George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Banister, 16 April 1778

From John Banister

York [Pa.] 16th April 1778


In consequence of a letter from Govenour Henry, to the Virginia Delegates, dire[c]ting the Payment of thirty thousand Dollars, as an additional Bounty granted the Soldiers, who have reinlisted, into the Virginia Regiments, I am to inform you that the money shall be paid in any manner, you may please to direct.1

It was with the most painful Sensibility that I perused your last letter on the Subject of the present State of the Army,2 and am equally concerned in reflecting that I do not see effectual Measures taken to ward off the impending Blow.

As to the Establishment,3 I am under no doubt of its being adopted, & put upon a ground of Stability. It’s not having taken effect as yet has been owing to a thin Representation. Virginia the Leader in this great Business, for want of the constituent Number to form a Representation, remains a Cypher, with out Suffrage, at this Momentous Period.4 Did I not fear to intrude upon your Hours of essential business I should some times write to you for my own information on military Subjects; here being the greatest Ignorance in every occurrence of that kind mixt with an inactivity that permits affairs of the greatest magnitude to lie dormant & give place to local Trifles. I have said with freedom in few words what has often occurred since I have been here. I wish I had the Capability to apply an instant Remedy for nothing procrastinated will do. However the military establishment will come out soon. God knows what other Regulations may take place. Virginia’s drafted Men will come on Soon, & I beleive may amount to 1700 instead of 2000 voted, as it is highly probable more men desert of those compelled into Service, than if they had entered voluntarily.5 Col: Harrison’s artillery Regimt are on their march. Would volunteers, provided they can be had, be of Service to your operations? Certain it is they will not come out in such Numbers as some have conjectured, but I believe a considerable Body, perhaps two Battalions may be induced to venture their Persons in this time of danger. I am with the highest Regard & attachment your Excellency’s mo. obedt & mo. hble Servant

John Banister.

the Order on the Pay master if it is to go ’thro his hands will [be] 30 M & 80 dollars the 80 being for a Soldier which I have desired Col. Meade to pay him.6


1At the 2 April meeting of the Virginia council, “The Governor laid before the Board a Letter which he had prepared to the Virginia Delegates in Congress informing them of Mr. Hawkins’s appointment; and desiring that they would pay to his Excellency General Washington or any Person he may please to direct thirty thousand Dollars for the purpose of paying to such Soldiers of the Virginia Regiments as have reinlisted, the twenty Dollars additional bounty allowed them by this State” (Va. State Council Journals description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends , 2:114). The letter, which was read in Congress on 11 April (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 , 10:335), has not been found. For background on the bounty payment, see Patrick Henry to GW, 28 Jan., and note 1, and GW to Henry, 19 Feb., and note 2. Banister also joined with the other Virginia delegate, Francis Lightfoot Lee, in sending GW a further notification on this date: “Govenour Henry having written to us, to pay you thirty thousand Dollars, on account of the State of Virginia, in discharge of the Bounty Money of twenty Dollars to each Soldier of any of the Virginia Regiments, who shall again enlist into the Service; we take this occasion to inform you that the money to that amount shall be paid on demand to your order, in whatever manner you shall appoint, either by order on the Paymaster Genl or in any other way more eligible. On this Subject we wait your determination and are most respectfully Sir Your Excellency’s mo. obedt & mo: hble Servants” (ICHi).

2Banister is referring to GW’s letter to Henry Laurens of 10 April.

3For discussion of the proposed new establishment of the army, see GW to a Continental Congress Camp Committee, 29 Jan., and source note to that document. For the establishment finally passed by Congress on 27 May, see 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 , 11:538–43.

4When the Fifth Virginia Convention reduced the state’s representation in Congress to five delegates on 20 July 1776, its resolution specified that three delegates would “be a sufficient Number to represent this Colony in the said General Congress” (Scribner and Tarter, Revolutionary Virginia description begins William J. Van Schreeven et al., eds. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence. A Documentary Record. 7 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1973–83. description ends , 7:557). Later this day a third delegate, Thomas Adams, was seated, allowing Virginia to register its vote (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 , 10:358).

5For discussion of the Virginia draft law (Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends , 9:337–49), see GW to James Innes, 2 Jan., and note 1 to that document.

6Banister’s letter to Richard Kidder Meade has not been identified. The soldier was Abner Howell, of Dinwiddie County, Va., a private in the 14th Virginia Regiment. Howell remained with the regiment, which was redesignated the 10th Virginia Regiment in September 1778 and combined with the 1st Virginia Regiment in May 1779, at least until the end of 1779.

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