"Employed in carrying cloathing & provisions":
Wagons and Watercraft during the War for Independence - Part II

by John U. Rees

The material in the second part of "Employed in carrying cloathing & provisions ..." has been selected from a manuscript entitled " The uses and conveniences of different kinds of Water Craft': Continental Army River Vessels, 1775-1782." The focus of this larger work is on vessels used to transport troops and supplies on lakes and rivers, as well as those used for river crossings. I am seeking good descriptions, and modern drawings or period illustrations of all the vessels listed. Information on ferry-flats, scows, pettiaugers, shallops, and wherries is particularly wanted.

Research on wagons and carts is also ongoing and additional material on those used during the Revolutionary period, especially in New England and the southern states, is desired.

Part II.
Sloops, "Scows," "Batteaux," and "Pettyaugers"
Continental Army Rivercraft, 1775-1782

A few years ago while researching another subject, I ran across an intriguing letter concerning vessels being gathered to convey men and materiel over the Delaware River in summer 1777. The dramatic crossing of that river by Washington's army prior to the Battle of Trenton in December 1776 was effected in hastily gathered Durham boats (used in the river trade) and ferry-flats; by contrast the 1777 vessels were built for army use and intended to serve as ferries across the Delaware for an extended period.1

Thomas Mifflin, then quartermaster general of the army, wrote from Coryell's Ferry, 8 June 1777:

We have here 3 large Artillery Flats, [and] four Scows, each of which will carry a loaded Wagon with Horses, 4 flat boats, each to carry 80 Men, 13 Boats on Wagons at this place and 5 others on the Way 6 Miles from this Ferry each of which Wagon Boats will carry 40 Men[,] All which will transport 3 p[ieces]. Artillery with Matrosses & Horses, 4 Wagons & Horses, and 1000 Men at a Try.2

The diversity of craft in this one description is significant; all were flat bottomed vessels, but due to variations in size and construction, each type had differing attributes and abilities. While the larger flatboats gathered by Mifflin at the Ferry could not be easily transported overland, many were small enough to accompany the army when mounted on specially-made carriages; such "Boats on Wagons" would be used throughout the war. Carrying capacities also varied; some craft were intended to ferry wheeled vehicles and horses ("Scows" and "Artillery Flats"), others to carry troops ("4 flat boats, each to carry 80 Men"), while a few vessels could transport both.

As I pursued the subject, more information on Continental Army river craft surfaced, so much that it seemed only natural to do an analysis of the vessels used. With this resolution the proverbial can of worms popped open. Even given the limitations of including only boats used on inland waterways the number of different types is a bit daunting, ranging from "Round futtock" boats to pettiaugers, scows to sloops. In addition, many of the vessels in question were common sights on the waterways and of simple construction; because of this, knowledge of them seems to have been taken for granted, making detailed descriptions rare. The watercraft discussed in this abbreviated work have been selected as representative examples of Continental Army logistical support vessels.

The following craft will be included in the expanded study:

Durham boatshallop
flatbottom boatsloop
whaleboat"Round futtock boat"

"Waggon Boat" (actually a bateau transported overland on a special carriage)

"In transporting of stores."
Sailing Vessels

There were several categories of sailing vessels whose main purpose was to carry army stores via inland waterways; in order of precedence they were sloops, schooners, pettiaugers, and shallops. While each type had its own special attributes, standardization was unknown, and government-owned or leased vessels within each category likely had their differences. Because of the pettiauger's versatility, and since the design is virtually unknown today, a look at that craft provides an interesting insight into sail-powered civilian and Continental Army river transport.

At one time pettiaugers were common in rivers and bays from Georgia to the Hudson River, and many points in between. (One notable exception seems to be the Delaware River, where thus far no record has been found of their use.) They were working boats commonly used as ferries or for transporting commodities. The pettiauger's heyday was circa 1780 to 1850, after which the vessel fell out of favor and general use. The name and its many variants (periauga, periauger, pettiagua, pirogue, to name but a few) sometimes referred to a canoe shaped from a hollowed-out log. The vessels used by the Continental Army on the Hudson River were quite different, conforming to the general description of a 1744 observer who related that they were "long flat-bottom'd boats, carrying from 25 to 30 tons. They have a kind of a Forecastle and a Cabbin; but the rest open, and no Deck. They have two masts ... [with] Sails like Schooners. They row generally with two Oars only."3

