Letter to George Washington, 1778
Daniel Roberdeau writes to George Washington to ask for help finding lead miners and smelters, and to report that he built a fort. This letter contains the only written description of Fort Roberdeau. It also includes important information about the lead operation, as well as some clues to just how difficult it was to get skilled workers.
Daniel Roberdeau to George Washington, 1778
Found in the George Washington Papers (online), Library of Congress
York, June 4, 1778
Sir - I am ever loath to intrude on your Excellency, as I well know the great embarrassments [?] attending your important sphere do not admit of any unnecessary or fruitless correspondence but I am as sensible of your attention to the most minute circumstance which has a tendency to promote the common cause, therefore permit me to inform your Excellency that the want of smelters of lead is the only [unreadable word] now in the way of supplying your Army in the most speedy and ample manner with that necessary article now transported from distant parts of the Continent from a vein of ore in this State within nine miles of the navigation of a branch of Juniata.
A large quantity of ore is at the pits mouth, a mill for stamping constructed, and a furnace will be finished, I expect within ten days from this time, but Artificers of the above class are so scarce in this young country, that having hoped to obtain them by advertising and from Deserters from the Brittish [sic] Army I am at length constrained reluctantly to trouble you on the Subject. Colonel [Seamonell?] thinks an expedient of sending into Phila. to bring out such, with a promise of a handsome reward. I would most cheerfully give such reward, but know not how to set about so hazardous an enterprise [Note: the British occupy Philadelphia at this time]. My own mind has suggested the probability of such characters being in your own Army, and whether they, only three wanted, can serve their Country equally in the capacity of soldiers. One Edward Harris a Sargeant of the 15th Virginia Regiment has been mentioned to me as a man of sobriety, integrity, and ingenuity in analyzing metals, but does not profess to be compitent [sic] to the business on a large scale he has been spoke to in my behalf by Major Clark and is willing to be enlarged on [two unreadable words] to make a Loyal.
I will not trouble your Excellency by enlarging on these limits. Major Clark will proffer encouragements if you should think proper, to issue your orders for obtaining these useful artificers, without whom the prospect however flattering of a great internal resource of lead must fail.
To prevent the evacuation of the frontier of Bedford County and for the general defence against Indian incursions I have built with logs at the mine in Sinking Spring Valley at the foot of [unreadable name, but not Brush or Bald Eagle] Mountain, a fort, cabbin fashion, 50 yds square with a bastion at each corner. The fort consists of 48 cabbins about twelve feet square exclusive of the bastions [emphasis added].
I left Major Rob't Cluggage a discreet officer in Command with about seventy men chiefly militia, with a few Continental Troops raised to serve until the 1st Dec. next. I most sincerely congratulate your Excellency on the happy prospect of publick [unreadable word] and am with unfeigned regards,
Your Excellency, Most Obedient & Very Hum. Servt.