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Extracts from the Proceedings of a

Board of General Officers

of the British Army

New York, 1781


New York 19th July 1781
Major Drummond

to His Excelly Sir Henry Clinton


From the small investigation I have as yet been able to make into the Accounts and Expenditures in one or two Departments of this Army, there appears to me no other certain method of diminishing the very heavy Expences attending on them but that of immediately taking the Vessels, Batteaux and small Craft with the Horses and Waggons out of the hands of Departments and place them in those of Government, by which means the immense charge incurred at present for the hire of Vessels, Waggons and Horse Train will be in a great measure saved, as in that case Government cannot suffer any other charge but simply those for the pay of Drivers, and the hire of proper persons for the management of the Vessels, with some necessary Contingent Expences to replace such Horses as may die or be rendered unfit for service, to repair Waggons, and to refit the Vessels, &c.

Government I apprehend from this mode will be eased of very considerable Expences. For not withstanding the present heavy charges incurred for the current Services of the various Departments, Government must still be considered as answerable for and at the risk of all losses under every head and of every kind.

I believe upon Calculation it will be found that all the Horses, Waggons, Vessels, &c which may be found necessary to be employed for the use of the Army under Your Excellency's Command, might be purchased considerably within one Year's hire of the present cost and Establishment.

I am extremely sensible that many objections will be thrown in the way to bar any proposal of this kind, setting forth the improbability that such a Scheme will ever answer should it be put into execution; I forsee that many obstacles may be framed to counteract such a design, but I have to assure Your Excellency, upon mature deliberation, that a plan might be adopted in this respect, which I am persuaded would fully answer the purpose of reducing the present enormous charges; I may possibly be too sanguine, but I confess the feasibility of what I propose strikes me in the most sensible manner.

I should humbly propose that a Board of General Officers might assemble to enquire whether this proposal is practicable and should it appear to them that it would answer the end which I know Your Excellency has ever had so much at heart, that of diminishing the enormous expence of the Army, I should humbly propose that a Comptroller with two or three Officers of Rank should have the entire management of all those matters, under the stile or form of a Board of Works or whatever denomination may be thought most proper.

I have taken the liberty of submitting the above observations to your Excellency's perusal; the motives that have actuated me upon this occasion are solely the publick good, and in consequence of the very urgent orders that have been transmitted to me from the Right Honorable the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury through Mr. Robinson their Secretary, which specify in so particular and forcible a manner, their confidence and trust that I would give Your Excellency every information in my power; and that I should follow such Rules and directions as I might receive from Your Excellency from time to time; and that with the assistance of Your Excellency I should use every means in my power to curtail all improper charges to prevent unnecessary expences, and to see that the respective Services are carried on with due & proper Oeconomy(sic).

  I have the honor to be with the utmost respect
  Your Excellency's most faithful & obedient Hble Servt
  Dunn Drummond





[About the 7th of August, 1781, Sir Henry Clinton directed that a Board of Officers, composed of:

  Lieut. General James Robertson, President
  Lieut. General Campbell
  Major General James Paterson
  Brigr Genl The Earl of Lincoln1
  Brigr General Samuel Birch
  The Honble Andrew Elliott and
  The Honble Henry White Esqrs
to assemble "and receive such information as Major Drummond Commissary of Accounts shall lay before them, touching the Expenditure of Plublick Money in the different Departments, which the Commander in Chief found established in this Army, upon his succeeding to the Command of it. And His Excellency requests, that after the Board have duly Considered the same they will be pleased to report to him, in writing their opinion thereon."




[The Board directed the following letter be written and sent to the Heads of the four principal Departments, ie., the Barrack Master General (Lieut. Colonel William Crosbie), Commissary General (Daniel Weir), Quarter Master General, and Engineer Department (Capt. Alexander Mercer, Commanding Engineer).]

New York, 14th August 1781.

On examining some papers laid before us it appears that from the 13th December 1775 to 14th May 1778, the Warrants to the different Departments amounts to £1079412.

And that the Warrants granted by Sir Henry Clinton for nearly an equal space of time amounts to £3278429.

We are at a loss to conjecture the cause of the great Excess in the last period, and will be obliged to you to give us your ideas on the cause of increase of Expence as far as relates to your Department.

  I have the honor to be &c &c
  A. Stewart, Secy
  To the Board of Genl Officers


Copy of the above sent to the
Quarter Master General,
Barrack Master General,
Commissary General
Commandg Engineer.



[The responses from the various Departments follow.]


New York August 15th 1781.

Late last night I received a letter of yesterday's date under the signature of Adam Stewart, who subscribes himself Secretary to the Board of General Officers, acquainting me that On examining "some papers laid before them it appears that from the 13th of Decemeber 1775 to the 14th of May 1778 the Warrants of the different Departments amounts to £1079412 and that the Warrants granted By Sir Henry Clinton for nearly an equal space of time amounts to £3278429." He likewise informs me "that they are at a loss to conjecture the cause of the great excess in the last period," and the Board "requests my ideas on the cause of encrease of expence as far as relates to my Department."

Having no knowledge of the expences of the Department prior to my appointment, on the 1st July 1780 I am totally incompetent to an opinion on a question of such importance and therefore cannot presume to venture an idea upon a subject which retrospects transactions I am entire stranger to; I would be happy could I throw any degree of light upon so interesting an enquiry; but the reasons I have given will I am persuaded convince you that it is impossible for me to assign any cause for the encrease of the publick expence so far as relates to my Department in a period antecedent to my appointment.

Whatever falls within my own knowledge and respects my own Accounts, I shall at all times be ready to give you the most explicit information.

  I have the honor to be
  Gentlemen &c &c
  Wm Crosbie
  B. M. G.


His Excellency
Lieut General Robertson
        President &c &c &c




15th August 1781.

In answer to your letter of yesterday's date, I beg you will be pleased to inform the Board of General Officers that, from the extent & nature of the Service of the Engineer Department, the sums expended have been unavoidably very considerable; nor am I conscious of having incurred any unnecessary expence. On the contrary I have endeavored to observe the strictest Oeconomy, by discharging from time to time all useless hands, and by avoiding the purchase of Materials, unless absolutely wanted.

It will be allowed I hope that the works which have been, and are still carrying on, under my direction, are upon a much larger scale than anything hitherto done for the defence of this place and its Dependencies. These have necessarily required the constant labour of a number of artificers, as well as the purchase of lumber, Plank and materials of all kinds to a very considerable amount.

