George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Oliver Spencer, 3 May 1779

From Colonel Oliver Spencer

Easton [Pa.] May 3d 1779


it gives me the greates pain to trouble your Excellency with any further Account of the Unhappy Mutiny Committed by that part of the Regt, formerly Col. Malcoms, but justice to my own Reputation, constrains me to do it. I now view it in a Diffirent light from what I did when I wrote by Cap. Santford, and to Say nothing more, there Appeared too much Softness in the officers who had the Command of them, or the first motions of Mutiny might have been easily quelled, and as Col. Malcom, With a Number of his Officers were on the Spot, I did not think proper to make an Attempt to Suppress it, otherwise than by fair words. Cap. Santford was the only Officer who acted with the least Spirit on the Occation, and as far as his authority extinded which was only over his own Company, had it’s desired Effect. I wish it may not be the case, that Some person instead of removing all Objections to their Serving under my Command, (which I am fully of Opinion is merely a pretence) have endeavoured to prejudice the minds of the Soldiers, against me and instead of quelling, rather [countenanced]1 the riot; these are hard things to charge persons with but it is too Obvious, not to mention, and was taken Notic of by All the Spectator’s present enclosed is Mr Hollets letter of resignation to Col. Malcom which he desired me to inclose, in my last but was forgot.2

Col. Malcom is gone to Philadelphia in order to pursuade Congress to do Something more to his mind.3

altho’ I gave my Voice, with the then Major part of the Officers to have the Regiment Desolved, yet as circumstances now are and as a number of those officers had previously resigned & Some others now joind that are aversed to the measure. I rather Chuse to let that matter (as there will be a majority against) take it’s course, and be determined in the Same manner it would have been done, had not this unhappiness Happened. Especially as I am Set out on the Campaign.

Since writing the Above Im Honor’d with your Excellencys favour pr Cap. Santford Dated Yesterday,4 which gives me the Greatest Satisfaction, your Excellency may depend on my utmost endeavours not only to reduce to Obedience the refractory Spirit of Some of the Soldery, but make every possible preparation, to March from this, as Soon as we can to be furnished with pack horses, forage &c. Im with the greatest Respect your Excellency’s Most Obedt Servt

O. Spencer

P.S. the Corps of Officers have made Choice of Lt James Bonnell for the Pay Master of the Regt and Mr Taulman acts as Adjutant, and wish to Receive their Warrants from your Excellency agreable to the resolve of Congress.5 I am &c. &c.

O. Spencer

ALS, DLC:GW. The letter was carried “pr favr Mr Bonnell.”

1Spencer wrote a word that looks like “conntemanerd,” but presumably meant “countenanced.”

2The enclosed letter from Jonah Hallett (1754–1811), a second lieutenant in Col. William Malcom’s Additional Continental Regiment, written to Malcom on 25 April at “Wall Kell,” N.Y., reads: “I hear the Errangement has taken place With the Sexten aditional Regiments. Ours annext to Colo. Spencers and a Number of our officers left out. I shall serve no Longer an officer therefore youll oblige me by Excepting of this as my Resignation and Expect no further Servises from me” (DLC:GW). Hallett returned to the army in October 1779 as a lieutenant in the 4th Continental Dragoons and remained in service until the end of the war.

3Malcom wrote to Congress on 13 June requesting clarification on whether the officers of his regiment who had been declared supernumerary upon the merger with Spencer’s regiment would retain their commissions in the army; the Board of War reported to Congress on 16 July that they would not (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 , 14:844, and Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 13:98).

4Spencer apparently is referring to GW’s letter to him of this date, the receiver’s copy of which may have been backdated to 2 May.

5James Bonnel (1754–1808) was appointed a second lieutenant in Spencer’s regiment in February 1777 and was promoted to first lieutenant in January 1778. He was appointed regimental adjutant in September 1778, and if he later served as paymaster it probably was only briefly, for he eventually was appointed captain with a commission backdated to 24 April 1779. Bonnel left the Continental service in January 1781 and subsequently became captain of a company of Sussex County, N.J., militia. Peter Taulman (1757–1835) was appointed an ensign in Malcom’s regiment in March 1777 and became regimental adjutant in July of that year. He was promoted to second lieutenant in October 1777 and to first lieutenant in April 1779, whereupon he became part of Spencer’s regiment. Taulman resigned in January 1781 and subsequently became a captain lieutenant in the corps of sappers and miners. “The resolve of Congress” to which Spencer refers was dated 27 May 1778; 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 , 11:542, 12:1269.

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