George Washington Papers

General Orders, 31 August 1776

General Orders

Head Quarters, New York, August 31st 1776.

Parole: Harlem.Countersign: Flushing.

Major Livingston, charged with having ordered a negroe to fire on a Soldier of Capt: Newcomb’s Regiment is ordered to be confined and brought to trial: But the General is sorry to see Soldiers, defending their Country, in time of imminent danger, rioting and attempting to do themselves justice.1

The Plunderers of Lord Stirling’s house, are ordered to restore to the Quarter Master General, what they have taken, in failure whereof they will certainly be hanged.2

It is the Generals orders that the remainder of Lutz’s and Kachlein’s Battalions be joined to Hands Battalion; that Major Huys be also under the special command of Col. Hand;3 that then those Battalions, with Shee’s, Col. Magaw’s, Col. Huchinson’s, Col. Atlee’s, Col. Miles, Col. Wards Regiments be brigaded under General Mifflin, and those now here march, as soon as possible, to Kingsbridge.4 The Quarter-Master will supply waggons if to be spared, if not, to apply to Lieut: Achbolt on the North River, Boat Station; or Ensign Allen on the East; who will supply boats.5 A careful officer with a small guard to attend them. Major Lord will supply, from General Walcot’s Brigade, an officer and six men to each boat, to bring boats back, except those that are ordered to stay.

Both officers and soldiers are informed that the Retreat from Long Island was made by the unanimous advice of all the General Officers, not from any doubts of the spirit of the troops, but because they found the troops very much fatigued with hard duty and divided into many detachments, while the enemy had their Main Body on the Island, and capable of receiving assistance from the shipping: In these circumstances it was thought unsafe to transport the whole of an Army on an Island, or to engage them with a part, and therefore unequal numbers; whereas now one whole Army is collected together, without Water intervening, while the enemy can receive little assistance from their ships; their Army is, and must be divided into many bodies, and fatigued with keeping up a communication with their Ships; whereas ours is connected, and can act together: They must affect a landing under so many disadvantages, that if officers and soldiers are vigilant, and alert, to prevent surprise, and add spirit when they approach, there is no doubt of our success.

Ebenezer Gray is appointed Brigade Major to General Parsons.6

The following disposition is made of the several Regiments, so as to form Brigades, under the commanding officers respectively mentioned.

Genl: [Samuel Holden] Parsons: [Jedediah] Huntington, [William] Prescot[t], [Jonathan] Ward, [John] Durkee, [John] Tyler.7

Gen: [Alexander] McDougall: McDougall, [Rudolphus] Ritzema, [William] Smallwood, [Charles] Webb, Artificers.8

Gen: [John Morin] Scott: [John] Lasher, [William] Malcom, [Samuel] Drake, [Cornelius] Humphrey.

Gen: [James] Wadsworth: [Samuel] Chapman,9 [Comfort] Sage, [Samuel] Selden,10 [Fisher] Gay, [Philip Burr] Bradl[e]y.

Comdt [Gold Selleck] Silliman: Silliman, [Jabez] Thompson, [Ichabod] Lewis, [John] Mead, [Benjamin] Hinman.

Gen: [John] Nixon: [James Mitchell] Varnum, [Moses] Little, [Daniel] Hitchcock, Nixon, [John] Bailey.

Gen: [James] Clinton: [John] Glover, [Joseph] Read, [Loammi] Baldwin, [Ebenezer] Learned.11

Gen: [Nathaniel] Heard: [Philip Van] Cortlandt, [Philip] Johnson, [Silas] Newcomb, Freeman [David Forman], [Ephraim] Martin.

Gen: [John] Fellows: [Jonathan] Holman, [Simeon] Cary, [Jonathan] Smith.12

Comdt [William] Douglass: Douglass, [Jonathan] Pettiborne [Pettibone], [John] Cook, [Matthew or Elizur] Talcott, [Samuel] Chapman.13

Comdt [John] Chester: Chester, [George] Pitkin,14 [Jonathan] Baldwin, [Simeon] Strong, [Roger] Newburry [Newberry].

Comdt [Paul Dudley] Serjeant [Sargent]: Serjeant, [Epaphrus] Sheldon,15 [Matthew or Elizur] Talcot.

