Reamstown Provides: A Pennsylvania Town’s Contribution to Valley Forge

Engraving of artillery, ammunition and equipment (Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection)

In a cemetery behind the Salem United Church of Christ, in Reamstown, Lancaster County, a boulder stands:

This grinding bowl from East Cocalico
is placed to Commemorate ITS MAKER
THE AMERICAN INDIAN
AND The Boulder, Three other local
figures, who lived abreast of the loftier
Traditions of their time, light and race:

THE SOLDIER of INDEPENDENCE 1775-1783
About 30 of the wounded and sick from
Brandywine Field, cared for in the
Reamstown Barracks, are Buried Here.

THE SOLDIER OF UNION 1861-1865

THE SOLDIER OF WORLD JUSTICE 1917-1919

erected by pierce lesher 1925

This monument was dedicated on October 31, 1925. In 2009 a marker was erected in town which states that Reamstown was a “field hospital for wounded soldiers from the Battle of Brandywine.” Reamstown’s importance to the Continental Army does not really begin until December 1777, and it served not only as a hospital, but perhaps more importantly as a significant depot for military stores.

During the 1777 campaign against the invading British, many churches, meeting houses, barns, and other buildings were used for wounded, and the far more numerous sick American soldiers. Some were used only briefly, as George Washington maneuvered to protect the interior of Pennsylvania, after Philadelphia had been captured. After the Continental Army moved into the Valley Forge encampment on December 19, the hospital and military stores locations began to be stabilized.

Elkanah Watson passed through Reamstown in early October 1777, and recorded “At Reamstown I was placed between two beds, without sheets or pillows. This, as I was told, was a prevailing German custom, but which, as far as my experience goes, tends little to promote either sleep or comfort of a stranger.” He did not mention a hospital. “An exact Return of the Sick and Wounded in the American Army” dated November 24, 1777 lists 300 men at Lancaster, but Reamstown was not listed. [1]

The Lititz Diary records that on December 14 Doctor Samuel Kennedy visited and by order of Washington stated that 250 sick and wounded soldiers would be quartered there. The Brethren’s House “suited his purposes exactly, and ordered that it be immediately vacated for we might expect the first of the sick in four days.” On December 19 several soldiers came and made preparations for about 80 patients who arrived that evening, “mostly from the Jerseys.” These men would have been from hospitals at Burlington and Trenton which had been closed. Fifteen more wagons arrived the next day “so that now all our rooms and halls are filled with them.” Some of the patients were probably from the hospital at Plumstead Meeting House in Bucks County and had been moved to Lititz under the care of Dr. Francis Allison, Jr. Another hundred arrived on December 21, but had to be taken elsewhere. It is likely that they were taken into Reamstown.[2] Ephrata and other locations were also turned into hospitals around this time.

On January 6, 1778, Colonel Israel Angell of the Second Rhode Island Regiment recorded that he visited the sick from General Varnum’s Brigade in the hospitals at “Rheims town.” He “went to visit the hospitals where I found Some of the troops of General Varnoms B.” He had described Adamstown as having “about 100 houses and a Durty nasty place Situated in a hollow. Rheims Town much the same.”[3]

The building or buildings used are not identified in the original records. The hospital was supposed to have been in a building behind the Continental House Hotel that torn down about 1850. The site of the hotel is where the old Odd Fellows Hall stood in 1960. Another secondary source states “it was established in the Continental Hotel building and perhaps the building to the rear which was known locally as the Battalion Building.” The cemetery, which had been established in 1773, received the dead. Pierce Lesher, born in 1853, claimed the headquarters of a local military organization, the Barracks, was the hospital. This was located directly opposite the graveyard and he remembered seeing the crumbling walls of the structure. “The information I have given you was handed down to me by tradition ….”[4]

Dr. Solomon Halling of the Fourth North Carolina Regiment was apparently in charge of the Reamstown operation. He wrote to Jonathan Potts, Director General of Hospitals in the Middle Department, from “Rheim’s Town” on March 6 with “a Report of the Sick with Returns of the Stores and Medicines for the Use of the Hospitals in this Place.” He also sent a “Return of the cloathing, as I did not know but that might be necessary.”[5] Unfortunately those returns have not been located.

