<br /> Lee Letter: n400

Washington and Lee University

Sender: William Duer
Recipient: Francis Lightfoot Lee

I have this day seen a letter from Genl. Gates as president of the board of
war directing general Mifflin to inform the commissioners appointed by
the board to superintend the purchasing provisions &c that Congress
had determined that the measures pursued by the State of Pensylvania
were adequate to the supply of the army on the east side of
Susquehannah and had therefore directed that they no longer proceed on
that business, but lay all their accounts &c before
Congress.1 Just when the resolution came to
hand a considerable supply of provisions & forage was forwarding to
head quarters by the persons appointed by the board of war & a
great number of teams impressed for this purpose. The order of Congress
has put a stop to the whole, so that all prospect of keeping the army
together is now at an end and you may expect every moment to hear of
its dissolution. The former letter I sent you from Genl. Washington
painted to you their critical situation.2
Since that time about 1000 barrels of flour have been sent down by
water from this place by Col Bird. But the river is now fallen &
there is no probability of procuring an adequate number of teams in
time agreeable to the laws of this state.

This you may declare to Congress as a fact that warrants have been out
agreeable to the laws of Pensylvania for a month past for procuring
teams for the use of the army & that none have as yet been procured
in that way. The consequence of which is that all the horses in the
army are now famished for forage and a mutiny has already arisen for
want of a timely supply of provisions. It will be more than we have a
right to expect, when the army disbands, which I think in a few days it
must, if a great part dont join the enemy. A few nights ago thirteen of
the Artillery (the best corps in the service) twelve of whom were
sergeants deserted in a body to the enemy. This you may rely on as
fact.

Notes:

Transcription, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg,
Pa. In the hand of Charles Thomson and endorsed by him: “Extract of a
letter from Mr Duer to col F. L. Lee in Congress Feby 19. 1778.” This
is undoubtedly the copy of Duer’s letter that on February 21 Congress
ordered to “be sent by express to the executive Council of
Pensylvania” and which Daniel Roberdeau sent to the Pennsylvania
Assembly. See JCC, 10:189; and Daniel Roberdeau to the Pennsylvania
Assembly, February 21, 1778.

1 On February 17 Congress had ordered the suspension of three superintendents
who had been appointed by the Board of War to purchase flour in
Pennsylvania for the Continental Army. Congress took this action not
only because Pennsylvania had appointed its own commissioners to make
this purchase, but also because the board’s appointees “without any
authority, in direct violation of the laws of Pensylvania, and
contrary to the instructions given by the Board of War, have presumed
to fix and ascertain the prices of several articles wanted in the
army, much higher than fixed by law in the State.” On February 21
Congress, having read this extract of Duer’s letter to Lee, decided
to send a copy of it to the Pennsylvania Council, together with a
resolve requesting the council to forward to the army “by every
possible means, supplies of provisions, (especially of the meat
kind,) and forage, with the utmost dispatch.” See JCC, 10:54 – 56,
166 – 70 176 – 77, 189. The council complied with Congress’ request on
February 24 by issuing a circular letter to this effect to its
purchasing commissioners. See Pa. Archives, 1st ser. 6:294; Daniel
Roberdeau to Thomas Wharton, January 16, note 2; and Committee at
Camp Minutes of Proceedings, February 16 – 20, 1778, note 5. In order
to avoid exclusive reliance on state authorities in this matter,
Congress also ordered the Board of War on the 21st to make immediate
purchases of “meat and forage for the army … having respect to
the prices fixed by the laws of the State of Pennsylvania.” JCC,
10:189. It is pertinent to note in this context that Duer and Lee
were both members of the old Board of War, which had only recently
relinquished its authority to a new board made up of nonmembers of
Congress.

2 Duer may be referring to Washington’s comprehensive January 29, 1778,
report to the Committee at Camp. See Duer to Lee, February 14, 1778,
note 10.