They are to chuse out capable, active and spirited persons, to act as Brigade Majors, who will be allowed for their service.

The General hopes the several officers, both superior and inferior, will now exert themselves, and gloriously determine to conquer, or die—From the justice of our cause—the situation of the harbour, and the bravery of her sons, America can only expect success—Now is the time for every man to exert himself, and make our Country glorious, or it will become contemptable.

Commanding Officers of regiments, are to take care to have hard Bread and Pork for two days kept by them constantly—The neglect of former orders, in this respect, has occasioned some of the hardships the troops have lately sustained—If there is any delay at the Commissary’s, good officers will compose and quiet their men, and mention it by way of letter to the General.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW; Df, DNA: RG 93. , Orderly Books, vol. 15. Volume 15 contains drafts of the general orders for 31 Aug. to 4 Oct. 1776, parts of which are in Adj. Gen. Joseph Reed’s writing. The first two paragraphs of the draft for this date are in his writing as are the dateline and the words “Parole” and “Countersign.” Reed’s writing in the other drafts is indicated in the source notes to the appropriate general orders.

GW’s reorganization of his army on this date shows the diversity of the forces under his immediate command. They included 25 Continental regiments, 5 state regiments, 23 regiments of militia levies, and 14 Connecticut militia regiments in addition to artificers and artillery. The Continental regiments were distributed among the brigades commanded by Mifflin, Parsons, McDougall, Nixon, James Clinton, and Sargent. Miles’s and Atlee’s Pennsylvania state troops and Andrew Ward’s Connecticut state regiment were assigned to Mifflin’s brigade. Smallwood’s Maryland state regiment was in McDougall’s brigade, and Bradley’s Connecticut state regiment was in Wadsworth’s brigade. Scott’s brigade consisted of four regiments of New York militia levies. Five more regiments of New York levies made up George Clinton’s brigade, which is not mentioned in these general orders. Heard’s brigade was composed of five regiments of New Jersey levies, and Fellows’s brigade contained three regiments of levies from Massachusetts. Three of the six regiments of Connecticut levies were in Wadsworth’s brigade. The commanders of the other three regiments of Connecticut levies—Silliman, Douglas, and Chester—were given commands of temporary brigades, each of which consisted of the commanding officer’s regiment of levies and three or four Connecticut militia regiments. Two other Connecticut militia regiments were joined with Sargent’s 16th Continental Regiment to form Sargent’s brigade. One Connecticut militia regiment may have been in Wadsworth’s brigade (see note 9).

1William Smith Livingston apparently was not convicted of this charge. Silas Newcomb was colonel of a regiment of New Jersey militia levies.

2For the court-martial of the accused plunderers, see General Orders, 5, 11 September. Stirling’s well-furnished mansion, which he had inherited from his parents, stood at the corner of Broad and Beaver streets.

3These Pennsylvania flying camp regiments were understrength before the Battle of Long Island, and during the battle Kachlein’s and Lutz’s regiments lost many men, including the two commanding officers who were captured. Lt. Col. Nicholas Lutz (Lotz; 1740–1807) of Reading, Pa., commanded the Berks County regiment of flying camp troops in the absence of its colonel, Henry Haller. A native of the German Palatinate who had come to Pennsylvania as a youth, Lutz in 1775 was named chairman of the Berks County committee of observation and lieutenant colonel of the county’s 3d Regiment of associators, and on 2 July 1776 he became lieutenant colonel of the regiment raised for the flying camp. Lutz remained a British prisoner until he was paroled in April 1777. He was exchanged in September 1779 and served from 1780 to the end of the war as commissioner of forage for Berks County.

Major Huys is William Hay (d. 1812) of Londonderry, Pa., who commanded Col. James Cunningham’s Lancaster County regiment of flying camp troops until Cunningham arrived in late September. Hay began his Revolutionary War career in May 1775 as first lieutenant of a company of Londonderry associators who styled themselves the “Liberty Company.” On 8 July 1776 he was elected captain of one of the Lancaster County companies raised for the flying camp (see Bartrem Galbraith to the Lancaster Committee of Observation, that date, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:121). Hay became major of Cunningham’s regiment on 18 Aug. and its lieutenant colonel on 30 August. Although Hay left on furlough on 27 Sept., he returned to the regiment by early November and apparently served to the end of the year. Later in the war Hay became a commissary of forage in the quartermaster department.