While regional differences likely existed, most pettiaugers shared certain features. Flat bottoms and "Sails like Schooners" were both mentioned in the 1744 description. Kevin K. Olsen in his excellent article "The Periagua: A Traditional Workboat of the New York/New Jersey Area" enumerates their attributes and discusses variations. Mr. Olsen calls their sail plan a "modified schooner rig;" these rigs were known for their maneuverability and the ease with which a minimal crew could work them. Many pettiauger rigs took this a step further. Without delving into technicalities, suffice it to say that the foremast was angled or "raked" forward, while the midship mainmast was raked back. According to Mr. Olsen "the rig was handy and weatherly ... [providing] improved ... aerodynamics. The absence of a bowsprit was another advantage, especially when the vessel maneuvered in crowded waters."4

The pettiauger's broad beam and flatbottomed hull allowed for a relatively large cargo capacity. The configuration of the deck also effected load size. While the 1744 narrative stated they had a "kind of a Forecastle and a Cabbin; but the rest open, and no Deck," such was not always the case. Kevin Olsen notes some accounts "say that the vessel had a full deck ... others suggest that it was half-decked, and some say that it had no deck. It may or may not have had a cabin. Most likely, deck arrangements differed with builder and intended use." In their role as ferries, some 19th-century pettiaugers may even have been able to carry wheeled vehicles, though it is unlikely any Revolutionary period vessels had that ability. Other features varied as well, some being credited with a "scow-shaped" (blunt ended) hull while others were described as "sharp ended." Perhaps the most unusual features were the "two egg-shaped leeboards [used] for lateral resistance when tacking." As flatbottomed vessels, pettiaugers needed some way to keep them from scudding sideways over the water when sailing or attempting to change direction. This was done by employing the leeboards, one on each side. When tacking the leeboard on the windward side was raised, while the other "spread like a wing into the water, and [served as a] substitute for a keel."5

Continental army pettiaugers' cost and tonnage show them to have been rather substantial vessels. The 1782 "Estimate of the expences of repairing & building the boats" on the Hudson listed "4 pettiaugers, at 500 dollars each exclusive of sails & rigging." A November 1778 "Return of Vessels Employd on Public Service on Hudsons River" contained seven privately-owned pettiaugers with "Tuns Burthen" ranging from a low of 16 to a high of 27, while a 1779 "Return of Vessels ... at Fishkill, West Point &c," included two Continental and nine private pettiaugers; the size of five of those craft ranged from 23 to 27 tons. Kevin Olsen discusses several pettiaugers hailing from the port of New York. In 1815 one pettiauger was recorded as being 25 tons, four years later another weighed in at 32 tons; both were 51 feet long with holds of only 4 1/2 feet in depth. In 1788 a pettiauger ferryboat was noted to be 30 feet long and 5 to 10 tons. Many Continental craft were similar in size to the 19th century pettiaugers. 6

Pettiaugers were used by the Continental army as early as 1776 when General Washington told General Israel Putnam, then commanding at New York City, to "Let the Committee [of Safety] by all Means have the Pettiauger to cruize off the Back of the Island [probably Long Island]." The versatility of these vessels especially suited them to river transport, and their tasks were many and various. In March 1781 D. Niven, captain of engineers, was preparing to "Lay the Chain across the [Hudson] river" at West Point. He noted, "My pettiauger[s] are at West Point on duty," and the other vessels needed were not to be had "till the winds change." When that occurred he would send to "wapims creek for the remainder of the boats intended to tow the Chain across the river. If I shall have men sufficient with the pettiauger to tow the rafts[,] the boats for my use," and others ordered by General Heath " shall go to the Point about monday next." Two months later Timothy Pickering wrote the commander in chief, "I am informed that about 60 barrels of shad come down yesterday from Esopus. As this article of provisions is for an immediate supply, I beg leave to suggest the expediency of bringing down daily all that are caught. Two or three pettiaugers may be employed in the service, and with the wind as it is today, they may run from Esopus to West point in five or six hours; and if the Wind be adverse, they can get down in two tides." General Washington agreed, with the stipulation that care be taken "to give each Cargo as much salt as will secure them against a passage longer than the common calculation." Pickering replied that "I know not who has the Direction of the shad fishery, & if I did have no authority to put the Business in a new train. The Pettiaugers I can order to be got ready to sail at a moments warning and for the security of the fish against the accident you mention ... each boat may ... keep on board a barrel or two of salt."7

Though pettiaugers were used as towboats, fishing vessels, and ferries, their main task was in carrying stores. After being asked by the quartermaster general to transport some salt barrels in July 1781, Dan Carthy found that "there happened not to be any Vessels here" and being reluctant "to Trust so Valuable an article as Salt in Boats that were not good" asked Deputy Quartermaster Hugh Hughes to oblige him with a suitable vessel. After learning that Hughes could not help him, "a Pettiauger about half Laden with flour came down - [Carthy] Stopt her & orderd twenty three Barrels of the Salt on board she could take no more ..." Pickering noted in April 1782, "The pettiaugers are the most useful craft on the river. They will each carry stores equal to seventy or eighty barrels of flour, and are navigated by two hands only ..."8

