George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Stephen Thayer Olney, 11 February 1781

Quarters February 11th 1781

May it Please Your Excellency

There is a dispute of rank between Captain Allen and myself, our pretentions were delivered to Colonel Harrison (last April) who informed Colonel Angell he would present them to your Excellency for determination, to which we the disputants cheerfully Consented, but from the multiplicity of more important business which soon after Occurd.I immagine they were not laid before your Excellency, I am therefore under the necessity of requesting (if it is Your Excellencys Pleasure) the matter may be determined by said Pretentions. I am your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant.

Stephen Olney Capt.

of the Rhode Island Regt

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Quarters near Morris Town May 15th 1780

Dr Colonel

As you say it is necessary in Settling the Rank between Capt. Allen and myself, that my Pretensions be given in to Colo. Harrison that he may Present them to His Excellency, who will Determine the same, or Appoint a Board of Officers for that Purpose.

If it is consistent with His Excellency’s Pleasure, nothing would aford me more sattisfaction then his Decision of the Matter—My Rank from time to time has been as follows— I engaged in the army A.D. 1775 May 8th with the rank and Commission of Ensign—The 19th of September following was promoted to a first Lieutenant, in which Sphere I acted till the first of february A.D. 1777—when the time for which the Troops were engaged expired; I received pay and subsistence of a first Lieutenant to the 13th, and Returned to the State of Rhode Island who had on the Eleventh appointed me a Captain (as pr arrangement from the Board of War) and my Commission was dated to the 1st of January, to fill a vacancy that then happened.

It would be far from me to give any trouble on this Subject, if I conceived the Resolve Captain Allen aludes to had any Reference to my rank. I never Resigned my Commission, or had it Revok’d—have ever since the Said 8th day of May A.D. 1775 Drawn pay as an Officer, had as many appointments by State or Congress as Captain Allen, all of which are Equal, or prior to his.

Other Officers belonging to the State of Rhode Island went home the same Campaign on or before the time for which the troops were Engaged expired and Previous to their accepting any appointments, who was not in the least injured thereby; as they were never left out of the arrangement by the State—I think it very strange as Captain Allen knew of the said Resolve, more then one year past he has never disputed my takeing rank of him before, am apt to believe he thought of it as I do.

I should have had no more right to considered my self out of Service the eleven days in February 1777—then Captain Allen If I had accepted the late Colo. Hitchcoks offer (as he did) of a Lieutenancy to serve the Campaign of 1777 under some then our inferior officers whom Colo. Hitchcok had arranged as Captains and who I thought never ought to Command either of us. Had Colo. Hitchcok appointed me a Captain or fill’d his Captancys with my Superior Officers beyond a doubt I should have accepted.

This Sr haveing Stated my pretentions I accept your favor of forwarding them to Head Quarters and Submit the same to their candid Judgment for Determination. I am Sr, with Respect your most obedient Humble Sevent

Stephen Olney

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