had managed to bring a few supplies down the Schuylkill River by boat, but he had received only a small amount of forage from Reading. No magazines, moreover, had been laid up in the back country of Pennsylvania-a failure that he attributed to the repeated changes in purchasing agents. He himself had been largely restricted to the environs of camp in collecting forage, and when, under Washington's orders, he had extended his operations, he had not been able to control the numerous purchasers.
19. Pennsylvania Archives, 1st ser., 6:66 (6 Dec 77). See also pp. 92-93, 104 (Biddle to Pres Wharton, 14 Dec, and reply, 17 Dec 77).
20. RG 11, CC Papers, item 33, fols. 128-29 (to Pres of Cong, 12 Feb 78).
21. (1) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 10:464 (to Biddle, 15 Feb 78). (2) Washington Papers, 67:71, 73 (Greene to Washington, 15 Feb, and reply, 16 Feb 78).
Still another cause for the forage deficiency was a lack of money to hire wagons and pay for forage.
Biddle anticipated, however, that conditions would soon improve. By mid-March the roads would become passable and no longer would impede the movement of forage and provisions. He was employing some sixty wagons to go to Head of Elk, Lancaster County, the upper part of Bucks County, and the Delaware River to build up magazines, he reported. Indian corn was now coming up the Chesapeake Bay in volume to Head of Elk. The greatest. difficulty would be to supply the army until mid-March, but he hoped to do so by using river transportation and such wagons as he had. In support of his position, he furnished the congressional committee at camp a return of the forage he had obtained during the first four days of March.22
Based on his experience, Biddle drew up proposals for improving the Forage Department. Submitted in late January 1778 to the committee of Congress then, at camp, his proposals included the appointment of a commissary general of forage who would purchase forage on orders of the Board of War or the Commander in Chief. This officer would direct the entire Forage Department rather than simply serve as the commissary of forage for the main army. He would have a deputy so that either he or his deputy would always remain with Washington's army to see that a constant supply of forage was brought to camp while the other was forming magazines. Biddle further proposed the appointment of a foragemaster and a measurer for each brigade; the foragemaster would keep an account of all forage received and issued, making returns at the end of each month to the Board of War, the Quartermaster General, and the commissary general of forage. Similar returns would be made by the foragemaster at each magazine, who would be assisted by a clerk, a measurer, and laborers. When forage needed on marches could not be conveniently drawn from magazines, the brigade foragemasters were to procure it as directed by the commissary general of forage or his deputy, who would pay for it when presented with the foragemasters' certificates. Since forage personnel occasionally had been subjected to unjust treatment, Biddle wanted them to be "secure from insult," with "a mode of Arrest & Tryal established" for their protection.23
Biddle recommended that the number of horses drawing forage that were
22. Ibid., 68:125 (Biddle to Lt Col John Laurens, 5 Mar 78).
23. (1) Ibid., 63:219-21 (Observations on the Forage Dept, 25-26 Jan 78). Though unsigned, this paper clearly represented Biddle's ideas. (2) Washington wrote to the committee of Congress about the need for new regulations for the Forage Department, "the particulars of which, the Gentleman at the head of it, will be best able to point out." Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 10:389 (29 Jan 78).
allowed to officers should be fixed, so that demand could be estimated with some degree of certainty. The amount of forage for wagon and draft horses, he thought, should be based on returns supplied by the Quartermaster General, wagonmasters, or conductors of horses in the train; forage for officers’ horses should be drawn by brigade and regimental quartermasters. Forage for the light cavalry should be obtained by the quartermaster or, when on detachment, by the commanding officer. When forage was received from the inhabitants while a party was on command (that is, detached for such work as woodcutting), the commanding officer or quartermaster was to certify to the commissary general of forage the quantity of forage received, mentioning the number of horses being supplied and their regiments or troops.
Biddle considered it desirable that civilians engaged as foragemasters, measurers, and straw cutters be exempted from militia duty while serving in the field or at magazines. To prevent delays, the commissary general of forage, he urged, should be authorized to hire or in an emergency to impress a sufficient number of wagons and horses to haul forage to the troops and magazines. He proposed that the commissary general of forage employ persons to form magazines in the different districts at such places as the Board of War or the Commander in Chief ordered.
While the committee of Congress at camp was considering the need for
new regulations for the supply agencies, Washington called attention to
the practice of giving commissions on purchases instead of granting a salary.
He intended no "insinuation" against Biddle, he informed the committee,
but commissions opened "wide a door to fraud and peculation." He added
further that foragemasters were not as accurate as they ought to be in
receiving or delivering forage, "depending too much upon the farmers reports
and their own conjectures." He felt that the public consequently paid for
much more than what was received.24
Faced with the urgent need of finding a new Quartermaster General to prepare for the approaching campaign of 1778, Congress abandoned its efforts to enact a new regulatory measure for the Quartermaster's Department. When it appointed Maj. Gen. Nathanael Green Quartermaster General in March, it gave him authority to appoint foragemasters and made him responsible for their conduct.25 Greene continued Biddle in his post as commissary general of forage but with much wider authority than he had enjoyed under Mifflin.
Early in February Biddle had outlined a plan for establishing a chain of forage magazines in the Middle Department. His plan designated the location points for magazines in Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania and reiterated his ideas on the receipt and delivery of forage that he had included
25. JCC, 10:210 (2 Mar 78).
in his earlier proposals for improving the Forage Department.26 Greene studied the plan, approved it, and, in consultation with Washington, perfected its application to Washington's lines of communications. He agreed with Biddle that no time was to be lost in determining proper places for forage magazines.
By the end of March Greene furnished Biddle with a general outline of the chain of magazines to be established, though the quantity of particular stores to be laid in on the North River and at intermediate posts to camp would have to be regulated by circumstances. Greene instructed Biddle to lodge on the banks of the Delaware River from Trenton northward 200,000 bushels of grain and as much hay as he could obtain. He was also to deposit 200,000 bushels of grain at Head of Elk and all the hay that he could procure within forty miles of camp at intermediate posts from Head of Elk to camp. He was also to place 100,000 bushels of grain and a proportionate quantity of hay on the line of communications from Reading on the Schuylkill River through Lancaster to Wright's Ferry on the Susquehanna River, and to distribute 100,000 bushels of grain and a proportionate quantity of hay among the several posts on the line of communications between the Delaware and Hudson Rivers. Finally, he was to have 400,000 bushels of grain and a proportionate quantity of hay placed at Allentown, Pennsylvania, and at Trenton and other points to the south in New Jersey. Greene further instructed Biddle to screw all hay into bundles; he was to obtain a number of screws for that purpose and employ laborers to do the work either at farmers' barns or at the magazines. In purchasing grain, Biddle was to give preference to all other types of grain over wheat-oats, corn, and rye, in that order.27
Biddle lost no time in starting to develop the chain of forage magazines on the lines of communications. He was well acquainted with the new Commissary General of Purchases, Jeremiah Wadsworth, and the instructions he drafted for the Forage Department's purchasing agents show that he had obviously come to certain agreements with Wadsworth. In line with Greene's instructions, the purchasing agents were to give preference to all other grains over wheat. However, if they had to purchase wheat, they were to take 20 hundredweight of flour out of each 100 bushels of wheat and turn over the flour taking a receipt for it, to the subsistence commissary of the district in which the wheat was purchased. The subsistence commissaries, in turn, were to send all by-products left from milling wheat to the nearest forage magazine. Biddle set the prices to be allowed for forage at the rates established by the states. He emphasized that his purchasing agents were not to interfere with the purchase of wheat by the subsistence commissaries. They
26. RG 11, CC Papers, item 155, 1:373-77 (9 Feb 78). Though unsigned, this plan was obviously drafted by Biddle.
27. (I) Greene, The Life of Nathanael Green, 2:57-58 (Greene to Biddle, 30 Mar 78). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 11:177 (to Greene, 31 Mar 78).