Late in the war the quartermaster general became an advocate of pettiaugers over other craft in a variety of roles. In a March 1782 letter concerning his "determination what boats, besides batteaux & two gun-boats, will be necessary on the Hudson" he gave his particular reasons for preferring pettiaugers along with an overview of river traffic and the diversity of transport. He began with a comparison to bateaux, the primary craft used for moving both troops and stores: "The common batteaux being built with pine boards, are of course very tender, and altogether unsuitable for the rough services to which those in common use are applied: they require, besides, at least five hands to work them to advantage. These batteaux are chiefly used at West Point." He then suggested that "If two pettiaugers were provided for that station, the service, I think, would be advanced. Four hands would navigate both. Two pettiaugers would bear, in transportation, as many stores as six or eight batteaux. The bottoms of the pettiaugers being flat, & without keels, they will move in very shallow water."9

Pickering then emphasized the versatility of these vessels and the benefits of using them at an important Hudson River crossing point. "At Kings ferry there are heavy flat-bottomed boats only, in common use, which require five hands each, and more in bad weather. For these I would substitute two pettiaugers, which in calm weather may be rowed with nearly as much ease as a flat-bottomed boat; and when at any time, there is a throng at the ferry, the pettiauger may take a flat-boat in tow, and thus carry over two loads at once. By employing ... but few hands, Kings ferry ought nearly to maintain itself, at such times as private people and their property can pass that way in safety." Despite the obvious attributes of pettiaugers for general service, bateaux were still needed, sometimes in large numbers: "Both [at Kings Ferry] and at West Point it will be necessary to keep some batteaux ready for use; either in calm weather, or when extraordinary transportation is required [such as large troop movements]; tho' at Kings ferry the number may be very small."10

The quartermaster general closed with a discussion of financial benefits and gave some clue as to the vessels' eventual fate. "The four pettiaugers ... may cost, together, perhaps sixteen hundred dollars, exclusively of the sails, for which there is duck on hand. Or, admitting they should cost two thousand dollars, - this is a less sum than the pay and subsistence ... of the additional number of watermen that would, without pettiaugers, be necessary to man flat boats and batteaux. Besides, these pettiaugers will last many years, and fetch nearly their first cost when the public have no farther use for them." General Washington responded immediately to Pickering's proposal, stating that "from the reasons you have given, I am induced to believe that the advantage of Pettiaugers over Batteaux and Flat-Bottomed Boats, in certain services will more than counterbalance the difference of expence, and that it would be expedient for them to be made use of in the manner you propose, at West Point and Kings Ferry."11

All in all, Pickering's recommendations nicely illuminate the pettiauger's little-known role in supporting the Continental army and provide a fitting tribute to this versatile workhorse of America's eastern waterways.

"4 Wagons & Horses, and 1000 Men at a Try."
Flat-Bottomed Transport for Soldiers, Supplies, and Vehicles

In 1781 Jean-Francois-Louis, Comte de Clermont-Crevecoeur, a sublieutenant with Rochambeau's French army, noted some of the many ways water obstacles were passed on their southward march to Virginia:

"We crossed the Delaware [River] by ford and ferry. It is not deep here. In summer the average depth is only 2 to 3 feet ..."; the Neshaminy Creek, in Pennsylvania, was also passed by ferry and ford. On 5 September the army "crossed the Schuylkill [River, at Philadelphia] on a fine pontoon bridge that rises and falls with the tides," and then the "Christina River" in Delaware on the 7th, " the troops in boats and the artillery at a ford 3 miles upstream."12

Ferry Boats and River Crossings. Transporting men and materiel across waterways was a complicated affair. General Nathanael Greene issued detailed orders for a crossing at Kings Ferry in August 1780,

The Officer commanding at the place of embarkation will take care that the Troops embark in regular order that the Waggoners are sent on Board the Boats as fast as they arrive or as fast as the Boats are ready to receive them: The horses are to be embarked at the same time that the Waggons are; and to avoid confusion, there must be a proper division of the Boats, one part for the Waggons, one part for the horses, and one part for the Troops. The Troops and horses are not to land at the Wharf. A good strong party is to be posted on the Wharf to run the Waggons on board the Boats. Great care is to be taken that the horses are not injured in putting them on board the Boats. Neither men, horses or Waggons are to be allowed to cross out of the line of march ... unless so ordered by the Commander in Chief. No person is to be permitted to give any directions or orders that is not of the party for embarkation. 13

