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Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to George Washington

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01479 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: New Windsor, New York Type: Autograph letter Date: 8 July 1782 Pagination: 4 p. : address ; 32 x 20.2 cm.

Impressed with the importance of West Point for "the existence of the United States," says he wanted to make sure the fort was in working order and that its dependencies were well-supplied with cannon and military stores. Says he has made every exertion, but that money and equipment are in short supply. Has included a paper describing the state of ordnance and supplies (not included here). Says if he had all the ammunition he requested he would only have enough for a siege of ten days, but as it is, only half the cannon would be functional. Says many of the 10-inch shells and shot are at Mount Hope and Hibernia in New Jersey. Says the furnaces at Salisbury, Connecticut and Mount Hope might be able to supply West Point, but thinks Pennsylvania can fill in any gaps of supply from those two places. Estimates the deficiencies in ammunition at about 1,000 tons. Says the transportation costs to resupply West Point and its surrounding dependencies could be 250 pounds of Pennsylvania currency. Hopes this information will allow Washington to make an informed decision on supplying the forts. Suggests having stone magazines built to protect the ammunition. Says it would be best to have three magazines built for the garrison, each able to hold 2,000 barrels of powder. Says more pieces of ordnance are damaged by being crammed into poor, weather-soaked buildings than by any other cause. Knox says he was reluctant to bring this matter before Washington, but that he was unequal to the task of fixing the problems without his help. Closing in the hand of Knox's aide Samuel Shaw, who also signs for Knox. The enclosure cited is GLC02437.10503.

New Windsor 8 July 1782
Sir
Deeply impres'd with the importance of West point to the existence of the United States, I have with the approbation of your Excellency earnestly endeavor'd from its earliest state as a fortification, to have it & its dependencies as amply furnished with Cannon and military stores of all kinds as could possibly be spared from other uses. But after every exertion for this purpose, still there remains a very capital deficiency, owing principally to a want of money to transport the necessary articles.
I have in the enclosed paper exhibited to your Excellency, in a comprehensive view the actual state of the ordnance and stores, at West point, and of the articles wanted to complete the number of rounds specified for each Cannon and mortar. It is necessary to remark, that if it were possible for all the [struck: cannon and mortars] [inserted: Artillery] to be employed at the same time, the ammunition requested would scarcely answer for a siege of ten days. But it is not probable that more than half could be in service at the same moment, which would render the [2] [inserted: the quantity] sufficient for twenty days, indeed there must be a peculiar combination, to require more than the service of one third. [struck: at a time]
A great proportion of the ten inch shells are at mount hope and hibernia Furnaces in Jersey, distant between fifty and sixty miles, and also a large number of the shot. The furnaces at Salisbury in Connecticut and mount hope are in blast for the public, from these it is probable almost the whole of the deficiencies could be drawn, and the remainder if any, to be brought from [struck: Philadelphia] Pennsylvania. The powder is at Springfield, and can be brought from thence to Claverack by [inserted: a] communication not very long nor difficult.
The aggregate of the deficiencies may at a rough calculation, amount to about one thousand tons, The transportation, taking into consideration the vicinity of Salisbury to Hudson's-River and the probable quantities to be obtained from thence, compared with the probable quantities to be procur'd from Pennsylvania and Springfield may be averaged at about fifty miles which at [strikeout] 2/two shilling and five pence [P] ton for each mile would amount to six thousand, two hundred and fifty pounds Pennsylvania [3] currency.
From these facts being given, Your Excellency will be enabled to form a judgement whether even the present deranged state of our finances will justify so great a deficiency remaining any longer unsupplied should in any means of the Quarter Master General appear inadequate to the transportation, which perhaps can be effected only by an exertion sanctioned by your Excellency the manner of which you can best determine- I shall be happy to assist in any degree to remedy a defect of such magnitude, which if the Enemy should be capable of acting upon would involve great distress if not absolute ruin.
Being on the subject of stores necessary to be furnished, I must address myself to your Excellency on the preservation of those in possession and of what may be obtained. It appears [struck: from] [inserted: by] invariable experience that the bombproofs in the interior, and exterior works of Fort Clinton are improper for the deposit of powder for any length of time. This is the uniform report of all the Artillery officers who have had the immediate charge of the Magazines and confirmed [4] by my own observation. The dampness in those places is inveterate, and cannot be expelled but by a long exposure to the dry[struck: ing] winds, This renders the necessity inevitable, of erecting Stone magazines above ground, in different parts of the Garrison, properly secur'd from danger, or suffering the alternative of having the ammunition entirely ruined. It is necessary to have three of these for the Garrison, each capable of [struck: holding] containing two thousand barrels of powder. and another of equal size for the reception of the fixed Ammunition [struck: of the Cannon and muskets.] Besides [struck: these] [inserted: the Magazines] there are wanting stores for small arms and accoutrements, & the implements & apparatus of the ordnance, and a large laboratory. At present [struck: all these things] [inserted: the Arms musket & Cannon ammunition implements &c] are in great confusion, being huddled together in wretched buildings incapable of resisting the effects of bad weather. This is the reason that more arms and ammunition are annually damaged than, the expence of ample buildings would amount to, [struck: also] & the chance of accidents is greatly multiplied
I am constrained to bring this matter [inserted: to] your Excellencys view. I have not been wanting in my endeavor to have it effected by other means, but my person has been unequal to the object. I sincerely hope that you will examine into the [propriety] of my request, [strikeout] and direct such measures as you may think [struck: proper] necessary.
[inserted in the left margin: I have the honor to be with the
highest esteem and respect, your
Excellency's most obed servt
H Knox.
B. G. Commanding the Artillery.
His Excellency General Washington.]

[docket]
To His Exy Gen. Washington
9 July 1782

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