were to have hay screwed in bundles, employing laborers to set up presses for the purpose, and they were to hire wagons for hauling forage under terms prescribed by Biddle. He directed them to keep separate accounts for these two expenditures. Biddle also drafted rules for the receipt and issue of forage at magazines. He set forth how accounts were to be kept and, for the information of the foragemasters, appended a list of the number of riding horses for which officers could draw forage.28
In accordance with the proposals he had made, Biddle introduced some changes in the Forage Department. In lieu of the four foragemasters and their assistants with the main Continental army, he employed six assistant commissaries of forage. One was designated the paymaster; another was given care of any magazine established with the main army; and some of the others occasionally were detached with divisions. All other Forage Department personnel with the divisions were eliminated. Instead, each brigade had a foragemaster and a measurer. Biddle also employed foragemasters and measurers at landings and at temporary magazines formed when the army moved. He dismissed such personnel when they were no longer needed. All of these personnel with the army in the field remained on a salaried basis.
Purchasing agents continued to be paid a 2 ½ percent commission on purchases. For the most part, these purchasers were also deputy quartermasters general in the Quartermaster's Department. They made their purchases within a military department, as Deputy Quartermaster General Morgan Lewis did in the Northern Department; or within a state, as Deputy Quartermasters General Ephraim Bowen and William Finnie did in Rhode Island and Virginia, respectively; or within a particular area, as Deputy Quartermaster General William Smith did at Springfield, Massachusetts, and for thirty miles to the east. Pennsylvania was divided into six areas, in five of which forage was purchased by deputy quartermasters general.29 In those few instances where purchasing agents were not deputy quartermasters general, they nonetheless were paid at the same rate of commission as the deputies.30 Biddle appointed his brother Owen Biddle as his deputy or agent at Philadelphia; the latter was to purchase forage for that city, direct all
28. Hugh Hughes Letter Books (Biddle to Hughes and enclosures, 22 Apr 78).
29. The five deputy quartermasters general purchasing forage in Pennsylvania included the following: Archibald Steele for Fort Pitt and environs, William Davis for Cumberland and York Counties, Jacob Morgan for Berks County, Cornelius Sheriff for Chester County, and Robert Lettis Hooper for Northampton County and for Sussex County in New Jersey. Other deputy quartermasters general serving as purchasing agents for forage included Henry Hollingsworth for the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Moore Furman for New Jersey except Sussex, Nehemiah Hubbard for Connecticut, and Francis Wade for Delaware.
30. Such purchasing agents included Col. Philip Marsteller, who bought forage in Lancaster County, Pa.; Thomas Richardson, who was appointed purchasing agent for the western shore of Maryland; and Andrew Bostwick, the deputy commissary general of forage for the Eastern Department, who purchased in New York.
purchases west of Delaware, and forward forage to Trenton. In addition to the 2 ½ percent commission allowed on his purchases, he apparently was allowed a commission on the sums he paid to other purchasers whose work he directed. Although this case indicated a liberality in the payment of commissions, Clement Biddle established a tighter framework for purchases by limiting the number of his agents to fifteen. This number, however, did not constitute the total of purchasers, for the agents were allowed to employ necessary assistants.31
In April 1778 Biddle entertained high hopes of having sufficient funds to procure forage and establish adequate magazines. By September, however, difficulties were developing to prevent a "certain and regular supply." The consumption of forage was so great and its transportation subject to so many delays that Biddle was much concerned about supply. Large quantities of oats and corn were coming to camp from Maryland and Virginia by way of Head of Elk, Trenton, and New York. Supplies also were arriving from Delaware. Biddle pointed out that these states would have to continue to be the sources of supply since the middle states were generally much drained of forage. Biddle hoped that the legislatures of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut would take measures to limit the price of forage, induce farmers to deliver hay and grain in the fall; winter, and spring when it was most wanted, and furnish wagons as well. At Biddle's suggestion, Washington sent a circular in September to the governors of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey and to the president of the Massachusetts Council. The Commander in Chief feared, however, as he wrote to Greene, that "depreciation of our money is the Root of the evil, and that, until it can be remedied, all our endeavors will be in vain."32
Greene had gone to Boston on business, and from there he had reported to Washington the increasing demand for forage and the "growing extravagance of the people." Hay was 60 to 80 dollars a ton and rising; corn, 10 dollars a bushel; oats, 4 dollars. Carting cost 9 shillings a ton per mile, and the "people [were] much dissatisfied with the price." He had explained to the governments of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts the need for legislation to fix prices upon some reasonable basis. He did not know what effect this appeal would have, he informed Washington, but unless something was done, "there are no funds in the universe that will equal the expense."
31. RG 11, CC Papers, item 173, fols. 101-02 (List of Persons Employed in Forage Dept, 29 Oct 78).
32. (1) Washington Papers, 83:117 (Biddle to Pettit, 6 Sep 78); 84:6 (Pettit to Washington, 10 Sep 78). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 12:478 (to govs, 22 Sep 78); 479 (to Greene, 22 Sep 78).
Deputy Quartermaster General Chase at Boston also reported rising prices in September and added that state wagonmasters "were bidding upon Continental wagonmasters.”33
Despite Biddle's efforts to promote amity between forage purchasers
and subsistence commissaries, complaints were laid before Congress. On
12 September 1778 it directed forage purchasers not to buy any wheat for
forage except in cases of absolute necessity. Six weeks later Congress
forbade all purchase of wheat for forage except by its order.34
By mid-November, as the need for forage became critical, Greene requested
that Washington grant a warrant to impress. Reluctant as ever to resort
to this method, Washington delayed, but when Greene renewed his request
six days later, Washington yielded.35 On 30 November Congress
resolved that if forage agents could not purchase at reasonable rates,
they were to apply for assistance to the state executive or legislative
authority, or to a properly authorized person. It further recommended to
the state governments that they take measures to aid the foragemasters
in procuring a speedy supply.36
In the meantime, states near the main army had acted to assist it in obtaining forage. The execution of the laws they passed, however, caused Biddle to view the legislation as restrictive. New York, for example, had enacted a law appointing certain persons in every town to collect forage and determine how much each farmer could spare. Unfortunately, application of the law did not work as advantageously for the army as the legislature had anticipated. "Men judge so differently from one another," Greene commented, "and many from motives of tenderness to their Neighbors take so sparingly from the People, that our Supplies are very deficient notwithstanding we see the Country full of forage."37 New Jersey enacted similar legislation. In issuing a proclamation relative to it, Governor William Livingston cautioned the magistrates not to take too much from the inhabitants. "I think they stood in no need of such Advice," Biddle dryly observed.38 In an effort to relieve the scarcity, Greene in November consulted with Commissary General Jeremiah Wadsworth on the forage problem. Wadsworth maintained that he had no wish to accumulate in magazines grain or flour that, for want of forage for the animals, could not be transported to the troops. Wheat, however, was so scarce that every measure, he urged, should be taken to provide forage without using it.39
33. Greene, Life of Nathanael Greene, 2:143 (Greene to Washington, 16 Sep 78). (2) RG 11 , CC Papers, item 173, 1:303-04 (memo, Chase to Greene, 17 Sep 78).
