General Washington directs Lt. Col. Grier's new recruits "who have had the small pox to join the army"George Washington Letter Signed. The manuscript is in the hand of Alexander Hamilton. One page, 8" x 12.75", "Headquarters Morris Town", March 12, 1777. Writing from his New Jersey winter quarters, General Washington, fearing that the British Army was on the move, orders one of his regimental colonels, David Grier, to submit a count of his regiment and to inoculate his new recruits against small pox.
With winter over, General Washington became concerned that General William Howe and his superior numbers might attack. Knowing he could not count on his militia, who too easily and often left for home, Washington feared that the size of his army had dwindled to near 4,000. Earlier on March 8, the commander-in-chief had complained in a letter to Brigadier General William Smallwood about the current "weak state of our Army" and the possibility of "a speedy movement being intended by the enemy." Those two circumstances made it "necessary that I should use every resource to Augment our numbers." So with a sense of urgency, the general set about to raise new recruits of regulars and to gather swift and accurate intelligence about the regiment sizes. In a letter to Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons dated March 12, Washington details the importance for this information: "It is so absolutely necessary that I should know the true State of things, and what is really doing towards the important purpose of raising a Continental Army, that I cannot content myself with trusting to Vague reports and delusive Appearances. I am determined to have accurate Accounts of the progress of the recruiting Service from every quarter, that I may know what I have to depend upon and what expectations I may reasonably form. To this end, I am writing Circular Letters to all the Colonels of every State."
Washington thus ordered all colonels who had been recruiting (about forty in all) to prepare their recruits to join the Continental Army. Those recruits who had already contracted, or been inoculated against, small pox were ordered to immediately report to the army. Those who had were to be sent to special hospitals in Philadelphia for inoculations. Meanwhile, special officers were to remain in the field recruiting - a task which was very important and not to be hindered. Thus, Alexander Hamilton, one of Washington's aides-de-camp, wrote this letter to Lt. Col. Grier, the commanding officer of the Seventh Pennsylvania Regiment:
"Sir: You are hereby required immediately to send me an exact return of your regiment, and to find all your recruits, who have had the small pox to join the army. Those, who have not, are to be sent to Philadelphia, and put under the direction of the commanding officer there, who will have them inoculated. You are to leave a sufficient number of proper officers to carry on the recruiting service, who are to bring up their men as soon as they are ready. No pleas, of delay, on account of the dispersion of the officers can be admitted, as every commanding officer ought to know where his inferior officers are; and they what recruits they have, and where they are to be found.
"You are to remain at Philadelphia, to procure arms, clothing &c, and send on your Major to Camp, to receive your detachments. Your Lieut. Colonel is also to come on, as soon as circumstances will permit.
"I am Sir
Your most humble servant
[signed] Go: Washington."
Washington continued to watch for Howe's next move, which didn't come until the Philadelphia Campaign in September and October of 1777. That campaign included two major battles (at Brandywine and Germantown) and resulted in the American loss of Philadelphia. When he wrote this letter, Alexander Hamilton had been an aide-de-camp to Washington for only eleven days. Washington, whose own education was limited, chose as his aides educated men like Hamilton who knew the rules of grammar and had excellent penmanship. Hamilton, who served Washington for four years, eventually became one of his most trusted aides.
Hamilton wrote the address panel to, "The Colonel or Commanding Officer of the Seventh Pennsylvania Regt. (Lt. Col. [David] Grier)." The letter has been tightly trimmed along the right edge, causing the loss of a few letters. It has been lined on the verso with Japanese tissue paper, with professional restoration along certain folds. Minor paper loss affects several words, but the text is intact and legible. Paper has toned. Mat-burn around the body of the letter. Washington's signature remains large and clear. Matted and framed to an overall size of 21.25" x 17.75".
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