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Pickering, Timothy (1745-1829) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01875 Author/Creator: Pickering, Timothy (1745-1829) Place Written: Newburgh, New York Type: Manuscript letter signed Date: 31 January 1783 Pagination: 2 p : address : docket ; 32.2 x 20.3 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Quartermaster General Colonel Pickering to Major General Knox. References Knox's letter of 29 January, which was about collecting wood for firewood and bomb proofs at West Point. Says it appears to be impracticable. Knox said that 48 yoke of oxen would be needed for 50 snow days to move the wood. Claims there will not be 50 days of snow left this winter. Goes on to describe other logistical problems, including lack of money and forage for the oxen. Suggests that if hired Masons; and soldiers work in June and forage on the spot and the job could be done for half the cost. "Public service" written on address leaf with no signature.

Full Transcript: New Burgh January 31st: 1783
Today Major Campbell handed me your letter of the 29th instant, relative to that collecting, this winter, timber for bomb proofs in the redoubts back ...of West Point.
However important the work may be, yet it appears to me utterly impracticable.
You state the number of Oxen requisite to effect the business, in 45 or 50 days, to be forty eight yoke; and that it must be accomplished, if at all, while the mountains are covered with snow. - But Snow cannot from this time be expected to continue fifty days; tho' if this were the only difficulty, it might be remedied by increasing the number of teams. - But if the Snow in the mountains must be deep enough "to cover the rocks and other unevenesses," it will be too deep for the oxen to move with even light loads. Paths therefore must be previously trodden to every stick of timber that is to be hauled; unless it can be procured on more practicable ground on the opposite side of the river, brought to West Point, and from thence in one track carried to the several redoubts. - But the ox teams sufficient for this work could not probably be collected at West Point, by the utmost diligence in procuring them, earlier than the tenth of fifteenth of February, nor at all without a certainty to their owners of receiving for their services prompt pay in cash; which I have not to give, nor can venture to promise. All the money delivered me at Philadelphia last December, and more since received is [2] already expended in payment of part of the public debts contracted in 1782, and procuring some recent supplies. Considering the nature of the service now called for, and the great distance (probably forty miles) from whence forage must be brought for the support of these teams, I much doubt if they can be procured at four dollars a day, the owners finding themselves; even if any were adventurous enough to engage [inserted: at] all; for as the labour would be severe, the ground covered with snow, and their cattle totally without shelter, they might well reckon on their destruction in thirty days; but if four dollars a day would procure them, then their [lives] would amount to upwards of four thousand dollars, only for 36 teams of two yoke of oxen each; a number, I suspect, by far too few: - But would not half that money distributed amongst a company of masons and the soldierly next June, when the few teams requisite could subsist by pasturage on the spot, produce bomb proofs at least as substantial and much more durable? Those mountains, tho' destitute of timber, abound in stone.
After making these observations, I need not remark, that I cannot encourage you to expect, for the service in question, the smallest assistance from me.
I have the honour to be
your most obedt. Servant
Tim: Pickering

Major General Knox

Public Service
Major General Knox
Commandant of
West Point

Col. Pickering
31 Jany 1783
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Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryContinental ArmyWest Point (US Military Academy)TransportationMilitary CampMilitary Supplies

Sub Era:

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