A Henry Brendle appears as “Asst: Commissary Hospital at Ephrata & Rheims Town” by March 26. On that date he was debited “To Moses Scott for Cash” £562..10. This money was received from Moses Scott, “Senior Surgeon at Ephrata.” On July 21 he paid himself in full £180..19..2½. Also However, Philip Eppright received a payment “Cash paid him in full” and appears as Assistant Commissary & Steward at Reamstown.[6]

In 1780 Eppright gave a deposition in the Pennsylvania Packet stating he had “paid out considerable sums of his own money in support of the sick … and called several times for his money on Dr. Shippen at Manheim to no purpose ….” Eppright claimed he kept good records but complained of his difficulty in getting paid, which included three trips to Philadelphia and “he expended as much money in looking after his pay before it was discharged as the account came to.”[7]

The recovery rate for patients is not known, but on March 19, Colonel George Gibson, stationed at Lancaster could write to Washington that he was sending on “the men from the hospitals will amot. To 200 @ 250—I have order’d the men fitt for a Camp life to march from Ephrata & Reams Town their numbers will amot. to near 100.”[8]

On April 4, 1778, Washington ordered General Lachlan McIntosh on an inspection tour of the army hospitals and to bring “an exact acct. of the state of each hospital ….” McIntosh’s report listed a total of nineteen men “Dead & deserted” from the Reamstown Hospital from January 21 to March 17, 1778. He also wrote that, “This Hospital was broke up the 17th March last and the Men removed to Ephratat.” He did not record the number of men moved. The Director General reported a total eighty-eight patients at Ephrata on April 1, the number who might have come from Reamstown was not listed.[9]

On February 10, 1778, Reverend James Sproat was appointed Chaplain for the Hospitals in the Middle Department. He soon embarked on a circuit of the hospitals and on April 16, “rode from Reading to “Rheims Town—where I supposed that was an Hospital ….”[10] Obviously not finding one.

An anonymous journal in the National Archives begins January 14, 1778, at Valley Forge. On that day the writer recorded receiving money from Maj. Samuel French, Commissary of Military Stores, and “set out With the spare ammunitoin for Riehms Town.” These men may have been from the Varnum’s and Huntington’s Brigades as on the date those brigades were ordered to provide one sergeant, one corporal, and twelve privates “to parade this Day 1oClock PM at the Commissarys of Ordnance Stores, who will give them proper Directions¾to be provided for a long Tour of Duty).” The trip apparently took until January 19, as the party of sixteen men began to draw provision from Adam Bowre, Commissary at “Rheimstown” that day. A pound of beef, a pound of bread, and just over a gill of whiskey per man.[11]

The guard remained at sixteen throughout the month of January. For February provisions for fourteen or fifteen men were drawn every five days. This guard remained at fifteen throughout March. In April provisions began to be issued by Henry Brendle. They were now being drawn for twenty men, though four carpenters and a waggoner may have been included. On April 5, the first changing of the guard was recorded and provisions were drawn to supply the old guard back to Valley Forge. Provisions for eighteen or nineteen men were drawn throughout May.

Beef, bread, salt and whiskey were the staples. About a pound and a third of bread and beef were issued each day.   Whiskey usually averaged less than 2 gills per man per day. A typical issue on March 23 included 93 3/4 pounds of bread, the same amount of beef, 7 gills of salt, and 80 gills of whiskey. Four pounds of soap were drawn on May 11, the first of only two such entries.

The detachment apparently did more than simply guard. By April 5, rations were being drawn for three carpenters. Repair of “Spair Ammunitin waggons” was paid for on April 13.

A lot of work must have been going on at Reamstown, but we are left with a relatively few accounting notes. On May 6 alone the account show the purchase of ten pounds of thread, a payment for nails for the “waggons” and leather to a saddler to repair the wagons, as well as a payment to a carpenter.

For May 15 John Reams was paid “for Drawing waggons and furnishing Two loads of wood for Exeltrees [sic – axel trees].” Also thirty four dollars was paid to Gunsmith John Shright “for repairing 45 muskets and 1 rifle.”

Large quantities of thread were purchased, ten and one half pounds on April 18 alone. No use for this thread is listed, but it was probably used to tie up musket and cannon cartridges.

