The British Army
in the American Revolution
by Edward E. Curtis
1926, New Haven
THE PROVISIONING OF THE ARMY
THROUGHOUT the Revolution, the British army in America derived its provisions from two sources-from the British Isles and from America. In dealing with the subject of food supply, therefore, it seems advisable for the sake of clearness to treat the two sources separately, considering, first, how and what provisions were obtained from the home country and, secondly, how and what provisions were secured in America.
1. The British Isles as a Source of Provisions
To begin with, it must be realized that the forces in America derived the bulk of their provisions from the British Isles! They did not ordinarily live off the enemy!s country as did a Napoleonic army. As one parliamentary orator aptly expressed it, they were fed from Leadenhall. At the outbreak of the struggle, to be sure, the authorities flattered themselves that the troops could obtain most, if not all, their provisions in the colonies.2 The futility of such hopes, however, soon became manifest. America was too sparsely populated to yield large and certain quantities of provisions in the immediate vicinity of the army; the. inhabitants, if not actually hostile, were often indifferent; the roads and bridges
1 For statistics relative to the provisions
shipped to America during the
war, see the appendix to this chapter.
2T. 64:106, Robinson to Howe, Apr., June, 22 Oct. 1776, J4 Jan. 1777; ibid., 64:102, Robinson to Day, 27 Mar. 1777; Correspondence of Geo. III with Lord North, II, 51.
were few and poor; and the area controlled by the British forces so limited that foraging parties wandering far from the main body were in danger of being cut of'£.3 Howe's commissary general bluntly but truthfully summed up the situation when he declared, "There is no dependence for supplies for the Army from this Continent."4 To the very close of the war, the government acted on the truth of this statement, and year after year contracts were concluded for the furnishing of a complete daily ration to every soldier in America.5 After 1778, to be sure, when France declared war upon England, there was difficulty in transporting supplies from Great Britain to the forces in New York, and provision!:! had sometimes to be purchased in America at high prices, but nevertheless the British Isles continued to be the principal source of foodstuffs."
Let us examine, in the first place, the system by which the troops were victualled. The responsibility for pro. visioning them rested with the commissioners of the Treasury! It was they who determined the quantity and quality of the provisions and until 1779, when the Navy board undertook the business, engaged transports for their shipment to America.
The provisions were first brought from all parts of the British Isles to Cork, which constituted a kind of food depot for the forces in America. In the latter part of the war, Cowes and, for a very brief period, Deptford served
3 Correspondence of Goo. III with Lord North,
II, 7, 52.
4 T. 64:118, Chamier to Robinson, 31 Mar. 1777. Cf. statements made by Wier in letters to Robinson, 20 May, 1777, 8 June, 1777, 29 Nov. 1771, in Wier-Robinson Correspondence.
5 T. 29 :44-53, passim.
6 "Minute Book of a Board of General Officers" (N. Y. Hist. Soc. Coll. 1916), p. 81.
7 The victualling commissioners were chiefly concerned with the navy and subsisted the troops only on shipboard during passage from England to America.
in like capacity for provisions destined for the West lndi.i.es and certain parts of Americas. Neither, however, compared in consequence with Cork, which was in effect the ultimate base of the army in America. The importance of Cork was due to several reasons. It was the largest western port of the British Isles; it lay on the route of ships bound for the colonies; it possessed a good and capacious harbor with facilities for loading and unloading vessels; and it constituted the natural outlet of a region whence the contractors drew large supplies of beef, pork, and butter.9 Furthermore, it was an important recruiting center for southern Ireland, and troops assembled at the town could conveniently be embarked aboard the victuallers and thus be transported to the seat of the war.
At Cork the provisions were carefully inspected and then loaded on transports bound for the colonies. To take charge of this work, the Treasury in 1776 appointed Robert Gordon, the surveyor general of Munster, as commissary of provisions, at a salary of 20s. per diem. In 1779 he was succeeded by John Marsh, who held office of the Navy board, with the title of agent victualler. 10 Both of these officials were assisted by a number of subordinates.11 At Deptford and Cowes, there was likewise an
8 T. 64:200, Navy Board to Treasury,15 July,
3 Aug., 18, 22 Sept. 1779; ibid., 64:201, Robinson to Navy Board,
5 Apr., 27 June, 1780.
9 T. 64 :200, p. 64.
10 T. 64:106, Robinson to Howe, 12 Apr. 1776; ibid., 64:200, Navy Board to Lieutenant Harris, 11 Aug. 1779; ibid., 29 :48, pp. 335, 380, 397; ibid., 29:49,p. 7; ibid., 29:45, pp. 40-41, 117, 207-208.
11 Gordon had as subordinates an assistant commissary, Mr. Younger, appointed by him, and a superintendent of shipping, Joseph Graham, appointed by the Treasury board. Both officials retired with their chief in 1779 upon the appointment of Marsh as agent victualler. Graham was succeeded by Lieutenant Harris, appointed agent for transports by the Navy board. For further details, see chapter on "Army Transport" and also, T. 1:519, Robinson to Gordon, 7 Feb. 1777; ibid., 29:49, Minutes, 4 Nov. 1779.
agent victualler, appointed by the Navy board, in the person of George Cherry.12
From Cork the provisions were carried to what might be termed sub-depots in America. These were Montr.eal, Quebec, and Halifax for Canada, New York and Philadelphia for the Middle colonies, Charleston and Savannah for the Southern, and St. Lucia for the West Indies.13 From these points they were in turn distributed by the commissariat to the various portions of the army.14
The Treasury board obtained provisions by contract and since the business of victualling the troops was of such vital importance, the method of contracting and. the nature of the contracts deserve somewhat detailed study.
The board entered upon the work of contracting on direction from the secretary of state for the colonies. The latter was accustomed to signify the king's pleasure that the lords commissioners arrange provision contracts for a specified number of men during a specified period.15
12 T. 64:200, Navy Board to Treasury, 3 Aug.
1779, 18 Sept. 1780.
13 T. 64:201, Robinson to Navy Board, 23 Jan. 1781; ibid., 64:102, Day to Robinson, 15 May, 1777; C.O. 5:101, Germain to Clinton, 3 Jan. 1781. See also evidence in W.O. 60 :11, 16; ibid., 4:333, Robinson to Secretary at War, 5 May, 1780.
14 An entire year's supply was rarely sent out at once, but was divided into thirds or quarters and shipped at intervals of from three to four months. For example: "The Provisions contracted for, deliverable at Cork for the Year 1779, or under consideration to be contracted for, are as follows:
One third in January
" " "April
" " "June J
With a view of their being despatched from Cork in February, May, and July." T. 64 :201.
See also T. 1:519, Robinson to Gordon, 24 June, 31 July, 1776, 20 Mar. 1777; ibid., 64:201, Robinson to Navy Board, 26 Feb. 1781.
15 For example, see T. 29:47, Minutes, 18 Feb. 1778: "Read letter from Lord George Germain dated the 16th Instant: acquainting my lords that the King has directed a Reinforcement of 4,000 new troops to be sent out to the army under Sir Wm. Howe-of 2,670 to N. S. and 2,000 to St. Augustine and signifying his Majesty's pleasure that a sufficient quantity of Pro-
Thereupon the board would. summon the heads of several firms, known as the army contractors, to attend it in meeting.'" Here terms and proposals would be fully discussed, and actual samples of biscuit and flour would be examined. Whether there was any competitive bidding between the contractors is not clear. It sometimes happened that the board would settle the terms of a contract with one firm alone, and then require the others to accept the same arrangement.17 There does not seem to have been any public advertising for bids as there is to-day and as was the practice of the victualling board at that time.18
In framing contracts, the Treasury board received recommendations from various sources-from the prime minister (who was of course the first lord of the Treasury), from the secretary and under secretary of state for the colonies, and from the secretary at war. The commanders and commissaries in America were also in constant correspondence with the board and their letters constituted a body of helpful information. The advice of officers familiar with the needs of the army and with conditions in America was sometimes sought. Considerable reliance was placed upon the views of the adjutant general, Edward Harvey. He was sometimes invited to confer with the board in formal meeting. Expert advice respecting the price and quality of foodstuffs was secured from the victualling commissioners; and after 1779, when the Navy board assumed responsibility for transporting
visions for the Supply of the said troops should
be sent out to the Places of their respective destinations. . .
My Lords give Directions accordingly. . .
16 The following contractors are most frequently mentioned: Messrs. Nesbitt, Drummond, & Franks; Mure, Son, & Atkinson; Anthony Bacon, Esq.; John Amyand, Esq.; Henneker, Wheeler, Wombwell, & Devaynes;
James Bogle French, Esq.; John Durand, Esq. See A. O. Bundles, 197.208.