While scheduling and manpower was important, the expeditious movement of a large force also depended upon the number and kinds of vessels at hand. Various flat-bottomed craft were used to ferry men and supplies over rivers or carry them up or downstream. Some, such as bateaux and Durham boats, merit a separate discussion. These craft, plus pettiaugers, skiffs, wherries, canoes, and more, were all used as ferries at one time or another, but the mainstay of river crossings was the flatboat often capable of carrying both wagon and team. The three vessels examined below, scows, "Flatt Bottom Boats" and ferry flats, were similar enough, and the terminology sufficiently vague, for them to be grouped together. All were blunt-ended, shallow-draft craft; nomenclature seems to have depended in part upon the size of the vessel, but also reflected differences in draft and carrying capacity. While detailed information on these boats is wanting, a "memorandum for building a ferry-flat," undated but probably pre-1750, describes a craft used on the "West Branch of the River Delaware" whose size and construction was probably typical:14

Length, 31 ½ feet. Breadth at the head, 7 feet 6 inches.
Extreme breadth 9 feet. Abaft the head, 7 feet 8 inches.
At the stern by a regular sweep from the extreme breadth, 7 feet 2 inches.
Depth at the highest part of the side 24 inches.
The shear 2 inches, to flare 3 inches.
The sides to be sawed 5 inches thick at the bottom edge, and 3 ½ inches at the top edge.
The head and stern posts 18 inches wide, and 3 inches thick on the front edge, and the bottom planks to rabbit on 5 inches - the bottom plank the whole length, and the cross plank the breadth of the flat; the whole 2 inches thick.

Several crossing operations have come down to us in some detail, giving an idea of the time and effort involved. Quartermaster General Mifflin related in June 1777 that the twenty-nine scows and flatboats then on the Delaware River at Coryell's Ferry could cross "3 p[ieces]. Artillery with Matrosses & Horses, 4 Wagons & Horses, and 1000 Men at a Try." The Hudson River crossing at Kings Ferry, much more formidable than Coryell's on the Delaware, had to be passed quickly by both the American and French armies on their way south to Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781. On 21 August Washington wrote the Comte de Rochambeau, "I have the Pleasure to inform your Excellency that My Troops arrived at the Ferry Yesterday and began to pass the River at 10 oClock in the Morng. and by Sunrise of this Day, they were all compleatly on this Side the River. I hope your Army will be enabled to cross with the same Facility when they arrive." Timothy Pickering noted of the same movement, "the detachments from the American army" reached the ferry on the morning of the 20th, and "the baggage, park, and American troops had crossed by noon of the 21st." Thus, it took at least twenty hours to cross slightly over two thousand American soldiers, with artillery and baggage wagons.15

Four days later the French army began crossing. A sublieutenant in the Soissonnais Regiment wrote, "We camped on the high ground at the edge of the river [below Peekskill, New York] and remained there on 23 and 24 August, the two armies had joined one another here. Meanwhile, we took the artillery and the army wagons across the river on flatboats. This was a long and tedious procedure, since there were very few boats. At this point the river is about two miles wide." Commissary Claude Blanchard echoed this, noting, "This crossing occupied much time, owing to the breadth of the river, which they were obliged to cross in ferry-boats collected in great numbers, but still not enough. " A captain attached to the same regiment noted in his diary for 22 August, "The column began its march to King's Ferry ... The General [Washington] ordered me to bring up all the artillery to the ferry and begin loading it aboard and take it across immediately to the opposite bank... The energy of our soldiers, as well as of the Americans who ran the ferry boats, was such that we crossed the river, which is 2 miles wide here, in eight hours without the slightest accident. This column was composed of wagons, caissons, guns, and horses." The van of Rochambeau's infantry "reached the ferry at noon [23 August] and camped on the bluffs. It started to cross the river immediately and continued until midnight of the 25th, by which time it was all in camp at Haverstraw 2 1/2 miles from the west bank." The entire force of 4,200 men (excluding artillery) took two and a half days to make their crossing.16

The French army, numbering about 5,000, again crossed at Kings Ferry on their return from Virginia in September 1782. On the 15th General Washington called for a "Field officer, two captains, two sub[altern]s, and one hundred and twenty rank and file to be at the [Kings] ferry ... tomorrow morning by sunrise ... to man the boats and assist in crossing the French army." The passage began on the 16th and seems to have taken place over at least two days; on 18 September the commander in chief still required the "flat bottomed boats furnished by the several Brigades to assist in transporting the French army ... to be continued untill further orders." 17

Some further idea of the volume carried by ferry boats is evinced in a list of "Services performed by the Boats & Men to Novemr 25th 1778, at Springfield," Massachusetts. The "convention troops" mentioned below were members of General John Burgoyne's army captured at Saratoga, New York, in October 1777.18

Connecticut River at Springfield, Massachusetts, 1778.

From Novr 1st to 25th314751615
Part of the convention1503,000100
troops Men Women &
Children, &c.

