Autograph letter signed ("El. Gerry"), 8 pages (8 x 6 1/4 in.; 204 x 158 mm), Potsgrove [Pennsylvania], 12 December 1777, to [James Warren in Boston]; formerly folded, a few ink smudges.
Elsie O. and Philip D. Sang Foundation (sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 26 April 1978, part of lot 101)
As Philadelphia was threatened by Howe's force, the Continental Congress left for Lancaster and York on 19 September, and ordered the most important military supplies evacuated to Reading. A column under Cornwallis entered the city on 26 September. Gerry was part of a congressional committee sent to confer with General Washington about the "propriety of a Winter campaign" as the army moved toward winter quarters at Valley Forge. He is writing to his old friend James Warren, in the Provincial Congress at Boston, while enroute back to the Continental Congress at York.
Gerry, responding to his friend's "pleasing Expectation of Intelligence from this quarter, which ye Events that have hitherto taken Place will no Ways justifie" begins by recounting gossip of Commodore John Hazelwood's role in the reduction of Fort Mifflin which defended the Deleware River: "The brave officer Colo Smith who defended Fort Mifflin informs me, that Commodore Hazelwood who commanded the Gallies & was honored wth. a Sword; has since behaved like a Poltroon, & by not opposing his Gallies to the Indiaman that was warpt thro' a Channel, wch being shoal was unguarded by the Chiveaux de Frize, the Fort was attack'd on every quarter, the Works beat down, Guns dismounted, & the Garrison after suffering greatly, were reduced to the Necessity of retiring."
The Congress "were earnestly desirous of an Attack on the City, that by one vigorous Exertion Mr. Howe might meet with the Fate of his brother officer G Burgoyne; and should not have hesitated to have called in Militia from Virginia to Massachusetts Bay for this purpose; but previous to our arrival on the 3d Instant, the General had consulted his Officers & found them averse wth their present Force to an attack on the City or a Winters Campaign, & urgent to retire to Winter Quarters." The Congressional committee planned to meet with these officers and convince them otherwise but the attack on Washington's army by General Howe, the battle at Whitemarsh, which Gerry describes in detail, "rendered this unnecessary."
"Congress are exceedingly dissatisfied with the Loss of Forts Mifflin & Mercer & the Miscarriage of the Rhode Island Expedition & have ordered an Inquiry to be made into the Causes thereof." Gerry goes on to report on the latest Congressional resolutions on price and trade regulations, arguing for federal price controls: "The late Recommendations of Congress, relative to Taxation, Confiscation, & Regulation of Prices &c, if vigorously executed by the Several States, Will probably have the most happy Effects. The Measure Last mentioned, is essential to the Support of the Credit of the Currency. When the necessaries of Life are exceedingly scarce nothing will prevent Extortion, but the Interference of the Legislature; let the Currency be Specie, & the quantity be much less than is requisite for a circulating Medium, And Extortion will still be the consequence, unless the Laws of the State prevent it."
The congressman next turns to a topic of special interest, the army's needs, which were to occupy him as part of a committee appointed to this purpose later that month: "I am informed by General Washington that 3 or 4000 of as fine Troops as any in the Service, are unfit for Duty from the Want of Cloathing, & that Sufficient Supply would enable them to take the Field immediately. The Articles therefore must be taken wherever found, & at reasonable prices, since the Neglect hereof may weaken our Army & infer the most ruinous Consequences." He asks for Warren's opinion on rationing of supplies under price control: "... the Expediency of preventing all persons whatever (excepting publick officers) from purchasing the produce or Manufactures of these States or any Commodities therein imported, more than is necessary for the annual Consumption of themselves & Families, without Licence therefor, & giving Bonds not to exceed the retail prices stipulated by the States."
After sending his compliments to Samuel Adams and friends, his postscript remarks: "The politicks of France wear an extraordinary Appearance, but G Howe must have recd. alarming Intelligence relating thereto, as he has ordered the Heights of Staten Island near the Narrows to be fortified, & the Inhabitants are obliged to work every third day." France would formally enter an alliance in the next month.
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