34. JCC, 12:906, 1064 (12 Sep and 26 Oct 78).
35. Washington Papers, 92:17, 143 (Greene to Washington, 14 and 20 Nov 78); 126 (warrant, 20 Nov 78).
36. JCC, 12: I 177 (30 Nov 78).
37. Washington Papers, 92:17 (Greene to Washington, 14 Nov 78).
38. (1) APS, Greene Letters, 9:13 (Biddle to Greene, 25 Jan 79). (2) For the practices of magistrates, see RG 11, CC Papers, item 173, 4:109-11 (Greene to Livingston, 14 Feb 79).
39. Greene, Life of Nathanael Greene, 2:41 I -12 (Greene to Pettit, 16 Nov 78).
Congress had been exploring ways of reducing forage consumption. In September it had proposed dispersing the Cavalry to places where the horses could best be supplied with forage. It prohibited all officers from keeping any horses within forty miles of the main body of Washington's army unless they had permission from Congress or the Commander in Chief. Congress directed the Quartermaster General to consult with the Commander in Chief about whether it was possible to reduce the number of teams with the army or to substitute ox teams for many of the horse teams. Washington replied that there could be no reduction of teams; he had only the minimum number necessary, which in fact would be insufficient in case rapid movement was required. Nor could oxen be substituted for horses. The only relief, he suggested, would be to winter the horses where they could be more easily supplied with forage.40 Biddle also urged the use of pasturage for the horses in order to save forage. He had talked with the assistant commissary general of purchases, and they had agreed that an order for purchasing all cattle fit for butchering in the vicinity of camp ought to be issued early. Earlier sale of cattle by the farmers would save forage so sorely needed by the army.41
Even when forage was accumulated, the maintenance of deposits for given purposes was not readily accomplished. Deputy Quartermaster General Moore Furman of New Jersey had been collecting forage at Trenton, the starting point from which all flour and many other necessaries moved to the army. Despite orders to avoid the wagon routes, a troop of 100 men and horses arrived and stayed at the post in the fall of 1778. In addition, Brig. Gen. Casimir Pulaski sent his quartermaster and about thirty horses with orders to provide for his legion. Appealing to Congress in October, Furman wrote that if horses were quartered at Trenton or any post on the route of the wagons, all the forage he had provided would be consumed in a month or two at most. Once that supply was exhausted, he could not replace it, and not a team would be able to move supplies to the army.42
Army officers were not always amenable to restrictions imposed by supply officers to preserve forage. On his way to Boundbrook, New Jersey, late in November 1778, after orders for dispersing horses to distant pastures had been issued, Quartermaster General Greene passed through Elizabethtown and to his great surprise found that Colonel Moylan's Light Dragoons had not been sent off. Moreover, Lord Stirling refused to do so in any immediate future. If the horses were left there, Greene advised Washington, the post would have to abandoned for want of forage.43
As the campaign of 1778 drew to a close, Washington had to take forage
40. (1) JCC, 12:903, 906 (11 and 12 Sep 78). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 12: 491 (to Pres of Cong, 23 Sep 78).
41. Washington Papers, 85:27 (Biddle to Pettit, 21 Sep 78).
42. RG 11, CC Papers, reel 95, item 78, 9:186-87 (to Joseph Reed, 23 Oct 78).
43. Washington Papers, 93:143 (30 Nov 78).
supply into consideration in selecting the site for the winter quarters of his army. In Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey the supply of both provisions and forage had been greatly reduced because a large part of the land had not been cultivated or only partially cultivated, since so many of the farmers had served as militiamen, teamsters, and artificers. For three years the Middle Department had been the major theater of operations. The country had been exposed to the depredations of the enemy, and a large part of it had been in British possession. When the main army went into winter quarters in November 1778, it became necessary to distribute it in camps at Middlebrook, Elizabethtown, and Ramapo, New Jersey; at West Point and Fishkill, New York; at Danbury, Connecticut; and at Providence, Rhode Island. To provide forage for the horses, the Cavalry was dispersed to Durham, Connecticut; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Winchester, Virginia. Forage had to be provided not only for the Cavalry horses but also for the main army's riding and wagon horses. Biddle estimated the total number at 10,000.44
In view of the forage scarcity, Biddle in December submitted proposals designed to lessen the demand in camp, and Washington endorsed them. Biddle recommended that all spare horses be sent from camp as soon as possible, and that the Artillery horses and the army's wagon horses also be sent away since country teams, which found their own forage, could be hired to haul wood, straw, and other materials needed for hutting the troops. He further proposed enforcing a strict compliance with the resolve of Congress that no officer, unless he had special permission entitling him to forage, should keep a horse within forty miles of camp. Nor should any officer, he added, keep more horses than he was allowed in General Orders. To prevent any waste of hay and grain, he intended to have racks and troughs prepared. He also proposed to erect large scales for weighing loads of hay and to enclose a hay yard as soon as artificers could be spared. He had already ordered scales and measures for issuing forage. He suggested, too, that orders be sent to the separate military departments and also to detachments for putting these proposals into effect.45
Despite orders, a reduction of the number of horses maintained at various posts failed to be made. Writing from Philadelphia in January 1779, Biddle reported that the consumption at that post was "beyond all bounds," though Assistant Quartermaster General Pettit was doing all he could to reduce the number of horses. Four months later, when Brig. Gen. Alexander McDougall visited Peekskill, he found that "every branch of a department had horses-sufficient for a Field Marshall's suite." He promptly sent all
44. APS, Greene Letters, 10:21 (Biddle's report, 25 Nov 78).
45. (1) RG 11, CC Papers, item 173, 1:289-90 (Biddle to Greene, 5 Dec 78). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 13:451 (GO, 22 Dec 78).
