Philadelphia to Carlisle, Pennsylvania: 1779. Unbound. This two-page letter, datelined Philad’a 15th Feb’y 1779, was sent by Colonel Ephraim Blaine, the Commissary-General for the Middle District of the Continental Army, to Colonel John Davis, the Deputy Quartermaster General for Army’s Western District who was located at Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
In it, he apprises Davis of his difficulties in raising funds and obtaining supplies. He also provides a summarized status of the leaders of the Quartermaster Corps.
“Nothing material has passed since your departure from this city. Genl. Green left it the Second Morning after you. I convey’d him and Colonel Wadsworth fifteen miles, the morning he set out had some little conversation with him about the Western department, but nothing of consequence transpired. Colo. Steel has had his trial and reports here that he is honorably acquitted – shou’d that be the case he will undoubtedly continue in office, have not had it in my power to procure the money from Colo. Pettit, though have call’d upon him sundry times, but, this morning he has given me assurance of it about the latter end of this week, as soon as it comes to my hand shall forward it to you, - Extortion and want of Virtue has taken almost possession of Every Person upon this Continent, the Enormous sums of Public money which is daily expended and the great depreciation of it will if not shortly put stop two end in our ruin.”. Very good. Item #009850
At the time of this letter, General Nathanael Greene, one of the army’s most talented leaders who is most famous for campaign against the British in Georgia and the Carolinas, was serving as the Army’s Quartermaster General.
Colonel Archibald Steel was the Deputy Quartermaster General for the Western District. When District Commanding General’s (Lachlan McIntosh) ill-advised expedition to drive the British from Detroit failed, McIntosh attempted to lay the blame on Steel, charging him with “neglect of duty,” incapacity, delaying the transport of supplies, ignoring his public duty for private concerns, embezzling, repeated disobedience and contempt of orders, and insulting the commanding officers.” Steel was unanimously acquitted at his court-martial, and MacIntosh was reassigned by General Washington. (See General Orders, 21 April 1779, Head-Quarters Middle-Brook and Letter to George Washington from John Jay, 22 February 1779, both online at the National Archives.)
Colonel Pettit was the Deputy Quartermaster General in charge of keeping all of the corps’ financial accounts.
A fine first-hand report regarding the leadership of the Quartermaster Corps in which Blaine is unable to suppress his frustration, anger, and fear for the country's future.