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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Horatio Gates to Richard Caswell
Gates, Horatio, 1728-1806
March 28, 1778
Volume 13, Pages 75-77

[From Executive Letter Book.]

War Office, March 28th, 1778.


I do myself the honor to enclose you the Resolve of Congress of the 19th Inst. respecting the Troops destined to reinforce the grand army. Unfortunately after they were passed they lay several days before they were handed to this Board; but they demand the most immediate attention and execution. What gave

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rise to the first was an apprehension that the recruits might be detained in their respective States, 'till they had been inoculated. This the present posture of our affairs absolutely forbids. The campaign will soon be open; and with all the diligence practicable it is to be feared the reinforcements will not arrive in time to enable the commander in chief to take measures the most necessary and advantageous before the enemy get reinforced. Genl Washington has received intelligence that they are embarking Troops at New York, and Rhode Island, destined (it is said) for Philadelphia; and he is to the last degree, anxious to have the reinforcements speedily join him. In the first place, that he may be prepared for defence. In the second place, to take advantage of any favorable circumstance which happen to injure the enemy.

The recommendation to provide cartridge boxes and tin canisters for cartridges, is given because of the almost total want of them, in the public stores, and the impossibility of making a number any degree equal to the demands of the army, in the public manufactories, where the workmen are few, and it is imppossible to increase them, agreeably to the direction of Congress. The Board gives the following description of the tin canisters: They are to be six inches and a half deep or long, three inches and three quarters of an inch broad, (this width receiving the cartridges lengthways, as they lie in a horizontal position) and two inches and seveneighths of an inch thick (this thickness admitting four cartridges to lay side by side) a box of these dimensions in the clear will contain thirty-six cartridges with ounce balls. A wire is so fixed in all the edges at the top and then each side turned down, (outwards) a full half inch, and soldered. The cover is to be a full half inch deep, so that when fixed on the canister, the edges shall come close down to the ledge, formed by the enclosed wire. This cover at one end turns on a hinge an inch and a quarter long, the wire (fixed as above mentioned) being laid naked, that space for the purpose; and a piece of tin is run underneath this wire, doubled together and soldered on the inside of one end of the cover. The soldier carries a canister by a shoulder belt, as he does a cartridge box, and for this reason the canister has fixed to it three loops of tin, each half an inch wide, with the edges turned back, to be smooth and strong, one of them is placed underneath the middle of the

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bottom, and one on each of the narrowest sides, the latter at four inches distant from the bottom to their lower edges. The loops are to be bent down, at each end, and very well soldered, leaving a space to admit a leathern belt, full one inch and a half wide, and nearly an eighth of an inch thick. The corner opens against one part of the belt, which causes it to fall down, after a cartridge is taken out, by which means the rest are secured, from accidental fire. If possible the canisters should be japanned, or painted, to preserve them from rust, and all fixed with belts.

The board are of opinion that these canisters are preferable to cartridge boxes, as they more infallibly secure the cartridges from rain, and their weight is so trifling as to be no burden to the soldier, and seeing leather is so scarce they will be a most excellent substitute for cartridge boxes. I am Sir, with great respect

Your most obedient servant