17 T. 29 :45, Minutes, 1776, passim.
18 The London Gazette contains the advertisements for bids authorized by the victualling board.
provisions to America, it likewise was consulted in regard to problems of package and delivery. Respecting the purely financial aspect of the contracts, the commissioners of the Treasury received estimates from the comptrollers of army accounts. Thus data were acquired from a number of sources, official and unofficial. As soon as the terms of a contract had been agreed upon, the solicitor to the board was directed to embody them in a formal agreement for signature.19
In spite of the fact that copies of the contracts must have been lodged in the Treasury and were regularly transmitted to various officials, few of them are now to be found in the archives.20 Information regarding them is therefore somewhat fragmentary, and is mainly confined to the correspondence and minutes of the Treasury board. Fortunately, the contracts in their main features seem to have been much alike from year to year. They usually ran for a period of twelve or sixteen months, during which the contractor agreed to furnish complete daily rations for so many thousand men at so much per ration.21 The provisions were deliverable at the contractor's risk and expense, sometimes in America, but usually at
19 For data regarding methods of making contracts, see
T. 29:44-54, Minutes, 1774-1783, and Report on Army Extras, 1778.
20 Among the officials receiving copies of the contracts were the commissary at Cork, the comptrollers of army accounts, and the commissary generals and commanders in America.
21 For example, in 1776 the contractors agreed to provision 48,000 men in America for a period of 16 months at 5 1/4d. per ration, according to the following division:
Messrs. Nesbitt, Drummond, & Franks. . . . . . . .12,000
" Henneker, Wombwell, Devaynes, & Wheeler .12,000
Mr. Amyand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3,000
Mr. Durand. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3,000
Messrs. Bacon & Mayne. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6,000
Messrs. Jones, Smith, Baynes, & Atkinson . . . . .12,000
The rate per ration in 1777 was 5 1/4d.; in 1778, 5 3/4d.
Cork. Such of them as upon inspection should prove bad and unfit for consumption were to be replaced.22 The lords commissioners agreed to refund to the contractor such import or export duties as he might be called upon to pay and to settle for the provisions upon presentation of a certificate, signed by the proper officials, stating that they had been received in good condition.23
A concrete example may make the nature of the contracts clear. On 2 April, 1776, the board concluded a contract with Messrs. Nesbitt, Drummond, & Franks.24 By its terms the contractors were to deliver at their own cost and risk into the army storehouses at Cork daily rations for 12,000 men for a period of sixteen months beginning January 1, 1776. The provisions were to be delivered in such quantities and at such times as the board should direct. They were to be "good wholesome and sound. . . of a Quality and condition fit for the purpose of exporting
22 At the beginning of the war, it appears that the contractors
warranted provisions good upon delivery at the designated depot in Great
Britain or Ireland. Later, however, owing to the fact that many of the provisions
were found to be in bad condition upon arrival in America, apparently they
were obliged to warrant them good upon delivery in the colonies. T. 1:519,
Robinson to Gordon, 7 Feb. 1777; ibid., 64: 106, Robinson to Howe,
12 Apr. 1776, 14 Jan. 1777; ibid., 64:200, Lieutenant Harris to
Navy Board, 23 Oct. 1779; Wier-Robinson Correspondence, Robinson to Wier,
6 Dec. 1777.
23 Report on Army Extras, 1778. The contractor upon delivering his supplies to the army in America was given a receipt signed by the commande-in-chief and the commissary general. This instrument upon being presented to the Treasury board was referred to the comptrollers of army accounts. They, upon finding the certificate satisfactory, so reported to the board, which thereupon ordered a warrant for payment to be prepared. The latter, drawn up under the sign manual and countersigned by the lords of the Treasury, directed the paymaster general to pay to the contractor the sums due. In case the comptrollers reported any deficiency in the certificate, the board sometimes referred the report back to the comptrollers with further directions; sometimes directed one of the comptrollers to attend and, after hearing him, issued such orders as the case demanded.
24 T. 64: 106, pp. 64-67. For complete text of this contract, see appendix to this chapter.
to America for the use of his Majesty's Troops." They were to be "packed in the best Manner and most suitable for the intended Service." The contractors were allowed 5 1/4d. per ration. In case any of the provisions should "be found bad in their kind or unfit for the purpose" upon delivery at Cork, they were to be replaced; but the contractors were not to be held answerable for any provisions damaged after delivery. The lords commissioners agreed to remit any custom duties laid upon the provisions and to render payment upon presentation of a "Certificate, signed by the Commanding Officer and Commissary of Stores at Corke," specifying that the provisions had been received" in good Order and Condition. "25
A list of all the various kinds of provisions supplied to the army would be lengthy. The most important were beef, pork, bread, 26 flour, oatmeal, rice, pease, butter, and salt. Of somewhat less importance were cheese, bacon, suet, fish, raisins, and molasses.27 Numerous kinds of vegetables were shipped occasionally, such as potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnips, cabbages, and onions.28 These were intended mainly for the hospitals. Onions, sauerkraut, porter, claret, spruce beer, malt, vinegar, celery seed, and brown mustard seed were used as anti-scorbutics. The contractors averred that celery seed boiled in soup, and the seeds of brown mustard when dried,
25 In theory the contractors were not to receive payment
for provisions until actual delivery had taken place. In practice, however,
the board often granted them imprests in advance for the purpose of facilitating
their work. A willingness to construe the terms of the contracts rather
loosely was also shown in times of haste or emergency when the lords commissioners
modified or dispensed with obstructive requirements. T. 29:47, pp. 75, 83.
26 The troops often baked their bread on the march. See Burgoyne's
Orderly Book, pp. 7, 120; A View of the Evidence, p. 13.
27 For lists of provisions, see W.O. 60:11, 19, 20, 21, passim; T. 1:519,
passim; ibid., 64 :200, passim.
28 T. 64:106, Robinson to Gage, 9 Sept. 1775; C.O. 5:93, p. 265.
bruised, and eaten with meat were potent antidotes for scurvy.29 Sauerkraut, spruce beer, and vinegar, however, seem to have been the most successful anti-scorbutics."30 Vegetable seeds were also sent out for the soldiers to plant.31 During the siege of Boston the Treasury board informed Gage: "A good quantity of toe small SaIled Seed will be sent out, as it will grow, on being sown, almost anywhere on a little earth, and may be raised by the Soldiers on a little Space by each Mess, in sufficient quantities for their refreshment and use"' 32.
It is difficult to describe the composition of the soldier's ration during
the war, since it varied from week to week, if not from day to day, and
according as service was by land or by sea.33 Only examples of it can be
given. Although the yearly provision contracts were not all alike, they
varied but slightly, and the Canada contract for 1778.1779 may be considered
as typical. It provided that seven rations per man were to consist of:
"7 lbs of Flour, of the first Quality, made from wholly Kilndried Wheat
7 lbs of Beef, or in lieu thereof 4 lbs of Pork
6 oz. of Butter, or in lieu thereof 8 oz. of Cheese
3 Pints of Pease
1/2 lb of Oatmeal."34
29 T. 64:106, Robinson to Gage, 9 Sept. 1775; Mure, Son,
& Atkinson to Howe, 25 Sept. 1775; ibid., 64:103, Day to Robinson,
22 Aug. 1777; Report on Army Extras, 1778.
30 The allowance of sauerkraut in Howe's army in 1776 was 1/4 lb. per man per diem. Report on Army Extras, 1778. Cf. T. 64:103, Phillips to Day, 6 Sept. 1777; ibid., 64:103, Mure, Son, & Atkinson to Howe, 14 Sept. 1776; T 29:45, p. 259.
31 T. 64:106, Mure, Son, & Atkinson to Howe, 14 Sept., 21 Oct. 1776; Report on Army Extras, 1778.
32T. 64:106, Robinson to Gage, 9 Sept. 1775. See also Wier-Robinson Correspondence, Robinson to Wier, 26 Sept. 1777.
33 At sea the troops were usually put on two-thirds allowance. W.O. 60:11, Ross to Crawford, 1 Apr. 1779; I, 379.
34 T. 29:48. In the contracts for 1776-1777, seven rations were to consist of "7 Pounds of Flour, or in lieu thereof 7 Pounds of Bread; 4 Pounds
of Pork, or in lieu thereof 7 Pounds of Beef; 6 Ounces of
Butter; 3 Pints of Pease; 1/2 Pound of Rice, or in lieu thereof 1/2 Pound
of Oatmeal" T. 29 :45. Nathaniel Day writes to Burgoyne from Montreal,
31 May 1777, that the contracts made by the Treasury board for 1777 are
proportioned for one man's allowance per diem as follows:
" 1 lb Bread or Flour
1 lb Beef or 9 1/7oz. pork
3/7 pints pease
6/7 oz. Butter or in lieu 1 1/7 oz. Cheese
22/7 oz. flour or in lieu 1 1/7 oz. Rice or 1 1/7 oz. Oatmeal."