the public and useless horses away from the post to where they could be provided with forage.46
In January 1779 Biddle could report that his department had managed "tolerably well for Forage in Camp but my resources in Monmouth begin to fail & I fear will fall short before the River opens.”47 His prospects, however, for an improved supply of forage in the early months of the year seemed most unfavorable. A real scarcity of forage existed in almost every state as a result of the great amount of land carriage used by the government and by private citizens. His purchasers reported that they were getting much less forage than they had expected. At the same time, prices rose constantly as the value of currency depreciated in 1779. With supply much exhausted in New Jersey even before that year, more and more dependence had to be placed on drawing forage from Virginia and Maryland. In February, however, the presence of enemy warships in the Chesapeake Bay prevented Deputy Quartermaster General Finnie of Virginia from sending any forage to Head of Elk. Well aware of the distress this interruption caused, Pettit asked Congress to take measures to protect this shipping route so essential to the welfare of Washington's army.48
As the time approached for the opening of the 1779 campaign, Biddle reviewed for Greene the status of forage supply. A flow of forage from Virginia and Maryland could not be depended upon, he wrote, in view of the continued presence of British cruisers in the Chesapeake Bay. Nor could he procure forage in New Jersey until the new grain was harvested. In these circumstances, his department would have to rely on pasturage to support the army's horses. The existing method of procuring pasturage by applying to the magistrates, however, posed difficulties. He explained that neither the inhabitants nor the magistrates in New Jersey who applied the state's forage law would allot meadows that were ready to be mowed or let the army's horses go into them. The upland pastures alone would not keep the horses alive until grain could be procured. Thus, he argued, it would be necessary not only to use all the pastures near the troops but also to cut the grass and even grain that was ripe or nearly ripe to assist in supporting the horses. He requested orders late in May 1779 from the Commander in Chief. He had provided scythes to prevent the waste of grass as much as possible. Fatigue parties would be needed to assist the foragemasters when the meadows were taken. He added that since Pennsylvania could not subsist the Cavalry and spare horses that were then in the state, no forage could be expected from
46. (1) APS, Greene Letters, 9:13 (Biddle to Greene, 25 Jan 79). (2) Washington Papers, 105:78 (to Washington, 1 May 79).
47. APS, Greene Letters, 9:13 (Biddle to Greene, 25 Jan 79). See also 8:7 (same to same, 27 Jan 79).
48. Ibid., 4:7 (Biddle to Greene, I 1 Feb 79); 6 (same to same, 20 Feb 79); 79 (Pettit to Pres of Cong, 19 Feb 79).
that quarter. In New York magistrates allotted pastures in much the same way as in New Jersey.49
In forwarding Biddle's letter to Washington,. Greene stressed the impossibility of supporting the horses by applying to the magistrates for pastures. Given the army's frequent need in a campaign to march and quickly change positions, such applications were not feasible since they would produce tedious delays. He considered it necessary for the Commander in Chief to give orders to the commissary general of forage to procure forage in the best manner he could. Knowing Washington's penchant for abiding by the laws of the states, he added, "I would wish to make the Law of the State the rule of my Conduct in all Cases where it can be adher'd to without ruin to the Service but a partial evil had much better be endur'd than a general ruin take place.”50
Washington replied that the laws of each state were to be observed "as far as it can be done." If necessity compelled it, some deviation could occur, but to prevent complaints and charges of. wanton exercise of power, Biddle should use every means to obtain forage "in the ordinary way." If he was unsuccessful, he was to make written requisitions to the magistrates for pasturage and meadows. If they failed to make the requested allotment, "the exigency of the Public Service must decide the conduct you are to pursue."51 This reply scarcely answered Biddle's request for guidance, and it led Greene to comment that Washington must have misunderstood "the nature of the application and the powers solicited." Washington's letter seemed to "breathe and enjoin a stout conformity to the laws of the State save in particular cases and under pressing circumstances." But as matters then stood, the need for forage would require a "general deviation." Foragemasters would think themselves bound by Washington's instructions, and in a few weeks half the horses of the army would be lost. The troops could become vulnerable to attack and baggage might be lost. Greene was certain that the people would be more reconciled to measures that inconvenienced them if they understood that the security of the army was at stake and that the measures did not originate from negligence or abuse of power by the staff.52 Washington, however, did not change his position.
Lack of funds increasingly hampered the Forage Department's procurement efforts in 1779. By law the civil magistrates of New Jersey were empowered to settle the price of forage in the county or township in which it was collected, but no two of them were ever of the same opinion, Deputy Quartermaster General Furman reported, no matter how closely the counties or townships in which they lived were situated. Under a law enacted by the state,
49. Washington Papers, 108:97 (Biddle to Greene, 27 May 79).
50: Ibid., 108:96 (Greene to Washington, 27 May 79).
51. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 15:178 (to Biddle, 29 May 79).
52. Washington Papers, 109:36 (30 May 79).
forage could not be removed from a farm until payment had been made, but Furman had no money and thus could not purchase. Moreover, farmers were losing all confidence in money, and its rapid and continued depreciation, he added, would soon make it impossible to get supplies for the army even with money.53
In May 1779 Owen Biddle, the assistant of the commissary general of forage at Philadelphia, informed Assistant Quartermaster General Pettit, through whom the Quartermaster's Department received its funds, that unless he got some money, it would be impossible to feed the horses in the public service. He appended a list of agents and places needing funds that totaled 1,944,000 dollars. The commissary general of forage had repeatedly requested money but had failed to receive any. The main army had been out of short forage several times in the past weeks. Owen Biddle did not have even one week's supply on hand when there should have been 60,000 bushels. Magazines would have to be formed, for the winter cantonment of the Cavalry and worn-down horses; attention also would have to be given to the support of packhorses with Col. Daniel Brodhead at Fort Pitt. To illustrate his needs, Biddle enclosed a letter from Deputy Quartermaster General Archibald Steele at Fort Pitt who reported that, he had 1,600 horses but not one bushel of forage for them; rising prices would cause grain to cost 20 dollars a bushel, and Steele reported that he would need at least 80,000 bushels that year.54 In this situation credit-when and if it could be obtained-and impressment were the only means by which the animals of the army could be subsisted. To move the troops into winter quarters in November 1779, Washington had to authorize the impressment of forage as the army marched through New York and New Jersey.
When Congress, lacking money, eliminated its use by resorting to the system of specific supplies in December 1779, it directed that when a state undertook to furnish its quota of articles under that system, the purchase of such articles by commissaries and quartermasters in the state was to cease.55 One week later New Jersey passed an act to provide provisions and forage for the use of the army and appointed purchasing agents in .the various counties, naming Azariah Dunham as superintendent. Clement Biddle did not receive the congressional resolution until 1 February 1780, and at Dunham's request, his purchasers had continued to act in New Jersey. On that date, however, Biddle. discontinued purchasing and made requisitions on Dunham.
53. RG 11, CC Papers, item 78, 5:367-69 (Funnan to Cox and Pettit, 29 Jun 79).
54. APS, Greene Letters, 5:20 (18 May 79).
55. JCC, 15:1391.
Though the latter wrote to his state purchasers, he received no response and gave Biddle no encouragement to rely on them for supplies.
