George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jonathan Rhea, 14 January 1793

From Jonathan Rhea

Monmouth County New Jersey January the 14th 1793


If my zeal and I hope faithfull services during the late Revolution,1 my exertions in detecting the treachery of Depeyster, and what I then and still do believe to have been an intended assassination,2 entitules me to the liberty of recommending, or the soliciting a favor, if it can be granted with propriety, I shall beg leave to ask the appointment of my brother James Rhea to the commission of an Ensign in the now standing army, I wish not to deceive nor to recommend improperly, my brothers character during the late war, was that of a good soldier, he was young but in the Militia of this county, he was a volunteer in the late unfortunate action under General St Clair with the Indians, and from the information of some of my old brother officers he there behaved well.3 I have the honor to be with the most affecte regard & respect Your Obdt Servt

Jonathan Rhea


1Jonathan Rhea (1754–1815), who had been appointed an ensign in the 2d New Jersey Regiment in January 1777, was promoted to second lieutenant in 1778 and lieutenant in 1781, and he was brevetted to the rank of captain in 1783. A prominent lawyer in Trenton, N.J., after the war, Rhea served as the clerk of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1793 to 1807, as the quartermaster general for the state from 1807 to 1813, and as a presidential elector in 1793.

2Pierre De Peyster was a resident of Newark, N.J., at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Although he had signed an oath of allegiance to the American cause, De Peyster offered his services as a spy to the British following the Battle of Trenton in December 1776. In May 1782 an incriminating letter was intercepted from De Peyster to Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander in chief at New York City. The Americans arrested De Peyster and condemned him to death, but he escaped from captivity in September 1782. The following December he sailed to England, where he eventually became a merchant in Yorkshire.

3Jonathan Rhea’s brother James Rhea was a lieutenant in the levies of 1791, serving under Gen. Arthur St. Clair at the army’s defeat by hostile Indians on 4 Nov. 1791 while encamped at the present-day site of Fort Recovery, Ohio (see William Darke to GW, 9–10 Nov. 1791, and source note; “Denny Journal”; description begins “Military Journal of Major Ebenezer Denny, An Officer in the Revolutionary and Indian Wars. With an Introductory Memoir. By William H. Denny.” Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania 7 (1860): 204–498. description ends Guthman, March to Massacre description begins William H. Guthman. March to Massacre: A History of the First Seven Years of the United States Army, 1784–1791. New York, 1975. description ends ). He did not receive a military appointment from GW but did achieve the desired appointment as an ensign in the U.S. Army in January 1799, during the presidency of John Adams. By 1807 Rhea had risen to the rank of captain, and by May 1810 he was commanding the troops at Fort Wayne, in present-day Indiana. Found derelict in his duties in 1812 because of continual drunkenness, Rhea was forced to resign from the army.

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