George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 3 February 1795

From Timothy Pickering

Department of War Feby 3. 1795.


I beg leave to inclose for your perusal a letter of the first instant from Captain Bruff of the corps of artillerists and engineers, at Baltimore, respecting the arrest and character of William B. Smith of the same corps; and a letter of the 27th ulto from Lieutenant Smith, asking to be removed to Norfolk, under pretence that Baltimore disagrees with his health, and declaring, “if he is not removed, he resigns his commission.”1

Permit me to suggest the expediency of taking him at his word, and accepting his resignation. Lieutenant Geddes of the same corps confirms the representation of Capt. Bruff.2 I am with the greatest respect sir yr most obt servt

Timothy Pickering


1James Bruff (1734–1815), a Revolutionary War officer from Maryland who was wounded and taken prisoner at the battle of Camden, S.C., in 1781, was appointed a captain of the new corps of artillerists and engineers in June 1794. Bruff served until 1807, rising to the rank of major. He was a witness against James Wilkinson in the Burr Conspiracy trials (ASP description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , Miscellaneous, 1:571–86). William Buchanan Smith (born c.1767) was the son of former Maryland congressman William Smith and the brother-in-law of Revolutionary War general and Baltimore collector Otho Holland Williams, who had requested a military appointment for him. In that letter of 4 Feb. 1794 to then–secretary of war Henry Knox, Williams wrote that “at present” Smith was “nothing at all; Having been all his life indulged in his love at ease, and to little restrained from the pursuit of his pleasures, he has lived at home dependant upon his father without acquiring any Character but that of a Buck; of which he seems now most heartily tired and ashamed” (MdHi: Otho Holland Williams Papers). He was appointed a lieutenant in the corps of artillerists and engineers in June 1794, and he evidently left the service at this time. Neither Bruff’s nor Smith’s letter has been identified.

2Simon Geddes (d. 1807) was appointed a lieutenant in the corps of artillerists and engineers in June 1794. He was dismissed from the service in December 1796.

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