I must here observe that from the care I have taken to keep the Men usefully employed in cutting and collecting all kinds of materials &c &c there has been a saving to Government I firmly believe, nearly equal to the whole expence of the Department.

The expenditure of Entrenching and cutting Tools, nails and other materials in Hutting the Troops upon the three Islands was very considerable.

The Board will allow that the fitting out the Expeditions from General Grants time to this, must have been attended with a very great Expence.

I beg to observe for the information of the Board that the prices of all kinds of Materials are advanced many hundreds pr Cent to what they formerly were. Lumber in particular is at a very high price, and no wonder as I am well informed that the Retailers of this Town sell Common Boards at the rate of £100 pr Thousand feet. The Wages of Artificers and Labourers are advanced in proportion, and it is constant employment only, that prevents our Artificers from quitting the service.

The General payment of working parties was not only expensive but unattended with any good consequence, I therefore took the liberty of discontinuing that Channel of expence.

The few Sloops and Schooners attached to the Department have been usefully employed.

I have mentioned I think all the material points of Expence, but as I wish to give the Board every information, I must beg of you, Sir, to inform me if I have omitted any thing necessary for that purpose.

  I have the honor to be
  Sir, &c
  Alex Mercer
  Commg Engineer.


Adam Stewart, Esq
         Secretary to the Board
                   of General Officers




New York 16th of August 1781.

We have had the honor of receiving a letter dated 14th inst from the Board of General Officers to which your Excellency is President, directed to the Quarter Master General as follows, "On examining some Papers laid before us it appears that from 13th December 1775 to the 14 May 1778 the warrants of the different Departments amounts to £1079412.

And that the warrants granted by Sir Henry Clinton for nealy an equal space of time amounts to £3278429.

We are at a loss to conjecture the cause of the great Excess in the last periods and will be obliged to you to give us your ideas on the cause of encrease of expence as far as relates to your Department."

In answer to what relates to the Quarter Master General's Department, we as acting for him in his absence shall endeavour to give our ideas as Circumstantially as the distance of the time will admit of, and as far as come within our knowledge, both before and since our appointments to the Department.

From 13th December 1775 to the 17 March the Troops under Sir William Howe remained in Boston and Charles Town Heights without any movement to occasion any great expence. From 17th March to the Month of June following this small Army went to Halifax where they remained for some time, and from thence went to Staten Island, where they remained for the reinforcement from Europe.

After the landing upon Long Island the Troops were never at such a distance from the water as to admit of the necessity of many Waggons being employed to supply them with Provisions &c, during the remaining part of the campaign towards the White Plains Provisions were always conveyed by water to a few miles distance from the Army. The great exertions and readiness of the Navy to supply whatever was demanded by the General made Land Carriage very easy.

In November a Detachment of the Army under the command of Sir Henry Clinton embarked at New York to go to Rhode Island. A part of the Army returned to New York and another went to the Jersies under Lord Cornwallis; who was enabled to live mostly upon the Country, which at that time was plentifully stocked & the Inhabitants so much panic struck that Cattle &c could be collected without risk & continued so all the March to Trenton where the inhabitants seemed very willing (in order to show their zeal) to draw in whatever was wanted; by this means the Land Carriage was had upon reasonable terms.

As this zeal was but of very short duration it became absolutely necessary to draw a supply of Salt Provisions &c to the different Cantonments allotted to the Troops in the Jerseys from New York, and for this purpose a number of small Craft fit for the Navigation of the Rivers &c were ordered to be taken into the Service, and an Agent2 appointed who had the sole management and direction of them, and by his Certificates only they were paid by the Quarter Master General. Before this period the Quarter Master General had the sole direction of the water as well as Land Carriage.

Thus we have endeavoured to account for the smallness of the Expenditures in the Department for upwards twelve Months of the Periods mentioned, commencing on the 13th of December 1775 occasioned by the particular Situation of the Army.

During the winter 1776 and 1777 no further supply's of provisions were received from the Country in the Jersies on the contrary every kind of inveteracy was shown by the very Inhabitants that had so short a time before taken the Oaths of Allegiance, so that no dependence was to be placed upon them, this naturally caused an encrease of both Land and Water Carriage.

His Excellency Sir William Howe during this Winter ordered Sir William Erskine to provide Waggons and Horses to form a Provision Train sufficient to supply the Army on an intended forward move, which Sir William Erskine saved no pains to execute.

In the Month of June following a great number of small Craft and Horse Vessels were employed to carry the Horses and Waggons, belonging to the Provision Train, Staff Officers and different Corps, upon the Expedition from New York up the Chesapeak to the head of Elk.

After the arrival of the Troops at Philadelphia, the Provision Train was further compleated to answer the exigencies of the Army for the opening of the next Campaign, which was in every respect in good order at the time His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton took the Command.

It therefore appears that the heavy expences attending a large Provision Train &c &c and the encrease of small Craft were only incurred for about twelve Months during the period mentioned while His Excellency Sir William Howe commanded the Army. Likewise that the expenditure of the Departments were higher at the period when His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton took the Command than they had been from the Commencement of the War. The expences from the 1st April 1778 were likewise defrayed by Warrants granted by His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton besides Bat and Forage Money granted to the Troops at New York for 1777 which could not be brought into account before Sir William Howe left the Command.

We are therefore convinced that a very large sum of money was paid by Warrants granted by His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton for expences incurred, not only in this Department but in several Departments of the Army during Sir William Howe's Command.

Several extraordinary expences were since that time incurred which has caused a considerable encrease such as building Gun Boats and Batteaux to replace the English Flat bottomed Boats worn out in the service the Navy not being able to furnish a sufficiency of Armed Vessels & Express Vessels, a number have been fitted out and taken into the service which caused a very heavy expence; Guns and other Articles furnished for Armed Boats.

The extraordinary expence incurred in fitting out the several Expeditions, occasions an encrease of Craft and Armed Vessels. The purchasing Stores to be sent with them, also the pay of Clerks, Storekeepers and Artificers retained for these extraordinary Services, and the great additional expence always attending the taking possession of every Post.

