George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Gibbon, 26 March 1787

From James Gibbon

Petersburgh Virga March 26th 1787

Dr sir

I am very sorry at this late period of time to trouble you particularly as all your officiall business has ceas’d so long; Your opinion will nevertheless avail sufficiently. A Demand, I long since made to the commissioner of accts for the army, for what I consider’d my due (the commutation) has remaind undetermind till now, owing chiefly to my business confining me at this place so as to prevent a personall application at N. York—The nature of my demand is briefly this, which I submitt to yr justice & altho you can now, be furnish’d with no other than my own assertions as testimony I flatter myself, as they are founded in propriety, they will have some weight[.] at the time of the revolt of the Penna line I was on furlough in Phila. labouring under the appearances of a consumption so much as to render my doing duty impracticable. The design of my furlough was, to seek an oppt. of Going to the W. Indies which I was advis’d to by Dr Rush to whom I had apply’d and whose certificate, descriptive of my situation, Genl Knox or Mr Pierce are now posses’d of1—Previous to my effecting my purpose, the revolt took place—I imediatly joind the troops at Prince Town where I remaind till turn’d out by order of theeir board of Sergeants and then join’d my brother officers at Penny town partaking in the kind of Duty there perform’d for our mutual saf’ty in which time my disorder increas’d so as to oblige my returning to Phila. tho ⟨there⟩, with a piece of duty assign’d me by the late Govr Reeid which was perform’d: my disorder still increasing an immediate change of climate was advis’d as absolutly indispensable and an oppt. offering of going to martinique I embrac’d it, having abt the time of my departure sent the resignation of a regimentall commission, as I then held it and a brevett tho acting solely under the latter—my holding the former I consider’d as of little avail as a rearangment was abt to & did take place by which I shou’d have been put on the Supernumery list—The act of Congress accompanying the brevett is in the opinion of Mr Pierce to whom Congress referr’d the claim competent to the admission of it—he, however as a public officer wishing to eir on the Safe side has recommended my obtaining yr opinion on the Subject—this sir, as I consider my claim strictly just, I flatter myself you will take the trouble to give me by letter2—I’m far from wishing to take advantage of the publick nor is my claim founded upon precedents which have pass’d, of less propriety. Im sir with great respect & esteem Yr Most Obt

J. Gibbon

⟨It⟩ is hardly necessary to observe sir, that exte⟨nded⟩ furloughs were seldon denied at Head Quarters under circumstances of this kind and that the trouble I put you to wou’d not have been necessary had it been in my power, previous to departure, for the W. Indies, to have made the application.


James Gibbon (1758–1835) of Petersburg was brevetted captain after the capture of Stony Point, N.Y., in July 1779.

1John Pierce (d. 1788) was the commissioner of army accounts to settle military claims against Congress.

2GW responded from Mount Vernon on 15 April: “Sir, I have recd your letter of the 26th Ulto wherein you request my opinion with respect to your obtaining the benefit of the Commutation—I am sorry that I cannot, with propriety comply with your request; as I have never interfered with, nor had any knowledge of the settlement of those Accts I can have no grounds whereon to form an opinion—Mr Pierse, to whom you say Congress has referred your Case, is undoubtedly better qualified from the documents which he has, to judge of the propriety or impropriety of it than I can possible be—With respect to extensive furloughs, I can only say that I never considered myself authorized to grant them to officers to go off the Continent, but when application was made for that purport I referred them to Congress. I am Sir Yr Most Obedt Hbl. Sert G. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW). Gibbon wrote GW again on 16 July 1788, to which GW replied on 1 Aug. that “upon a recurrence to the General Orders, I find y⟨ou⟩r Brevet promotion announced to the Army in the words of the resolve of Congress; and, that, by farther researches among the memorandums of resignations, I can discover nothing more on the Subject.” For subsequent correspondence between the two on this and other matters, see Gibbon to GW, 12 Feb. 1789, and notes 1 and 2 of that document.

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