Joseph Trumbull Feeds The Continental Army

Joseph Trumbull Feeds The Continental Army

Joseph Trumbull was Commissary General of Stores and Provisions during the early years of the American Revolutionary War.

Trumbull would go on to the Board of War, assisting in the administration of the Continental Army.

Joseph Trumbull

By 1775, Joseph Trumbull was a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives.

He had followed in his father’s footsteps, both in business and in politics. His father, Jonathan Trumbull Sr, was Governor of the State. In fact, he was the only Royal Governor to side with the rebels (and kept his job throughout the Revolutionary War).

Joseph was radical enough to be chosen as a delegate to the First Continental Congress, though he was unable to travel to Philadelphia for the convention.

Commissary General

When hostilities broke out in Massachusetts, Joseph jumped to action. He went to the city of Boston, then under siege by the Patriots, to help.

Trumbull was appointed as a Commissary by Connecticut and was responsible for feeding and clothing that Colony’s soldiers.

When George Washington arrived two months later to take command of the Continental Army, he was impressed by what Joseph Trumbull had accomplished.

Trumbull was named Commissary General of Stores and Provisions for the Continental Army. Care for the troops’ well being now fell on his shoulders.

Court Martial

By most accounts, Joseph was successful at his task for the first year.

However, Trumbull was accused by several Officers of fraudulent behavior and profiting from his position. The list of signatories to the letter sent to Washington included John Sullivan, John Stark, Enoch Poor and Nathan Hale (yes, that Nathan Hale).

Trumbull was called in front of a Court Martial which was overseen by William Heath and Nathanael Greene.

It was determined that Joseph did nothing wrong and he was exonerated.

A Most Troublesome Office

Unfortunately, the task of feeding and clothing an army was a challenging, thankless job.

Trumbull had a pretty heated debate with Philip Schuyler over commissary appointments in the Northern Department. The issue was only resolved when the Continental Congress stepped in.

Eventually, Joseph had enough.

He resigned as Commissary General, explaining to George Washington, “I cannot undertake to Continue longer in a most troublesome Office, at best but rendered insupportable, by neglect.”

In other words, Trumbull could no longer fight with Continental Generals while receiving little support from Congress.

Board of War

Shortly after Joseph Trumbull resigned as Commissary General, the Continental Congress created the Board of War. This Board was responsible for undertaking administrative duties of the Revolutionary War.

Robert Hanson Harrison, Washington’s Chief of Staff, turned down his appointment despite being uniquely qualified for the position. In his absence, Trumbull was chosen to join the Board.

Joseph Trumbull joined Thomas Mifflin, Timothy Pickering, Richard Peters, and Horatio Gates as the original members of this important committee.

Trumbull served diligently in the position despite a long sickness which gradually slowed him down. Six months later, much to the sadness of his country, Mr. Trumbull succumbed to the disease.

If you would like to lean more about Joseph Trumbull, there is a biography of his father which speaks a great deal about Joseph which can be read for free all over the internet, including here.

While I don’t have much else to recommend on Trumbull, I just finished ‘The Unknown American Revolution’ and really enjoyed it. If you’d like a copy, please consider picking it up from Amazon through our affiliate link below. Amazon doesn’t raise your price, they just give me a small commission for sending you there and it all goes to keeping this website alive.

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