The purchasing Horses for the mounted Light Infantry, Hessian Yagers & Provincial Cavalry also sadlery and Accoutrements for the mounted Light Infantry and Jagers, the building and repairing of Hutts for the Troops Cantooned, the supply of Waggons & Horses &c for the British Regiments that arrived in 1779 from Europe, as well as the Garrison from Rhode Island. The Flank Companies from Halifax; and the supply of those Articles for Provincial Corps raised within the last three Years.

The Quarter Master General having been always upon the spot until the 26th August 1780 he of course communicated with his Excellency the Commander in Chief relating to the affairs of the Department.

Your Excellency has before you a Copy of Instructions left us by Brigadier General Dalyrmple when he left this to go to Europe, which with other papers laid before you from time to time relative to the Department we beg leave to refer you to.

We have punctually adhered to these instructions without presuming to deviate in the smallest degree from them, and have not added or retrenched any article of supply but as ordered.

  We have the honor to be &c &c &c
  Henry Bruen
Archd. Robertson


His Excellency
      Lieut Genl Robertson
           &c &c &c




New York 17th of August 1781.

In consequence of the conversation Major Bruen had the honor to be a witness to on the 14th instant before the Board of General Officers of which your Excellency is president which he communicated to Major Robertson, they have the honor to lay before you and the other Gentlemen of that Board the following account of the Quarter Master General's Department as far as is consistent with their knowledge both before and since they have had the honor of serving in it.

With respect to the mode pursued for the supply of the Waggons & Horses contracted for the use of the Army we understand that Lieut Colonel Sherriff who was the principal in the Department in 1775 and the greatest part of 1776 was ordered by the then Commander in Chief to supply those Articles for the Army as circumstances required by hiring them at a daily hire according to the usual prices of the Country they were had in.

Sir William Erskine was appointed Qur. Mr. General in September 1776 but did not enter into this part of the business of his Department 'till 1st Januy 1777 when having received the Commander in Chief's Instructions to pursue the same mode as was customary by hiring what Horses and Waggons &c he should find necessary for the transportation of the Army's Provisions, Stores, Baggage, Artillery, Ammunition, &c which he was to procure from the Country at a daily hire as Lieut Colonel Sheriff his Predecessor had done.

Sir William Erskine did employ a number accordingly, which with, a few Horses and Waggons of a Provision train sent from England under the Inspection of Mr Francis R. Clarke, he endeavored to carry on the business of the Army. But when it was in contemplation to make a forward move in March following the Train as it then stood was found insufficient by reason of the Country people not chusing to follow the Army, and their unwillingness to serve Government.

The Waggons sent from England were found to be totally unfit for the Country being too heavy and made of bad materials, the Horses were reduced (what with those taken by the Enemy and those lost by Disorders contracted during their passage from England which they never recovered of) to a small number, these circumstances obliged Sir William Erskine to lay their state before the Commander in Chief, proposing a plan same time for the better establishing a Train that would be equal to the exigencies of the service by purchasing Waggons and Horses on Government Account, which His Excellency did not think proper to agree to, by reason of the recent example given of those under Mr Clarke which cost Government upwards of £100000 Sterling without performing hardly a days duty. He said that that mode would lead to such expences as never could be ascertained.

His Excellency was therefore pleased to order Sir Willm Erskine to take that Branch under the immediate care and management of his own Department, and directed him to pursue the same plan as was customary for all Qr Master Generals in this Country to do, by taking, Drivers, Horses and Waggons into the Service at a daily hire acording to the rates that were then established, indemnifying the Proprietors for their Horses and Waggons in case of their being lost at Sea or taken or destroyed by the Enemy according to their Value, should he find the same inconvenience continue by the backwardness of the Country People to serve, he should fall upon every method possible, by contracting with one or more men to furnish the number required.

Sir William Erskine accordingly set about establishing a Train which was done so effectually as not to cause any disappointment to the movement of the Troops, as we humbly conceive will be acknowleged by the Army at large.

And this we chiefly ascribe to those who were employed to purchase the best Horses and the best kind of Carriages that could be had in the Country. There was no expence spared to effect this. And by the uncommon pains labour and attention paid to those particulars, and by their having an interest in the property of those Horses & Waggons they naturally took every care of them, they have been in constant readiness to attend the movements and duty of the Army, besides giving assistance to the several Departments Vizt. to the Engineer's in hawling materials for the construction of Fortifications and Works in those Islands, the transportation and collecting of Provisions, Forage and Fuel for the Commissary and Barrack Master General's Magazines and the Carriage of those Provisions, Forage and Fuel to the different Quarters, Cantonments & Encampments of the Army. Likewise the hawling of Materials for the Building of Barracks and Hutts. The Various duties attending on the Hospitals of the Army and Navy. The Pontoon Train for the Carriage of Boats and Materials for constructing of Bridges. The supply of the Ship Yard in hawling of Lumber from distant places for the building and repairing of armed Brigs, Sloops, Row Gallies, Flat Boats, Batteaux, Whaleboats, Barges, Scows and Flats the fitting of Births(sic) in Transports and Horse Vessels.

Add to these that there are a Number of Horses constantly attached to the German Artillery as also a number employed carrying Expresses the mounting of Guides and Conductors and the transportation of Field Forges.

We presume to say there never was a supply of such magnitude better or more effectually complyed with or better arranged than the Train of this Army, nor can we conceive a more Oeconomical plan could have been adopted on the part of Government.

And tho' the exigencies of the service in this District did not require so large a Train constantly in the Field, they have been at all times usefully employed.

To refer to one instance, we beg to call to mind the situation of this Garrison in point of Fuel in the Winter 1779 and 80, when not only the lives of the soldiery but also a number of the Inhabitants were saved, by the exertions of this Train in the Collecting and transporting of Fuel under Major Savage Dy Qr. Mr. General who conducted it.

We now beg leave to say a few words respecting a paper laid before the Board of General Officers, which they were pleased to show Major Bruen; stating the Hire of Vessels, Horses and Waggons in our Department, drawing a comparison between the first cost of those articles and the Hire, in which it is assered that a saving to an amazing amount might be made for Government. We cannot help saying that, on a full consideration of the contents of that paper, we believe the Author to be greatly misinformed, and that we shall be able to show that his calculations are not grounded upon deliberate or solid principles.

