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Commissioners for Fortifications to Colonel Romans



Martelaer' s Rock, November 10, 1775.

SIR: Your considerations on the conspicuous light you have been placed in at this post, your watchfulness for the interests of America, as far as in your power lies, (suppose you mean in the expense that must attend our present works,) with the many et ceteras therein, we beg leave to make the following reply to.

First. As to the erroneous distribution of one hundred and thirty-seven artificers and labourers at the post, when you drew up your considerations — about twenty-eight carpenters


and nineteen masons have come to this post since the 20th October. You arrived here the 10th, and think it would have been your duty to have let the Commissioners know the proportion of labourers wanted to the artificers before the addition of the latter were sent from New-York; and we do not recollect that even then you mentioned it. It has been latterly your complaint, on seeing the season advance, and our uneasiness, that we had no place of any defence finished. To your judgment we submit what quantity of cubical feet of stone a mason properly attended may lay in twelve hours. We confess our ignorance in this calculation; but this we certainly are judges of, viz: if the work is well done, and the artificers keep close to it the proper time of working. The disappointment of one hundred men, expected up soon after we landed here, you are no stranger to. A proper attention should have been paid, in your mind, to the labourers that would necessarily be wanted frequently to unload timber, lime, brick, shingles, and stores.

Secondly. In regard to your promise to build a block-house in six weeks, with six hands and two oxen, you may perform; but remark that your account of the number of carpenters and labourers employed on the one now near finished is certainly much exaggerated, as to the whole time, since the 10th of October. The carpenters not doing the work of it in a workmanlike manner, you was to notice, and to have pointed out the most expeditious method, as we were frequently expostulating with you on the backwardness of our having some place of defence finished. As to oxen being cheaper than labourers to carry the timber from the pier-head up to the height of the rock, where the block-house is erected, may be just; but you know that when we began said block-house, we scarcely had a road up to it from said pier for men; then a cart was proposed, to be drawn by labourers; a road was, with great labour, made for that, and a cart procured. About three weeks ago you proposed the hire of oxen, and three pair to be got directly; one pair was agreed to, and every step in our situation taken to get them. A letter was wrote to the Committee of Fishkill to assist us; a boat and people employed in messages to procure them; three pair of team, or even one, ought to have been provided with forage (none being on this rock) before they were brought to this place to be worked hard amongst rocks. This is not the work of a day, where we are placed. Your calculation of the extra iron, in lieu of treenails, may be just; but you will be pleased to observe, it was a case of absolute necessity, as you had never mentioned any thing of treenails till they were wanted, and then informed us that nothing here was fit for such use; that only locust treenails would answer; these not being to be got, after many applications, up here, the block-house could not be left waiting for them, as our orders from the Provincial Congress, dated the 28th September, were to get at least twelve guns directly mounted for defence; which you was made acquainted with, on your return to this post, and frequently urged to get performed.

Thirdly. Your calculations of the expense of the block-house, now near built, (for this being the 10th of November, it is not yet finished,) we think not exact in many articles. Necessary iron, we believe, you will find to exceed your estimate. All that we have to say further on this head is, that we are of opinion, and told you so, that there was no necessity of making a temporary work have an elegant outside appearance, and the inside to be lined with so much nicety and expense.

You say, with your method of building, and workmen you could find, you could build such a block-house for one hundred and seventy-six Pounds nine Shillings — something less than the half of what, by your estimate, you say the present one will cost. We should be glad to know who, but yourself, constructed, ordered, and particularly directed that building, (except in the case of the iron bolts in lieu of treenails?) Had the timber for it been ordered in pieces of length equal to the sides, instead of pieces of eighteen feet long, unwieldy for men to move and bring up on the rock, we should have had those pieces brought up with more despatch, and not have seen so great a waste of timber — sawed from every piece — lying about the work. No trifling extraordinary expense this.

Fourthly. We are at a loss to conceive what you mean


by, amongst other bad regulations, one, and that grievously against sound policy, has taken place here, respecting some special marks of favour shown by us (suppose that is your meaning) to the country carpenters above the York carpenters. Now, we request you would point out this special mark of favour. Sure we are that the country carpenters have not been so comfortably accommodated as the others, having no fireplace to this day (November 10th) to go to; and, according to your own confession, they are the most faithful workmen. We have always understood that it was both just and sound policy to reward merit; we have rather been deficient in this to those deserving men. If you had heard any unreasonable murmurs from the York carpenters, why was it kept from us? as a proper inquiry might have been made, and, if unjust murmurs, the persons guilty should have been discharged from the service. The rest of this long carpenters' affair we shall leave, thanking you for your advice at the conclusion, which we think would be very impolitick, in these times, to put into execution.

