James Madison Papers

Lewis Nicola to Virginia Delegates, 22 June 1781

Lewis Nicola to Virginia Delegates

RC (NA: PCC, No. 163, fols. 223–25). The letter is addressed “To the Honle. Delegates for the State of Virginia” and is docketed, “Nicola respecting Capt Cooper to the Delegates of Virginia   June 22d 1781.”

Barracks1 22d. June 1781


The liberty I take will, I am persuaded, be pardoned when you find the opportunity it gives you of exercising your humanity in favour of a very worthy & deserving officer reduced to great distress by means [of] an unfortunate wound by which he not only lost a limb but has been disabled from applying for & obtaining those means of subsistance the Honle. Congress have provided for him, & also such gratuities your State have granted to your line.

Capt. Cooper, who addresses the inclosed to you,2 has, as far as I have been informed, always merited the character of a brave & good officer, & I can, from my own knowledge, assure you he is a worthy & valuable man; but is now in a most dristressed situation, without a farthing of money or means of procuring any & reduced to one coat & that in rags, so much so that a few weeks will put it past hanging on tho no assistance the taylor could give it has been wanting[.] his distress would not have been so great could his brother officers have procured him any assistance but our own difficulties for want of regular pay & often rations have disabled us. The captains wound is so high up his thigh that a very short stump remains & an attempt he made to use a wooden leg has renewed the wound made by the amputation, this disables him from going to Virginia to prosecute his claims, did his finances permit him to3 undertake the journey.

I have the honour to assure you that I am with respect Gentlemen Your most obedt. Servt.

Lewis Nicola Col. Inv.4

1On the northern outskirts of Philadelphia.

2See the memorial immediately following this letter.

3Nicola inadvertently repeated “to.”

4Lewis Nicola (1717–1807), besides being active in public affairs and journalism in Pennsylvania, helped to form the American Philosophical Society. During the Revolution he published several military manuals. Although Nicola is chiefly remembered for his letter of 22 May 1782 inviting Washington to render further service to his country by consenting to be its king (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIV, 272–73, and n. 81), the Pennsylvanian had a creditable war record, including the command of the Invalid Regiment for six years, beginning on 20 June 1777. On that day Congress had provided for a “corps of invalids” comprised of veterans unfit for active duty. They were “to be employed in garrisons, and for guards in cities and other places, where magazines or arsenals, or hospitals are placed; as also to serve as a military school for young gentlemen, previous to their being appointed to marching regiments”; and in recruiting and drilling new levies (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XLVI [1922], 269–70; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VIII, 485). Perhaps Nicola felt the more concern about Captain Leonard Cooper’s need because the Invalid Regiment had been ordered to proceed to West Point “to compose part of the garrison” there (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XX, 637; Pennsylvania Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser., 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 1st ser., IX, 103, 206). Cooper’s severe disability obliged him to remain in Philadelphia, but he was a member of the regiment when it was disbanded in April 1783 (ibid., 1st ser., IX, 254; 2d ser., XI, 286; Colonial Records of Pennsylvania [16 vols.; Harrisburg, 1851–53], XII, 780). See “The Invalid Regiment and Its Colonel,” a chapter in John C. Fitzpatrick, The Spirit of the Revolution: New Light from Some of the Original Sources of American History (Boston, 1924), pp. 179–89.

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