We find ourselves exceedingly hurt by the insinuations and inuendoes so thrown out, as well on account of our own Characters as of the Gentlemen from whom we received the charge of the Qur. Mr. General's Department, whom we conceive had digested every matter with propriety & consistent with that duty they owe their Country and their own honor. We have not deviated in the smallest degree from the Instructions given in writing from time to time for the rule of our conduct, in the great & important trust reposed in us. On the contrary have invariably pursued every measure as originally laid down & always practised in the Department which we conceive to be upon the most oeconomical plan for Government & the good of the service.

From the experience we have had we are certain that upon a candid, clear and circumspect enquiry into the Business at large, it will be found it is carried on with uprightness and Zeal, and that there is not any measure pursued that can lead to such superfluous expences as is insinuated.

We understand that it is supposed a number of Horses, Waggons and Materials for Repairs are charged to Government exclusive of their hire, which is not the case as the publick accounts of the Department can ascertain; the only charges found for Horses and Waggons were to replace those lost on the Expedition in 1777 to the Southward, amounting to about £6000 Sterling. There has not been a shilling charged otherwise for the Train but the daily hire.

We are conversant in the Accounts of the Contractors for Vessels, Seamen, Drivers, Horses and Waggons, which are the great Articles of expence. We can prove to demonstration that in many instances there is a loss on the difference of the hire and outfits. And that if the Contractors had not an indulgence in some particulars it would not be worth their while to undertake so arduous and laborious a business or run the risk of so great a sum of money as they have engaged.

The expences incurred by the loss of Horses & purchasing materials for the repairs of the Train Yearly are immense, and can be ascertained by Certificates on the death of Horses, the Vouchers of those bought to replace them, and for the lumber, Plank, Iron, Cordage, Harness and Collar maker's Bills, and other materials which have been purchased by the Contractors from time to time from different Merchants in England, this Town and Neighbourhood.

However as we do not pretend to infalibility and as we may be mistaken, we are ready to submit to better judgment and adopt any mode pointed out for the Interest of Government. And we beg leave to assure your Excellency and the Gentlemen composing the Board, that there are no Men will more chearfully(sic) submit in taking up and pursuing such ideas as may be pointed out for the entrenching of publick expences & whatever else may tend to the good of the service.

Should it be thought best that those Articles of supply be purchased for Government in preference to the present mode of hiring them. We are authorized to say that the greater part of the Contractors will be glad to dispose of their property upon a fair and reasonable valuation.

Whatever plan may be found most consistent and eligible for the good of the Service shall be attended to with diligence & fidelity. And whenever we are commanded there shall be no time lost in carrying it into execution.

  We have the honor to be &c &c &c
  Henry Bruen
Archd. Robertson


His Excellency
      Lieut General Robertson.




New York 22nd of August 1781.

My ill health has 'till now prevented my acknowledging the Receipt of a letter of the 14th instant wrote by the order of the Board of General Officers, of which your Excellency is president, and so far as relates to the encrease of expence in the Department which I have the honor to superintend since the 14th of May 1778, I have to offer the following reasons. From the 13th December 1775 to August 1776 the Army consisted of about 6000 men only, and during that time little or no provisions were purchased in this Country, and till June 1776 the time the Army sailed from Halifax for New York there was no regular allowance of Rum to the soldiers and for two years after this indulgence was granted this Article which has since become the most considerable expence, was furnished by Contracts made and paid in England, and which as the money was not received from the Military Chest here, does not appear among the expences of the army; that from the arrival of the Troops at Staten Island 1776 to their return from Philadelphia in July 1778 our supplies were regularly sent from Europe and no provisions were procured here except fresh Meat, that since that time our supplies have been very irregular and our stores reduced to the lowest ebb so that we have several times been obliged to purchase very large quantities of all kinds of Provisions at an advanced price, and to a very large amount and without which the Army must absolutely have starved, an account also of which, for the better information of the Board, I have now the honor to inclose. For the fresh provisions also we have for these three years past been obliged to pay at least three times the price it cost before that time. The much more extended situation of the Army for more than two years past has likewise required an encreased number of persons, in the Lines of Assistants, Clerks, Labourers &c and whenever a new Post has been taken, has ever became an additional expence to Government. I am also to mention the additional number of Horses now foraged and the encreased price (nearly double) paid for Forage since 1778 as well as the encrease of expence in bringing it to the Magazines by Land Carriage for more than one hundred Miles, as since the evacuation of Rhode Island it has been impossible to send vessels any distance up the sound. I am also not to pass unnoticed the expence of Vessel hire which was very considerable, and till the year 1777 paid by the Qur. Master General all which considered with the building New Stores and Warehouses, the encreased price of Lumber & repairing of old ones will point out to the Board the reason of the encrease of expence in my Department since the 14th of May 1778.

  I have the honor to be &c &c
  Daniel Wier


His Excellency
      Lieut. General Robertson.




New York 24th August 1781.

In the letter I did myself the honor to write you on the 15th instant, in answer to yours of the 14th requesting my ideas on the cause of encrease of Expence, so far as related to my Department from December 1775 I observed that I had no knowledge of the expence of the Department, prior to my appointment on the 1st July 1780, and was totally incompetent to an opinion on a question of such importance; But as I am solicitous to give you every possible information, I have since been endeavouring to possess myself of such facts as may serve to elucidate so interesting and necessary an enquiry; and I am exceedingly sorry that after all my researches, I am not able to obtain such a knowledge of this matter as will authorize me to give you an opinion, so circumstantially decisive as I could wish.

My Predecessor being in England leaves me without that information which would lead to a more perfect understanding of many Circumstances necessary to be known in order to form a adequate idea of the causes which have gradually led to the encrease of Expences of the Department within the period you allude to.

In my enquiries I find the Troops were in Boston from the 13th December 1775 to the 17th March 1776 under the Command of Sir William Howe, and tho' fuel was high at that time, from the supplies being principally cut off by the Rebels, the charge to Government must, notwithstanding have been small, not only from the shortness of the time but from the number of Houses, Stores, Wharves, and Vessels, the property of persons in Rebellion, which were taken and given to the Troops for Fuel that Winter. This Army left Boston in March and went to Halifax, where they remained some short time, and from thence proceeded to Staten Island, where they waited the arrival of the reinforcement from England until the Month of August, when the troops took possession of Long Island, and afterwards of York Island, both abounding with Wood and which was obtained upon such moderate Terms that the Expence incurred for Fuel was in the Winter of 1776 and 77 must have been very inconsiderable, and which was also greatly lessened by the large supply of coals received from Great Britain & Spanish River. The principal part of the Army was also that winter in the Jerseys under Lord Cornwallis; who were supplied with Fuel by the Inhabitants, at an easy expence; a Detachment was likewise sent the same Winter to Rhode Island, from whence a part of the Transports that carried the Troops to that place were immediately dispatched to the East end of Long Island for Wood, which with the quantity standing on the Island, and cut by the Troops, were sufficient for the exigencies of the Winter of 76 and 77.

