George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Alexander Spotswood, 9 October 1777

From Colonel Alexander Spotswood

October 9th1 1777


My spirits are quite sunk, at the Loss of a Brother that I loved most affectionately2—he poor man has left behind a young Widdow & three small infants; she poor woman will want a Comforter, & the poor Children a father, Both of which they must find in me,3 my tender Feelings for his distrest family, with our having promised each Other in a most Solemn manner, that whenever it pleased god that one of us shoud fall in Battle, the other shoud immediately quit the service—it has proved his unfortunate lott—for which reason I inclose your excellency my Commission. I am with Esteem yr Excellencys most obt St

Alexr Spotswood

ALS, DNA: RG 93, Manuscript File no. 31323.

1On the manuscript the number “9” is written over the number “8.”

2On the manuscript Spotswood first wrote: “in a most affectionate manner.” He then struck out the word “manner” and added “ly” to the end of the word “affectionate,” but he neglected to strike out the words “in a.”

3Colonel Spotswood’s older brother John Spotswood (c.1748–1801), who had been appointed a captain in the 10th Virginia Regiment in November 1776, was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine on 11 Sept. 1777, and then he was wounded again and captured at the Battle of Germantown on 4 October. Although an “Extract of a letter from an officer at camp, dated October 7, 1777,” printed in Dixon and Hunter’s edition of the Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) for 24 Oct. 1777 reported that Captain Spotswood had died of his wounds, Spotswood recovered from them, and he was exchanged in November 1780. John Spotswood had married Sarah (Sally) Rowzee (Rowsie), daughter of John Rowzee of Essex County, Va., in September 1771.

Alexander Spotswood, who was married to GW’s niece Elizabeth Washington, daughter of his half brother Augustine Washington, sought in the summer of 1778 to resume his rank in the Virginia line, but GW refused his request on the grounds that it would disrupt the officer arrangements in the line and cause officers who would be displaced by his return to resign their commissions (see Alexander Spotswood to GW, 16 July 1778, DLC:GW, GW to Richard Henry Lee, 10 Aug. 1778, PPAmP: Correspondence of Henry Richard Lee and Arthur Lee, and GW to Spotswood, 11 Aug. 1778, DLC:GW). In 1781 the Virginia general assembly named Spotswood brigadier general commandant of two state legions that were to be raised for the defense of Virginia. Recruiting went slowly, however, and in 1783 Spotswood’s legions were disbanded without ever having served actively in the field.

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