The supply situation continued to deteriorate. Biddle had no more hay, and on 24 February he informed Greene that the grain in magazines also would soon be exhausted. He had neither money nor authority to purchase. About the same time, Deputy Quartermaster General Furman reported to Greene that very little forage remained at Trenton. Informed of the situation, Washington directed Biddle to obtain an accurate account of purchases from Durham, and if the supply was not sufficient, he was to lay before the New Jersey General Assembly the state of the magazines and the need to supply forage until navigation and the condition of the roads permitted bringing forage from the south. On 6 March Washington described for Congress his forage difficulties.56 Some three weeks later, on 29 March, Pennsylvania forbade purchase of forage by agents of the Quartermaster's Department. Lack of funds had prevented the latter from building magazines. The department, however, had 2,000 horses in the state, and most required care to restore them to fitness for the coming campaign. The officers in charge of them could not pay for their maintenance, Greene explained to the president of the Pennsylvania Executive Council, and he requested forage for them.57
Biddle had intended to resign at the close of the 1779 campaign, but the forage difficulties encountered when the troops went into winter quarters at Morristown, he wrote Washington in mid-May 1780, had led him to remain in the hope of contributing some remedy. With the adoption of the system of specific supplies, the duties of his office were reduced to calling forage from the magazines, directing its issue to the troops, and requesting the allotment of pasturage. The office, he felt, could be readily filled by another. Moreover, he had received preemptory orders from the Treasury Board to deliver his accounts and vouchers to its office in Philadelphia for final settlement by 1 June. The board had threatened that if he failed to comply, he would be prosecuted as a delinquent and advertised as. a public defaulter. His deputies had already resigned and were waiting to settle their accounts; his assistant in Philadelphia would no longer serve; and he himself would have to report personally to the Treasury Board. He had already obtained Greene's permission to resign, he informed Washington, but he added that he was willing to serve at Philadelphia for the rest of 1780 to call forth and forward forage. Washington expressed approval of his conduct as commissary general of forage and acknowledged "that the army [had] at several times in very critical circumstances, derived great advantages" from his service.58
56. (1) Washington Papers, 128:127 (Biddle to Greene, 24 Feb 80). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 18:50-51 (to Greene, 25 Feb 80); 93-94 (to Pres of Cong, 6 Mar 80).
57. RG 11, CC papers, item 155, 1:232-35 (Greene to pres of Pa. Council, 30 Mar 80).
58. (1) Washington Papers, 135:76 (Biddle to Washington, 16 May 80). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 18:383 (to Biddle, 18 May 80).
When Washington learned that a land and sea force would soon arrive from France to cooperate with the Continental Army against the British, he requested Biddle to remain at his post because of his "experience, activity, and intire knowledge" of the country's forage resources. "The Department you filled is a very important one, and on a proper discharge of its duties, our abilities to move in case of active operations will greatly depend." He indicated that he would clear matters with the Treasury Board. Biddle replied that he would willingly remain in the service as long as necessary. Washington at once wrote to the Treasury Board that Biddle's services were so essential that it would be better to defer the settlement of his accounts.59
Biddle, late in May 1780, immediately began preparations. He pointed out the need to apply to the executive authorities of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia not only to hasten delivery of forage under the system of specific supplies to designated places but also to assist in transporting it to such other places as directed by the Quartermaster General or the commissary general of forage. Washington assured Biddle that the committee of Congress then at Morristown had already written a circular letter to the states urging them to furnish their supplies, and that he had designated places for depositing forage. He approved Biddle's selection of Trenton as a site for a major forage magazine. It soon became necessary to grant Biddle authority to impress in order to provide forage for Washington's camp. The Commander in Chief added that if foragemasters were sued in consequence of the execution of their duty, "the public must bear them harmless"; he could not stop "the process of the law."60
In the course of a brief stay in Philadelphia, Biddle did everything in his power to learn the amount of forage that was being procured by Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland and to have a large part of it sent to Trenton. Pennsylvania had procured very little, grain, he reported to Greene in July, and none was to be expected until after harvest. Delaware had procured some grain and had passed a law to collect the remainder of its quota. None, however, had as yet arrived, and he feared that the lack of money to pay transportation costs to Trenton would cause delay. The same situation prevailed in Maryland as in Delaware. Deputy Quartermaster General Finnie of Virginia had collected nearly 200,000 bushels of grain, chiefly Indian corn, and Biddle had directed him to transport as large a part of 100,000 bushels as he could to Head of Elk, holding the rest to be shipped by water in case of the arrival of the French fleet. Lack of funds to pay transportation costs, however, caused shipments from Head of Elk to come slowly to camp.61
59. (I) Ibid., 18:426-27 (to Biddle, 27 May 80); 446-47 (to Treasury Bd, 29 May 80). (2) Washington Papers, 136:109 (Biddle to Washington, 28 May 80).
60. (I) Ibid., 136:110 (Biddle to Washington, 28 May 80). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 18:447-48, 504 (to Biddle, 29 May and 11 Jun 80).
61. RG 11, CC Papers, item 39, 3:259-60 (Biddle to Greene, 6 Jul 80).
Biddle's report, which Greene forwarded to Washington, was not encouraging. Forage was so necessary in all offensive operations that nothing could be undertaken without it. Assessing the situation further, Greene reported that very few were impressed with its importance and thay many thought it could be obtained on .the "spur of occasion." Such might be the case, Greene admitted, if the demand was small, but a large supply could be obtained with any certainty only if measures were taken in advance. If the business was left on a "precarious and uncertain footing, ten to one but we shall be obliged to abandon with disgrace." Greene added that he saw no preparations being made nor any prospect of putting Washington's army in condition to operate offensively or even to carry out a defensive plan. He was not convinced that "either administration, or the several states consider the present preparation in the light of a serious intention to offensive operations.”62
Quartermaster General Greene's assessment was accurate. Biddle applied to the justices, or magistrates, in New Jersey and to the contractor appointed by the state for the county in which the main army lay-it was then at Camp Preakness in the northern part of the state-for pasturage and permission to cut meadow grass in the vicinity of camp to subsist the horses. He got little assistance, even though his foragemasters met with the justices and the contractor for days. The justices declared that they could not subsist the horses any longer in the neighborhood of the camp, and Biddle added that this claim would be repeated at every place that Washington might have occasion to halt. They felt, he informed Washington, that they had no right to take more than what each farmer could conveniently spare, and they commonly consulted the owner on the quantity he could spare. Biddle had proposed to replace what might be taken with hay from other parts of the country, but the inhabitants rejected that proposal. Pasturage and grass were to be had within a few miles of camp, and he inquired whether Washington would issue a warrant to impress. The foragemasters would have to be assured, he added, that they were justified in executing the warrant, since many had been sued, confined, and put to considerable expense, in the fall of 1779 while impressing forage.
Convinced of the absolute necessity of impressment, Biddle wrote again the same day to Washington, asserting that the choice was either to allow the horses to perish or to break into the enclosures of the farmers. He took the liberty of drafting and enclosing the form of a warrant; he left the distance it was to extend and the time period to be filled in by Washington if he approved the form. He suggested five miles around the camp as the distance for impressing forage. Washington on 11 July 1780 authorized that distance and limited the use of the warrant to a ten-day period.63
62. Ibid., 3:255-58 (Greene to Washington, 7 Jul 80).
63. (I) Washington Papers, 141:69, 70 (Biddle to Washington, 11 Jul 80). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 19:158-59 (11 Jul 80).