In the Month of June 1777 supplies of Candles were received from England which prevented any considerable expence for that article, and the greatest part of the Army being in the Winter of 77 and 78 in the city of Philadelphia they were supplied with Fuel upon moderate Terms, and without incurring any material charge for the expense of Barrack repairs. The Island of New York also affording a sufficiency of Fuel for the Troops at Fort Knyphausen and its Dependencies in 77 and 78 and which being obtained with Facility & cheapness, the expence for that District was then comparatively small to what has been since experienced.

To the year 1778 fuel for the Troops in New York and on York Island was obtained at the average price of about 35/ a Cord, and the repairs of Barracks and Officers Quarters was also inconsiderable, as the houses occupied by the Troops were principally in tolerable order, and required but a small expence to make them suitable for the reception of the Troops when in Winter Quarters.

Barrack Bedding was also principally had from Great Britain to the year 1778 as well as large quantities of Coal and Candles, all which contributed very essentially to lessen the grants of Publick Money to that period.

From the best information which I have been able to procure upon a subject of such consequence, you have my ideas of the general causes that have contributed to render the expences of the Department to the Year 1778 much less than they have been since that time; and I must also observe that the accounts of the different Departments not being closed, Nor the expences to May 1778 collected and ascertained particularly a vary large proportion of the Barrack Department in Philadelphia, they could not possibly be brought into any account to that period, and were therefore defrayed out of the Monies granted by Sir Henry Clinton, and which contributed very materially to the apparent smallness of the expenditure of the public Monies prior to his Command.

I will now attempt to throw some light upon the other part of your question "the encrease of the publick Expence since May 1778." Here I find myself labouring under the same difficulties, the want of a competent knowledge of the transactions prior to my appointment however as it is my inclination that you should derive from me every information I will offer you my opinion upon that subject with as much precision as is in my power.

The wood on Rhode Island being all cut down & the means of supplying the Garrison with Fuel exceedingly difficult it became necessary for the Barrack Master there to hire a number of small Vessels into the service of Government, and send them to the East end of Long Island, and even as far as Lloyd's Neck within 50 miles of New York for Wood, which, with the repairs of Barracks and other Houses occupied by the Troops two Winters, and fallen into a ruinous state, enhanced the publick expence to a very considerable sum.

In 1779 similar efforts were made by the Barrack Master of that Garrison to obtain Fuel, which with one thousand chaldrons of Coals, equal to three thousand Cords of Wood, sent that summer from England and New York, and a large quantity of Wood and Peat, collected and formed into Magazines, at an enormous expence fell into the Rebels hands, thro' the want of Transports upon the evacuation of that Island. This Army came to New York & the publick expence was thereby encreased in a proportion much greater than the Value of the Fuel left at Rhode Island; and the Vessels that had been hired into the service of Government there, were also necessarily retained in the pay of the Crown for the purpose of bringing Wood to this City from the different parts of Long Island; but the Winter commenced so uncommonly early, and the weather was so intensely severe that these with others in the Department, were soon froze up, loaded with Wood, and continued in that situation for upwards of three Months, at the expence of Government.

In the same Year neither Barrack Bedding nor Candles were received from England for the Troops, which contributed to encrease the publick Expence, as the service from this omission made it necessary to purchase very large quantities of both these articles at an advanced price in New York.

The Barracks, Regimental Hospital, Store houses, Guard houses, and other Buildings in New York having from being occupied two Winters, fallen into ruin, very large and extensive repairs were absolutely necessary for the Accommodation of the Troops; which from the encreased price of Lumber, Carpenter's Wages, &c has occasioned a very heavy and additional expence to Government; and, enormous as it may appear, I am concerned to observe from the Ruin and Waste committed by the soldiers upon the Baracks, when in Winter Quarters, that expensive repairs are constantly necessary.

Since the Army evacuated Philadelphia & Rhode Island, the issues of Fuel in New York from an additioal number of Refugees and other distressed Loyalists accompanying the Army, has encreased near one half; and consequently from the advanced price of Fuel in New York is one of the principal causes that the publick expence appears much higher than in the early period of the Rebellion.

The taking possession of New Posts is also another reason of the encrease of the publick Expence of my Department. In the Year 1778, we had only New York and its Vicinity, Rhode Island, and to the Month of May the City of Philadelphia; since that time Garrisons have been established in St. John's Island, Penobscot, Savannah, Augusta, Bermuda, Charles Town, Cambden, Portsmouth, &c all which occasions an additional expence in my, as well as the other Departments, for a variety of charges, not incurred, when the Army is in a more compact State.

I have already observed that to the Winter of 77 & 78 Wood was purchased at a moderate price, and with the quantities procured from Rebel Estates, I believe did not cost Government upon an average above 35/ pr Cord. Since that time from its being all cut down on York Island, and great part of that on Long Island contiguous to the landings in the same situation the price to Government encreased so rapidly that in July 1780, I found upon my appointment the price from 75/ to 80/ pr Cord. Upon Long Island and Staten Island, the rise of Fuel has been nearly in the same proportion. This circumstance alone will reconcile in a great measure the difference that appears in the publick Expence, between the periods you mention; and when I inform you that 48000 Cords of Wood have been issued to the Troop, Refugees and Loyalists in New York and its Dependencies in the course of twelve Months, it will account for the largeness of the sums granted by the Commr in Chief to defray the expence of the Barrack Departmt. But when the facts I have suggested, respecting the Extraordinary repairs of the Barracks, purchasing of Bedding, Furniture and Candles in New York, the encrease of Posts & the appropriation of very large sums, granted by Sir Henry Clinton to defray the arrearages of the Department during Sir William Howe's Command, are taken into consideration without attending to many other Circumstances of less consequence to Government, I cannot but flatter my self that the great excess of the Warrnats in the last period you mention will in some measure be accounted for, and the encrease of expences, so far as relates to my Department, satisfactorily explained; and if my ideas upon this occasion should appear well founded, and throw any light upon the very interesting enquiry you are engaged in I shall feel myself exceedingly happy in having this opportuntity of assisting you in so complicated and difficult a Business.