4Haslet’s regiment of Delaware Continentals is added to Mifflin’s brigade in the general orders for the following day.

5Edward Archbald, who had been an ensign in Col. John Glover’s Massachusetts regiment during 1775, was a first lieutenant in Glover’s 14th Continental Regiment during 1776, and John Allen was one of the regiment’s ensigns at this time. Archbald subsequently served as a captain lieutenant in Col. John Lamb’s 2d Continental Artillery from 1 Jan. 1777 to 25 June 1781.

6Ebenezer Gray (1743–1795) of Windham, Conn., who had been a second lieutenant in the 3d Connecticut Regiment during 1775, became on 1 Jan. 1776 a first lieutenant and regimental quartermaster in the 20th Continental Regiment. Gray served as Parson’s brigade major apparently until 18 Mar. 1777, when he was appointed major of the 6th Connecticut Regiment (Hinman, Historical Collection description begins Royal R. Hinman, comp. A Historical Collection, from Official Records, Files &c., of the Part Sustained by Connecticut, during the War of the Revolution. Hartford, 1842. description ends , 423). Promoted to lieutenant colonel on 15 Oct. 1778, Gray held his commission until June 1783, transferring to the 4th Connecticut Regiment on 1 Jan. 1781 and the 3d Connecticut Regiment on 1 Jan. 1783.

7Col. Samuel Wyllys’s 22d Continental Regiment is included in Parsons’s brigade in the general return of Continental army at New York for 14 Sept. (DNA: RG 93, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775–83).

8The regiment of artificers was commanded by Col. Jonathan Brewer.

9Samuel Chapman (1722–1803) of Toland, Conn., a veteran of the French and Indian War, was appointed a militia colonel by the Connecticut general assembly in June 1775, and his 22d Regiment was one of the fourteen militia regiments that the council of safety ordered to New York on 11 Aug. 1776 (see Hinman, Historical Collection description begins Don R. Gerlach. Proud Patriot: Philip Schuyler and the War of Independence, 1775–1783. Syracuse, N.Y., 1987. description ends , 184, 378–79). The listing of Chapman’s regiment in both Wadsworth’s and Douglas’s brigades in these general orders indicates some confusion about its assignment. Although Douglas does not include Chapman’s regiment among the ones under his command that he names in a letter to his wife of 7 Sept., the army’s general return for 14 Sept. shows it in his brigade and not in Wadsworth’s brigade (see note 13 and the general return for the Continental army, 14 Sept., DNA: RG 93, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775–83). Chapman’s assignment is reversed in the general return for 21 Sept., where his regiment appears in Wadsworth’s brigade and not in Douglas’s brigade (see the general return for the Continental army, 21 Sept., in DNA: RG 93, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775–83). Chapman’s regiment was discharged from Continental service on 25 Sept. (see GW to Trumbull, 26 Sept.).

10Samuel Selden (1723–1776) of Hadlyme, Conn., colonel of one of the six regiments of Connecticut militia levies, was captured at Kip’s Bay on 15 Sept. and died of a fever on 11 Oct. while a prisoner in New York City.

11James Clinton’s brigade, which was stationed in the Hudson highlands, apparently included five companies of the 2d New York Regiment, which Clinton had commanded before his recent promotion to brigadier general (see General Orders, 12 Aug.). The remainder of the 2d New York Regiment was with Lt. Col. Henry Beekman Livingston in eastern Long Island (see Livingston to GW, 30 Aug.).

12Jonathan Smith (1741–1802) of Lanesborough, Mass., was appointed colonel of the Berkshire County regiment of militia levies on 26 June 1776 and served until their enlistments expired on 1 December. Smith subsequently represented Berkshire in the Massachusetts General Court for several terms, and he was a delegate to the state’s constitutional ratifying convention in 1788.

