Yesterday I transcribed a letter from the Rev. Samuel West of Dartmouth (New Bedford), who in the fall of 1775 served as a chaplain and code-buster for the Continental Army.
West asked George Washington if he had to return the horse that the general’s secretary, Joseph Reed (shown here), had provided when he needed to return home from Cambridge.
Washington turned that letter over to Reed, who replied on 17 October:
The General received your Letter of the 11th. Inst. [i.e., of this month] and has directed me to answer it. Mr. [Robert] Pierpont was mistaken in his notion of the Loan of the Horse, which we understood was only requested to accommodate you in your Journey home. I was not at Liberty to go farther. We also understood you proposed to return to the Army shortly; the General having given me no farther Direction upon the Subject, I can only say that if your Business should again call you up here, you can make application, if you do not, you can keep the Horse you have, until you hear farther on the Subject from this. But the property of the Horse in the mean Time is not changed.Which I interpret as, “I’m not authorized to say the horse is yours, but you can keep it indefinitely if you please please please don’t write us another letter.”