I will now beg leave to enter upon my own transactions from July 1780, and which may serve to explain the largeness of the grants that have been made by the Commander in Chief in my favour. I have already observed that 48000 Cords of wood are expended in New York and its Dependencies in the course of 12 Months. This purchased at double the price that was formerly paid, amounts to a very serious sum, and amply proves, that the encreased expence of the Department, is founded on absolute necessity. The Article of Fuel now Constitutes a principal part of the expence of my Department, which from the encreasing scarcity on Long Island, as well as the other places from whence it is obtained, is almost daily enhancing in its value, — and for the approaching Winter 50/ a Cord will be paid at Jamaica, Flushing &c, where the last Year the price was only 36/. On Staten Island it is also encreased from 42/ to 60/ a Cord.

Colo Clerk3, my predecessor, not having received for several years before he retired, either Blankets, Candles or any other Articles from Great Britain, the quantity of Bedding and Barrack furniture, transferred by him, and fit for service, was very inconsiderable. From this circumstance, I was under the necessity of representing to the Commander in Chief the situation of the Barrack Stores, and to request a survey, upon which 11700 Blankets and Rugs, with other Articles were condemned as worn out and unfit to be issued to the Troops. To supply this defficiency(sic) was difficult, however, I was so fortunate to purchase such a quantity that with 4000 I borrowed of the Inspector General, and which I still owe him, as to furnish the Troops, not only in New York, but in the Southern District, a sufficiency for the Winter.

The Ruinous situation of the Barracks, and every other Building held by Government for that purpose, demanded my particular attention. I foresaw the difficulty as well as the greatness of the Expence that would attend the business, and in order to have the clearest information of what was necessary to be done for the Accommodation of the Troops, I caused a survey to be made by Persons acquainted with such matters, who reported that very large repairs were absolutely wanted to make them barely tenantable thro' the winter; and that from the encreasing price of Lumber, and every other Material, it was scarcely possible to ascertain the expence. These Buildings have been held by Government from 1776, and from the length of time they have been occupied, the carelessness of the Soldiers, and the too little attention paid to their preservation, require frequent repairs, and make a number of Carpenters and other Artificers constantly necessary to prevent them from falling into total decay.

Alarmed at the greatness of the Expence, attending the purchase of Candles and Barrack Bedding in this City, I have made a requisition for Blankets, Candles, &c to be sent from Great Britain for re-supplying the Army the ensuing Winter; and it will not be improper upon this occasion to observe that a heavy annual charge is brought upon the Crown from the great number of Blankets not returned by the Regiments when they take the Field, and also from the ruined and useless state of a considerable part of those they do Return.

It gives me real concern that the exigencies of the King's Service has made such large Disbursements necessary, and which so far as respects the Article of Fuel will unavoidably continue to encrease, unless a supply of Coals can be procured to diminish the consumption of Wood; and here permit me to assure you, were it not for the exertions of the Refugees under Major Ward4 and Captain Harding5 at Bergen Point, who have received from the Commander in Chief, every encouragement to persevere in this business, and to whom I pay ten Dollars a Cord, I could not, from any other resource, that I have knowledge of, carry the Army thro' half the approaching Winter Weeks.

As I shall feel myself happy in explaining any matters falling within my own knowledge, you may be assured, I will readily contribute as far as in my power, to facilitate the arduous business you are engaged in, and to adopt any Oeconomical plan which upon mature consideration may be devised and will not in its consequences prove injurious & detrimental by impeding the service, and thereby bring on a greater Evil that it is intended to remedy.

  With the greatest respect I have the honor to be
  Gentlemen &c &c
  Wm Crosbie
  B. M. G.


To the Board of General
Officers &c to which his
Excellency Lieut General
Robertson is President.




[It is not the intention, nor in the interest, of this transcript to pursue the discussions concerning Major Drummond's efforts to implement changes in the various Departments. The following items are included because they provide some additional insight into the problems, cost and extent of logistics at New York in 1781.]

[Undated - prior to 30 November, 1781.]

Memorandums relative to the Qur. Mr. General's Department 30 June 1779 Sir Wm Erskine left the Quart Master General's Department and was succeeded by Lord Cathcart. His Lordship immediately after being appointed Personally mustered and reviewed all the Horses and Waggons appointed to the different Corps of the Army, the Provision Train and Pontoon Train &c which His Lordship reported in the following words:—

"When I joined the Department I found the Regiments, Staff, Hessian Artillery, Pontoon Train, &c complete, I likewise found a Train equal to the transporting Twenty one days provisions for Ten thousand Men."

His Lordship likewise (in consequence of some particular Querries(sic) from His Excellency the Commander in Chief) laid before His Excellency in Writing a particular State of the footing the Department stood upon from its Commencement under Sir William Howe to that time.

When His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton went with the Army to Charlestown, the Provision Train was left at New York and each of the Corps going upon the Expedition embarked their Waggons to take with them.

During the Winter and Spring 1780 the Provision Train were employed in drawing Fuel for the Town and Garrison of New York and had it not been for the great exertions of Major Savage under whom they were at that time employed both the Troops & Inhabitants must have suffered great distress.

When General Robertson arrived at New York in the Spring 1780 he spoke with Major Bruen concerning the establishment of the Provision Train then kept up, and proposed the reducing the number of it. Upon which Major Bruen wrote immediately to the Quarter Master General at Charlestown requesting him to know the Commandr in Chief's intentions upon that subject. To which he received an answer from Brigadier General Dalrymple6 who was then Quarter Master General that he Major Bruen was to keep the Train upon the same footing it then was, according to the regulations established, which Major Bruen conceived to be those at the time Lord Cathcart was appointed, when the general Muster and Report was made by him to the Commander in Chief.

When Brigadier General Dalrymple left New York in September 1780 on his way to Britain he charged Major Bruen and Robertson with the care of the Department, instructing them to keep everything complete and upon the best footing for immediate service, and they in consequence have since continued to Act for Brigadier General Dalrymple in his absence, keeping the Department upon the same establishment it was left on when he went away.

