George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 18 June 1778

To Henry Laurens

Head Qrs [Valley Forge] June 18th 1778


The Baron Steuben will have the Honor of delivering you this. I do not know particularly, the extent of his business at York, but from what he has communicated, it is in part to get the duties and powers of his appointment minutely defined and settled. I inclose a Copy of orders on the 15th Inst., which were issued to quiet the minds of the General Officers and to remove a spirit of jealousy, which but too apparently was rising among them. These contain my ideas of the principal duties of the Inspector’s office, and I have reason to think are generally agreable to the Army.1 While I am on this subject, I must do justice to the Baron’s intelligence, zeal and indefatigable industry, from which we have experienced very happy effects.

The inclosed Letter, I transmit at the request of Captain Gibbs, and I wish to recommend him to the consideration of Congress.2 He has been in the Army from the commencement of the War, and in the capacities, which he mentions. When Congress were pleased to honor me with the appointment of Officers for the Sixteen additional Batallions, I offered to make some provision for him, but this he declined, preferring to remain in my family. The Guard he commanded originally consisted of Fifty men, but since the arrival of Baron Steuben it has been augmented to a Hundred & fifty. He advised that there should be a select Corps of this number to receive the Manœuvres in the first instance, and to act as a model to the Army; and proposed that it should be formed of the Old Guard Company & Drafts from the Line. I presume, if it should be Congress’s pleasure, that a Majority would be highly agreable to the Captain; and is as much as he expects. I have the Honor to be with great respect & esteem Sir Your Most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 1 Aug. and referred it to a committee of three (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 , 11:737; see also notes 1 and 2, below).

1See General Orders, 15 June. Steuben canceled his plans to go to York at this time because of the British evacuation of Philadelphia, and GW apparently postponed sending this letter until he enclosed it in his letter to Laurens of 26 July.

2The letter from Capt. Caleb Gibbs to Congress, dated 14 June, has not been found, but John Laurens wrote to his father, Henry, on 15 June: “You will receive by this courier an application from the Captain of the Generals Guard—he has had the mortification of seeing himself outstripped by a vast number of his Juniors—who had no greater merit than himself—he has always done his duty in his Station, and from what I saw of his behavior at Barren hill, wants only an opportunity to establish his character as an officer of bravery and Steadiness—in action—and I really think he is entitled to a Majority—at least to a brevet for one” (Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 13:460–61). Steuben did not go to York at this time, so GW did not forward Gibbs’s letter to Congress until 22 July, when he enclosed it in another letter to Henry Laurens. Congress read Gibbs’s letter on 27 July and promoted him to major two days later (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 , 11:722, 730).

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