Fifthly. As the oxen are again introduced, with an estimate of the difference of twenty men' s labour and two oxen, with the teamster, one day, in which you make a balance of five Pounds eight Shillings in favour of oxen; but you have forgot that this one teamster cannot put a stick of timber twelve inches by twelve, eighteen feet long, on the carriage by himself, nor put it down when at the place wanted. We have had a pretty good sample this day in the oxen carrying of stone, when six men were employed to put the stone on and support it all the way to where it was thrown off. We are apprehensive your calculations of the cost of hay and corn for two oxen, four months, is below the mark, as we will soon be convinced of. However, on the whole, we join with you in the necessity of having them at this place, and that a vast saving will be made by using such; the reason why they were not procured sooner we have already mentioned.

Sixthly. In regard to the erroneous principle you say our labourers are hired on, you may be very right in, could it have been carried into execution on our first coming here, (if you had then mentioned it;) which is some doubt with us, as the times are.

Seventhly. The superficial view you say you took of the ground, when you first came up here, was a great errour. It should have been minutely examined, to have made a proper estimate of works to be erected here. As to the estimate, you never favoured us with it. We wish you had; it might have been of some service then; it can be of little now, amongst your considerations presented to us. All the necessary tools, wheelbarrows, &c˙, brought to this post, were procured without any direction from you. In your estimate of the expenses of barrack and store, you have forgot glass for the windows, iron, the freight of boards and shingles, unless the freight of the two latter articles are included in your incidental requisites.

Eighthly. As to the article of not being able to do without miners, is a doubt with us. We however submitted to some being employed for taking away a large part of a rock to the northwest of the block-house, although powder was scarce with us, and not sent up for such service, twenty odd weight of which has been already expended. We are satisfied to have two miners employed for the purpose of taking away rocks that cannot be removed without, as soon as we have powder sent up for that service, which we have applied for; but to have four employed to blast stone for the works, we presume would be very expensive indeed, as stone enough can be procured all around us, and brought with the team to the works, when, after a blast is made, the large pieces are to be worked upon by labourers with mauls to make them portable.

Ninthly, On what view you have interfered with the Steward' s office, you best know, in your directions about delivering out the provisions; we know what provisions are received, what number of hands every day to be victualled, and he keeps an account of provisions expended. If it has proceeded from a suspicion that more provisions may be delivered out than necessary, by which an extraordinary expense will arise, we wish you would consider how often we have requested you to send from this post your negro, (which we now insist on,) who is a nuisance, and has caused more dissatisfaction amongst the people than


ever we could learn from any particular favours shown to the country carpenters. Your addition of a clerk for yourself, is an officer we can by no means allow of, and for the above reason, desire, if you retain him, to pay and provide provision for him at your own expense. You cannot have forgot when you recommended Mr˙ Pandome to Messrs˙ Bayard, Bedlow, and Hanson, that he was to assist you in your writing.

Tenthly. As to the number of unwelcome guests we so frequently have had, you know it has never met with our approbation; and have frequently informed the Provincial Congress of the impropriety of suffering it.

Lastly. As to your entreaty to make the necessary alterations you have recommended in your conclusion, we think the above a sufficient reply; and could any alteration, in this advanced season of the year, take place, to advance the fortifications, no persons would more gladly embrace them to further the publick service we are engaged in, as we think ourselves as much interested to do it, in the rank the honourable Provincial Congress of this Province have placed us in, as possibly you can be. We know the powers we are invested with, and will be glad to see you not interrupt them, by assuming sole director in every thing here. Upon the whole, we assure you, Sir, we have no other desire than to treat you as a gentleman who has an important trust committed (with us) to your charge. Therefore, to avoid every thing that should interrupt that harmony that ought to subsist amongst persons employed in the cause of American liberty, do desire that, whenever you want to have any piece of work done, we may come together and consult about it, that we may approve or not.

We are, Sir, your very humble servants,


To Bernard Romans, Engineer.