George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Benjamin Tupper, 26 February 1779

To Colonel Benjamin Tupper

Hd Qrs [Middlebrook] 26th feby 1779


I recvd your letter of the 22 Int.1

Capn Farnum carries up the arrangement with him—as all claims are to receive their final discussion—he will now have it in his power to lay his before such officers as may be appointed to give opinion in cases of disputed rank.2

I must refer the Capn to the officer commanding at your post on the subject of a furlough. The liberty of granting furloughs has been very fully placed in the hands of the officer of an independent command by a general order issued when the army was at Fredericksburg.

As I have not properly any authority to grant orders for the issuing of clothing for officers it is impossible for me to comply with your request. I am sir Your &


Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Tupper’s letter to GW of 22 Feb. has not been found.

2Capt. Benjamin Farnum (1746–1833) of the 11th Massachusetts Regiment carried the arrangement of the Massachusetts line to Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall at Peekskill (see GW to McDougall, 25 Feb.). Farnum apparently had recently asked GW for permission to resign his commission, in part at least because of a dispute over rank. On 14 March, Farnum wrote GW from West Point: “I am under the disagreeable Necessity again to Solicit your Excellency for a discharge from the Service.

“After having deliberated on my present circumstances especially with regard to my Domestic affairs, and in being superceded by Captain Pettingal whose rank I suppose to be inferiour to mine: think it will be too great a sacrafise of my interest and Honor to continue any longer in the Army: having been almost Four years in the service of my Country during which time my estate has been in a manner dormant, a Family increasing and my Aged Parents to Provide for: who are using every intreaty to induce me to leave the service: think my self in duty bound to adhere to their request. I am still well attach’d to the cause of my Country, and shall ever be ready to contribute my full proportion in support of it but having Two Families to support and my lands lying useless in consequence of my not being at home to Cultivate them and not being able to afford my Family any support from my wages, I find myself in a very disagreeable situation on many accounts, for the reasons aforementioned I think I cannot (with Justice to my self and family) willingly remain any longer in the Army. Would therefore pray your Excellency to take the matter into consideration and grant me a discharge which will be gratefully acknowledged by your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant.” The letter includes undated, signed statements by Colonel Tupper and Capt. Billy Porter, paymaster for the 11th Massachusetts Regiment, certifying that Farnum did not owe anything to the regiment or to the United States (LS, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 2359).

Farnum, who had been commissioned a captain in Col. James Frye’s Massachusetts regiment in May 1775 and had been wounded at the Battle for Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775, became a captain in the 11th Massachusetts Regiment in November 1776. Farnum’s resignation was accepted, effective 28 March 1779. His wife, Dolly Holt Farnum, had given birth to their sixth known child on 3 Feb. 1779. His parents were Timothy Farnum (1702–1780) and Dinah Ingalls Farnum (1704–1781).

Joseph Pettingill of the 9th Massachusetts Regiment, whose claim to seniority among the state’s Continental army captains was challenged by many Massachusetts officers, had been promoted to major of his regiment by the Massachusetts council in January 1779, but his promotion remained in dispute until the following summer (see Pettingill to GW, 12 June 1779, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 2093; Officers of the Massachusetts Line to GW, 13 June, DNA: RG 93, War Department; GW to the Board of War, 25 June, DLC:GW; and GW to John Jay, 5 Aug., DNA:PCC, item 152).

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