(These craft were also used to haul supplies up and down river, as evidenced by an appended note giving charges for "Boating 16 Team loads Salt up the River 8 Miles," "Boating 106 lbs. Flour 10 Miles," and "14 boat loads [of] Stone.")

Two other documents list "Scows" on the Connecticut River near Hartford in 1779. One was a return of vessels "between Hartford & Enfield fit for Immediate Use," the other a "List of Scows at Weathersfield." Between them they give the civilian owners and dimensions of sixteen scows, noting that "most of the Boats on this River want repairs," and "A Number of [Wethersfield] Boats [are] at Hartford Employ'd at the Ferry. " Two years earlier Lieutenant Samuel Armstrong had charge of the 8th Massachusetts Regiment's baggage train as it moved towards the Hudson River; on 24 July 1777 they "came to the Ferrey, where we waited with the Waggons 'till 10 OClock for a Scow to cross with ..." Since "Scows" were indeed used for ferries it is likely they comprised a large part of those vessels mentioned above in the "Services performed ... at Springfield" in 1778.19

Scows and Flatbottom Boats. Since they were so crucial for military movements, scows and flatbottom boats deserve further examination. While ferry flats were often dedicated for service at a specific site and generally transferred traffic across rivers, scows and flatbottom boats not only crossed men and materiel from one side to another, but commonly traveled up and downstream, too. Construction of these craft was generally similar, but scows and flatbottom boats were larger than ferry flats, had a greater capacity, and were more cumbersome. These two craft also had higher sides, giving them more freeboard when loaded and making them more seaworthy.

Of necessity, flatboats had been used for transport since the war's inception, though it may not have been until 1776 that they were built specifically for army use in any numbers. Some flats were used by Washington's troops on the Hudson River and New York Bay during that summer, and in autumn 1776 the Virginia Navy Board ordered at least thirty large flatboats for carrying men across Chesapeake Bay; built by Caleb Herbert ("one of the best shipbuilders in Virginia"), these "boats had a forty foot keel, fourteen foot beam and were three feet four inches deep 'to Top of the Gunnail [gunwhale], Eight Inches Wash Board.' Each had twenty oars mounted in iron swivels and a small cannon." Some of these vessels were never delivered, and all were sold to reduce costs the following year.20

Again, the problem of nomenclature needs to be discussed. In 1781 several Pennsylvania officers wrote of crossing the Potomac River at " Nowlands Ferry." One called the vessels they used flat‑boats, another "Squows," (a third officer termed them "bad scows"). Some officers seem to have recognized the various names were often interchangeable and made an attempt to distinguish between the various flat-bottomed craft by assigning names to each according to their differing qualities and abilities. Timothy Pickering, quartermaster general of the army from 1781 to 1783, seems to have adhered to a system of terminology, which is echoed, with some few lapses, by other people's correspondence and many boat returns. >Whether or not such a system was widely used it does reflect the military need for specificity. 21

Thomas Mifflin's June 1777 letter may have been an early attempt to make some distinction among the several flat-bottomed craft used by the army. He wrote, "We have here 3 large Artillery Flats, four Scows, each of which will carry a loaded Wagon with Horses, 4 flat boats, each to carry 80 Men, 13 Boats on Wagons at this place and 5 others on the Way 6 Miles from this Ferry each of which Wagon Boats will carry 40 Men ..." Mifflin notes the difference between " Artillery Flats" used to carry cannon and crew (possibly with limber and horses), "flat boats" for transporting troops, and scows which could "carry a loaded Wagon with Horses." Another letter calls the first-mentioned craft "artillary scows," probably because of their large size. (Mifflin's "Wagon Boats" had the same capacity as those built later in 1780 and 1781; those vessels were 25 foot long bateaux, sharp-ended fore and aft.) Later in the year General Nathanael Greene follows the same course, writing from Burlington, New Jersey, in November, "My division arrivd on the other side of the [Delaware] river about ten this morning but the want of scows to get over the Waggons will prevent our marching until the morning."22

Troop carrying capacity was another telling attribute. Mifflin's 1777 letter to Washington mentions "4 flat boats, each to carry 80 Men." By the standards of some late-war documents eighty men was the upper limit for a flatbottom boat's capacity. An August 1779 "Return of Vessels, Boats and Scows in public service at Fishkill, West Point &c" described scows as carrying "100 Men with their Baggage," while "Flatt bottom Boats" could handle fifty men with baggage. An "Estimate of Stores &c for an Army of Twenty five thousand Men" (circa 1782) includes 150 "Flatt Bottom Boats (to contain 75 men each)." The value of the larger vessels was alluded to by General Washington in February 1782 when he requested Timothy Pickering to " keep all the great Scows in constant repair," adding "as they are so convenient for transporting the Army on a sudden emergency, I should be glad to have the number augmented ..."23

