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To George Washington from James Blanchard, 23 July 1794

From James Blanchard

Philadelphia July 23d 1794

sir

The Constitution of the United States having invested the Chief Magistrate with the power of enforcing the laws, I make application to you on behalf of Captain Peter Perrit, captured at Fort Washington in November 1776 and after his return from Captivity, gave notice to the executive of the State of Connecticut of his exchange and readiness to return to his duty. & was registered in his former rank, as an officer belonging to the Connecticut line, within the time limited & repeatedly applied to General Parsons to join the regiment to which he belonged, agreeably to the resolve of Congress of November 24th 1778, but from his place being filled in his absence by another, he could not be admitted. and by the arrangement of the Army, in 1781, he was considered as supernumerary, and retiring from service, with those Officers entitled to the emoluments promised by Congress by their Acts of November 24th 1778, October 3d 1780, and January 1st 1781.1

Captain Perrit came forward last year, for a settlement, but was rejected, & petitioned Congress, who referred his case to the Secretary at War.2

Among other documents, he stated: That all officers of his description, and registered agreeable to the Act of November 24th 1778, was considered from the 13th article of War, as belonging to the continental army, until cashiered by a Court martial, or dismissed by order of Congress, in the arrangement of the Army in 1780 and 1781, and that all Officers have been invariably settled with Accordingly.3

I therefore requested, that the settlements made with a number of officers might be p[r]oduced, as a precedent, and applied to Mr Howell for a sight of the papers and a copy, by order of the Secretary at War, but Mr Howell pointedly refuses to give me my information, and pointedly assumes a determination against the applicant.4

From Mr Howell being either deficient in ability or strength of nerves, he resigned at an early period Of the war, and having no claim to commutation is as I apprehend, the cause of his prejudice and violence in the present case.

In all courts of Justice contending parties are admitted to a knowledge of the public records, and when they are denied, superior authority is applied to. The Secretary at war Observed, that he had no controul over Mr Howell’s papers; I therefore apply to you as Chief Magistrate, and the source of Mr Howell’s appointment, and pray that I may see the settlements made with Colonel Ethan Allen, Major Francis Murray, Captains Crafford, Stratton and Patton, Lieutenants Dover, Robinson and Jenny:5 and have a copy impartially taken to deliver to the Secretary at War, to add to the documents now before him, to report in the case of Captain Perrit.

James Blanchard

P.S. I will wait on your Secretary for an answer.

Copy, DNA: RG 233, Records of the House of Representatives, Committee Reports and Papers, Committee on Claims (3A-C1.1).

According to GW’s journal of proceedings, he sent this letter to Secretary of War Henry Knox on 24 July and "Desired the Secy. to report thereon" (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 315). Knox responded on 25 July.

James Blanchard (b. 1742) served as a quartermaster and paymaster for the 3d New Hampshire Regiment during the Revolutionary War. He voiced opposition to the funding system in 1791 and 1792, advocating discrimination in favor of the officers who had alienated their certificates (see Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 8:401-4, 11:60-62, 13:521-27). Blanchard also served as agent for several veterans pursuing claims in Congress.

1Peter Perit (Perritt; c.1735-1803) of Milford, Conn., served as a captain in Col. Charles Webb’s regiment until April 1776, when GW ordered him to take command of the armed sloop Hester. In August 1776 Perit joined Henry Knox’s artillery regiment at Fort Washington, where he was captured. He was exchanged in October 1778. For Perit’s case, see ASP, Claims description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 129-33.

Samuel Holden Parsons (1737–1789), a lawyer who lived in Lyme and New London before the war, commanded the 6th Connecticut Regiment in 1775 and the 10th Continental Regiment in 1776. Parsons became a brigadier general on 9 Aug. 1776 and served until July 1782.

