James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Benjamin Lincoln, 22 November 1782

From Benjamin Lincoln

RC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania). In the hand of a clerk, except for the complimentary close, signature, and address. Addressed to “Hon Mr. Madison.”

War-Office November 22. 1782

Sir,

Before I report on the proposed promotion of Captain Pierce,1 I beg leave to submit the following remarks to your consideration.

The new arrangement will take place on the first day of January next.2 Major Holmes may then have an opportunity, with the leave of the commander in chief, or General Greene, to retire so as not to be liable to be again called into service.3 By the returns now before me, the State of Virginia have not more than one company of artillery, consequently not even a Major’s command.4 Captain Pierce must therefore as senior Captain command them, but should Major Holmes now have leave to retire, and Captain Pierce be promoted before the first of January, and there should not be a Major’s command of artillery, not only Major Pierce but all the field Officers must, agreeable to the reform, retire. This being the case, my desire to continue Captain Pierce’s services to the public, leads me to wish that he would retain his present commission until the reform is completed.

As your Troops were considered attached to the southern army, it was expected they would have been clothed from the supplies sent for that army, and as soon as it was known that the waggons had passed the place of rendezvous,5 and your recruits were unsupplied, three hundred suits of summer clothing were ordered on—delays, occasioned by the waggoners falling sick on the road, and other causes, retarded this supply, and it did not arrive as early as was wished and expected. their winter clothing is ordered, and will be the first supply issued.

Colonel Febiger is here, and will pay the strictest attention that it is forwarded with safety and dispatch.6

I have the honor to be Dr. Sir with great esteem your most obedient and humble servant

B: Lincoln

1See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 8 November 1782, and nn. 3, 5, 6. In their dispatch to Governor Harrison on 26 November 1782 (q.v.), the Virginia delegates enclosed either Lincoln’s letter or a copy of it.

2On 7 August 1782 Congress had agreed, primarily in the interest of economy, to a general plan of consolidating the army so that a large number of officers would be obliged to retire at the close of the year. They were assured that in becoming supernumerary they would not forfeit their right to a land bounty and to half pay for life, and would “retain their rank in the army, and be called into the service, from time to time, according to seniority, in case of deficiencies of officers” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 451–55). Congress supplemented this act by resolving on 19 November that although “senior officers of each grade, sufficient to form corps” should be retained in service, any senior line officer might, with the consent of Washington or Greene and without forfeiting his emoluments, retire on or before 1 January 1783 by relinquishing his command and “future right of promotion in the army” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 736).

The next day Congress unanimously resolved that “commissions issue on promotions properly certified, for all regimental officers entitled to fill vacancies happening before” 1 January 1783, “excepting vacancies occasioned by senior officers retiring.” Congress then directed the paymaster general to furnish the secretary at war, upon his request, “with an account of all pay and advances received by or chargeable to the officers and men” of the several continental regiments (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 739–40). The Virginia delegates enclosed with their dispatch of 26 November 1782 to Harrison (q.v.) an authenticated copy of this directive and the two resolutions.

3Lincoln’s clerk should have written “Holmer” rather than “Holmes.” For Major Christian Holmer and his willingness to retire, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 274–75; 275, n. 4.

4By ordinances of Congress of 3 and 21 October 1780, Virginia’s quota of the continental army was “8 regiments of infantry, 1 of artillery, and 2 of cavalry.” At full strength, an artillery regiment was composed of ten companies, each with a complement of 65 non-commissioned officers and matrosses (privates) (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XVIII, 894, 960–62). An artillery regiment thus constituted was entitled to a colonel, two lieutenant colonels, and two majors (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XI, 540). Therefore, having the strength of only one company, Virginia’s regiment of artillery did not rate even one major.

5Cumberland Old Court House. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 128–29; 144, n. 4; 149, and n. 2; 322, n. 1.

6Since being relieved by, and returning to the command of, Brigadier General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, continental chief recruiting officer for Virginia, Colonel Christian Febiger had served as Muhlenberg’s field representative in expediting the flow of supplies to the southern army (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 193, n. 17; IV, 81, n. 5). For more on the urgent need of clothing for the soldiers being recruited in Virginia, see Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 23 November 1782.

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