35 T.64:103, 35 T. 64:102, Garrison Orders, Three Rivers, 11 June, 1776.
Masters of victuallers were charged to victual every six men at full allowance
according to the following table:
When the commanding Officer orders Vinegar to be issued, a Quart per Week to six Men is the Allowance. . . .' '36
Provisions for a certain colonial garrison were to be rationed as follows:
"1 lb good Salt Beef per Man per Day
1 lb Flour per Man per Day
6 oz Butter per Man per Week
1 1/2 [lb] Rice per Man per Week
1 Pint Teneriffe or other Strong wine per Man per day." 37
Rum was a regular and very important part of the soldier's ration.38 Before being given to him, it was usually diluted with water. The ordinary allowance was a gill
36 W.O. 60:22, "Rules to be observed by Masters and
Commanders of Transport Ships in victualling Land Forces," issued by
John Morrison, deputy commissary general. The above seems to have been the
regular allowance of vinegar on land, but see T. 64: 106, Mure, Son, &
Atkinson to Howe, 21 Oct. 1776.
37 T.64:201, Robinson to Navy Board, 4 Apr. 178l.
38 There was no regular allowance of rum in Howe's army, according to Commissary General Wier, until June, 1776. "Minute Book of a Board of General Officers," 1781 (N. Y. Hist. Soc. Coll. 1916), p. 81.
and a half or a gill and a third per diem except during inclement weather or especially hard duty, when an additional gill was allowed.39 The troops were occasionally permitted to have small quantities of claret, spruce beer, or porter. In 1775 the secretary to the Treasury board wrote to Gage that he was sending 375,000 gallons of porter to Boston. "This quantity," he stated, "is on a calculation of allowing to each man, a Pot of Porter per day, and. . . is to be used at the discretion of the Commander-in-Chief. "41 In the following year, spruce beer as more healthful was substituted for porter.41 Like other beverages excepting rum, it was issued at the discretion of the general in command.42 Burgoyne ordinarily al. lowed each man two quarts in the field and three pints in quarters a day.43 It seems to have been a popular drink with the soldiers, owing partly to the fact that it involved no stoppages in pay.44 In 1777 an army brewery for the manufacture of spruce beer was established at New York. 45
Some conception of the fare of the sick soldier may be gained from the following regulations, drawn up by the inspector general of hospitals in North America. Surely there could have been little temptation to malinger.
39 Report on Army Extras, 1778. Rum was supplied
to the Indians with Burgoyne's army" without any Rule or Ration."
A supply of 125,000 gallons was shipped to America for them in 1776.
40 T. 64: 106, Robinson to Gage, 9 Sept. 1775.
41 T.. 64:106, Robinson to Howe, 22 Oct. 1776, Mure, Son, & Atkinson to Howe, 21 Oct. 1776.
42 Report on Army Extras, 1778. There was an assistant commissary of beer attached to Burgoyne's army in 1777. Orderly Book, p. 179.
43 T. 64: 103, Day to Robinson, 22 Aug. 1777.
44 Stryker, Trenton and Princeton, p. 71.
45 T. 64: 118, Chamier to Robinson, 31 Mar. 1777. Breweries were also established in the rear of Burgoyne's army during the invasion of New York, 1777. T. 64:103, Day to Robinson, 22 Aug. 1777; Phillips to Day, 6 Sept. 1777.
"Concerning the full and low Diets of the Hosp'l,
Rice Gruel, or Water Gruel, with Sugar or Butter
One Pound of Fresh Meat: Viz: Beef, Mutton, or Veal, with Greens
Two Ounces of Butter, or Cheese
Rice, and Pudding, and half a Pound of Fresh Meat; four times a week
Breakfast & Supper, as full Diet
Breakfast, and Supper, Rice or Water Gruel; Milk; Porridge, Sago or Salop
Broth & Pudding
One Pound of Bread; each Man per Diem, with three pints of Spruce Beer
in Summer and a Quart in Winter.
Rice Water; for common drink in Fluxes; and Barley in Fevers. . . ."'46
No fact stands out more clearly and prominently in the records than the defectiveness of the army's food supply. Provisions were frequently so poor in quality as to be absolutely inedible even by hungry redcoats. The commissary generals complained again and again of mouldy bread, weevily biscuit, rancid butter, sour flour, wormeaten pease, and maggoty beef. In November, 1776, despite repeated protests to the Treasury board, the commissary general at New York asserted that the bread
46 W.O. 28:6, Hospitals, 1778-1781.
supplied to General Howe's army continued to be "very bad in quality mixt with old bread, musty and much broken."47 Surveyors, appointed to examine the cargo of one victualler at New York, reported that it consisted of "very old Bread, Weavile Eaten, full of Maggots, Mouldy, musty and rotten and entirely unfit for men to eat. " The cargo of another victualler was found to be composed of "very old Flour of different sorts and very inferior qualities, and in general musty and rotten."48 On one occasion, the agent victualler at Cork stated that he had been obliged to condemn over five hundred casks of pease, "several Casks promiscuously taken being Found all more or less to have live Maggots in them, some quite rotten and those that were the best with a great mixture of Green Pea, which on boiling proves to have no Sub. stance and leaves little more than the Husk." He also declared that he had been compelled to reject four hundred barrels of the same article" for having a live Worm and being otherwise of a very inferior Quality."49 On another occasion, he complained: "It is with the utmost Difficulty I can keep any exact Accounts from the Irregularities of the Contractors, and the little Assistance they give as well as the Confusion that is caused by the Provisions coming in such bad order principally with respect to the Casks, and the Damages they sustain, which renders the closest Inspection necessary, particularly with regard to wet Provisions which I am obliged to examine very minutely from having discovered Impositions that are at-
47 T. 64 :118, Chamier to Robinson, 9 Nov. 1776.
48 T. 64: 118. Surveys of the cargoes of the Providence, Increase, and Valiant, victuallers, in Chamier's letter to Robinson, 20 Apr. 1777. "It is highly unpleasant," writes the king to Lord North, 1 Jan. 1777, "to see the contractors have continued delivering such bad biscuit and flour after the repeated directions given by the Board of Treasury." Correspondence of Geo. III with Lord North, II, 51.
49 T. 64:200, Marsh to Navy Board, 2 Jan. 1780.
tempted and been under the Necessity of rejecting some large Supplies of Beef and Butter, finding the former to be for the most part lean Cow beef, and the Butter of an inferior Quality."50 A private aboard a troop transport bound for America humorously described the fare of his unhappy fellow soldiers as follows: "Pork and pease were the chief of their diet. The pork seemed to be four or five years old. It was streaked with black towards the outside and was yellow farther in, with a little white in the middle. The salt beef was in much the same condition. The ship biscuit was so hard that they sometimes broke it up with a cannonball, and the story ran that it had been taken from the French in the Seven Years' War and lain in Portsmouth ever since. . . . Sometimes they had groats and barley, or, by way of a treat a pudding made of flour mixed half with salt water and half with fresh water, and with old mutton fat."51
The records abound with reports and statements like the foregoing. 52 Those quoted will serve to illustrate the kind of food often supplied to the British soldier in America. Nor must it be assumed that bad provisions were small in amount. There is ample testimony to show that large quantities had to be condemned. 53 For example, Howe, on quitting Boston in March, 1776, left behind as
50 T. 64:200, Marsh to Navy Board, 12 Feb. 1780.
51 Seume, Meim Leben, quoted in Lowell's Hessians in the Revolution, p. 56.
52 T. 64:200, Marsh to Navy Board, 12 Feb. 1780, Cherry to Navy Board, 20 July, 1780, Harris to Navy Board, 23 Oct. 1779; ibid., 29:45, Minutes, 14 Aug. 1776; C.O. 5:93. "Returns.of Provisions in Store at Boston," 2 Oct., 16 Nov. 1775, 22 Jan. 1776; W.O. 1:50, Petition of the Four Companies of the Royal American Regiment at Antigua; Kemble Papers, I, 157; Wier-Robinson Correspondence, passim.
53 C.O. 5:93. "Memo. of Failure on the part of the Contractors for Victualling His Majesty's Troops at Boston"; "Returns of Provisions in Store at Boston," 16 Nov. 1775, 22 Jan. 1776; T. 64:200, Cherry to Navy Board, 20 July, 1780, Harris to Navy Board, 23 Oct. 1779, Marsh to Navy Board, 12 Feb. 1779; T. 29:45, Minutes, 14 Aug. 1776.
