Wadsworth, Jeremiah

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Wadsworth, Jeremiah

WADSWORTH, JEREMIAH. (1743–1804). Commissary general of the Continental army and congressman. Connecticut. Jeremiah Wadsworth went to sea at the age of 18 to improve his health. He started as a common sailor aboard one of the ships owned by his uncle, Matthew Talbott, rose to the rank of ship captain, and by 1771 was a wealthy man. In April 1775 the General Assembly appointed him as one of nine merchants to serve as commissaries for the Connecticut forces at New York and Boston. Commissary General Joseph Trumbull chose him to serve as commissary for the Eastern Department in 1776, and on 18 June 1777 Congress elected him deputy commissary general of purchases. He resigned this post in August 1777. When Congress re-established the previous system under which Joseph Trumbull had operated, Wadsworth again became commissary general and held this post from April 1778 until he resigned on 4 December 1779. Operating under circumstances that were both extraordinary and unprecedented, Wadsworth earned General George Washington's commendation for managing to keep the Continental army supplied. He also worked well with Nathanael Greene, the army's quartermaster, who became his partner in private mercantile ventures from 1779 to 1785. Wadsworth was commissary for the comte de Rochambeau's army from its arrival at Newport in 1780 until it departed for home in 1782, and in the summer of 1783 he went to Paris to settle accounts. Like Robert Morris, Wadsworth made a substantial personal profit from his public activities. He was a delegate to the Confederation Congress in 1788, and the same year supported ratification of the federal Constitution in the Connecticut state convention. A Federalist member of the first Congress, he supported Alexander Hamilton's scheme for the federal assumption of state debts from the Revolution. He resigned in March 1795. A pioneer in American business, banking, insurance, and cattle breeding, he died at Hartford, Connecticut.

SEE ALSO Trumbull, Joseph.


East, Robert A. Business Enterprise in the American Revolutionary Era. New York: Columbia University Press, 1938.

Risch, Erna. Supplying Washington's Army. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1981.

                              revised by Harold E. Selesky