George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, 18 February 1778

From Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons

Highlands on Hudson’s River [N.Y.]
18th Feby 1778

Dear General

I had the Honor of receiving your’s of the 16th of January, about Eight Days Since at this Place, where I had returnd to take Charge of my Brigade—In the Present State of the Army I shall continue in my Command lest a different Conduct may prove injurious to the Cause of my Country at this critical Conjuncture of Affairs.

However my Inclination may induce me to retire to the Injoyments of domestic Happiness, I cannot think myself warranted to indulge my Wishes at a Time when so many Officers under my Command are desirous of leaving the Toils of War for the Pleasures private Life.

On my return to this Post Genl Putnam Shewed me a Remonstrance Signd by Samuel Drake & James Hunt and preferd to your Excellency. As some Parts thereof particularly respect me, and represent Facts in a most false & injurious Light, I have herewith inclos’d an Answer so far as the Charges respect Me or have fallen within my Observation.1

The 16th Inst. I receivd your Excellency’s Letter of the 8th directed to General Putnam who was gone to New England. The Return requird therein of the Troops in this Department was transmitted to your Excellency before he left this Place. The other Return mentioned, I shall forward to Governor Trumbull as soon as it can possibly be made. Almost every Obstacle with the Circle of Possibility has hapned to retard the Progress of the Obstructions in and Fortifications on the Banks of Hudson’s River. Preparations for compleating them are now in a State which afords a good Prospect of Compleating them in April, and unless some Difficulties yet unforseen should prevent, I think we cannot fail by the forepart of that Month to have them in a good Degree of forwardness.

Nothing on my Part shall be wanting to put them in a State to answer the reasonable Expectations of the Country as early as possible.

I beleive near One half of the Officers of my Brigade have not yet been commissioned; they have serv’d One Year without and are dissatisfied; if your Excellency can forward to this Post blank Commissions, I will fill them up & furnish them to those who have not yet receivd them. I am yr Excellency’s Obedt hl. Servt

Saml H. Parsons

P.S. By a Letter just receivd from Col. Webb who has gone into New York agreable to his Parole, I hear his Officers Prisoners there suffer much for Want of their Commissions. None of that Regiment have yet been Commissiond. I would beg your Excellency’s Direction what Date their Commissions are to have and that Blanks may be forwarded to commission them.2 Yrs ⟨illegible

S. H. Parsons


1The remonstrance of Col. Samuel Drake and James Hunt, which GW sent to Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam on 28 Nov. 1777, has not been identified, but Parsons quoted parts of it in the response that he enclosed in this letter: “B. Genl Parsons’s Answer to the Remonstrance of Col. Drake & James Hunt so far as relates to Genl Parsons’s Conduct or has fallen Under his Observation.

“Art[icle] 3. The Enemy having made frequent Incursions into different Parts of the County of West Chester, which renderd it necessary to remove the Stock before them, which Said Stock has been taken from the Inhabitants by the Army, without taking their Names or any Inventory of what was taken from the Inhabitants by the Army & further exposd to immediate Sale to the great Detriment of the Inhabitants.

“An[swer] Col. Drake & others were appointed by the State of New York Commissioners to remove the Stock from the Shoars of Hudson’s River when the Enemy were expected up the River in Sepr last; which Appointment was notified to & the Trust Accepted by Drake some Weeks before the Loss of Ft Montgomery: but he never attempted to remove a Single Article: and when the Enemy landed precipitately took his Flight over the Mountains where he remaind until after B. Genl Parsons was sent by Genl Putnam, with Orders to remove the Stock &c. from the Shoars out of the Power of the Enemy. This He executed in the best Way he was able, always sending a prudent discreet Officer on this Command with Orders to notify the neighbouring Inhabitants to come in and claim their Property; which was invariably deliverd to them, on their Ingagement to drive the Stock back into the Country; ’twas impossible to take the Names of the Owners as they were not known.

“The Remainder, not claim’d, except such as were taken out of the Possession of the Quarter Master in the Night without his Knowledge (which Genl Parsons has some Reason to think Col. Drake or some of his near Neighbours can Give an Account of, with more Certainty, if not more Satisfactory, than he can) were after being advertised three Days in Genl Orders Sold, by the Quarter Master of the Brigade, at public Auction. The Marks of the Stock, the Places where, the Time when & by whom taken, the Name of the Purchaser & the Sums sold for enterd at large in the Quarter Master’s Books open to the Inspection of every One who desires to be Satisfied.

“Art. 4. And althô requested by Said Commissioners to deliver up Said Property to them, yet Brigr Genl Parsons refus’d to do it saying that he would have his Quarter Master to sell it: and that he (the Quarter Master) should Account with the Quarter Master Genl.

“Ans. This Article is true, with Addition. That Col. Drake said, where the owner did not appear ’twas his Right to Sell the Estate and take the Money.

“1st  As One of the Committee of Sequestration.

“2d  As One of the Commissioners to drive the Stock from the Shores of the River.

“B. Genl Parsons informd Col. Drake that as the Owners of the Stock were not known he (Drake) could have no Right to them as one of the Sequestrators whose Powers were confind to the Estates of those who had fled to the Enemy.

“As One of the Committee to remove the Stock he would be glad he (Drake) would remove the Stock Still remaining, as he certainly would attempt if he was desirous of acquitting himself as a faithful Servant of the Public; And whatever Number of Troops he desird to aid him should be orderd: this he declind. Genl Parsons then informd him, that as he deriv’d no Authority from the Commissioners or the State of New York, so he did not hold himself accountable to them: that he was sent by the commanding Officer of the Post to whom he Should Account. That he must apply to Genl Putnam for a Resolution of all doubtful Questions, especially, where Monies would be diverted into a wrong Channel by intermediate Determinations. That he (Genl Parsons) had no Right to decide whither the United States, the State of New York, the Captors or Commissioners were to be the Receivers of the Monies. that the Entry was made as before mentiond a Copy of which he might take, if he pleasd, but that in his own Opinion the Captors were not intitled to any Share thereof unless the General should think fit to make them some small Donation for their Extra Trouble & Risk for doing the Duty of the Commissioners.

“5. Art. That the Inhabitants now find themselves aggrieved by not being able to replace the Stock by Money &c. which they might have done had the same been deliverd to the Commissioners &c.

“An: This is probably true: but whoever makes out their Claim will doubtless receive their Money of the Quarter Master Genl which as much as ought to be said had Col. Drake or others of the Commissioners receiv’d it” (DLC:GW). For other correspondence referring to the remonstrance, see Putnam to GW, 16 Dec. 1777 and 13 Jan. 1778, GW to Putnam, 27 Dec. 1777, to Parsons, 5 Mar. 1778.

2GW replied on 5 March.

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