"unfit for His Majesty's Troops to eat" 61 barrels of pork, 32 firkins of butter, 1,000 pounds of cheese, 12 casks of raisins, 393 bags of bread, and" A Quantity of Mutton in Puncheons. . .spoiled in curing and unfit for Use." These were in addition to 4,000 barrels of flour which he had condemned in the preceding October.54 Of 2,000 bags of bread landed at the head of the Elk River in the campaign of 1777, "300 were condemned as unfit for Men to eat and of the 254 Bags carried on the March 50 or 60 were left on the way on the same Account."55
Much food was damaged or destroyed by rats and other vermin,56 much through careless stowage aboard the victuallers,57 much through being packed in bags and barrels too flimsy to sustain the shocks of an ocean voyage and the rough usage of a campaign.58 The commissary general at New York declared that "the bags that contained the Bread and part of those with the Pease were so thin and Rotten they wd. scarce bear Removing
54 C.O. 5: 93, "Provisions and Stores left at Boston."
C.O. 5: 93, "Memo. of Failure on the part of the Contractors for Victualling His Majesty's Troops at Boston."
55 Wier-Robinson Correspondence, Wier to Robinson, 25 Oct. 1777.
56 T. 64: 103, Day to Robinson, 22 Aug. 1777; ibid., 64: 120, Paumier to Robinson, 7 Aug. 1779; ibid., 64:106, Gordon to Robinson, 21 Jan. 1777. Mure, Son, & Atkinson, writing to Howe 21 Oct. 1776, stated in reference to a fleet of oat ships: "Each ship will receive at Cork one piece of Canvas and a parcell of Needles and thread to enable them to mend the Bags [of Oats] when unloading as the Rats will pretty certainly make that precaution necessary." T. 64: 106.
57 T. 64: 118, Chamier to Robinson, 20 April, 1777. Referring to certain damaged provisions in victuallers, Chamier wrote: "For want of Dunnage between the Flour and Coals, the flour by the motion of the ship have partly buried themselves amongst the Coals whereby the flour acquired much Damp." See also W.O. 60:16, Ross to Wier, 24 Mar. 1778; T. 1:528, Howe to Robinson, 5 June, 1777.
58T. 64:200, Marsh to Navy Board, 17 Dec. 1779, 12 Feb. 1780, Cherry to Navy Board, 20 July, 1780; ibid., 64: 103, Day to Robinson, 22 Aug. 1777; ibid., 64:106, Robinson to Howe, 14 Jan. 1777, Gordon to Robinean, 21 Jan. 1777; ibid., 64:120, Paumier to Robinson, 7 Aug. 1779; Wier-Robinson Correspondence, Paumier to Wier, 28 Sept. 1777.
from the vessells in which they came without much Waste. The Casks in which part of the Flour was packed were so slight that they wou'd not admit of being removed far by Land Carriage."59 Casks and barrels were not only ill-adapted to the service in strength but also in size. "Great inconvenience," wrote the commissary general in Canada, "has happened through the enormous size of Provision Casks, puncheons being sent out with Beef and Pork whereas no Cask should come here larger than a Barrel which are calculated for our Carts and Batteaux, for the want of which many of the puncheons have been stove."60 Much food was damaged because no proper covering had been provided to protect it from the inclemencies of the weather. To remedy this defect one commissary humbly prayed the Treasury board to be "supplied with Twelve Large Provision Tents similar in size with those of the Hospitals, and two Hundred Oil Cloaths made of Russia sheeting."61 Climatic conditions also played havoc with army foodstuffs. This was especially true in the Southern colonies where the summer heat melted the butter to oil, turned the flour sour, and caused the sauerkraut to spoi1.62 In Canada, however, it was not the temperature which robbed the army of its provisions. Thieving inhabitants must bear the blame. The commissary general in that country complained that he was compelled to employ in the transport service Canadians "whose propensity for pilfering is such that it obliges me to send Conductors to protect the provisions. Notwithstanding all my efforts to protect it, I have had the Mortification to see the Butter taken out of Firkins and Stones etc. put in lieu to compleat the Weight; and
59 T. 64: 118, Chamier to Robinson, 11 Aug. 1776.
60 T. 64: 102, Day to Robinson, 26 Oct. 1776.
61 T. 64:102, Day to Robinson, 26 Oct. 1776; ibid., 64:106, Gordon to Robinson, 21 Jan. 1777.
62 T. 64:120, Paumier to Robinson, 20 June, 7 Aug. 1779.
so dexterously headed that the best Eye could not perceive the deception, which theft has not been confined to butter only but at large without exceptions of Species; and the Losses sustained. . . is [sic] very considerable."63
The process of victualling the army was, furthermore, characterized by careless, dilatory, and sometimes dishonest, business methods. The supply of provisions was often ill-proportioned, there being too much of one species and too little of another, too much bread and flour and too little beef and pork. In July, 1777, Commissary General Wier complained to the Treasury board that the amount of pease shipped to New York was so much in excess of the needs of the army that the stuff was perishing on his hands. He was only restrained from shipping it back to England by the fear that the rascally contractors would promptly repurchase it and send it back to America again.64 One of the chief reasons for the defectiveness of the supply at certain times was the failure of the commissaries to make prompt and accurate returns of the numbers to be victualled. "On careful perusal of the dispatches. . . of Sir H. Clinton," writes the king to John Robinson on one occasion, "it appears very clearly that any deficiency of Provisions doth arise from the old complaint-a want of clearly stating in N.A. the numbers to be victualled."65 Contractors were tardy in filling orders, and occasionally resorted to frauds in order to cheat the government, such as mixing sand with the flour or sending over barrels of rum, flour, or beef short in
63 T. 64:102, Day to Robinson, 20 June, 1777.
64 Wier-Robinson Correspondence, Wier to Robinson, 12 July, 1777, 25
Oct. 1777; T. 64:118, Chamier to Robinson, 11 Aug. 1776; ibid., 64:106, Robinson to Howe, 22 Oct. 1776; ibid., 64:201, Robinson to Navy Board, 30 Mar. 1781; ibid., 29:46, Minutes, 2 Dec. 1777; W.O. 4:274, Jenkinson to Clinton, 5 Apr. 1779; ibid., 4: 275, Jenkinson to Clinton, 5 Feb. 1781.
65 Addit. MSS. 37,833, fo. 43, George III to Robinson, 29 Nov. 1778. cf Addit. MSS. 37,833, fo. 1, 5 Sept. 1778.
weight.66 The shortage would sometimes be slyly concealed by weighting cask or barrel with stones. The deputy commissary general at New York complained that of the beef shipped to Howe's army in 1777 some barrels were "deficient upwards of 40 lb. Weight and in general they run 15 to 20 lb. short of their customary and Invoice Weight. The Pork likewise is deficient from 8 to 10 lb. per Barrel, . . ."67 In some instances, owing to the connivance or carelessness of the commissaries in failing to report the marks on the packages, it was impossible to detect the guilty contractor. "The peculation in every profitable branch of the [military] service," wrote Wedderburn to a confidential friend, "is represented to be enormous, and, as usual, it is attended with a shocking neglect of every comfort to the troops. The hospitals are pest-houses, and the provisions served out are poison; those that are to be bought are sold at the highest prices of a monopoly."68
In this connection, however, it is only fair to state that the contractors did not enjoy a monopoly of dishonesty and inefficiency. More than one commissary general fell under suspicion of being engaged in doubtful transactions at the expense of the government. During the autumn and winter of 1776, for example, a fleet of seventeen victuallers arrived at New York. Both Howe and Com-
66 T.. 64:120, Paumier to Robinson, 7 Aug. 1779; ibid.,
64:106, Gordon to Robinson, 20 Aug. 1776; ibid., 64:200, George Cherry
to Navy Board, 14 Feb. 178O, Navy Board to Treasury, 14 Feb., 4 Aug. 1780;
ibid., 64:201, Robinson to Navy Board, 11 Nov. 1779, 13 Mar. 1781;
T. 1:519, Robinson to Gordon, 21 June, 1776.
67 Wier-Robinson Correspondence, Paumier to Wier, 6 Nov. 1777.
68 Quoted in Correspondence of Geo. III with Lord North, I, 299. Burke
lucrative up the situation rather strikingly, "The merchants begin to snuff the cadaverous haut gout of lucrative war; the freighting business never was so lively on account of the prodigious taking up for transport-service; great orders for provisions of all kinds, new clothing for troops, puts life into the woolen manufactures."
