Worthy Partner: The Papers of Martha Washington

By Joseph E. Fields; Martha Washington | Go to book overview

To -

Mrs Washington will be glad to know if the cotton for the counter pins was wove and whitend, - how many yards was there of it, how many counter pins will it make - she desired Milly Posey to have the fine peice of linning made white how is Betty has she been spinning all winter - is Charlot done the worke I left for her to do 1

ALS, (Third person) MiU-C.

1.
The letter was found in the papers of Sir Henry Clinton together with letters from General Washington to General Lafayette, John Parke Custis, and Lund Washington. They were all dated May 31, 1781. The 3rd person note was probably intended for Lund Washington. The four letters were intercepted by the British and turned over to Sir Henry Clinton.

From Mrs. Martha Mortier

Mrs Mortier1 presents her Compliments to Mrs Washington has been Informed that some Intercepted Letters mention her being Indisposed 2 and that she finds a difficulty in procuring some Necessary Articles for her recovery. Mrs M: has taken the liberty to send her such as this place affords, by means of a flag of truce, which she had procured for that purpose, 3 & begs leave to offer Mrs W: any other Assistance her situation may require -

New York 15th June 17814

ALS (3rd person) DLC:GW.

1.
Mrs. Martha Mortier was the widow of a paymaster of the British army. It is possible she was a confidante of General Sir Henry Clinton.
2.
Mrs. Washington's illness was mentioned in letters the General wrote to John Parke Custis and Lund Washington, dated New Windsor, May 31, 1781. On the same day a military letter was sent to General Lafayette. Accompanying the three letters was a short note by Mrs. Washington, thought to be intended for Lund Washington, concerning household affairs at Mount Vernon. The four letters were sent by the usual carrier of the mail, but were intercepted by the British, June 3rd. They were promptly turned over to Sir Henry Clinton. ( Fitzpatrick, Writings, 22:142-45; Freeman, George Washington, 5:292). Mrs. Washington's illness began about May 21st, while the General was in conference with General Rochambeau at Wethersfield, Connecticut. ( Fitzpatrick, Writings, 22:142,145). The illness was manifested by abdominal pain, billiousness, and jaundice. Undoubtedly she was suffering from gall-bladder disease, complicated by a stone obstructing the common bile duct. Her illness lasted about five weeks. She was sufficiently improved to enable her to leave New Windsor, on her way to Virginia, June 26th. ( Fitzpatrick, Writings, 22:266.)
3.
The articles sent included: a box of lemons, a box of oranges, four boxes of sweetmeats, one keg of tarmarinds (medicinal seed from tamarindus indica), 200 limes, two dozen capillaire (to prepare a syrup from maiden hair fern), two dozen orgeat (used to prepare a syrup made from barley, almonds, or orange flower water), two dozen pineapples, and two pounds of Hyson tea. ( Fitzpatrick, Writings, 22:250.)
4.
Mrs. Mortier's letter was received at New Windsor on June 21st. The General immediately and emphatically instructed Major General Robert Howe to allow nothing to be landed under the flag of truce; the flag was to depart immediately; no detachment of the flag was to be allowed to set foot on shore; reitererated that nothing should be landed; a billet addressed to Mrs. Mortier be transmitted to her by the flag. ( Fitzpatrick, Writings,

-186-

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