The first detailed record of the military stores at Reamstown is dated on February 1, 1778, and includes:

Musket cartridges 68,257 Lt. horsemen’s sword belts 77
Damaged cartridges 13,680 damaged muskets 170
Muskets 331 pouches 65
Bayonets 331 horns 96
Bayonet belts 210 bullet molds 20
Cartridge boxes 133 spears 70
Flints 10,837 linstocks 4
Lbs. slow Match 60 port fire stocks 1
Budge barrels 2 sheep skins 12
pr. drag ropes 15 brushes & pickers 1980
carbine swivels 83 Quarts Sweet Oil 50
gunners belts 25 reams cartridge paper 301
tin cartridge boxes 702 empty 5 1/2 inch shells 50
belts for same 331 reams cannon paper 20
musket cartridges, damaged 13,680

There were also 2,597 fixed cartridges for the artillery. These were primarily for three, four, six, and twelve pounder guns and were round shot, grape shot, and case shot. Charges for five-and-a-half inch howitzer and eight inch mortar were also present. Sponges and rammers, filled paper cartridges, wad hooks and ladles, fixed fuses, and 450 loose solid shot for three and six pounder guns rounded out the stores. By contrast there were no muskets or musket cartridges shown in the stores at Valley Forge.[12]

In March Anthony Butler reported to Washington there were “22 Waggons loaded with spare Ammuniton at Rheimstown which want repairing.” Butler recommended moving them from Reamstown as they could not be repaired there. No response to this suggestion has been found.[13]

By March 1, 1778, some supply levels such as 10,837 flints, 301 reams of musket cartridge paper, 1980 brushes and pickers, and 170 unserviceable muskets remained the same. However musket cartridges were down to 7,932. The others had probably been brought to Valley Forge, as 34,080 are then shown in camp. The number of fixed rounds for the artillery rose to 3,317, although there is a mathematical error in the number of fixed three pounder grape shot, and the correct figure is 3,008. A few additional items such as 74 fifes and tube boxes now appeared in the inventory.[14]

By Samuel French’s report of April 1, the 7932 musket cartridges remained at Reamstown but most of the flints had been taken to Valley Forge. The number of fixed artillery rounds remained the same at 3,317 and the mathematical error had been corrected. Reamstown also stored 702 cartridge boxes, 1980 brushes and pickers, powder horns, and 70 “Spears.”   [15]

April 1778 stores included:

Musket Cartridges 7932 Muskets 41
Pounds of slow match 60 Budge Barrels 2
Drudging boxes 2 Tube boxes 3
Lt Horseman’s Swords & Belts 77 pairs of drag ropes 15
Carbine Swivels 83 Gunners Belts 25
Tin Cartridge Boxes 702 Pouches 65
Belts for ditto 331 Horns 113
Bullet Moulds 20 Spears 70
Lint Stocks 4 Port fire Stock 1
Sheep Skins 12 Brushes & pickers 1980

50 empty 5 ½ Inch Shells

301 reams musket cartridge paper

20 reams cannon cartridge paper

291 three pounder round shot fixed

48 four pounder round shot fixed

277 six pounder round shot fixed

152 twelve pounder round shot fixed

Also grape and case shot, sponges, rammers, loose iron balls

145 case shot for 5 ½ inch howitzer

57 shell fixed   “          “

13 shell fixed for eight inch howitzer.

By May 1, the number of fixed round shot for four and six pounders, and grape shot for three pounders, had been reduced substantially, but there were still 3,037 at Reams Town. Most other supplies remained in the same quantity, however damaged stores such as 170 muskets and 13,680 musket cartridges were gone. Also certain artillery stores such as portfires and slow match were no longer present. The 1,980 brushes and pickers were reduced to none. A total of 22 light ammunition wagons, lacking horses were noted. [16]

In addition to the stores of the Ordnance Department, some items of the Quartermaster’s department were at Reamstown.