missary General Chamier complained of the condition of the bread and flour, with which it was freighted. The Treasury board instituted an investigation. Fourteen of the transport masters took oath that they had delivered the provisions in good condition at New York; and ten of them furthermore swore that large quantities of flour, bread, and pease were left by the commissary for days on the wharves, exposed to the snow and rain. One witness offered to assert on oath that after the bread and flour had thus got thoroughly soaked, it was sold by the commissary and then bought back again and served out to the troops, the implication being that at some stage of the transaction the commissary had managed to make a profit on his own account. There seems to be no evidence that Chamier ever successfully denied these allegations. Further suspicion was cast upon him by the fact that his complaints were dated prior to his certificates of inspection and by the fact that although the barrels and packages were all marked by the names of the respective contractors, he failed to specify whose provisions were at fault. It was not long after this that he ceased to hold office as commissary genera1.69
This entire state of affairs frequently resulted in a dearth of provisions that was very alarming to the generals in America and that seriously affected the conduct of the war. Howe was repeatedly hampered in his campaigns by insufficiency of provisions. Writing to the Treasury board from Boston in December, 1775, he declared, "I am in great Pain from the small Quantity of Provisions now in Store." In the same month, he in. formed Lord Dartmouth, "The small Quantities of Provisions in Store. . . fill me with Alarms. . . . If Victual-
69 T. 64:106, passim. See also T. 64:106, Robinson to Howe, 8 Apr. 1777; ibid., 1 :519, Robinson to Gordon, 20 Mar. 1777; W.O. 1 :10, Clinton to Germain, 18 Dec. 1778.
ling Ships should not arrive before the latter End of this month, nor the Navy be able to afford Assistance, I shall be: obliged to put the Troops upon short Allowance."70
Howe has sometimes been blamed for not starting his campaign in the Middle Colonies in 1776 more promptly. It will be recalled that his troops did not land at Staten Island until midsummer. Had he put them in the field a month or two earlier, it has been pointed out that he might have succeeded in conquering Pennsylvania as well as New York and New Jersey. This would have been a far more serious blow to the Americans than the occupation of New York and New Jersey alone, Indeed, it might have sufficed to terminate the war. The advent of winter compelled him to suspend operations with the conquest of New Jersey. Howe's tardiness, however, was not entirely of his own making. His army was delayed at Halifax and much valuable time lost owing to insufficiency of provisions. "I tremble," he wrote Germain from that place on 7 May, "when I think of our present State of Provisions, having now Meat for no more than thirteen Days in Store." 71 m In short, Howe was compelled to await the arrival of a tardy fleet of victuallers before he could embark for New York. 72 The partial success of the campaign may be traced in a measure to this circumstance.
Howe has likewise been censured for failure to pursue Washington more vigorously during the latter's retreat
70 C.O. 5 :93, Howe to Dartmouth, 1 Dec. 1775; Report on
Army Extras, 1778, appendix no. 4. The plight of the garrison was well put
in a contemporary ballad:
"And what have you got with all your designing
But a town without dinner to sit down and dine in."
Memorial History of Boston, III, 91.
71 C.O. 5:93, Howe to Germain, 7 May, 1776.
72C.0. 5:93, Howe to Germain, 7 June, 7 July, 1776. Cf. Channing,
History of United States, III, 232.
across New Jersey in November, 1776.73 If we may accept the statement of Cornwallis, who was in direct charge of the pursuit, this was not due solely to want of initiative. "We subsisted only on the flour we found in the country; and as the troops had been constantly marching ever since their first entrance into the Jerseys, they had no time to bake their flour. . ."74 The necessity of stopping to bake flour collected from the countryside, the only form of breadstuff obtainable by the troops, helped to delay the pursuit and enabled Washington to withdraw unmolested across the Delaware.
Strictures have also been passed upon Howe for placing a portion of his army in scattered cantonments in New Jersey during the winter of 1776-1777, and thus allowing Washington to strike isolated detachments at Trenton and Princeton.75 Once more, however, a scarcity of supplies forced him to adopt measures of which under normal circumstances he would scarcely have approved, The provisions at New York were too limited to feed his entire army during the winter. The only alternative was to place a portion of the troops in cantonments so widely separated that the various detachments could live off the countryside without mutual interference.76
Again, Howe has been condemned for not taking the field earlier in 1777. He did not receive the camp equipage necessary for the campaign until the 24th of May, however; and inasmuch as the government compelled him to obtain his hay and oats in America, and would not supply him to any extent with those articles from England, he was forced to wait until the green forage was on the ground. His difficulties during the ensuing campaign
73 Smith, Wars between England and America, p. .85;
Stryker, Trenton and Princeton, p. 36.
74 A View of the Evidence, p. 13.
75 Correspondence of Geo. III with Lord North, II, 57.
76 C.O. 5 :93, Howe to Germain, 30 Nov. 1776.
were greatly augmented by the deficiency in quality and quantity of the provisions supplied to his forces.77
Clinton labored under similar disadvantages. Writing from New York in September, 1778, he informed Germain: "You will perceive how low we are in a Stock of that very essential Article [food] notwithstanding the arrival of Six Ships lately from Cork."78 Conditions had not improved by winter, "Your Lordship will be startled," he wrote in December, "when I inform you that this Army has now but a fortnight's Flour left. . . . Our Meat with the Assistance of Cattle purchased here will last about forty days beyond Xmas, and a Bread composed of Peas, Indian Corn and Oatmeal can be furnished for about the same time. After that I do not know how we shall subsist."79 Clinton's inactivity at New York in 1779 was due partly to a shortage of provisions. In that year Haldimand had planned to seize Oswego and create a diversion along the Canadian frontier for such operations as Clinton might undertake but was balked owing to a scarcity of food supplies.80 Meantime, General Augustine Prevost was writing to the commander-in-chief that the same cause had become a capital obstacle to the adoption of any active measures in the South.81 By 1780 Clinton's patience regarding the subject of provisions seems to have become well-nigh exhausted. "Your Lordship well knows," he wrote to Germain, "how often this army has been on the Eve of being reduced to the greatest distress for Want of Provisions. . . The same melancholy Prospect (notwithstanding the many Representations
77 Correspondence of Geo. III with Lord North, II,
77; A View of the
Evidence, p. 18; Stedman, American War, I, 287; Wier-Robinson Correspondence, passim.
78 C.O. 5 :96, Clinton to Germain, 15 Sept. 1778.
79 C.O. 5:97, Clinton to Germain, 15 December, 1778.
80 C.O. 5 :98, Haldimand to Clinton, 19 July, 29 Aug. 1779. 81 C.O. 5 :98, Prevost to Clinton, 15 Mar., 30 July, 1779.
that have been made heretofore on this Subject) again appears in a very alarming Degree. It becomes therefore highly necessary for me to represent to Your Lordship, as the Commissary General has frequently done to the Treasury Board, that unless some Measures are speedily adopted to supply us more effectually than we have hitherto been, I have the greatest Reason to apprehend that the most fatal Consequence will ensue. We have not as yet received one ounce of this Year's Supply."82
If provisions were scarce at New York, they were yet scarcer in the West Indies. No words can paint the distress of the troops in that quarter for want not merely of food but everything essential to an army's welfare. "The situation of the Troops in this Island," wrote Lieutenant Governor Graham of Tobago to Jenkinson in September, 1779, "must be Dreadful if a Vessel does not arrive soon with Provisions from Government. Salt Provisions and Flour cannot be got at any price. I hope some Measures are already taken for that purpose." Two months later no relief had come. "I took the Liberty," he wrote in November, "to represent to you in my last Letter, the great necessity there was to have provisions immediately sent out by Government for this Island. I cannot purchase any more provisions in this Island my sole dependence is on St. Lucia. Sir Henry Calder has sent me supplies at different times, but the provisions there begin to be bad in quality and the expense of the freight enormous."83 In the same month a year later, General Vaughan, who was stationed at Barbadoes, informed the secretary at war: "The distress we are in will I trust make the measure of sending us some immediate assistance appear to you as necessary as I feel it to be.
82 C.O. 5 :100, Clinton to Germain, 31st Oct., 1780. Cf.
Kemble Papers, I, 167, 170, 173.
83 W.O. 1 :51. Graham to Jenkinson, 13 Sept., 23 Nov. 1779.
Therefore, I do beg and intreat [sic] that some provisions, and a reenforcement of troops may be sent out as sickness and death have reduced our effective numbers very low."84 Pathetic testimony regarding conditions in the West Indies is borne by "The humble Petition of the Non-Commissioned Officers and Privates of the Four Companies [of the 60th Regiment] . . . stationed in Antigua. " Therein they complain of "the miseries we have endured ever since our Arrival in this Island for want of wholesome Provisions, as what we have been able to buy for our Support from time to time was not fit for men to eat; and also at the time we presented our humble Petition to you, Provisions of the very worst kind, bore such exorbitant Prices, that our pay was not sufficient, to purchase enough to Support Nature."85
Examples of this sort might be multiplied.80 The records abound with them. That the generals, whether in the island colonies or on the continent, were seriously handicapped by want of provisions, there is ample evidence. It is no exaggeration to affirm that the British forces in America were sometimes on the verge of starvation.87
2. America as a Source of Provisions
From the foregoing account, the reader is likely to gain the impression that the army in America was provisioned solely from the British Isles. While it is true that the bulk of the supplies were derived from that source, a considerable quantity were obtained directly in America. Before enumerating these and explaining the
84 W.O. 1 :51, Vaughan to Jenkinson, 2 Nov. 1780. 85 W.O.
1 :51, undated.