General Israel Putnam's mention of "Two large Scows, which are nearly finished" at West Point in February 1778 highlights the fact of size differences between scows and flatbottom boats. The April 1781 "Return of all Public Craft and Boats on Hudson's and the Mohawk River" is particularly useful because it gives dimensions (length, width, and depth) for some vessels as well as the uses they were put to. Two scows were included on the return, one at West Point measuring 50 feet long by 16 feet wide, with a "Depth" of 3 feet"; another at Fishkill Landing was 60 feet long and 13 feet wide. A 1782 estimate of construction costs includes "1 large scow, 50 feet long, & 16 feet wide." As for flatbottom boats, five on the April 1781 document were being used as "ferry boats at Kings Ferry," four of them measuring 34 feet long by 8 feet wide, and another the same length by 10 feet in width. Two others were used for "Cazual purposes" at West Point, each measuring 34 feet long by 8 feet wide, with a depth of 3 feet. This last measurement is interesting; whatever their differences, both scows and flatbottom boats had a three-foot depth.24

The afore-mentioned listings of scows in and around Hartford, Connecticut, also gave vessel dimensions; for the most part the measurements mesh with Continental Army criteria for scows. Thirteen of the civilian-owned scows ranged from 40 feet long by 10 feet wide to 48 feet long by 11 wide. Three other scows were significantly smaller (within the parameters of Continental flatbottom boats); one was 34 feet long by 7 feet wide, another 20 feet long by 4 1/2 wide, and a third 18 feet long and 4 feet wide.25

Using these rough criteria, dimensions can be roughly delineated: scows were 40 feet and over in length, some having a width as narrow as 6 1/2 feet; flatbottom boats ranged from 34 feet and under, the smallest yet documented being 18 feet long and 4 feet wide. Both vessel types had a 3-foot depth, were blunt or square-ended, and could be propelled by either oars or setting poles. The exact design and appearance of these craft is not certainly known.

As attested above, although vessels like pettiaugers may have served to augment flatboats at ferry crossings in ordinary circumstances, scows and flatbottom boats were indispensable for large troop movements. While there remains much to learn about the construction of these simple but effective vessels, the crucial role they played in transporting Continental army soldiers, supplies, and vehicles throughout the eight-year conflict for our country's independence cannot be denied.


Thanks go to the following people for their assistance and advice: Charles Fithian, Don N. Hagist, David Hinkley (Fat Little Pudding Boys Press), Casey Jones (Washington Crossing State Historical Park), Charles LeCount (North Carolina State Museum of History), Terry McNealy, Mark Turdo, Peter Vermilya (Mystic Seaport Museum), Thaddeus Weaver, Marko Zlatich, Dr. David Fowler and the David Library of the American Revolution.


