George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenants William Clark and William Norcross, 19 May 1777

From Lieutenants William Clark and William Norcross

Morristown, 19 May 1777. Ask GW to discharge them from the 3d New Jersey in which they recently had been commissioned second lieutenants after serving the previous campaign as ensigns. “Our Reasons Are, that Gentlemen Are Appointed First Lieuts. Over Us, that have not Born Rank in the Army nor Seen Service, we Therefore Are of Oponion That if That Body [the New Jersey general assembly] did not Think Us Capable of Taking Rank from Those Gentlemen we are by no Means Capable of the Rank we at Present Bear.”


GW’s aide-de-camp John Fitzgerald replied to Clark and Norcross on this date: “Your Remonstrance with your Commissions inclosed have been seen by His Excellency [GW], who orders me to inform you, that he will not receive them, and cannot conceive why you should now resign under pretence of an injury of which you could not be ignorant at the time you accepted them. The General would remind you, that this is the worst time a Young Gentleman could chuse for leaving the Service, as the Campaign must open in a short time, and your reasons, though they may appear satisfactory to yourselves, will not (in all probability) have the same weight with the publick. Your Commissions are therefore sent back to you” (DLC:GW).

William Norcross became an ensign in the 3d New Jersey Regiment in December 1775 and regimental quartermaster in February 1776. William Clark was appointed an ensign in the regiment in March 1776. Both officers were promoted to second lieutenant when the New Jersey regiments were reorganized in November 1776, and sometime after the date of this remonstrance, they both were made first lieutenants. Clark was wounded at the Battle of Germantown on 4 Oct. 1777 and left the army soon afterwards. Norcross served as a first lieutenant in the 3d New Jersey Regiment apparently until September 1780.

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