80 C.O. 5 :98, Prevost to Clinton, 15, 28 Mar., 16 Apr. 1779; ibid., Haldimand to Clinton, 19 JuJy, 20 Aug. 1779; W.O. 1 :51, Vaughan to Jenkinson, 22.J,an. 1781; T. 64:201, Robinson to Navy Board, 30 Sept. 1780; Kemble Papers, I, 167, 170; Carrington, Battles of the American Revolution, p. 190. 87 T. 64: 201, Wier to Robinson, 14 Sept. 1780.
methods by which they were acquired, an examination of the officers engaged both in securing victuals in the field of operations and in distributing those shipped from abroad is necessary. In short, a word should be said regarding the organization of the commissariat-"the department," as one of its officers remarked, "that is of greatest Consequence to the Army. It goes with every Plan and without its unfailing Assistance no Operation can have Action or Success."88
There were two commissary generals of provisions attached to the forces in America-one to those in Canada, the other to those in the region between Nova Scotia and West Florida.89 Each was a civilian and each held an identical commission under the sign manual wherein his duties were broadly outlined. He was authorized "to inspect the buying and delivering of Stores, Provisions, and Forage for the use of the. . . Forces, whether the same be done by Contractors or others, and likewise to settle and adjust all accounts relating thereunto; And . . . to observe and follow such Orders and directions from time to time as he shall receive from. . . the Commander in Chief of the. . . Forces [in America], or any other superior Officer, according to the Rules and Discipline of War." While no mention is made of the fact in his commission, each commissary general was also subject to the orders of the Treasury board to which he constantly reported.90
88 T. 64:102, Day to Robinson, 14 Jan. 1777.
80 April 14, 1778, Colonel William Roy was commissioned commissary general of all the forces at home and abroad. His exact status in the British military hierarchy is not clear. He does not seem, however, to have exercised any direct control over the commissariat in America. W.O. 25 :34, commission. See also Andrews, Guide to Materials for .American History in P.R. a., II, 91.
90 A detailed description of the commissary general's duties will be found in "instructions" drawn up for Nathaniel Day in T. 64:104 (undated). These are quoted in full in appendix to this chapter.
As far as can be ascertained, the office of commissary general to the forces in Canada was held by one man only, Nathaniel Day, who was commissioned 20 March, 1776, and apparently occupied the post until the latter part of 1777.91 As regards the commissaries general to the forces south of the St. Lawrence, it is regrettable that while the date of commission can be fixed with exactitude, the date of resignation or removal can in some cases be given only approximately.92 The list is as follows:
Daniel Chamier, 7 Feb. 1774-Feb. 1777.93 Daniel Wier, 1 Feb. 1777-Sept. 1781."4 Brook Watson, 14 Mar. 1782-5 Dec. 1783.95
91 Date of commission given with "instructions"
in T. 64: 104. The last record of Day's activities in Canada is a letter
to John Robinson dated Montreal, 6 Oct. 1777. T. 64: 103. He may have remained
longer in America.
92 See W.O. 60 :32, 33, 36 for commissions. In the list given above the first date after each name is the date of the commission.
93 The commissions of Wier and Watson made them each a commissary general to the forces "serving within Our Colonies in North America; lying upon the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia on the North to West Florida on the South, both inclusive." Chamier's commission differed in that he was appointed commissary general" for all Our Forces employed or to be employed in North America"; but like Wier and Watson he seems to have served only those troops in the region extending from Nova Scotia to West Florida. On 4 Mar. 1777, Robinson informed Chamier that he was to be succeeded in the commissariat department by Wier and that he (Chamier) had been appointed comptroller of accounts to the forces in America. That he ever exercised the duties of the office--whatever they may have been-Howe declared that he did not know or believe. At the time of his death, 27 Nov. 1778, Chamier was still recorded on the staff returns as comptroller. Report on Army Extras, 1778; T. 64:118, Robinson to Chamier, 4 Mar. 1777, Chamier to Robinson, 19 May, 1777.
94 Wier left England for America in the latter part of March or beginning of April, 1777. Robinson informed Clinton, 4 Sept. 1781, that he was to be given leave of absence. T. 64: 107; C.O. 5: 126, William Knox to Philip Stephens, 3 Mar. 1777; Admiralty Board to Germain, 22 Mar. 1777. For Wier's commission, see appendix to this chapter.
95 Brook Watson took charge of the department in New York, 27 May, 1782. His charge terminated 5 Dec. 1783, when the army sailed from the port of New York. W.O. 60:20; Andrews, Guide to Materials for American History in P.R.O., II, 110.
As subordinates each commissary general had a number of deputies and assistants (usually civilians), who were sometimes appointed by him, sometimes by the commander-in-chief in America, sometimes by the Treasury board; while a very few held commissions under the sign manual from the crown.96 Thus, in April, 1776, the commissariat department at New York included the following officers; 97
Daniel Chamier, Esqr., Commissary General Major John Morrison
In addition to the deputies and assistants, two other species of commissary require mention. At the time of his expedition to South Carolina in 1781, Clinton appointed what were referred to as commissaries of captures, "for the purpose of preserving the property of his Maj(s) loyal Subjects in that Country or making them recompense for the losses or damages they might sustain and for the purpose of converting to the good of his Maj(s) Service and to the use, conveniency, and benefit of the Army, all Cattle and moveable property which might be captured from his Majesty's enemies."98 In the same year, Clinton made Colonel Beverley Robinson commissary of captured
96 Report on Army Extras, 1778; W.O. 1: 12, Alexander
Ross to Townshend, 10 Aug. 1782; T. 64:102, Day to Robinson, 27, 30 Mar.,
15 May, 20 June, 1777; ibid., 64: 104, Instructions to Day (undated);
ibid., 64:105, Burke to Haldimand, 26 Apr. 1782; ibid., 64:106;
Robinson to Howe, 12 Apr. 1776.
97 T. 64:106, Robinson to Howe, 12 Apr. 1776. 98 T. 64: 107, Robinson to Clinton, 19 Dec. 1781.
cattle in North America, but the nature of his duties and the scope of his authority are uncertain."99 Sometimes the commissary general followed the army into the field, sometimes he remained at his headquarters, which were located at either Montreal or Quebec for Canada and at New York for the provinces to the southward. In 1777, for example, Nathaniel Day remained at Montreal while his deputy, Fleetwood Parkhurst, and Jonathan Clarke, assistant commissary general, accompanied Burgoyne on his march southward.100 In the same year, on the other hand, Daniel Wier went with Howe to Philadelphia, leaving his deputies, Robert Ross and Peter Paumier, to manage affairs at New York.101
Some conception of the work and organization of the commissariat may be gained from the arrangement made by Brook Watson at New York.102 A number of departments, or branches, as they were sometimes called, were established as follows:
Commissary General' s Office
Robert Ross, Comptroller of Transport Accounts. Frederick W. Hecht, Assistant Commissary and several assistants, clerks, and porters.
Gregory Townsend and Roger Johnson, Assistant Com-
99 C.O. 5:102, Clinton to Germain, 7 July, 1781; ibid.,
5:105, Clinton to Germain, 10 Oct. 1781. Among some of the very minor officials
connected with the commissariat, we find mention of John Buxton, inspector
of the king's bakeries, and Joseph Orchard, superintendent of the same,
at New York in 1777. Here and there mention, is made of regimental bakers
and inspectors and provers of rum. In many instances regimental officers
acted as commissaries. T. 64: 103, 107, 118, passim.
100 T. 64 :200, "List of commissaries with the Army under Burgoyne," June, 1777. Parkhurst remained at Sorel. Clarke went on to Saratoga where he was captured.
101 W.O. 60: 11, passim; Wier-Robinson Correspondence.
102 WO 60: 12, passim. The scheme of organization given above is for June, 1782.
missaries and several coopers, carpenters, laborers, assistants, and clerks.
Fleming Pinkstan, Surgeon to the Department.
George Brinley, Deputy Commissary and several assistants, clerks, laborers, collectors and issuers of for age.
Abijah Willard, Assistant Commissary, and a clerk,
issuer, and butchers.
