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George Mathews and Christian Febiger to Virginia Delegates in Congress, 28 December 1780

George Mathews and Christian Febiger
to Virginia Delegates in Congress

RC (NA: PCC, No. 78, XVI, 109–10). Addressed to “Colonel Bland, and Mr Maddison. Present”

Philadelphia December 28. 1780

Gentlemen

Some doubts arises with us, whether, under the late Acts of Congress for arranging the Army of the United States,1 the Officers of the State of Virginia that have been, or now are Prisoners of War on Long Island,2 may be equally intituled to their Rank in that Line, (agreable to their Standing in the Army,) with those Officers who have never experienced the distresses of Captivity, or even those that are prisoners at the Southward:3 We therefore request that you will use your endeavours to have a Resolve passed by Congress, giving, (or rather confirming) that right; and we flatter ourselves no difficulty will be in your way on a Subject of such equal Justice, as we think ourselves Justifiable in Saying that it is the wish of the Officers of that Line; that the Prisoners have the same Rank when exchanged, which they would have been intituled to had they never been taken; and that their will be but few Officers more than will complete their Line agreable to the new arrangement.4

We are, Gentlemen, with due respect Your Most Obedient and Humble Servants.

Geo. Mathews Col.5
Christian Febiger6
Colo 2nd Va Regt

1On 3 and 21 October Congress adopted a series of resolutions providing for a structural rearrangement of the army (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 893–97, 958–62). Neither these resolutions nor Washington’s long comment upon some of them (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1931–44). description ends , XX, 157–67) mentioned the issue raised in this letter.

2Negotiations between Washington and Clinton for exchanging the prisoners held by the British in the New York City neighborhood for the “Convention troops” in barracks in Virginia and Maryland had been in progress for many weeks (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVII, 704–6; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1931–44). description ends , XX, 314–15, 324–25, 330–31, 375–77, 443–44).

3Principally those captured by the British when Charleston surrendered on 12 May 1780.

4For JM’s motion following the submission of this letter to Congress, see Motion on Seniority in Army, 1 January 1781.

5George Mathews (1739–1812) was colonel of the 9th Virginia Regiment when he was captured by the British at the Battle of Germantown in October 1777. He was temporarily released on parole during 1780 to assist in the negotiations for an exchange of prisoners (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1931–44). description ends , XVII, 342, 352, 408–10, 475–76; XX, 443). Following the Revolution and his removal from Virginia to Georgia, Mathews served (1789–1791) as a member of Congress from Georgia and as its governor in 1787 and again in 1793–1796. Early in 1812, President Madison angered Mathews by disavowing his attempt to drive Spain from East Florida.

6Febiger resumed his command of the 2d Virginia Regiment during the Yorktown campaign of 1781. From 1789 until his death seven years later he was state treasurer of Pennsylvania.

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