Clement Biddle Seeks Pennsylvania Maps for the Continental Army
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“…I have now to request a particular favour for the publick service through you. I want for the Q M G’s department at least 30 of the maps from your grandfather Nicholas Scull’s plate of this province …”
Quaker Quartermaster Clement Biddle requests that his cousin send the Revolutionaries accurate maps of Delaware and Pennsylvania while denying them to British forces. [CLEMENT BIDDLE].
Manuscript Letter to Edward Biddle, docketing in C. Biddle’s hand, “Moorhall,” Schuylkill Township, Pa., March 28, 1778. 1 pp. 12 ¼ x 8 ½ in.
Moorhall March 18 1778
I wrote you a few Days ago by my good friend Doctor Craik – I have now to request a particular favour for the publick Service through you. I want for the Q M Gl’s department at least 30 of the maps from your grandfather Nicholas Sculls plate of this province, & desire you to procure them for me & to send them by Express if they are to be had – if not – that you will prevail on your good Mother to suffer the plate to be used & some person to strike of at least 100, the whole to be sent to me by a careful Express who I will pay & a liberal allowance either for the map or the use of the plate, but I beg that no person whatsoever may have any of the maps now on hand or that are struck off, except those sent to me as Genl: Greene Q M Genl:, I beg my Friend & Cousin’s attention to this business, as I have undertaken it & rely on his friendship not only to the cause but his Affectionate
[in another hand:] C B
To Edward Biddle Esqr:
[docket on verso in Biddle’s hand:] Lr to E Biddle Reading / March 28, 1778
Nicholas Scull, Jr., was a preeminent cartographer of the late colonial era and apprenticed under Thomas Holme, Pennsylvania’s first Surveyor General. He later served as Surveyor General himself from 1748 until his death in 1761. As part of the settlement of the Penn-Baltimore dispute, Scull participated in surveying the “Walking Purchase” tract in 1737 and established the southern border of Delaware (then part of Pennsylvania) westward from Cape Henlopen. His daughter, Mary, married William Biddle, Clement’s uncle. Mary Biddle was one of the few female cartographers of the colonial era, with her name appearing on the 1762 Scull and Heap map of Philadelphia. It is not known which maps Clement Biddle sought, or if Edward was able to locate and send them. The most significant Scull publication, however, was his “Map of the Improved Part of the Province of Pennsylvania,” commissioned by Parliament in 1759.
The month of March 1778, was grim for George Washington’s Continental Army, at the time in winter camp at Valley Forge. Critical supply problems were exacerbated by conditions that made wagon travel difficult, and the army was short of shoes, clothing, meat, bread, medicines, and rum. The commissary and quartermaster departments were in transitional states because their leading staff officers had recently resigned. Congress was slow to reorganize, and corruption and ineptitude festered throughout the supply chain. Unscrupulous middlemen charged exorbitant rates, which in turn forced a cash-strapped Congress to reject some contracts for necessary supplied.
Clement Biddle was the Commissary General of Forage for Washington’s army beginning in July 1777. On March 2, 1778, his old patron, Nathanael Greene, accepted appointment as Quartermaster General and became Biddle’s superior. Together, they labored intensively to solve the supply problems plaguing the Continental Army. Biddle drafted resolutions aimed to better organize his department and established a system of magazines in the Mid-Atlantic throughout the spring of 1778. He probably sought Scull’s maps to demarcate the best roads to bring supplies from outlying districts, and to identify the holdings of major landowners, including those who may have been suspected of trading with the British. Scull’s map would also aid in reconnaissance between American and British lines.
Clement Biddle (1740-1814) was a Revolutionary War army officer, born in Philadelphia. In 1775, he raised a company of Philadelphia volunteers known as the “Quaker Blues.” General Nathanael Greene appointed him as aide-de-camp in 1776. He later served as Deputy Quartermaster General for the Pennsylvania and New Jersey militias, Commissary General of Forage (1777-1780), and Quartermaster General for the Pennsylvania Militia (1781-1783). He was a prosperous merchant, shipper, and Pennsylvania entrepreneur. His second cousin, Nicholas Biddle, would later be president of the 2nd Bank of the United States.
“Women as Mapmakers.” http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/awgmd7/women_map.html
Silvio Bedini, “History Corner: The Scull Dynasty of Pennsylvania Surveyors,”
Professional Surveyor 21, 5 (May 2001).
Wayne Bodle, The Valley Forge Winter: Civilians and Soldiers in War. University Park, Pa, 2002.
Erna Risch, “Special Studies: Supplying Washington’s Army.”
Nicholas Scull, “Map of the Improved Part of Pennsylvania,” 1759,