George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski, 1 May 1778

To Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski

Head Quarters [Valley Forge] 1st May 1778.1


I am exceedingly concerned to learn that you are acting contrarily both to a positive Resolve of Congress and my express orders, in engaging British prisoners for your Legionary Corps—When Congress refered you to me on the subject of its composition, to facilitate your raising it I gave you leave to enlist one third deserters in the foot, and was induced to do even that from your assuring me that your intention was principally to take Germans, in whom you thought a greater confidence might be placed2—The british Prisoners will chearfully enlist as a ready means of escaping, the continental bounty will be lost and your Corps as far as ever from being complete—I desire therefore that the prisoners may be returned to their confinement and that you will for the future adhere to the restrictions under which I laid you—the horse are to be without exception natives who have ties of property and family connexions—I am sorry It is not in my power to grant your request relative to draughting four men per Regiment for your Corps, as this would be branching ourselves out into different corps without increasing our strength—and men cannot conveniently be spared from the line at present. I am Sir Your most obedt Servt.

Df, in John Laurens’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Laurens originally dated the draft 30 April, then changed it to 1 May.

2Congress resolved on 26 Feb. 1778 against the enlistment of enemy prisoners and deserters, but in another resolve on 30 Mar. pertaining to the raising of Pulaski’s Legion, Congress gave GW “liberty to dispense, in this particular instance, with the resolve of Congress against inlisting deserters” (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 , 10:203, 291). No letters between GW and Pulaski on this subject have been identified, but for more on the issue of enlisting prisoners and deserters, see Thomas Cogswell to GW, 14 Feb., n.1.

GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison wrote Pulaski “or Any officer of his Legion” on 13 June concerning another complaint about the recruitment of his corps: “His Excellency Having been informed by General Smallwood that some of the Officers in your Legion have inlisted several men out of the Drafts and recruits belonging to Maryland, It is his order, that every man so inlisted be immediately returned & delivered to General Smallwood or any officer of the Maryland Troops” (DLC:GW).

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