1797: Samuel Hodgdon to John Harris

Samuel Hodgdon was born in Boston on September 3, 1745, but after the Revolution settled in Philadelphia, where he became well known as a public official and business man. During the war he had held various posts. In 1776 he was a Lieutenant in the Marines. In 1777, while occupying the post of Captain of artillery, he was made principal field commissary of military stores, serving in both capacities under Brig. Gen. Henry Knox, who, fourteen years later, was Secretary of War when Hodgdon was appointed Quartermaster General.

Samuel Hodgdon

Samuel Hodgdon

Hodgdon apparently carried out the duties of field commissary satisfactorily, for in 1780, upon the recommendation of the Board of War, the Continental Congress appointed him deputy commissary general, and the next year promoted him to the post of commissary general of military stores. He also served as an assistant to the Quartermaster General, Thomas Pickering.

In the spring of 1783, when it became obvious that the war was finally drawing to a close and that both their departments faced eventual abolishment, Hodgdon and Pickering decided to enter business. On May 10 they formed a partnership as commission merchants under the name of “Pickering and Hodgdon.” Though this lasted only five years, they were associated in various enterprises, including land speculation, over a much longer period. Pickering appears to have had a high regard for Hodgdon’s business ability, for he named him as his agent to settle his Quartermaster General accounts.

Image 15 - Version 2The post of commissary general of military stores was abolished July 20, 1785, and Hodgdon was out of public office, but only temporarily. His old friend. Henry Knox, was named secretary of war and 1788 Hodgdon was back on his old job, though this time under the lesser title of commissary of military stores.

Hodgdon was nominated for the position of Quartermaster General by President Washington and confirmed by the Senate, becoming the first appointed by the president. He also was the first civilian to be named to the post. There had been no Quartermaster General for six years, that position and the Quartermaster Department had been abolished by Congress on July 25, 1785. On March 4, 1791, he became Quartermaster of the army being raised for General St. Clair’s expedition into the Western frontier.”

Image 18

Addressed to John Harris, Public Store Keeper

Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
23 October 1797


Image 15Since my letter to you of the 21st August, Viz: on the 30th of August approved and accepted, fifty barrels of powder and on the 16th October made a further proof and accepted One hundred and forty four Whole Barrels and One hundred and fifty two quarter Barrels of Powder, of the quantity due from Messrs. Wheelen and Miller to the United States under the Purveyor’s Contract for seventy five tons. You will please to credit the above to Wheelen & Miller, and debit the Magazine as usual.

It will be well to ascertain whether the casks contain the weight which are to be credited and debited as above — and also the order they are in. The enclosed ____ the kinds of Powder received as above stated.

I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, — Samuel Hodgson

2 responses to “1797: Samuel Hodgdon to John Harris

  • Rodger Woltjer

    If you have the authority, I am requesting permission to use the portrait of Samuel Hodgdon shown on your site in a manuscript I have written about the Quartermaster Department and more. If a credit is required, please indicate how it should read?

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