Charles Pettit, Assistant Quarter Master General wrote from Valley Forge on May 17, requesting that Deputy Quarter Master John Davis at Carlisle provide horses for “some Ammunition Waggons at Reams Town ….” as the Quarter Master at Lancaster might not be able to provide them immediately, but the number of horses was not mentioned. However, Davis was visiting at Valley Forge and his deputy wrote to Davis on May 24 that he had written to George Ross at Lancaster that “not knowing Where Reams Town Lies I have wrote to Mr. Ross … to Inform me, and What Number of horses he May Want ….”[17]

James Abeel, Deputy Quartermaster General in charge of stores, wrote from Reading to the Quartermaster or Store Keeper at “Reems Town” on May 29. Abeel had heard there were quartermaster stores at Reams Town and wanted a report. And “if you have any Canteens Knap Sacks or Camp Kettles in Store hurry them down to me as soon as possible also all kinds of Sadlery ware such as Saddles & Spare Harness as they are much wanted If you can employ a Number of Coopers to make Canteens pray let me know. [18]

Some stores of interest were there as reported from Reamstown om May 30:

12 Teams 48 Horses
12 Sets of geers compleat 48 Collors
48 Traces 48 Briddles
24 Brichbands 48 Backbands
48 Bellybands 24 Breastchains
12 Tongue-chains 150 Hamestrings
47 Bags 6 Buckets
2 Currycombs 12 Whips
12 Leading lines 12 Feeding troughs[19]

By June 1, some ordnance stores had been reduced again. There were now 2952 fixed rounds for the artillery. But there were no sponges or rammers for the guns, whereas on May 1, there were 45 for three, four, six, and twelve pounders. On the other hand there were now 183 reams of cartridge paper and 867 brushes and pickers where none had been listed the previous month.

Ammunition for three pounder guns alone included: 291 fixed round shot; 439 fixed case shot; 235 fixed grape shot; 90 filled paper cartridges; and 300 loose cannonballs. There were also considerable amounts of ammunition for large artillery pieces and artillery equipment such as gunners’ belts, 223 reams of cartridge papers, drag ropes, budge barrels, linstocks, sponges, and rammers. Ten ammunition wagons were at Reamstown as well bayonet belts, cartridge boxes, swords and belts, bullet molds.[20]

One month later ordnance stores were still at Reamstown but in reduced quantities. Ammunition for three pounder guns alone included: 117 fixed round shot; 122 fixed case shot; 163 fixed grape shot; and 162 loose cannonballs. The total of fixed artillery ammunition dropped from 2,952 on June 1 to 1,288. It is assumed they had been sent to the Army either before it marched from Valley Forge on June 19, or to replace that expended at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28. Other than artillery ammunition and supplies few other items remained there. The 70 spears, 2 budge barrels, 8 drudging boxes, and other items that had been present for months, were about all that remained in addition to the ammunition. [21]

No further references to stores or supplies at Reamstown have been found. It can be assumed that as the British Army had retreated to Philadelphia, all the remaining items had been move to the storehouses there. For the month of June, Henry Brendle Commissary of Issues at Reamstown, issued 622 rations of food. This can mean about 30 men were at Reamstown as guards, teamsters and repair men.[22]

No names have been found of the patients of the Reamstown hospital, and only the names of two guards. On the muster roll of the 8th Connecticut Regiment on June 2, 1778, private Ira Way is listed as on command “Reemstown.” Long afterwards, Private Lewis Hurd from Connecticut remembered that on the last of January 1778, “I went up to Reams town to Gard Aminition … I tarred [sic – tarried] their about 2 Months ….”[23]

There are a few later references to Reamstown. In 1779 “the Quarter Master in Reamstown is Continually Murmering for Forrage that he must be Supplied ….” On May 21, 1779, a captured British officer passed through and commented “Put up in the even at Rheems—a paltry dirty little village and not worth mentioning.” [24]

For a brief time Reamstown, along with Ephrata, Manheim, Lititz, Lancaster, and locations played a significant role in caring for the men of the Continental Army. With Allentown, Carlisle, and Lebanon it held a more significant position as a supply center for military stores. For the period from August 1777 through June 1778, when the Continental Army strove for victory, and then to survive in Pennsylvania, both the Medical and Military Stores departments deserve detailed research.

 

[1] Men and Times of the Revolution: or, Memoirs of Elkanah Watson…., ed. Winslow C. Watson (New York: Dana and Company, 1856), 31; William Shippen Jr., “An Exact Return of the Sick and Wounded in the American Army,” with Shippen to Henry Laurens, November 24, 1777, National Archives, RG 93, M247, reel 102, 178, v20, p 163.

[2] “The Military Hospital at Lititz, 1777-78,” Papers Read Before the Lancaster County Historical Society (Lancaster: The Society, 1919): 7; John W. Jordan, “Continental Hospital Returns, 1777-80,” 23, (1899): 35; John W. Jordan, “The Military Hospitals at Bethlehem and Lititz During the Revolution,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 20, (1896): 154.

