George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel John Lamb, 19 August 1779

From Colonel John Lamb

Fishkills 19th Augst 1779


As I was at Fredericksburgh (on Public business)1 when your Excellency’s favour, of the 13th Instant, reached this place it did not come to my hands, till last Evening which will, I presume, apologize, for my not answering it, sooner. The Certificates, respecting the Pay-Master, Quarter-Master, and Adjutant, shall be transmitted your Excellency, as soon as possible.

I am extremely sorry, to be under the necessity,2 of taking any Step, that can possibly excite the least pain, in your Excellency’s generous Mind; or, that may have the most distant, tendency, to injure the Cause, in which I have been Embarked, for a series of years, from the most disinterested motives; But Sir, you must allow, that it is impossible, for a Soldier, who is tenacious of his Honor, to suffer himself, to be degraded by being superceded, and his just Right (the only gewel, worth contending for) torn from him, and given to another,3 without resenting the cruel injury; in a becoming manner; I must frankly acknowledge, that, my sensibility is deeply wounded, by this Event; And your Excellency, can much better conceive my feelings,4 than I can possibly describe them.

When I examine the General Order, of the 10th September last; And observe, the Principle, there laid down, by the Committee of Arrangement, for settling the Rank, of the Army;5 which, is confirmed, by a subsequent Resolution of Congress, of the 28th Novr6 I must confess, I am at a loss, to conceive, on what Principle, the Board have decided, in favor of Colo. Crane.7 And it appears to me, that, they have in this instance, manifestly deviated, from the Principle established by the Board, of Genl Officers, of the whole Line.8

I wish to be indulged, with a Sight, of the proceedings of the Board; for which purpose I will do myself the honor to wait on your Excellency, tomorrow. I have the honor to be, with the greatest Respect, your Excellency’s Most Obdn. Hume Servt.

LB, NHi: Lamb Letterbooks, 1778–1782; copy, NHi: Lamb Papers. The slightly different phrasing of the copy is noted.

Lamb wrote to New York governor George Clinton on this date regarding the board’s decision and asking for his advice and assistance in an appeal to Congress (see Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers, description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends 5:199–200). For Lamb’s eventual acquiescence in the board’s decision after his unavailing appeal to Congress, see GW to Lamb, 13 Aug., n.3.

1In place of the last three words, the copy has the words: “on the Business of the Public.”

2The copy adds “disagreable” before this word.

3The last four words do not appear on the copy.

4On the copy, the last six words read: “can conceive my feelings, much better.”

5The resolutions of the Continental Congress Committee of Arrangement regarding rank in the army were published in the general orders of 9 Sept. 1778. The general orders of 10 Sept. 1778 called for a board of general officers to sit at the behest of the Committee of Arrangement to settle the rank of the colonels in the artillery corps.

6For this resolution, dated 24 Nov. 1778, see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 12:1154–60.

7For the decisions of this board of general officers, which GW had appointed to resolve the rank dispute among the colonels of artillery, see Board of General Officers to GW, 8 Aug., and General Orders, 10 August.

8The decisions of this board—which had been called for in the general orders of 10 Sept. 1778 and had determined (among other decisions) that Lamb ranked above Col. Charles Harrison—had been published in general orders on 15 Sept. 1778. This board, however, did not consider the relative ranks of colonels John Crane and Thomas Proctor, who were apparently absent from camp at the time. The board’s determinations regarding the rank of the regiments were also called into dispute. Therefore, GW, after calling for the four colonels to submit their claims, ordered another board of general officers to consider the claims and make a “final determination” (General Orders, 5 Aug.). That board, which reported to GW on 8 Aug., had decided that Crane outranked Lamb (see Lamb and Edward Carrington to GW, 30 Sept. 1778; Circular to the Continental Artillery Colonels, 4 March; and GW to a Board of General Officers, 28 May; see also General Orders, 8 July, and GW to a Board of General Officers, 6 Aug.).

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