George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James McHenry, 12 August 1799

To James McHenry

Mount Vernon Augt 12th 1799


I have duly received your letter of the 7th inst., enclosing reccommendations in favor of Mr James Glenn for a Captaincy in the Provisional Army; and shall attend to your request to return this, and similar papers, whenever the list for Virginia shall be completed.1

But, Sir, I must candidly acknowledge to you that I see no prospect of completing the selection of Officers from this State, for the Provisional Army, within any reasonable time, if at all, unless some other measure than that now pursued shd be adopted.

When, agreeably to your request, I assured you of my readiness to promote, so far as was in my power, the President’s wish to select officers for the 24 Regiments authorized to be raised, I very candidly stated to you the circumstances which had prevented my having such personal knowledge of Characters in this State as would enable me to make a selection here without the assistance of others; and, at the same time, submitted to your consideration, whether the President’s views might not be carried into effect with more facility & dispatch by having his determination to appoint Officers made known in such a manner as to give an opportunity to all who were desireous of serving to come forward with their pretensions; Or that proper Characters for the command of the Regiments should be appointed in the several Districts and power given to them, with the assistance of their Majors (who shd also be previously selected) to appoint the Company Officers of their respective Regiments. For the rejection of the first of these propositions you have given me your reasons.2 To the second I do not recollect that I have had any reply.

I must, however, endeavour to impress you with the necessity of adopting some other mode for Officering those Regiments, at least in this State, than that which has been pursued, if it is intended that the Officers shall be appointed before the meeting of Congress; for, with all my endeavours to obtain information respecting characters who are fit and willing to serve, I find that very few indeed have been brought forward, and these only from particular places. Immediately upon receiving your request to aid in this business, I wrote to several influential and confidential Characters, requesting them to furnish me with the names of such persons within their districts or the sphere of their acquaintance as were qualified and would be willing to accept appointments. From these sources I have obtaind but little information. Genl Marshall, Colo. Carrington and Colo. Heth on whom I placed great dependence for information have not furnished me with any except in two or three cases. From Genl Lee I have received only a single letter on the subject and that recommendg one person. Genl Morgan has been so good as to recommend a number of Characters; but they are confined to a particular part of the State. Colo. Cropper, of the Eastern shore, has signified to me his willingness to accept the command of a Regiment, and has promised to furnish a list of names for other offices; but his selection will be limited to a few Counties, or at most to one District3—I have also given eve[r]y encouragement in my power to others to come forward with recommendations or offers of service, but without effect. And, indeed, it can hardly be expected that persons would interest themselves in pointing out Characte[r]s for office unless there was a degree of certainty that they would be appointed. I shall, however, continue my endeavours to comply with your wishes in the way you desire; unless some other mode shd be adopted.

Enclosed is a letter from Captn George S. Washington with a recommendation of John Atwell, to be appointed a Cadet in his Company, vice [John] Stephens, who is promoted to a first lieutenancy.4 So far as I am acquainted with the Subscribers to this recommendation they are respectable Characters, and may be relied upon. With due consideration I have the honor to be


1McHenry’s letter from Philadelphia of 7 Aug. reads: “Enclosed, I transmit you Recommendations in favour of Mr James Glenn for a Captaincy in the Provisional Army. When you shall have completed the list for Virginia, I pray you to return these papers, with others of a like description” (DLC:GW). On 4 Oct. 1799 both James Stephenson and Andrew Waggener wrote to GW recommending Glenn for an appointment in the Provisional Army. Stephenson’s letter from “Berkley Mill Creek” in Berkeley County reads: “I have taken the liberty of mentioning to you Capt. James Glenn of this County who wishes an appointment in the Provisional Army, having servd with him on the expedition in the year 1791 and afterward having acting as my Lieut. under Genl Wayne I therefore can say confidently that I consider him a good Officer and well quallified to Command a Battalion, he is popular in this Country as a Military man and in my Opinion would have as little difficulty in raising men as any other whatever he is a plain man, possesses a considerable degree of firmness and is not defficient in understanding. Not having the honour of a personal acquaintance with you difficulties have arose in my mind in what manner I ought to address you but feeling anxious for Capt. Glenns success knowing him to be a man well qu[a]llified for the Army induced me to take the liberty to address you as aforesd” (DLC:GW). Gen. Daniel Morgan on 12 June 1799 had highly recommended Stephenson to GW for appointment in the Provisional Army. The letter from Winchester of 4 Oct. written by Andrew Waggener reads: “Give me leave to recommend to you in a particular manner Capt. James Glenn of Berkeley County, as a proper person to Command a Battalion he was an Officer under Genl St Clair at the time he was defeated in ’91 in which action he behavd with great propriety and firmness, he was also an Officer under Genl Wayne and was considerd one of considerable Utillity, he is a friend to Goverment and if the Provetional Army is raised a Command in it is what he wishes. Capt. Glenn is a man of unblemishd Charactor, he is temperate and well disposd” (DLC:GW). Two days later, on 6 Oct., Maj. William Campbell of the 8th Infantry Regiment wrote from Winchester: “Capt. James Glenn of Berkely County informs me he has Solicited for a Majority in the Provisional Army. I therefore in Justice to his Charactor take the liberty through you to recommend him as a Gentn deserving that appointment, having observed his Conduct as Waggon Conductor to the Virga & Maryland Militia on the Expedition made by them against the Insurgents of Pensylvania in 1794. From Bentleys Farm to this Place I had the Honour to Command Genl [Thomas] Mathewss Brigade & Charge of the Military Stores when Capt. Glenn was with me as Conductor of Waggons & to that arduous & perplexing office When very little order or discipline was observed by the Troops, he discharged his duty with prudence & good conduct & I must acknowledge rendered me great assistance—his Knowledge of the Tactics is from experience in the Western army where he Served as a Subaltern two years with credit to himself & Country & Sir I have no doubt but that he will do Justice to the office he Sollicits” (DLC:GW). In DLC:GW there is also a letter from Joseph Swearingen to Daniel Morgan, dated 30 June 1799, written in support of Glenn.

3For a discussion of GW’s efforts to identify men who might serve as officers in the Provisional Army, see McHenry to GW, 2 May 1799, n.1.

4George Steptoe Washington’s letter has not been found, but on 14 Aug. Tobias Lear wrote to him: “The General has received your letter of the 7th inst. inclosing a recommendation if favor of Mr John Atwell to be a Cadet in your Company. This recommendation has been forwarded to the Secretary of War, from whom you will learn the result of this application if it be successful” (DLC:GW).

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