George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Denison, 1 January 1777

From Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Denison

Westmoreland January 1st 1777

Please your Excelency

After Orders came to hand that the two Companies raised here Should march & Join your Excelency: it was Conjectured by many here that your army were much Weak’ned by Reason of the monthly mens Times being up. I was therefore desired by a Number of Respectable Neighbours to Inform your Excelency that if they Should be needed, they Would Turn out two months as a Company of Volunteers (provided I would be their leader) & perhaps in that time the Several Stat’s may have their Companies or Quota’s of the Eighty Eight Battalions full. The Reason they Chuse to be Confined no longer than Two months to the Service is, that they may have it in their power to return in the Spring to Raise provision for their families.

If your Excelency Sees meet to Send for us; Please Inform us how we Shall Draw money for the Subsistance of the Company and an Express shall be Sent after the Same; if it Should not be convenient to Send the money With your Excelencys Orders: By whome Col: Butler will Direct.1

The Two Companies that have marched from hence, have Collected all the Arms that were any way Valuable here & have Caried them away: We Cannot therefore be of any Service, unless Supplied With arms from the Continental Stores during the above Term.2 The form of the Subscription to which the Volunteers Subscribe are as follows Viz.

Annimated by every feeling that Rouses the Hero to Revenge the Cause of Bleeding Innocence & under God Assist in Redeeming our Devouted Country from threatned Slavery: We, the Subscribers would Willingly march from hence to any Quarter his Excelency General Washington Shall Direct; led by Lieut: Col: Nathan Dennison as our Capt. having the Glorious Prize Liberty in Vew, are Willing to bare with patience the fetigues of a Winters Campain: And do hereby promise & engage to Serve as Volunteers Untill the last day of march next, in the American Armie; provided we be Supplied With Arms & Amunition &c. from the Continental Stores during our Service And will hold our Selves in Readiness to march at the Shortest notice: if his Excelency Should need us.

The People wait your Excelency’s Orders With Impatience & none more Impatient than Your Excelenies most Obedient Humble Servt

Nathan Dennison


Nathan Denison (1741–1809) was a leader of the Connecticut settlers living in the Wyoming Valley along the Eastern Branch of the Susquehanna River, an area that until 1782 was claimed by both Pennsylvania and Connecticut. As a prominent supporter of Connecticut’s claim, Denison served on the committee of correspondence for the “town” of Westmoreland, a political entity embracing most of present-day northeastern Pennsylvania that the Connecticut general assembly created in January 1774 to assert its jurisdiction over the region. In October or November 1776 the assembly made Westmoreland “a distinct county” (see Susquehannah Company Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd and Robert J. Taylor, eds. The Susquehannah Company Papers. 11 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., and London, 1930–71. description ends , 5:268–69, 7:23–24). Denison was a justice of the peace from 1774 to 1778, and from 1776 to 1780 he was a member of the Connecticut assembly. Appointed lieutenant colonel of the 24th Regiment of Connecticut militia in May 1775, he was promoted to colonel in May 1777.

1Zebulon Butler (1731–1795), like Denison, was a leader of the Connecticut settlers in the Wyoming Valley. In 1774 Butler became treasurer of the town of Westmoreland and a justice of the peace, and he represented the area in the Connecticut assembly until October 1776. A veteran of the French and Indian War, Butler was appointed colonel of the 24th Regiment of Connecticut militia in May 1775. In January 1777 he became lieutenant colonel of the 3d Connecticut Regiment, and he served in the Hudson highlands until the spring of 1778 when he participated in the Monmouth campaign. Immediately following the Battle of Monmouth, Butler returned home to the Mohawk Valley on leave, and on 3 July 1778 he and Denison commanded a small contingent of Continental soldiers and local militiamen who were routed by a combined Loyalist and Indian force at Forty Fort, Pa., in an unsuccessful effort to protect the valley. Butler subsequently remained in the Mohawk Valley in command of a reinforced garrison until the spring of 1781 when GW ordered him to return to the main army (see GW to Butler, 29 Dec. 1780, 19 April 1781, and Butler to GW, 24 Feb., 8, 10 May 1781, all in DLC:GW). Butler apparently was promoted to colonel of the 2d Connecticut Regiment in September 1778. He remained on duty with the Continental army until the end of the war, becoming colonel of the 4th Connecticut Regiment on 1 Jan. 1781 and colonel of the 1st Connecticut Regiment on 1 Jan. 1783.

2Congress on 23 Aug. 1776 authorized the raising of these two companies on the Continental establishment for the defense of the town of Westmoreland “and parts adjacent” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 5:698–99), but on 12 Dec. Congress ordered the two companies “to march with all possible expedition and join General Washington” (ibid., 6:1024). For Denison’s subsequent demand that the two companies be returned to the Wyoming Valley, see his letter to Roger Sherman and Samuel Huntington, 14 Mar. 1777, in Susquehannah Company Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd and Robert J. Taylor, eds. The Susquehannah Company Papers. 11 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., and London, 1930–71. description ends , 7:33–35.

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