Three days later Dunham, the superintendent of purchases in New Jersey, raised a new question. He doubted whether the laws of the state authorized the state contractors to procure pasturage for teams employed in transporting supplies purchased outside the state. He therefore wanted an order from the Commander in Chief or the committee of Congress at camp. The latter entreated him to take effectual measures to procure and furnish the forage needed for the horses and trains employed in such transportation. By this time the impressment warrant had expired and Biddle needed an extension, Washington granted it for another ten-day period, extending the distance to ten miles.64
Late in July 1780 Greene sent letters from both Furman and Biddle to the committee of Congress at camp to provide it with information on the state of the Forage Department. There appeared to be little probability of getting any considerable stock of forage in New Jersey. In was tedious, Greene asserted, to go with the magistrate through a whole neighborhood in search of pasturage and to have to take it in the divided state in which it was usually laid out for the convenience of the inhabitants rather than for the accommodation of the service. This procedure was prejudicial to forage supply both on the line of communications and with the army. The magistrates, Greene noted, would always favor the local people, who were their neighbors. He believed that "this is the first Army whose support was made to depend altogether upon an order of people naturally full of little jealousies and idle prejudices and who cannot be impressed with the importance of the Service.”65
The Commander in Chief issued impress warrants for ten-day periods in the areas about the camps at Peekskill and Tappan, New York, and at Teaneck, New Jersey, on 2, 13, and 23 August 1780. He dispatched Greene on a forage expedition into the area around Bergen, New Jersey, and so informed Congress. He issued another ten-day warrant to Biddle on 6 September.66 When plans for a Franco-American offensive against the British again failed to materialize, as they had the previous year, Washington's small, ill-supplied army was compelled to lie idle in the Highlands of the Hudson. Though not yet apparent, the war in the north for all practical purposes had come to an end.
In the meantime, Congress in July 1780 had reorganized the Quartermaster's Department, appointing Timothy Pickering to succeed Greene as
64. (1) Burnett, Letters, 5:279 (committee to Dunham, 19 Jul 80). (2) Washington Papers, 143:21 (warrant, 22 Jul 80).
65. RG I I, CC Papers, item 155, 1:347-49 (Greene to committee, 24 Jul 80).
66. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 19:305-06 (to Biddle, 2 Aug 80); 431-32 (to Greene, 24 Aug 80); 437-38 (to Pres of Cong, same date); 20:5 (to Biddle, 6 Sep 80).
its head. Since all forage needed by the Continental Army was now procured by the states under the system of specific supplies, purchasing agents in the forage branch of that department could be eliminated. The state deputy quartermasters issued all forage at posts. In consequence, foragemasters and their assistants also were no longer needed at issuing posts. The only forage personnel retained in the Quartermaster's Department were those appointed to serve with the Continental Army. Congress authorized the Quartermaster General to appoint one commissary of forage for the main army and a deputy commissary for each separate army, as well as such foragemasters, clerks, and laborers as the service required. The duties of the commissary of forage and of a deputy with a separate army were to provide forage and pasturage in the neighborhood of a camp by purchase or other means as the case might require; to make seasonable requisitions on the state deputy quartermasters for needed forage; and to receive and issue forage to the troops. Congress now eliminated the payment of all commissions to personnel in what remained of the Forage Department. Except for the head of the department, who had been paid a commission, this provision introduced no change since forage personnel serving with the Continental Army had always been on a salaried basis. Foragemasters were to be detailed from the line; they were to receive, in addition to their pay in the line, 10 dollars per month.
When Pickering reorganized the Quartermaster's Department under the plan of 1780, he appointed Henry Lutterloh as commissary of forage with the main army.67 Convinced that the need for economy had led to the reorganization of the Quartermaster's Department, Pickering was determined to practice it vigorously. In November 1780 he commended Lutterloh for abolishing the positions of two assistant commissaries of forage who had been held over from Biddle's administration and who had been serving with the two wings of the main Continental army. Lutterloh had inherited one other assistant from Biddle, whose responsibilities had included charge of the magazine with the main army. Since there were no magazines, however, and no prospect of any, this assistant, Pickering pointed out, also could be dismissed. In any case, he wrote, foragemasters could do all the necessary work. Lutterloh was left with one assistant, whose services were required at the Artillery Park.68
Washington had requested Biddle to carry on until his successor in the Forage Department arrived in camp. With his customary willingness, Biddle continued to provide forage for the main army. Much of it was
67. (1) Washington Papers, 126:104-05 (Pickering to Washington, 28 Sep 80). (2) See JCC, 17:615-35 (15 Jul 80). (3) Congress set the salary of the commissary of forage at 75 dollars per month and two rations per day; that of the deputy at 40 dollars per month and one ration per day.
68. RG 93, Pickering Letters, 123:118-19 (to Lutterloh, 21 Nov 80).
obtained by impressment, the owner of the forage receiving a certificate for future payment. By act of Congress, however, no certificate was to be considered valid unless signed by the new Quartermaster General, but Pickering remained in Philadelphia for some forty days after his appointment on 5 August, preoccupied with organizing his department. To avoid any possibility that he would be held personally accountable for the forage he was collecting, Biddle asked for instructions. Washington advised him to continue giving certificates, keeping an exact account. He assured Biddle that he would induce Pickering to provide payment of the certificates that Biddle issued in these circumstances.69
In October 1780, though both Pickering and Lutterloh were now at camp, Washington could not discover any effective measures that they had taken to establish magazines of hay or grain. He appealed to Congress to take steps for his army's relief "before we are overtaken by Winter.”70 Before the end of the month Pickering was pleading with the Council and General Assembly of New Jersey to adopt some measures for providing the army with forage. Greatly alarmed, he also wrote to the President of Congress about the failure of forage supply. Hundreds of horses had already perished. All the grain that had been brought to the main army was less than the quantity needed to supply the riding horses; the wagon horses had none and had subsisted on pasturage with a little hay. Pasturage was then failing and forage was being collected for twenty miles around the camp by military authority. The states were taking no other measure to fill their quotas, Pickering added, than to appoint agents to purchase forage, when the total current amount of money brought into the public treasury would have been insufficient for the purpose. He called on Congress to provide a remedy before it was too late.71
Congress referred Pickering's letter and one from Deputy Quartermaster John Neilson in New Jersey to a committee. The latter's report attributed the scarcity of hay to a failure of crops that season. Since the campaign of 1780 was drawing to a close, Congress proposed to solve the forage shortage by authorizing the Commander in Chief to remove from camp all riding horses that were not absolutely necessary. In addition, the Quartermaster General was to send all the main army's wagon horses that could be spared to one or more states where forage could be provided for them on reasonable terms. Moreover, if the Commander in Chief thought it preferable, some of the horses could be sold and draft oxen substituted for them in the next campaign. Congress directed the Quartermaster General to apply to the executive authorities of the states nearest the encampment of the main army to
69. (1) Washington Papers, 151:40 (Biddle to Greene, 15 Sep 80). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 20:55-56 (to Biddle, 15 Sep 80). Washington advised Congress of his action. See 20:51-52 (16 Sep 80).