It has been with the greatest assiduity and trouble that during the Course of four Years the Department has been brought to the perfection it now stands in, with respect to serviceable and able Horses and Waggons which have been purchased at very high prices. If a diminution shold at present be thought necessary & the Horses discharged, if on a future day an augmentation should again be wanted, it will be found a very difficult if not altogether an impossible task to complete them.

The Horses and Waggons belonging to the Quarter Master General's Department have been constatnly employed in the Publick Services of the Army, by the several Departments of the Engineers, Commissary General, and Barrack Master General, some of which Services have been for a considerable length of time so severe particularly in 1779 at King's Bridge that a double and even a triple relay of Horses were found necessary to keep the waggons in daily employment, hawling the Materials from Morrissinia up the very rugged and steep hills where the publick works are constructed. They have been likewise employed upon the same services upon Long and Staten Islands, Hawling Materials, &c for all the Publick Works & Posts; likewise in collecting Forage at great distances upon Long Island, &c Drawing Fuel for the Troops in Camp and Cantonments, and for the supply of the Hospitals for the Navy and Army. Also in hawling Materials for the Ship Yard for Building and repairing of Gallies, Gun Boats, Batteaux, Armed Briggs(sic), Schooners, & Sloops, fitting up Births in Transports, and Horse Vessels, by which a very considerable saving has been made to Government.

For all which Services the several Departments must have employed other Horses and Waggons at an equal if not greater expence to Government. Or should another mode of hiring Waggons from the Country be adopted besides the great inconvenience that must arise to the Farmer in particular, and to the Country in general, in case of a sudden movement of the Army in the sowing or reaping season; an immediate and unavoidable discovery of every intended movement must be the consequence of the Orders being issued for collecting the Waggons together; besides running the risk of not being able to get a sufficient number on a short notice, which upon former trials has been experienced.

In calculating the Number of Horses and Waggons necessary for carrying provisions for a stated time to an Army of a certain Number of fighting Men, A great extra allowance must always be made for the number of followers of the Army such as Guides, Artificers, Drivers, Servants, &c and likewise empty Waggons to be ready to take up the tired, sick and wounded.

The Naval part of the Department were by Sir William Howe's order put under the direction of an Agent, who has the sole management of them, and whose Certificate only entitles the Owners to the payment of their hire.

The armed Craft lately taken into the Service are likewise under the direction of an Agent.




A State of the Number of Drivers, Horses and Waggons employed in the Quarter Master General's Department in the following Years.


N.B. — A Number of Horses and Waggons were taken from the Rebel Country in the Years of 1777 and 1778 which if brought into Acct would make one fourth more than what is charged for in the subsequent Years.

In 1779 the Pontoon Train was ordered to be completed which with the arrival of the 76th, 80th, 82d and 84th Regiments from Europe, the Troops from Rhode Island, and the Flank Companies from Halifax as also the encrease of the Provincial Corps, caused an additional number of Horses to be employed that year.




New York 17th December 1779.
Having received your Excellency's Command to inform you in writing.

1st.   Upon what footing the Waggons employed in the Quarter Master General's Department stood at the first landing on Long & Staten Island in 1776.

2dly   What alterations have since been made upon that arrangement and by whom, and

3dly   Upon what footing and by whom Waggons are now furnished for the use of the Quarter Master General's Department?

I am to have the Honor of stating to your Excellency with regard to the first question.

That during the whole of 1776 Lieut Colonel Shirreff8 acted in most respects as if head of the Quarter Master General's Department, Sir William Erskine who was appointed Qur. Mr. General in the latter end of September 1776 not interfering in any other branch of office than what occurred in the Field during that period.

That all the Warrants granted for the Expenditures in the Department in 1776 were granted to Lieut Col. Shirreff.

That the Waggons and Horses were furnished by Lieut Colonel Shirreff, And

That the mode he used in this Business was that of hiring the Waggons required from different contractors, and paying them by the day, for which he has I presume, the proper Vouchers & Authentic Receipts with him in England.

The Answer therefore to your Excellency's first Question is that in the year 76 the Waggons used in the Quarter Master General's Department with the grand Army were hired by Lieut Colonel Shireff(sic).

2dly   What alterations have since been made upon that arrangement and by whom?

The Land Carriage of the Army was performed in the beginning of 77 partly by a Train of Waggons and Horses brought over from England and under the inspection of Mr Francis Rush Clarke and (that Train never having been adequate to the exigencies of the Army, or calculated for the Service of this Country) partly by Waggons and Horses hired by Sir Wm Erskine who had entered into all the functions of his office at the Commencement of that Year.

In March 77 when it was in Contemplation to make a forward move Sir Wm Erskine represented the State of the Train as inadequate.

Sir William Howe the Commander In Chief having considered this point, ordered Sir Wm Erskine upon no account to purchase Horses or Waggons, as that would draw on expences that never could be defined, but told him that he depended upon the Quart Master General to hire a sufficient Number of Waggons and Horses to form a Train equal to the probable exigencies of the Army, that having constantly been the practice in this Country.

The remains of the English Train which by Losses & foraging parties, accident and bad management, was reduced to a very small number of worn down Horses, were upon that account put totally under the care of Sir Wm Erskine, and the Waggons set aside as unserviceable.

These Horses were put out to nurse on Long and Staten Island and there are not above fifteen of them now remaining.

From that day the Quarter Master General and the Quarter Master General only, has been considered as responsible to the Commander in Chief for the Land Carriage required for the Army.

In May 77 it was judged expedient that a Number of Waggons and Horses should go with the then ensuing Expedition in order that the Army might be able to move off its ground immediately upon its Debarkation.

The election was proposed to those Farmers of Long and Staten Islands from whom Waggons and Horses had been hired, either to embark them as their own property, or to sell them at a fair Valuation, done in presence of two Justices of the Peace, to such Persons as would run the risk.

Some few chose the former offer and Embarked their Horses; the greater part declined it, and sold their Horses which were paid for, and the officer who paid them can produce authentic & legal Certificates signed and sealed of the regularity of this transaction, and can produce a Receipt for every Horse and Waggon purchased at that time specifying the Value paid for each and signed by the Vender or his Attorney.

