George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 16 May 1777

To John Hancock

Morris Town May the 16th 1777.


Your Letter of the 15th, I had the Honor to receive last night, at Eleven OClock. The Commission inclosed for Monsieur Armand, I shall deliver him, as soon, as I see him.

Agreable to your request, I will give Commissions to the Brigadiers, and will ascertain their Rank by their Original Commissions, when I obtain them. The inquiry directed, respecting Major Campbell, shall be made and that be done, which shall appear right.1

I fear, it will be hardly possible to satisfie the views & claims of some of the French Gentlemen. The late promotion of Monsr Malmady, though highly Honourable, and such as should be considered fully, if not more than adequate to his pretensions, taken upon any principle, does not come up to his demands. He arrived here Yesterday morning, and has been writing to me upon the subject. From the high marks of distinction, but too readily conferred upon these Men, in many instances, they seem to have lost sight of what is just and reasonable. It would have been happy for us, particularly for me, and for the Gentlemen themselves, if a too easy grant of favors had not induced them to contemn All rank in our Army, under that of first Officers; Nor is it in my power to give commands to every Appointment. I shall inform Monsr Armand, and reconcile him to it in the best manner I can, that there is no vacancy for him at present; and I would beg leave to suggest, that where promotions are made in future, from political and honorary motives, that it will be well for Congress to explain to the Gentlemen that it may be some time before they can be put in actual command. This might prevent their entertaining suspicions of neglect on my part, which the situation of the Army will not allow me to obviate. There is no vacancy for Monsr Malmady of the rank he now holds, unless the merits of Many other Officers, who have served with reputation and much longer here, are to be overlooked to make way for him. Such a measure will neither be practicable—nor prudent to attempt.2

By a Letter from Genl Heard,3 who is at pompton, I am informed, that Cols. Barton & Buskirk with 300 Tory Levies from Bergen, on the morning of the 13th attempted to surprize & cut off, about 70 of his Militia, stationed at pyramus. The Officer, happily, had notice of their design & eluded it, by moving his post. It happened that the Morning was foggy, and the Enemy entering4 at different places,5 their parties engaged. Genl Heard says their loss could not be ascertained, but from the reports of the Inhabitants,6 Ten of their men were killed & carried away at One time & several wounded. I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Obedt servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 19 May (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 , 7:367).

1Richard Campbell (d. 1781), who had become a captain in the 8th Virginia Regiment in February 1776, was appointed acting major of the regiment by Gen. Charles Lee in South Carolina on 10 Aug. 1776, and Congress confirmed that appointment on 21 Jan. 1777 (see ibid., 52). Subsequent complaints by other Virginia officers about the propriety of that action prompted Congress on 13 May to empower GW to investigate and settle all disputes concerning Campbell’s rank, and, if GW found that Campbell’s commission as major “was out of course,” it was to “be rendered null and void” (ibid., 351–52). Although Campbell apparently was denied his promotion in the 8th Virginia Regiment, GW appointed him major of the 13th Virginia Regiment on 29 Sept. 1777 (see General Orders, that date). In February 1778 Campbell became lieutenant colonel of the 13th Virginia Regiment, which seven months later was renumbered as the 9th Virginia Regiment. Named lieutenant colonel of the 4th Virginia Regiment in February 1781, Campbell was wounded at the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill, S.C., in April 1781, and he was killed in action at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, S.C., in September 1781.

2Malmedy remained unemployed until 6 Aug. 1777 when GW wrote Horatio Gates from his headquarters near Germantown, Pa.: “As Col: Malmadi is desirous of serving under you in the northern department, I am to signify to you that he has my permission for that purpose; and I shall be glad he may be employed in the manner, circumstances will best permit” (LS, NHi: Gates Papers). Malmedy joined Gates at Halfmoon, N.Y., on 19 Aug. and served under him until Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga in October. During 1778 Malmedy acted for a short time as quartermaster of General Lee’s division and then became a volunteer on the Rhode Island expedition (see Malmedy to Congress, 1778, DNA:PCC, item 41). From 1779 to 1781 Malmedy served in the southern department where he died apparently of natural causes.

4At this place in the draft, the words “in detachments” are struck out.

5At this place in the draft, the following phrase is struck out: “whilst Capt. Fell with his men fired on the rear of their detachments.”

6The draft reads: “the reports of some of the Inhabitants.”

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