The resolve of 24 Nov. 1778 laid out rules for the settlement of ranks in the Continental army. The applicable section provided "That all officers who have been in the service, and, having been prisoners with the enemy, now are or hereafter may be exchanged or otherwise released, shall, if appointed by the authority of the State, be entitled, in case of vacancy, to enter into the service of their respective State in such rank as they would have had if they had never been captured; provided always, that every such officer do, within one month after his exchange or release, signify to the authority of the State to which he belongs, his release and his desire to enter again into the military service" and that such officers "shall, until entry into actual service, be allowed half pay of the commission to which by the foregoing resolve he stands entitled" (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 , 12:1157).

The resolve of 24 Nov. 1778 entitled supernumerary officers "to one year’s pay of their commissions." Officers made supernumerary by the resolves of 3 Oct. 1780 were "entitled to half pay for seven years, in specie, or other current money equivalent, and also to grants of land at the close of the war, agreeably to the resolution of the 16 September, 1776." On 1 Jan. 1781 Congress resolved "That in the new arrangement of the army it is the sense of Congress, that the officers of the continental lines, who have been exchanged since the said arrangement, or are now in captivity, ought to be considered and arranged according to their respective ranks, in the same manner with those who have not been prisoners" (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 , 12:1156; 18:896-97; 19:1).

2Perit had submitted a memorial on the subject to Congress on 3 Feb. 1794, and Knox had subsequently reported to Congress on sixty petitions, including Perit’s. However, after Perit’s claim was separated out and referred to a new committee, the House of Representatives on 6 June voted to refer his memorial to Knox again (U.S. House Journal, Washington Administration, 6:108, 195, 289, 420).

3Blanchard was referring to Section 14, article 13, of the Rules and Articles of War, adopted by the Continental Congress on 20 Sept. 1776. That article stated in part: "No commissioned officer shall be cashiered or dismissed from the service, excepting by an order from Congress, or by the sentence of a general court-martial" (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 , 5:803).

4War Department accountant Joseph Howell, Jr., explained his rationale for denying Perit’s claim in a letter to Knox of 24 July 1794 (ASP, Claims description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 129).

5Ethan Allen (1738-1789), commander of the Green Mountain Boys who captured Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775, was taken prisoner in September of that year. After his exchange in May 1778, he was given a brevet rank of colonel in the Continental Army but no command. Francis Murray (c.1732–1816) was a major in the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment when he was captured by Loyalists in February 1778 while visiting his family at Newtown, Pennsylvania. Murray was exchanged in October 1780 and later became county lieutenant of Bucks County in 1783 and a general of the militia in 1790. William Crawford (d. 1828) was a lieutenant in the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment when he was captured at Fort Washington in November 1776. Although he became eligible for a captaincy in 1777, he was not exchanged until December 1780 and did not re-enter active service. Aaron Stratton of Massachusetts was a lieutenant in the 16th Continental Infantry when captured in December 1776 and became eligible for a captaincy while still a prisoner in 1779. He was exchanged in December 1780. His 5 March 1782 petition to Congress for back pay was successful (DNA: PCC, item 42; 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 , 22:195). Robert Patton (c.1756-1814) was a lieutenant in the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment at the time of his capture in November 1776. He became entitled to a captaincy while still a captive in April 1778 but was deranged after his exchange in January 1781 (John Dwight Kilbourne, Virtutis Praemium: The Men Who Founded the State Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania, 2 vols. [Rockport, Me., 1998], 2:764-67). Patton was at this time postmaster at Philadelphia. Andrew Dover (c.1751-1831) was a lieutenant in the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment taken prisoner at Fort Washington in November 1776. He was exchanged in October 1780 and did not re-enter the service. Andrew Robinson was a lieutenant in the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment taken prisoner at Fort Washington in November 1776. He was exchanged in January 1781 and did not rejoin the service. Thomas Janney (Jenney) was a lieutenant in the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment taken prisoner at Fort Washington in November 1776. He was exchanged in October 1780.

The settlements with Murray, Patton, Dover, Robinson, and Janney were copied in November and are printed in ASP, Claims description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 132-33.

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