[3] Israel Angell Diary, Massachusetts Historical Society. Varnum’s Brigade consisted of the 1st and 2nd Rhode Island, and 4th and 8th Connecticut regiments.

[4] John R. Albright, Historical Sketch of Reamstown, Pennsylvania (Reamstown: n.p., 1951), 6; John R. Albright and Paul S. Lesher, Bicentennial, Reamstown, Pa., 1760-1960 (Adamstown: Enslinger Printing, 1960), 20, 107.

[5] Solomon Halling to Jonathan Potts, March 6, 1778, Heiges, “Letters Relating,” 77.

[6] Eleutherian Mills Historical Library, Wilmington Delaware, Samuel Morris Ledger, Acc. 721, 75.

[7] Heiges, “Letters Relating,” 92-93.

[8] George Gibson to Washington, March 19, 1778, Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, reel 48

[9] Washington to Lachlan McIntosh, April 4, 1778, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., Writings of George Washington, (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), 11:206-208; McIntosh to Washington, “A Report of the Camp Hospitals,” April 27, 1778, National Archives, RG 93, M 246, reel 135, frame 287; William Shippen, Jr., “A General Return of the sick & wounded in the Hospitals of the United States,” Library of Congress, George Washinton Papers, reel 48.

[10] James Sproat Journal, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

[11] National Archives, Anonymous account book, RG 93, M859, reel 65, Document 20469; General Orders, January 14, 1778, National Archives, RG 93, M859, reel 3, vol. 20, f451.

[12] “Return of Military Stores Received and Delivered by Samuel French ….,” February 1, 1778, National Archives, RG 93, M859, reel 68, document 21047.

[13] Anthony Butler to Washington, March 1778, Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, reel 48.

[14] Samuel French, A Return of Ordnance and Military Stores at Camp and Reihm Town….,” March 1, 1778, National Archives, RG 93, M859, reel 68, Document 21009.

[15] Samuel French, A Return of Ordnance and Military Stores…., April 1, 1778, National Archives, RG 93, M859, reel 68, Document 21045.

[16] “A Return of Military Stores received and delivered….,” May 1, 1778, NA, RG 93, M859, reel 68, Document 21007.

[17] Charles Pettit to John Davis, May 15, 1778, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, MG 275, “Records of Pennsylvania Revolutionary War Era, 1771-91,” (Misc Mss.); Captain Samuel Postle[thwait] to John Davis, May 24, 1778, Library of Congress, Peter Force Collection, Ms 17,137, Ser 8D, Item 32, John Davis Papers, Vol. 1, reel 79.

[18] James Abeel to Deputy Quartermaster, or Store Keeper, May 29, 1778, Library of Congress, Peter Force Collection, Ms 17,402, James Abeel Letterbook.

[19] Robert Patton, Deputy Quartermaster General, “An invoice of teams, horse, geers, &c dilivered unto Mr. Archerbald W: Master,” May 30, 1778, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Chaloner & White Mss., Box 6.

[20] “Return of Ordnance & Military Stores Received & Delivered by Samuel French Com. Mily. Stores with the Army from the 1st of May 1778 to 31st Inclusive, and shewing the Balance Remaining on hand 1st June 1778,” June 1, 1778, National Archives, RG 93, M859, reel 68, Document 21008..

[21] “Return of Ordnance & Military Stores Received and Delivered by Samuel French C.M.S. with the Army from 1st. June to the 30th. inclusive….,” July 1, 1778, National Archives, RG 93, M859, reel 68, Document 21046.

[22] “General Return of Provision and Stores Issued … Middle Department for the Month of June 1778,” Charles Stewart Collection, New York State Historicl Association.

[23] Muster Roll, Captain Samuel Sanford’s Company, Eighth Connecticut, National Archives, RG 93, M 246, Roll 24, f303; Lewis Hurd Diary, Valley Forge National Historical Park Archives, acc. 24. This account was written when Hurd was at an “advance age”.

[24] John Johns, Ephrata, to William Bowsman, Lancaster, April 1, 1779, National Archives, RG 93, M 859, reel 122, Document 35069; A E. A. Benians, ed., Journal by Thos: Hughes …. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1947), Hughes was an ensign in the 53rd Regiment of Foot.

 

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