13William Douglas (Douglass; 1742–1777) of Northford, Conn., colonel of a regiment of Connecticut militia levies previously assigned to Wadsworth’s brigade, wrote his wife on 7 Sept.: “I have three Regt. of Militia in my Brigade, and they give me much Fateague and Trouble on act. of the officers not knowing and Doing their Duty. Cols. Cook, Pettebone & Talcutt are the Comdr. the Sick I Discharge others Desert and the Regt. will Soon be reduc,d to but a Sma[ll] number. there is no Subordination among them, which I fere will Finally ruing the Army. they had much better never come to assist us than Leave us in Such a Scandalous manor. . . . many of them would Sell amarica to git home” (“Douglas Letters” description begins “Letters Written during the Revolutionary War by Colonel William Douglas to His Wife Covering the Period July 19, 1775, to December 5, 1776.” New-York Historical Society, Quarterly Bulletin 12 (1929): 145–54; 13 (1929–30): 37–40, 79–82, 118–22, 157–62; 14 (1930): 38–42. description ends , 13:119–20).

A younger brother of Col. John Douglas, William Douglas served during the French and Indian War as a sergeant in the provincial forces, and after the war he made a fortune as a shipmaster sailing out of New Haven to the West Indies. Commissioned a captain in the 1st Connecticut Regiment in May 1775, Douglas took part in the invasion of Canada that fall, and during the siege of St. Jean he commanded an armed vessel. In November 1775 General Montgomery appointed Douglas commodore of the small American fleet on Lake Champlain, but Schuyler replaced him in May 1776 when it became evident that Douglas would not soon return from an extended furlough (see the Connecticut Journal [New Haven], 22 Nov. 1775, and GW to Schuyler, 24 April 1776, n.1). In May 1776 the Connecticut general assembly named Douglas major of Col. Andrew Ward’s state regiment, and on 14 June it appointed him colonel of one of the six regiments of militia levies ordered to New York. Douglas’s men helped to cover the American retreat to the Brooklyn lines during the Battle of Long Island on 27 Aug., and on 15 Sept. they attempted unsuccessfully to defend positions at Kip’s Bay. Douglas’s levies served through December, participating in the battles of Harlem Heights and White Plains. On 1 Jan. 1777 Douglas became colonel of the 6th Connecticut Regiment. His health soon deteriorated, and he died at Branford, Conn., on 28 May 1777.

Jonathan Pettibone (1710–1776) of Simsbury, Conn., who had been colonel of the 18th Regiment of Connecticut militia since the spring of 1774, marched his men to New York during late August in company with Chapman’s regiment (see Pettibone and Chapman to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 20 Aug. 1776, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:1085). Pettibone died on 26 Sept., the day after GW discharged his regiment (see GW to Trumbull, 26 Sept.). The Connecticut militia at New York at this time included the 6th Regiment commanded by Col. Elizur Talcott (1709–1797) of Glastonbury and the 23d Regiment commanded by Col. Matthew Talcott of Middletown. It is not known which of these regiments was assigned to Douglas’s brigade and which to Sargent’s brigade. For a discussion of the confusion about the assignment of Chapman’s Connecticut militia regiment, see note 9.

14George Pitkin (1729–1806) of East Hartford, Conn., who had served with the Continental army during 1775 as lieutenant colonel of the 4th Connecticut Regiment, was at this time lieutenant colonel of the 19th Regiment of Connecticut militia. Pitkin apparently marched his regiment to New York in late August and returned home a short time later because his health would not permit him to endure camp duty (see Pitkin to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 15 Aug., in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:970). Maj. Nathaniel Terry commanded the regiment in Pitkin’s absence. Continuing ill health obliged Pitkin to resign his militia commission in December (see Pitkin to Trumbull, 16 Dec. 1776, ibid., 3:1250).

15Epaphrus Sheldon (1753–1850) of Torrington, Conn., who was appointed major of the 17th Regiment of Connecticut militia in May 1774, commanded that regiment at New York during August and September 1776 in the absence of Col. Oliver Wolcott and Lt. Col. Ebenezer Norton (see Hinman, Historical Collection description begins Don R. Gerlach. Proud Patriot: Philip Schuyler and the War of Independence, 1775–1783. Syracuse, N.Y., 1987. description ends , 160, and the general returns for the Continental army, 14, 21 Sept., in DNA: RG 93, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775–83). Sheldon became a lieutenant colonel by March 1777, and by January 1778 he was colonel of the 17th Regiment of militia (see Hinman, Historical Collection description begins Don R. Gerlach. Proud Patriot: Philip Schuyler and the War of Independence, 1775–1783. Syracuse, N.Y., 1987. description ends , 303, 427).

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