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Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to the Board of War and Ordnance

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.00962 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: New Windsor, New York Type: Manuscript letter Date: 3 June 1781 Pagination: 4 p. : docket ; 23 x 18.9 cm.

In Samuel Shaw's hand, and signed by Shaw for Knox. "I have received instructions from His Excellency the Commander in Chief to make application to your honorable board for the Ordnance in operation against New York, agreeably to the estimate before given." Discusses preparation for the operation in detail, including requests to individual states for loans (of money and weapons, such as cannons). Asks for items such as wine, quickmatch, pitch, and turpentine. Closes by stating, "His Excellency the General directed me to have everything in readiness upon the spot to commence his operation by the first of next month." Encloses lists of articles to be transported from Philadelphia, Springfield [Massachusetts], Providence [Rhode Island], and Boston, Massachusetts (refer to GLC02437.00960, GLC02437.00961, and GLC02437.00963).

In 1781, Washington initially planned to attempt to regain New York from the British. He eventually used these plans as a bluff, launching the Yorktown campaign.

New Windsor, 3d June 1781

I have received instructions from His Excellency the Commander in Chief to make application to your honorable board for the ordance and stores necessary to commence and carry on an operation against New York, agreeably to the estimate before given. I therefore earnestly request that the articles contained in the enclosed paper may be procured immediately, and put in train to be transported to this river with as much expedition as possible.
I have enclosed an account of all the Powder I know of, by which it will appear that our deficiency in that capital article is great indeed. His Excellency General Washington has made application to the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts for a loan of all they can possibly spare, and I take the liberty to request your honorable board to do the same of any other state which you suppose can furnish any.
All the Powder in Pennsylvania is among the articles necessary to be forwarded on the upper route by [illegible] Court House, and the articles specified in the enclosed paper; - and it is necessary they should be forwarded as soon as possible, under a careful guard of militia. The heavy cannon, shells, shot and junk can be collected at some point, ready to be transported on the lower road.
[2] His Excellency the Commander in Chief has also requested a loan of some heavy cannon from the States of Massachusetts and Rhode Island but I think it uncertain whether he will be able to obtain them. The enclosed papers show the sizes of those requested, and also the articles belonging to the Continent, which I have directed from Boston, Providence and Springfield. As there could not be any numbers of shot procured this way for the 32 pounders contained in the former estimate, it was thought proper to request cannon of such sizes as we have shot for. The transportation of a sufficiency of 32 pound shot from Boston would be immensely expensive even if they could be obtained.
In the estimate of your honorable board, which Gen. Cornell was so good as to give me, it appears we have in possession at different places a large quantity of shot, vizr of 24 pounders 18926 - 18prs 43000 - 10 inch shells 21119 - 8 inch 8046 - and of 5 ½ 3913. These quantities are respectable and, although not equal to the estimate, are yet more than we shall probably obtain Powder for; and even if powder could be procured, it is presumed we could not at present obtain a greater number of shot and shells, as the iron masters yet feel, and will for a long time, the bad consequences of their want of pay for what they have already done. If the shells in
Penn -
[3] Pennsylvania are not yet sufficiently proved, it will be highly proper they should be providing to their transportation.
I have inserted in the enclosed inventory 6000 fuses for 10 inch and 3000 for 8 inch shells, to be prepared in Philadelphia. I depended upon Springfield for these important articles, but the wretched situation of the works there has been the cause of my being disappointed in a great degree. You will be able to perceive the number that we shall obtain from thence, which will fall very far short of the demands. I hope every possible exertion will be made to procure in Philadelphia at least the number mentioned. I have written particularly to Capn Porter on the subject, and I wish the board to direct every possible assistance to be given in procuring the materials.
I shall have every thing prepared in camp which our limited means will permit. If the spirits of wine and quick match could be forwarded by a light waggon, well secured from peculation, we might be able to complete some fuses - it is impossible to procure those articles here. I wish also the pitch and turpentine to be forwarded immediately.
I have mentioned twelve 24 & 18 pounders from Philadelphia. If it is possible, I wish
[4] the number to be increased, as I have not any great hopes from the applications Eastward.
I should be glad to lessen the quantity of junk demanded, on account of the expense of transportation, and I believe it may be done by winding the spun yards upon woods. I have therefore requested only fifty tons.
His Excellency the General has directed me to have everything in readiness upon the spot to commence his operations by the first of next month. By this your honor the board will observe how important it will be to take every measure that can be devised to facilitate the preparation and transportation of the stores required.
I beg the favor of a speedy answer to this letter informing upon what we may depend.
I have the honor to be,
your most obed Servt.
The Hon. Board of HKnox
War & Ordnance.
Enclosures -
Articles to be brought from Philadelphia
Return of Powder at different places.
To The Board of War
3d June 1781

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