Joseph Chew, Superintendent, and several clerks and negro laborers.
His Majesty's Brewery Edward G. Lutwyche, Superintendent, and a clerk and several laborers.
That the life of the average commissary general was no sinecure, we have the testimony of Nathaniel Day, who wrote at one time, "Since my return to Montreal. . . I have been a slave and prisoner to Business. . . Writing late at Night has hurt my sight and my close Application and Attention to every part of my department since my Arrival in Canada to this day has greatly impaired my Memory."103 Nor was it easy for the commissary general in Canada to procure able assistants to relieve him: "The proper people for my department is not to be had in this Province. Such as could assist me should be active, sober, honest People, who must have the good of the service at Heart, and make no difficulties, and not Young People who think so much of their dear selves as to attend to the Fopperys and Neglect the Essentials."104 Then there were certain financial inconven-
103 T. 64 :102, Day to Robinson, 15 May, 1777.
104 T. 64:102, Day to Robinson, 20 June, 1777.
iences in being a commissary general: "I hope my Lords will take under their Consideration the many expences I have been subject to since my Arrival in this province to the present Time and the losses I must sustain by advancing Money to different people in Order to engage their Attention to Manufacturing Flour and procure [sic] other Necessarys [sic] so Essential to the Comfort and Health of the Army in Canada; that since my commencement in this extensive and weighty department, I have received no allowance other than my daily pay which has Obliged me to draw upon my Private Fortune to make up for losses, pay House and Office rent, Postage of letters, Expresses, travelling Charges, Books and Stationary [sic]; and many other expenses Attending the Chief Commissary which do not affect the Deputys or Assistants. . ."105 In a sense, too, the commissary general was a kind of caterer to the army, and like most caterers and cooks since time immemorial found it difficult to concoct a bill of fare acceptable to everybody's taste. Day grumbled that "the Canadians employed in the Upper Country will not use English Biscuit. I am obliged to procure for them Canadian." And again: "Neither Indians nor Canadians will eat salt Beef tho' exceeding good."106 "Mr. Day," wrote the Treasury to Haldimand, "having stated that the Troops do not like Oatmeal, that will be left out of the Ration to be supplied
105 It has not been possible to determine the pay of the
commissaries in all instances. Wier received £3 per diem. Chamier's
deputies were paid 30s. and his assistants 20s. per diem. A request of the
deputies and assistants to be placed on half pay after the war was denied
by the Treasury board on the ground that there was no precedent for it and
that" most if not all of the Commissaries were positively told at the
time of their appointment that half pay could not be granted to them."
T. 64:118, Robinson to Chamier, 12 Apr. 1776; W.O. 1:824, Grey Cooper to
Barrington, 25 Feb. 1777; T. 64:107, Sheridan to Clinton, 28 Aug. 1783.
106 T. 64:102, Day to Robinson, 20 June, 1777.
Turning to the articles of food obtained in America, we find that one of the most important was flour, or, in its original form, grain. In the latter part of 1774, just as the war clouds were gathering, Gage, commanding in Boston, received a considerable quantity from Maryland.l08 In November, 1776, Chamier was planning to bake bread at New York for next year's campaign from" Flour purchased out of Prizes or Ground from a large Cargo of Wheat from a prize," although he was experiencing some trouble in finding bakers.109 At the same time, Day in Canada was obtaining grain and flour from the inhabitants for Carleton's army but only with considerable difficulty.110 He was much hampered by the scarcity of mills throughout the country, the people being accustomed to sell their grain to the merchants without grinding it into flour. Day proposed to meet the situation by constructing a mill on the rapids of Chambly, which would grind summer and winter, for the use of the commissariat. In the spring of 1777, when preparations were being made for Burgoyne's expedition up the lakes, there was an added difficulty. The preceding winter had been one of the mildest known in Canada, with very little snow. As a result the rivers were low, and for some months the mills were prevented from grinding even enough flour for the na-
107 T. 64:105, Robinson to Haldimand, 30 July, 1779.
l108 C.O. 5 :92, Gage to Dartmouth, 15 Nov. 1774.
109 T. 64: 118, Chamier to Robinson, 9 Nov. 1776.
110 Between 25 May and 24 Dec. 1776, Day purchased from the inhabit
ants breadstuffs in the following amounts:
Baked Bread. .522,482 lbs
Flour. . 3,686,551 lbs
Biscuit . . 119,952 lbs
T. 64: 102.
tives.111 To take another example, Cornwallis in his invasion of North Carolina in 1781 halted for two days at " Ramsour's Mills" to collect flour from the countryside. 112
Another important article of food obtained in America was rice. In 1776 Howe dispatched an expedition to Georgia under Major General Grant, which seized no less than 31,083 tierces.1l3 From the same province Clinton in 1779 likewise received large quantities.114
The provisions obtained in the theatre of operations were sometimes curious. When General Augustine Prevost marched from St. Augustine upon Savannah in 1778-1779, his supplies were transported in boats along the shore and his troops were often separated from them. As a result the men were frequently hard pressed for food. At one time they lived on oysters found in inlets of the sea; at another, on alligator and some Madeira wine salvaged from a wreck.115
Outranking either rice or flour as a foodstuff obtained in America was fresh meat. At the outbreak of the war a small quantity of live stock was shipped from England; for in 1775-1776 the Treasury board contracted with Anthony Merry, merchant, to supply live stock to the troops in Boston and New York.116 Such shipments, however, were exceptional; and the policy of the Board, in general, was to compel the army to find fresh meat in America. This was only natural. The freightage of live
111 T. 64:102, Day to Robinson, 25 May, 1777.
112 London Gazette, 2 June, 1781.
113 T. 29:45, Minutes, 13 June, 18 July, 1776.
114 T. 64: 120, passim.
115 Butler, Annals of King's Royal Rifle Corps, I, 210.
116T. 29:45, pp. 137, 151, 158, 198.199; ibid., 1:519, Cooper to Merry, 26 Jan. 1776, Grey Cooper to Howe, 19 Apr. 1776; ibid., 64-106, Robinson to Howe, 24 June, 1776. It appears that Merry intended to obtain sheep and oxen from Mogador (Moroeco).
stock was expensive and in spite of great care many of the cattle were likely to perish in transit.117 Thus we find the commissariat at all times zealously engaged in searching for live stock in the theatre of operations. During the siege of Boston, Gage sent out transports manned by soldiers to search the shores and bays of New England for live stock and succeeded in obtaining one hundred oxen and eighteen hundred sheep.118 "In regard to live stock," wrote Chamier from New York in November, 1776, "we have been able to purchase, or receive from Long Island, or this neighborhood a number sufficient to give the Army meat for two days in Seven, and to supply the Hospital fully. "119 Later, he might have added that bullocks, cows, sheep, and hogs were being shipped to Howe's army from Halifax.120 Expeditions similar to those dispatched by Gage from Boston were sent out by Clinton from New York to Martha's Vineyard and the eastern end of Long Island. One of these, under Major General Grey, secured from Martha's Vineyard, in September, 1778, no less than three hundred oxen and ten thousand sheep.121 During Burgoyne's invasion, Tory "cowboys" robbed the people on either side of the Hudson of their cattle, sheep, hogs, and poultry; and sold them to the British.122 Nor were the forces in the South less active in searching for live stock in the field of operations. Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, commanding the expedition dispatched to Savannah in December, 1778, reported: "All the Rebel Cattle within reach of our
117 Report on Army Extras, 1778.
118 C.0. 5:92, Gage to Dartmouth, 20 Aug. 1775; Kemble, Journal, I, 55
119 T. 64:118, Chamier to Robinson, 9 Nov. 1776.
120 T. 64:118, "Return of Live Stock," 19 Nov. 1776.
121 C.O. 5 :98, Clinton to Germain, 15 Sept. 1778; London Gazette, 24 Oct. 1778.
122 Stone, Burgoyne's Campaign, p. 238, from the" Personal Reminiscences of the late Charles Neilson."
Posts have been ordered for Slaughter, and to be salted up, for the use of the Navy and Army. We have also given encouragement to the Farmers, to bring in their Bullocks, Hogs, Sheep, Poultry, etc. as cannot fail of establishing good and reasonable Markets at each of our Posts.' m3 Subsequently Peter Paumier, the deputy commissary, collected numbers of cattle, branded them, and placed them in ranges for the use of the troops.124
Although occasional shipments of forage continued to be made to the army during the war, the Treasury board was averse to the practice, representing that the bulkiness of hay and oats made the freight age expensive and the difficulty of obtaining sufficient tonnage, great. The commanders and the commissaries were therefore repeatedly urged to obtain the necessary forage in America: "Hay you must provide yourselves," wrote the Treasury to Wier, "and the same is much wished in regard to Oats, for the Tonnage they require, and the Freight of them is a grievous burden."125 How these instructions were fulfilled will be illustrated.