70. Ibid., 20:106 (1 Oct 80).
71. (1) RG 93, Pickering Letters, 126:168-69 (to N.J. Council, 20 Oct 80). (2) RG 11, CC Papers, item 192, fols. 41-43 (Pickering to Pres of Cong, 30 Oct 80).
furnish such quantities of forage as would enable him to form proper magazines for the use of the army. It also ordered him to call on the more distant states to furnish intermediate posts with forage for transporting provisions and stores to the army and for providing for the horses removed from camp. Congress further directed the Commander in Chief to make a return to the Board of War of all horses, government and privately owned, that were kept in camp at government expense, and also of the number sent away, noting where they were kept and how they were employed.72
\This resume of forage measures taken in the past was hardly a solution to the problem, as Pickering was quick to point out. The main body of Washington's army, he noted, was to winter in the Highlands of the Hudson. Forage could most easily be obtained from the towns in western Massachusetts and from Connecticut. What New York could supply would be taken if it was not furnished. Magazines should be established at Claverack, New York, and at Springfield and Boston, with smaller ones at intermediate posts. If Deputy Quartermaster Jabez Hatch at Boston could be supplied with money, Dickering informed John Hancock, "nothing more will be wanting." Pickering had hoped that Congress would develop some effective way for procuring forage, "but there has appeared too little energy everywhere," he wrote. "Sister States have discovered little sympathy for the distresses of those which are the Seat of war. Such small assistance has been given by the Southern States that Jersey had been (tho' unavoidably yet) cruelly oppressed." Most of the short forage and all the long forage consumed by the main army in the campaign of 1780 had been taken in New Jersey and chiefly by "military authority which has lately occasioned bloodshed." Commenting on the efforts of the states to purchase forage, he reiterated his belief that these efforts would fail because all the money in circulation would be insufficient. "It is demonstrably clear that nothing in the power of the States, save taxes in kind, will now enable them to form magazines of provisions and forage." He wrote to Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut in much the same vein, and he appealed to Pennsylvania for forage.73
When Washington's army arrived at its winter quarters, Pickering sent the horses of the Artillery and of the spare ammunition wagons to Berks and Lancaster Counties in Pennsylvania, and those of the Pennsylvania line to Berks and Northampton Counties. He advised his assistant deputy quartermasters at Easton, Lancaster, and Reading to provide for these horses or prevail on the farmers to take care of them. They were to sell old and worn-out horses. The rest of the army's horses were sent to the western counties of Massachusetts and Connecticut.74
72. JCC, 18:1045-47 (10 Nov 80).
73. RG 93, Pickering Letters, 123:107-11 (to Hancock, 20 Nov 80); 111-12 (to Joseph Reed, 21 Nov 80); 113 (to Trumbull, same date).
74. Ibid., 123:135-38 (to Assistant Deputy Quartermasters Jacob Weiss, Easton; Richard Miles, Reading; and Philip Mkrsteller, Lancaster, 30 Nov 80; to Deputy Quartermaster Samuel Miles, 30 Nov 80).
During the winter of 1780-81 even Washington's horses lacked forage. Commissary of Forage Lutterloh frequently had not a single bushel of grain on hand. In the midst of this acute shortage, men stopped forage wagons on the road. Washington forbade such action, pointing out that some horses consequently had a full supply while others starved. If any thought their horses neglected, he added, and if they obtained no remedy by applying to the commissary of forage, they could present the matter to headquarters, and everything that the scantiness of the magazines permitted would be done. In March 1781 Lutterloh called on Udny Hay, then serving as the agent of New York, for forage, but his reply held out no hope of any improvement in the situation. In the meantime, Lutterloh was being soundly criticized for his neglect of the horses when, as he observed, "my power only is confin'd to writing, and making seasonable applications.”75
In Pennsylvania forage was also scarce and costly, and the post at Philadelphia, as in the past, had a very large number of horses. Generally, more than 200 had to be cared for at the Continental stables. When Congress questioned an estimate submitted by Deputy Quartermaster Samuel Miles for funds to purchase hay and corn for the post, Pickering tartly replied that the most obvious and important retrenchment, and the one which appeared most practicable, would be to cease supplying the horses of members of Congress and those few kept by officers of the civil list. It was true, he added, that these expenses were supposed to be repaid by the owners of the horses, but not only were the bills paid in depreciated currency but they were also estimated too low-by a fourth, according to Jacob Hiltzheimer, who was still in charge of the government stables.76
When Washington learned in May 1781 that the French were sending a fleet under Admiral Francois de Grasse to cooperate with the American forces and with the French troops then stationed at Newport under the command of Lt. Gen. Jean, Comte de Rochambeau, he met with Rochambeau to formulate plans. These plans at first called for an attack on New York by land and sea. The French troops at Newport moved to Westchester County in New York to join the American forces in July. Since no forage magazines had been established, the French and American forces, when they lay near Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County, took forage by turning their horses and oxen into available fields, except those in which grain was ripening. Some of the farms and estates had been confiscated by New York; others belonged to persons called "refugees" who had fled in fear of the British. Under a law enacted by the New York legislature on I July 1781, the state agent, Udny Hay, was allowed to collect for Washington's forces forage and other
75. (I) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 21:141 (to Pickering, 25 Jan 81); 214 (GO, I I Feb 81). (2) Hugh Hughes Letter Books (Lutterloh to Hughes, 20 Mar 81).
76. (I) JCC, 20:700 (26 Jun 81). (2) Burnett, Letters, 6:131-32 (Pres of Cong to Pickering, 28 Jun 81). (3) RG 11, CC Papers, item 192, fols. 71-73 (Pickering reply, 10 Jul 81).
supplies which might be found on the confiscated estates in Westchester County. Hay argued that the United States was therefore indebted for the forage taken by the allied army. Pickering insisted that the United States should not be charged for the forage consumed since the forage would have fallen into the enemy's hands or perished on the ground if the army had not been encamped at Dobbs Ferry. This controversy between Hay and Pickering, initiated in the midst of the preparations that had to be made for the allied offensive against the British, remained unsettled when the war ended."77
When Washington received word on 14 August that de Grasse was sailing for the Chesapeake Bay, plans quickly shifted to an attack on the British under Cornwallis in Virginia. Maj. Gen. William Heath was placed in command of the troops remaining in the Highlands, and the allied troops began their movement southward on 21 August. To provide forage for Heath's troops, Pickering appointed William Keese as deputy commissary of forage, allowing him a salary of 45 dollars per month and two rations per day. Dickering advised him that "purchase of forage will probably seldom happen" for lack of money. Procurement on credit "is always to be preferred to any other mode," but he quickly added that "a warrant of impress, I fear, will be for the most part your only resource.”78
Commissary of Forage Lutterloh accompanied the troops moving to Virginia. En route Washington requested the governor of Virginia to establish forage magazines, and he also appealed to the governor of Maryland to send forage. A lack of sufficient water transportation at Head of Elk necessitated travel by land for some of the troops and stores. Washington informed Lutterloh of the route the wagons would take and instructed him to prepare forage deposits at each stopping point.79 He wrote that he had received assurances of aid from Maryland and Virginia, but no doubt remembering failures of timely assistance on other occasions, he provided Lutterloh with an impress warrant, to be used if necessary. "The March," he emphasized, "must not be retarded for want of Supplies within your Department." Washington informed Pickering of the orders given to Lutterloh and directed the Quartermaster General to join the army as soon as possible.80
When Pickering arrived at Williamsburg on 16 September, he learned not only that forage supply was very limited but that none had been collected on the route Lutterloh was following. He informed the latter of the situation.
77. For details of this controversy, see Pickering and Upham, The Life of Timothy Pickering, 1:316-28.
78. RG 93, Pickering Letters, 82:81-82 (to Keese, 26 Aug 81).
79. To avoid delays caused by the need to ferry wagons across rivers, Washington informed Lutterloh that the route would be from Head of Elk via Bush River to Baltimore, to Elk Ridge Landing, to Bladensburg, to Georgetown, and from thence to the Falls of the Rappahannock (avoiding the Occoquan Ferry), to Caroline Court House, to Newcastle, to Williamsburg.
80. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 23:55-58 (to Gov Thomas Nelson and Gov Thomas Sim Lee, 27 Aug 81); 104-05 (to Lutterloh, 7 Sep 81); 106-07 (to Pickering, 8 Sep 81).
Not only did Lutterloh have to provide forage for his train but he also had to comply with Pickering's order to procure, by impressment if necessary, sufficient forage to make up at least half loads for his wagons and bring it to camp. At the same time, the Quartermaster General warned Lutterloh not to, delay too long in getting the forage for the country "is already much stripped for near thirty miles from hence." Impressment of forage was the method used to support the animals on their journey with the troops to Yorktown, during their stay there, and on their return to the north after the surrender of Cornwallis.81
Subsequently, Pickering sent Deputy Quartermaster Richard Claiborne instructions from Washington on paying for the forage taken and the damage done by the combined forces in Virginia. Pickering directed Claiborne to confer with the Quartermaster General of the French troops in Virginia in order to determine the "mode by which the proportion shall be estimated" and the manner in which payment should be made for the forage consumed by the French troops. Pickering proposed that the United States pay all forage costs and damages, provided the French Quartermaster General paid Claiborne the amount due for the French army's share of these forage costs. Claiborne was to distribute the money so obtained among the inhabitants in proportion to the damage they had sustained, and to give, each individual a certificate for the balance due him. For this purpose Pickering sent Claiborne 525 specie certificates.82
In the winter of 1781-82 Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris experimented with supplying forage by contract. The firm of Smith and Lawrence contracted to supply the posts north of Poughkeepsie, New York, and for this purpose the contractors were furnished with a copy of the 1780 congressional regulation for the Quartermaster's Department as a guide for issuing forage. A similar contract was made for supplying forage to the New Jersey posts. A number of adjustments, however, had to be made in the issue of forage by the contractors because the regulation of 1780 had failed to include a considerable number of individuals who were allowed forage. Except for regimental surgeons, the whole Hospital Department, for example, had not been included, an omission that was corrected by Congress on' 30 September 1780.83
On the last day of April 1782 these contracts expired. At Pickering's suggestion, and with the approval of the Superintendent of Finance, the procurement and issue of forage in New Jersey was turned over to the deputy
81. (1) Ibid., 23:335 (impress warrant to Pickering, 5 Nov 81). (2) RG 93, Pickering Letters, 82:89 (to Lutterloh, 26 Sep 81).
82. Ibid., 82:136-39 (to Claiborne, 7 Dec 81).
83. (l) Ibid., 82:146-50 (to Smith and Lawrence, 26 Dec 81); 83:37 (to Assistant Deputy Quartermaster Aaron Forman, 18 Jan 82). (2) JCC, 23:886-87.
quartermaster in that state.84 Washington appealed to the governor of New York for assistance in providing for the horses and ox teams of the army there until the Superintendent of Finance could take effectual measures. However, the prices at which New York proposed to furnish forage through its state agent were so high that Morris rejected the offer. Instead, he gave Dickering a number of drafts which he was to use to obtain funds by negotiating an exchange with the receivers of public taxes in the several states located east of Pennsylvania. Pickering believed he would be able to keep up a regular supply of forage since Morris indicated that other drafts would be furnished from time to time.85
Procurement of forage was made more difficult by the competition of agents who were purchasing for the French troops. They not only made prompt payment, Pickering complained, but "they actually lodged money with the farmers before they took away a particle of forage," arid the prices they paid were as high as those the. Quartermaster General could give in purchasing on credit. Indeed, Pickering's procurement on credit had to be limited to the purchase of hay; "grain commanded cash in hand," he informed Morris. In the fall of 1782 the deputy quartermaster in Connecticut thought he could procure a considerable quantity of grain for forage in lieu of taxes at prices equivalent to those paid by the French agents in cash provided he could pay the arrearages due the farmers for forage and pasturage furnished since the first of that year. Pickering laid this proposal before Robert Morris and urged that a supply of forage be obtained in this way. An unusually severe drought had greatly reduced the corn and buckwheat crops, he warned, and prices inevitably would rise sharply.86
Pickering continued to be apprehensive about obtaining a sufficient supply of forage for the main army in New York. He decided to procure hay at the current cash prices by paying for it with salt, an article needed by the farmers. To pay off former debts to the farmers, he once more appealed to Morris for notes. That his efforts to provide an adequate supply of forage failed was made evident by the complaints registered "from the Major General down to the lowest Staff Officer entitled to keep a Horse." In December 1782 Washington was compelled to purchase forage for his horses using his private funds. He warned Pickering that all business which needed to be done by officers on horseback would have to cease and that timely notice would have to be given to the Postmaster General that the dragoons would no longer be able to carry the mail. Their horses had been without forage for so many days that "the Dragoons were obliged to bring the last weeks mail from Morns Town a considerable part of the distance on their backs.”87
84. RG 93, Pickering Letters, 83:129-62 (1-2 May 82).
85. (1) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 24:428-29 (to Gov George Clinton, 11 Jul 82). (2) Washington Papers, 203:41 (Picketing to Washington, 6 Aug 82).
86. RG 93, Pickering Letters, 84:131-33 (to Morris, 19 Sep 82).
87. (1) Ibid., 85:265-66 (to Lutterloh, 11 Nov 82). (2) Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 25:464-66 (to Pickering, 25 Dec 82).
During 1782 the number of posts was sharply reduced, the number of staff officers
who were allowed forage for their horses was cut back, and the Continental Army
dwindled in size. Demands for forage consequently were reduced, but its scarcity
was more pronounced in the winter of 1782-83 than it had been in 1775.
In summary, the administration of forage supply in the Revolutionary War followed much the same pattern found in other supply areas. Supplying forage for the Continental Army did not receive much attention at the beginning of the war since demand was not great. A growing awareness of the problem developed only when Washington's army engaged in a campaign of movement in 1776 that required the .use of many more workhorses. Yet no one part of the Quartermaster's staff administered the department's responsibility for supplying forage. Sporadic purchases and impressment haphazardly met the army's forage needs at that time. In 1777 Quartermaster responsibility for forage supply widened to include providing forage not only for riding and Artillery horses but also for the Cavalry and for those horses allotted to divisions as part of their organic transportation. In May of that year Congress established a Forage Department, but, as in the case of so many other supply agencies, it failed to provide centralized control and left implementation to the officers of the Quartermaster's Department. The Forage Department had promise, but it was sorely hampered by a lack of vigorous direction by Quartermaster General Mifflin and by the limited authority given to Clement Biddle, commissary general of forage for Washington's army. When Greene in 1778 increased Biddle's authority, the latter initiated needed reforms. Biddle was an able administrator whose work won Washington's approval. Unfortunately, the Forage Department, like all supply agencies in 1779, was beset by spiraling costs and a lack of funds. Except for keeping a modest field organization, Congress eliminated the Forage Department in 1780. Once again Washington's army was dependent for all practical purposes on impressment for its supply of forage. Efforts in the last .two years of the war to procure forage under contract were not too successful. Congress never found an. adequate solution to the problem of forage supply for the Continental Army. Peace finally made unnecessary any further efforts to do so.
Return to the Table of Contents