From Richard Peters
War Office [Philadelphia] July 20th 1776
I have it in Direction from the Board of War to request your Excellency would give them your Advice on the enclosed Application from Mr William Goddard whom as well as every Person qualified to fill the several Stations in the Army they would wish to provide for consistent with Regularity & the Good of the Service.1 You will percieve that Mr Goddard applies for a Lieut. Colonelcy which depends on the Removal of several Officers into superior Stations & in his Opinion these removals should be made according to the Precedence of the Officers considered with Relation to the whole Army. Whether Vacancies should be filled colonially or continentally is a Matter which has not yet been settled & about which there are various Opinions; & whether, in the particular Cases pointed out by Mr Goddard, it is expedient to make the Arrangements mentioned in his Letter to the Board, is a Matter which without your Excellency’s Assistance they can form no Judgment. One of the Regts mentioned by Mr Goddard is a Massachussetts Regt, the others are of Connecticut. It has been mention’d to Mr G. that an Objection will arise from the Officers of Parsons’s over whom he is desirous to be placed, that he, not having been in the Army, before, should be immediately created a Lieut. Col:, in Preference to the Officer who would be entitled to the rise. He says in Answer to this that it is perfectly agreable to the Corps that it should be so; but of this you will be so good as to make the necessary Enquiries. He mentions also a Regt of Artificers, the Field Officers of which are not completed to their Number, commanded by Col: Parke. As the Board do not wish to serve Mr Goddard at the risque of creating Uneasiness among the Officers, they have troubled you with the Matter that you may be pleased to give them the proper Information.
It is the Desire of the Board to form a regular List of the Army to avoid Inconveniencies arising from Promotions of Persons not entitled to it from their Rank in the Army & therefore they would be happy if you could spare the Time from your more important Engagements to attend to the requests made in their first Letter to you on the Subject of their Appointment.2 I have the Honour to be your Excellency’s most obedt & most hble Servt
Secy Bd War & Ordnance
1. William Goddard (1740–1817), the Baltimore printer and journalist who in 1774 established the Constitutional post office to replace the royal postal service, complains in his petition to Congress of 21 June, a copy of which was enclosed with this letter, that Postmaster General Franklin refused to reimburse him for his expenses in operating the Constitutional post office, and he asks the delegates for “an Opportunity to Serve his Country in the Army wherever the Scene of Action may be.” He has learned, Goddard says, “that there are three Vacancies, one of which, the Muster Master General’s, being more lucrative, might indemnify him for a part of the Pecuniary Losses already mentioned; but as it is less liable to those personal Dangers, which his natural Disposition impels him to encounter, he would think himself more happy should you honour him with a Commission amongst the Gentlemen who shall be appointed Field Officers, to supply the Consequential Vacancies occasioned by the Alterations expected to happen in two Regiments, which have no Colonel” (DLC:GW).
In a letter to the Board of War of 19 June, a copy of which Peters also enclosed, Goddard writes: “As I presume the Cause of my not being hitherto provided for, arises from a Want of Information how it might be done with Propriety, I beg Leave to lay before you the following Particulars, collected from several Officers of Distinction: At the same Time, permit me to assure your honourable Board, that I do not wish to be gratified at the Hazard of disobliging any worthy Officer; neither, indeed, should I incline to serve in any Corps in which I was not perfectly agreeable.
“In the Army under the immediate Command of His Excellency General Washington, there are two Regiments whose Colonels are removed, viz. the 4th [actually the 3d Continental Regiment], late Learned’s, and the 20th Arnold’s. Lieut. Col. [John] Tyler, of Colonel Parsons’s Regiment is the first Lieut. Col. in Rank in the Lines, and Lieut. Col. Shepherd [William Shepard], of the 4th [actually 3d] Regiment, is the second in Rank. These two Gentlemen served all the last War, and distinguished themselves as brave and gallant Officers, and during the present Struggle for ‘Peace, Liberty and Safety’ have been highly esteemed. It appears, therefore, to be their Right to take the Command of those Regiments. Arnold’s was raised in Connecticut, and Lieut. Col. Tyler would, I am persuaded, be as acceptable to them as any Man out of the Regiment. Lieut. Col. Shepherd, if preferr’d, will command the Regiment he now belongs to. Major Prentis [Samuel Prentiss], of Col. Parsons’s Regiment, is the first Major in Rank in the Lines, and has always approved himself an able Commander. Lieut. Col. [Rufus] Putnam, of Col. Wyllys’s Regiment, is chief Engineer, and does no Duty in Battalion; and as he cannot act in both Capacities, and he is very skillful in that important Profession, the Good of the Country, it is thought, might be better promoted by making an Establishment for Engineers, and confirming Mr Putnam in that Office, with the Rank of Colonel. If this should take Place, and Major Prentis should be preferr’d in Col. Wyllys’s Regiment, there would then be a Vacancy in Col. Parsons’s Regiment, in which, I am assured, there would be no Objection to my Appointment to the Rank of Lieut. Colonel. Capt. [James] Chapman, of the same Regiment, an Officer of real Worth, would then, of course, be appointed to the Rank of Major, he being the eldest Captain in the Regt” (DLC:GW).
Goddard, a native of New London, Conn., who had lived and worked in New York, Providence, and Philadelphia before going to Baltimore in 1773, received no Continental commission. For GW’s disapproval of Goddard’s candidacy, see GW to the Board of War, 29 July.