During the occupation of Boston, the want of sufficient forage was keenly felt.126 While the meadows about the town yielded a certain amount of hay,127 they failed to
123 C.O. 5:97, Campbell to Clinton, 19 Jan. 1779.
124 T. 64:120, Paumier to Robinson, 20 June, 1779. See also T. 64:107,
Robinson to Clinton, 13 Mar. 1781.
125 Report on Army Extras, 1778, Robinson to Wier, 26 Sept. 1777. See also T. 64:106, Robinson to Howe, 12 Apr., 26 Sept. 1776; ibid., 64 :201, Robinson to Navy Board, 27 Mar. 1781.
A ration of forage consisted of 18 lts. of hay and 1 peck of oats (W.O. 1 :823, J. Irwine to Barrington, 19 May, 1778). It is also stated that each horse should be allowed 10 lbs. of oats per day (T. 64: 118, "Return of Oats. . . N. Y. April 10, 1777." Signed by Chamier). Another statement is to the effect that horses should be allowed 12 lbs. of hay per diem (C.O. 5:254, Germain to Admiralty, 19 Apr. 1776).
126 C.O. 5:92, Howe to Dartmouth, 26 Nov. 1775. 12. Howe's Orderly Book, passim.
satisfy the needs of the garrison, and recourse was therefore had to distant quarters. Vessels were dispatched to the Bay of Fundy and other parts of Nova Scotia for hay and to the Province of Quebec for hay and oats.128 In October, 1775, Gage reported that no less than thirty-eight transports had been sent out from Boston in search of fuel and forage.129 When Howe's army landed at Staten Island in July, 1776, Chamier proceeded to secure all the hay, wheat, oats, rye, and straw on the island.131 After the capture of New York, he evidently found the amount of forage in the vicinity inadequate to the needs of the troops. Accordingly, he directed one131 of his subordinate officers to purchase forage in Quebec and another 132 the same article in Nova Scotia.133 The latter succeeded in procuring 760 tons of hay and 3,400 bushels of oats. This record was broken by a third commissary, 134 who accompanied the expedition sent to Rhode Island under Clinton in December, where 1,500 tons of hay, 5,000 bushels of Indian corn, and 3,000 bushels of oats were purchased.135 In the meantime, Howe had determined that it would be necessary to quarter a large body of troops in East Jersey during the winter in order to obtain a sufficient amount of covering, forage, and supplies of fresh provisions.136 Accordingly, detachments were
128 C.O. 5 :92, Gage to Dartmouth, 12 June, 20 Sept. 1775;
Kemble, Journal, I, 45.
129 C.O. 5 :92, Gage to Dartmouth, 7 Oct. 1775.
130 T. 64:118, Chamier to Robinson, 11 Aug. 1776.
131 James Porteous, assistant commissary.
132 Isaac Deschamps, deputy commissary.
133 T. 64: 11 8, Chamier to Robinson, 24 Sept. 1776. See Howe's" Remarks on Horse Provisions Necessary for the Campaign of 1776" in the appendix to this chapter.
134 Major John Morrison, deputy commissary.
135 T. 64: 118, Chamier to Robinson, 28 Dec. 1776.
136 C.O. 5:93, Howe to Germain, 30 Nov. 1776.
posted at Newark, Brunswick, Trenton, Bordentown, Whitehorse, and Burlington; and instructions were issued that cattle, grain, and forage were to be secured from the farmers in the region and placed in magazines for the subsistence of the army.137 These measures were not unlike those pursued by Clinton two years later while confined in New York by Washington. In October, 1778, with a view to procuring forage, he directed Cornwallis and Knyphausen to take advanced positions to the north of the town-the former between the Hackensack and the Hudson, the latter between the Hudson and the Bronx.138 Similarly, in December, 1777, during the occupation of Philadelphia, Howe posted a considerable detachment on the heights of Derby, across the Schuylkill, to cover the collecting of forage. "About 1,000 Tons," he wrote, "were brought in, a Quantity judged to be nearly sufficient for the Winter Consumption. 139 This supply was supplemented by a considerable quantity brought from Rhode Island by the navy and without which Howe would have been much distressed.140 In the following spring (1778), foraging parties ranged the country for many miles around the city and in New Jersey with unexpected success. One detachment in particular made a descent upon the shores of the Delaware near Salem and secured a very seasonable supply.141 When Burgoyne set out on his ill-starred expedition from Canada, he brought a quantity of oats with him. The rest of his forage, he strove to collect along the line of march. Whenever he encamped, parties were sent out to scour the neighborhood for hay, grass, and Indian corn. In the closing stages of the cam-
137 Stryker, Trenton and Princeton, p. 317.
138 London Gazette, 28 Nov. 1778.
139 London Gazette, 14 Mar. 1778.
140 Narrative of Sir William Howe, pp. 48-49.
141 London Gazette, 9 June, 1778.
paign, he was much hampered by the difficulty of feeding his horses and cattle.142
Fuel was yet another article obtained in considerable quantities in America. Wood was procured by foraging parties in the vicinity of the troops. The garrison of Boston in 1775-1776 was hard pressed for it, and houses, fences, and wharves were confiscated to meet the need.143 The troops in New York obtained supplies of fuel, not only from Manhattan Island but from Long Island, a number of vessels being dispatched in search of it as far as Lloyd's Neck, some fifty miles from New York. The regiments wintering in New Jersey, 1776-1777, and Pennsylvania, 1777-1778, were supplied with fuel by the inhabitants at slight expense.114 Large quantities of coal appear to have been sent out from England, although the Treasury board made the usual complaints about expense of freightage and dearth of tonnage.145 The chief source of coal in America was the Island of Cape Breton. The mines there were constantly drawn upon throughout the war.146 The attention of the authorities was first brought to them by Governor Legge of Nova Scotia, who pro-
142 Burgoyne, State of the Expedition, p. 92; Orderly
Digby, Journal, pp. 266, 276, 284, 286.
For other examples of methods of obtaining forage, see C.O. 5: 98, Prevost to Clinton, 11 June, 1779; ibid., 5: 101, Arnold to Clinton, 13 Feb. 1781.
143 C.O. 5: 93, Howe to Dartmouth, 14 Dec. 1775. According to Frothingham, the few houses in Charlestown that escaped the conflagration were divided into lots and a portion assigned to each regiment. Siege of Boston, p. 281.
144 "Minute Book of a Board of General Officers" (N. Y. Hist. Soc. Coll. 1916), pp. 97-98.
145 T. 64: 106, Robinson to Howe, 14 Sept. 1775, 12 Apr. 1776, 26 Sept. 1777; ibid., 64:107, Robinson to Clinton, 31 Oct. 1778.
146 There is an excellent report on the coal mine at Cape Breton, dated 9 July, 1777, by Anthony Bacon in T. 1: 528. Relative to this subject, see also T. 64:107, Robinson to Clinton, 15 .July, 1779; W.O. 60:15, Watson to John Crawford, 19 July, 1783; T. 29:45, Minutes, 14 Aug. 1776.
posed to Dartmouth in December, 1775, that the garrison of Boston should be supplied thence."147 In September, 1775, Gage reported that the barrack master had sent "'people" to work the mines, and by December the latter was able to state that" Six thousand Chaldrons of Coals were then digging and would be ready in the Spring to be Shipped at Spanish River. "148 The supply, however, seems never to have been wholly adequate to the wants of the army, and had constantly to be supplemented by shipments from England, coals sometimes being utilized as ballast aboard the victuallers.
One other matter relating to the subject of obtaining provisions in America deserves note. One of the chief difficulties in buying 'food supplies lay in the practice of the inhabitants in some quarters of artificially raising prices. People in Canada, for example, formed combinations for raising the price of flour so that in 1779 the Treasury board resolved to rely no longer upon a supply from that region,149 The same thing occurred in the Southern colonies. The planters raised the price of Indian corn and clean and rough rice to an exorbitant figure. 150 After the siege of Savannah in October, 1779, Commissary Paumier reported that four of the townsmen had engrossed all the rum and raised the price to 2s. per gallon, which was nothing less than an imposition.151 It was in the face of such difficulties as these that the commissariat strove to secure provisions in America.
147 C.O. 5 :92, Dartmouth to Gage, 28 Jan. 1775.
148 T. 64: 106, Robinson to Howe, 12 Apr. 1776.
149 T. 64:105, Robinson to the commander-in-chief (unnamed), 30 July, 1779.
150 T. 64: 120, Paumier to Robinson, 7 Aug. 1779.
151 T. 64: 120, Paumier to Robinson, 4 Nov. 1779.
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