Thus in answer to your Excellency's second question, I have shown that the only change that happened in the arrangement of the Train while Sir William Erskine was Quartr. Master General was that a Train sent from England were worn out and that Sir Wm Erskine was ordered to hire Waggons & Horses to form a Train for the Service of the Army, as was always the Custom in this Country.

3dly   Upon what footing are the Waggons now furnished for the use of the Quarter Master General's Department.

I, as doing the duty of Quarter Master General to the Army under your Excellency's Orders, am at present answerable, and alone accountable to the Commander in Chief of the Army, for having an effective Train ready and fit for service, equal to the Transportation of Provisions for any number of Men and days the Commander in Chief chuses to fix, or for the performing any other Military service, as forming Magazines, Constructing Fortifications &c &c for supplying the General Officers, the Staff Regiments, Pontoon Train, Hessian Artillery and Hospitals with their proper Number of Waggons, and for having a number of Horses ready to mount Guides and Expresses.

And as a Train of this Nature & Extent cannot be kept up at the cheap rate at which they are hired without very great exertion, I am to look up to the Commander in Chief for his Countenance and support when I am ordered to add to the Train, and am taught to expect previous Notice before I am to reduce it.

The regulated hire which I pay is as follows:—

For one small waggon with one Driver and two Horses per day £0 6 9
For one Large Waggon with one Driver and four Horses per day   11 9
For a single Horse per day   1 8

When I joined the Department, I found the Regiments, Staff, Hessian Artillery, Pontoon Train, &c compleat, I likewise found a Train equal to the Transporting twenty one days provisions for ten thousand Men. So great a Number of Regimental Waggons & Horses have been worn down by most of the British Regiments this Autumn, that I have been forced to draft the lightest Horses from the Train to supply some of the Corps arrived from Rhode Island and have ordered strong Horses to be procured in their room; and to my certain knowledge the Persons from whom the Horses are had sent no less a sum than two thousand Guineas to Huntington in November last, to pay ready money for the best Horses on Long Island, to compleat the train to what I found it.

A. — The good order in which the Foreign Corps keep their Waggons & Horses is a proof that the frequent deficiencies that happen in the British Corps are owing to want of care.

I mention this Fact to show that Expence is not spared by the Contractors employed.

Thus, Sir, I have had the honor of answering your Excellency's three Questions.

I must now add that with regard to what passed before I joined the Army, I have collected the best information I could. With regard to what passed from March 77 I speak with certainty and since I have had the honor of serving in this Department I speak from my own knowledge.

  I have the Honor to be
  Sir &c &c


His Excellency Sir Henry Clingon, K.B.
General & Commander in Chief, &c &c &c





Return of the Number of Horses in the Quarter Master General's Department that have Died from the 1st July 1779 to the 1st September 1781

Between the 1st July and 31st December 1779 359
  1st January & 31 March 1780 293
  1st April and 30 June   147
  1st July and 31st December   228
  1st January and 31st March 1781 190
  1st April and 1st Sept   237
Total Number of Horses died in two Years & two Months in the District of New York 1454



New York 6th October 1781.

My ill state of health has 'till now prevented my replying to your Letter of 23d August, respecting the Horses and Waggons belonging to the Qur. Mr. General's Department. And to which I can readily answer that I have on many occasions received the most essential assistance from them, and that at times when no others could be procured, that a Number have been constantly employed in transporting Provisions and Forage to and from the different Posts and Magazines, and without which it would have been impossible to have carried on the business of my Department and afforded the proper supplies to the Troops at the places to which we could not carry them by Water. And now beg leave to particularize some instances which will confirm what is before asserted.

On the arrival of the Army at Philadelphia we found the Navigation of the Delaware impeded by the Forts, Armed Ships & Galley's(sic) of the Enemy, in such a manner that the Victuallers could not get up to us, and the supplies for the Army for near two Months were brought up in the Night in Boats & thrown on the beach five Miles from the Town, and the next day transported to the City in the Qur. Master General's Waggons the most of which were for the time kept constantly employed in that Business, and on which the Troops depended for their daily subsistance.

Several Brigades of Waggons were also employed during that Fall and Winter in collecting Forage, and near two thousand tons were brought by them to the Magazines.

Foraging parties under strong Escorts were frequently ordered at the distance of fifteen and twenty Miles from the City, and on these Occasions from one hundred and fifty to Two hundred Waggons were sent out at a time and notwithstanding every exertion, it was with difficulty a sufficiency was obtained, and had we depended on the Country for Waggons the Horses must have starved. On the March of the Army from Philadelphia thro' the Jersey's(sic), I need not mention that the Provisions were transported by them alone, and without that assistance the Troops could not have fed.

Since that time I have been much Indebted for the very great assistance I have received from them in collecting Forage, particularly on Long Island, where a number were constantly employed in that Business, and transporting Provisions at times when Vessels could not be sent up the sound, those Waggons were employed to transport Provisions for the subsistance of the Troops to very distant Posts of Long Island.

The greatest part of the Hay used at King'sbridge(sic) for three years past; which has been by no means inconsiderable, has likewise been brought into the Lines by those Waggons and it is well known that from that part of the Country we could expect no assistance from the Inhabitants.

In the transporting of Provisions to the Stores they have been very often of great use.

On the whole do not hesitate to say that without the aid received from that Establishment and which has been very readily granted on every occasion, the service must have frequently suffered.

  I have the Honor to be
  Gentlemen, &c &c
  Daniel Wier


Majors Bruen & Robertson.




1.   Presumably, the 9th Earl of Lincoln, Henry Fiennes Clinton (1720-1794)

2.   Capt. Henry Chads, cited as "Agent of Army Transports." A Capt. Thomas Tonkin also appears as an "Agent for Transport" and "Agent for Armed Vessels" in connection with the vessels employed by the Quarter Master General's Department.

3.   Probably Col. George Clarke.

4.   Major Thomas Ward, of Newark, New Jersey.

5.   Probably William Harding, of Ulster County, New York.

6.   William Dalrymple. In 1765, a Lieut. Colonel with the 14th Regiment of Foot.

7.   William Schaw, 1st Earl Cathcart, son of Charles, 9th Baron Cathcart. Earl Cathcart attained the rank of Major General in 1794, and Lieutenant General in 1801; in 1807 he received a peerage, as Viscount Cathcart and Baron Greenock.

8.   Possibly William Shirref. See Coldham's American Loyalist Claims, p. 200.