  1. W. Masters to George Washington, 30 May 1777, George Washington Papers, Presidential Papers Microfilm (Washington, D.C., 1961), series 4, reel 42 (hereafter cited as GW Papers).
  2. W. Masters to Washington, 30 May 1777; Thomas Mifflin to Washington, 8 June 1777, ibid., series 4, reel 42.
  3. Kevin K. Olsen, "The Periagua: A Traditional Workboat of the New York/ New Jersey Area," The American Neptune, vol. 54, no. 3 (Summer 1994), 199-204 (hereafter cited as Olsen, "The Periagua: A Traditional Workboat of the New York/New Jersey Area"). Claude V. Jackson III, "The Tool Bag: Periauger, Pettiagua, Petty Puzzler: Kunner, Cooner, Colloquial Conundrum," Tributaries (Journal of the North Carolina Maritime History Council), vol. 2, no. 1 (October 1992), 33; includes a 1736 drawing of a pettiauger on the Savannah River. Howard I. Chapelle, American Small Sailing Craft: Their Design, Development, and Construction (New York, W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1951), 18-19. Richard M. Lederer, Jr., Colonial American English: A Glossary, (Essex, Ct, 1985), periauger, 169 (hereafter cited as Lederer, Colonial American English). The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 1971), 2185 (hereafter cited as OED).
  4. Olsen, "The Periagua: A Traditional Workboat of the New York/New Jersey Area," 200-201. For a general discussion of the schooner rig, see, Howard I. Chapelle, The Search for Speed Under Sail, 1700-1855 (New York, Bonanza Books, 1982), 10-11, 55-59, and Chapelle, The History of American Sailing Ships (New York, Bonanza Books, 1982), 31-32.
  5. Ibid., 199-200, 202.
  6. "An Estimate of the expences of repairing & building the boats necessary for the public service on the Hudson, during the ensuing campaign," 4 March 1782, Numbered Record Books Concerning Military Operations and Service, Pay and Settlement Accounts, and Supplies in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, National Archives Microfilm Publication M853, Record Group 93 (Washington, D.C., 1973), vol. 103, reel 29, 67 (hereafter cited as Nod. Record Books, NA). "A Return of Vessels Employd on Public Service on Hudsons River," November 1778, The Papers of the Continental Congress 1774‑1789, National Archives Microfilm Publications M247, (Washington, DC, 1958), reel 192, vol. I, 137 (hereafter cited as PCC, NA). "Return of Vessels, Boats and Scows in public service at Fishkill, West Point &c," 6 August 1779, ibid., reel 192, vol. 3, 113. Olsen, "The Periagua: A Traditional Workboat of the New York/New Jersey Area," 200.
  7. Washington to Israel Putnam, 22 May 1776, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, vol. 5 (Washington, D.C., 1932), 77, (hereafter cited as Fitzpatrick, WGW). D. Niven to Richard Platt, 30 March 1781, Miscellaneous Numbered Records (The Manuscript File) in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records 1775-1790's (Washington, D.C.: National Archives Microfilm Publication M853, Record Group 93, 1971, reel 82, no. 23814) (hereafter cited as Misc. Nod. Records, NA). Timothy Pickering to Washington, 10 May 1781, ibid., reel 82, no. 23895. Timothy Pickering to unknown, 10 May 1781, Nod. Record Books, NA, vol. 127, reel 26, 1.
  8. "Return of Vessels, Boats and Scows in public service at Fishkill, West Point &c," 6 August 1779, PCC, NA, reel 192, vol. 3, 113; this return listed one "Pettyauger" being used as a ferry at Fishkill Landing. Dan Carthy to Timothy Pickering, 23 July 1781, Misc. Nod. Records, NA, reel 82, no. 23867. Timothy Pickering to Benjamin Lincoln, "An Estimate of Articles to be provided for the main army for the campaign 1782," 23 April 1782, Nod. Record Books, NA, vol. 103, reel 29, 92.
  9. Timothy Pickering to Washington, 3 March 1782, GW Papers, series 4, reel 83.
  10. Ibid..
  11. Ibid.. Washington to Timothy Pickering, 4 March 1782, Fitzpatrick, WGW, vol. 24 (1938), 41-42.
  12. Journal of Jean-Francois-Louis, Comte de Clermont-Crevecoeur (sublieutenant, Soissonnais Regiment), Howard C. Rice and Anne S.K. Brown, eds. and trans., The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783, vol. I (Princeton, N.J. and Providence, R.I., 1972), 45 (hereafter cited as Rice and Brown, The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army).
  13. Nathanael Greene's orders, Verplanks Point, 3 August 1780, Richard K. Showman, ed., The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, vol. VI (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1991), 177 (hereafter cited as Showman, The Papers of General Nathanael Greene).
  14. William C. Reichel, The Crown Inn, Near Bethlehem, Penna., 1745. A History (1872), 60, 62. In 1756 David Nitschmann was given the grant and patent for the ferry at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He was to find a place "for erecting and keeping a ferry ... over the ... West Branch of the Delaware ... for transporting and carrying over the same all persons, wagons, carts and other carriages, horses, cattle, goods, wares, merchandises and things whatsoever ... all other persons on either side of the said branch" were "strictly forbidden" "from taking or carrying over the same within the distance of one mile above or below the said ferry hereby settled and established, for hire, reward or pay ..." Part of Nitschmann's responsibility was in "making wharves and landing-places and providing necessary flats and boats, and the constant attendance necessary thereto ...", ibid., 62-64.
  15. Thomas Mifflin to George Washington, 8 June 1777, GW Papers, series 4, reel 42. Washington to Comte de Rochambeau, 21 August 1781, Instructions to Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 28 August 1781, Fitzpatrick, WGW, vol. 23 (1937), 25, 59. Henry P. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis 1781 (New York, 1881), 87; 88, notes 1 and 2 same page (hereafter cited as Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign). Charles H. Lesser, ed, The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army (Chicago and London, 1976), July/September 1781 returns, 206, 210. The American troops which crossed at Kings Ferry numbered approximately 2,147. Breakdown as follows (all based on September 1781 return except Lamb's Artillery and Sappers and Miners): Light Infantry (Scammell and Hamilton, 384, 265), 1st and 2nd New York (391, 429), Rhode Island Regiment (392), Sappers and Miners (86), Lamb's Artillery (approx. 200). The Jersey troops were already in New Jersey, and Hazen's Regiment crossed at Dobbs Ferry.
  16. Journals of Jean-Francois-Louis and Louis-Alexandre Berthier (captain, attached to the Soissonnais Regiment), Rice and Brown, The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army, vol. I, 40, 255. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign, 89, 116-117. Rochambeau's forces in New York were as follows: artillery, 600; Lauzan's Legion, 600; and four Infantry Regiments (Bourbonnois, Deuxponts, Soissonois, and Saintonge) of 900 men each. Total (exclusive of artillery), 4,200.
  17. Journal of Jean-Francois-Louis, Rice and Brown, The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army, vol. I, 79. General orders, 15, 16, 18 September 1782, Fitzpatrick, WGW, vol. 25 (1938), 159, 169.
  18. William Smith (deputy quartermaster general), "Services performed by the Boats & Men to Novemr 25th 1778, at Springfield, each Month," PCC, NA, reel 192, 249.
  19. [?] Hubbard [deputy quartermaster general], "List of Scows on Connecticut River between Hartford & Enfield fit for Immediate Use," and "List of Scows at Weathersfield, on Connecticut River," 31 August 1779, ibid., reel 192, vol. 3, 107, 109. Joseph Lee Boyle, ed., "From Saratoga to Valley Forge: The Diary of Lt. Samuel Armstrong," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. CXXI, no. 3 (July 1997), 240-241.
  20. General Washington noted in June 1776, "As it is and may be of great Importance, to have a Communication with the Jerseys and Long Island, I have had several Flat Bottom Boats built for the purpose, and have thoughts of getting more for Passaic and Hackensack Rivers where they may be equally Necessary for the Transporting our Army, or part of it occasionally, or succours coming to or going from it." In August he ordered "General Greene to send for ten of the flat bottomed Boats which are to be kept under Guard at Long Island ...," Washington to President of Congress, 16 June 1776, and general orders, 13 August 1776, Fitzpatrick, WGW, vol. 5 (1932), 143, 425. Joseph A. Goldenberg and Marion West Stoer, "The Virginia State Navy," Ernest McNeill Eller, ed., Chesapeake Bay in the American Revolution (Centreville, Md., Tidewater Publishers, 1981), 178.
  21. Scow - "A large flat-bottomed rowed boat ...," Dean King, John B. Hattendorf, and J. Worth Estes, A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion for Patrick O'Brian's Seafaring Tales (New York, N.Y., 1995), 325. "Military Journal of Major Ebenezer Denny", Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, vol. VII (1860), 238. "Journal of Captain John Davis of the Pennsylvania Line", Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 5 (1881), 291. "Journal of Lieut. William McDowell of the First Penn'a. Regiment, in the Southern Campaign. 1781‑1782", John Blair Linn and William H. Egle, Pennsylvania in the War of the Revolution, Battalions and Line 1775‑1783, vol. II (Harrisburg, Pa., 1880), 297. "Diary of the Pennsylvania Line. May 26, 1781 ‑ April 25, 1782", ibid., 677. The foregoing "Diary" includes the journals of both Captain Joseph McClellan and Lieutenant William Feltman.
  22. Thomas Mifflin to George Washington, 8 June 1777, GW Papers, series 4, reel 42.
    Dimensions of a (flat Bottomed Boat or) Batteaux
    Length upon the floor 25
    Width upon the floor Midships 5 6
    Width midships from Gunwhale to height Gunwhale 6 4
    perpendicular height of the sides in board 1 10
    Sharp head & stern

