George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Clinton, 1 September 1778

To George Clinton

Head Qurs White plains Sept. 1st 1778

Dr sir

I am extremely sorry that it is in my power to inform you, that a Captain Colson of the 5th Virginia Regiment a few days ago, violently wounded a Mr Vantassel of this State, of which he died in a little time after1—The moment I was apprised of it, I directed a Letter to be written & sent to Genl Muhlenburg, to whose Brigade he belonged, to have him secured, in order that he might be delivered to the Civil Magistrate, in case the wound should prove mortal, as you will perceive by the inclosed copy.2 I have reason to believe that every exertion was used on the part of the General, to have him apprehended; but he was not able to effect it, as he kept himself out of the way, according to report, from the time he gave the wound and went off, most probably, the instant he got intelligence that Mr Vantassel was dead. Mr Colson is a native of Virginia, but whether he is gone there—or to some Seaport, to procure a passage to the West Indies, where it is said he has a Brother, seems to be a matter of doubt. I do not know the causes, which led to this unhappy accident; but I wish he could have been taken, that he might receive a regular and proper trial, in the ordinary course of Justice. If you shall think it requisite, I will chearfully join you in any expedient—or pursue any you may point out, to recover and put him into the hands of the civil authority.

My last advices from Rhode Island were of the 29th Ulto. General Sullivan informs me, by Letter of that date, that he had retreated the preceding night to the North end of the Island. That the Enemy pursued him—and the next day a warm action ensued, which lasted an Hour, in which our people obliged them to quit the Field in disorder—and with precipitation. When he wrote, he could not ascertain the loss on either side, but says it was considerable. It was a very interesting event, and I sincerely hope the next accounts I have, will announce that he & his Troops are again on the Continent. The Count D’Estaing’s fleet has got to Boston. I am Dr sir with the greatest respect & regard Your Most Obedt sert

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, NN: Emmet Collection; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Samuel Colston (died c.1779) was commissioned a lieutenant of the 5th Virginia Regiment in February 1776 and promoted to captain in February 1777. He is recorded as having retired from the army on 14 Sept. 1778.

2The letter to Brig. Gen. Peter Muhlenberg, which was signed by GW’s aide Tench Tilghman and dated 27 Aug., reads: “His Excellency has recd yours of this date informing him of the unlucky fray between Captn Colsn and an inhabitant, by which the latter is dangerously wounded. Should the wound prove mortal the civil authority of the state will undoubtedly demand a tryal, & should the offender not be found to answer the charge they would with reason complain. His excellency therefore desires that Captn Colsn should be put into safe custody, in such manner as suits an officer of his rank until the fate of the wounded man is determined” (Df, DLC:GW; see also Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 3:696).

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