    Such a boat will carry 40 men & has been found by Major Darby the best size to transport on carriages.
    "Dimensions of a (flat Bottomed Boat or) Batteaux," December 1780, Nod. Record Books, NA, vol. 103, reel 29, 92. Nathanael Greene to George Washington. 21 November 1777, Showman, The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, vol II (1980), 202.

  23. Thomas Mifflin to George Washington, 8 June 1777, GW Papers, series 4, reel 42. "Return of Vessels, Boats and Scows in public service at Fishkill, West Point &c," 6 August 1779, PCC, NA, reel 192, vol. 3, 113. "Estimate of Stores &c for an Army of Twenty five thousand Men ..." (1781 or 1782), Nod. Record Books, NA, vol. 103, reel 29, 17. Washington to Timothy Pickering, 21 February 1782, Fitzpatrick, WGW, vol. 24 (1938), 15-16.
  24. Israel Putnam to Washington, 13 February 1778, GW Papers, series 4, reel 47. "Return of all Public Craft and Boats on Hudson's and the Mohawk River," 2 April 1781, ibid., series 4, reel 76. "An Estimate of the expences of repairing & building the boats necessary for the public service on the Hudson, during the ensuing campaign," 4 March 1782, Nod. Record Books, NA, vol. 103, reel 29, 67.
  25. [?] Hubbard, "List of Scows on Connecticut River between Hartford & Enfield fit for Immediate Use," and "List of Scows at Weathersfield, on Connecticut River," 31 August 1779, ibid., reel 192, vol. 3, 107, 109.

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