George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from the Board of War, 3 April 1780

From the Board of War

War office [Philadelphia] April 3rd 1780.


The board have the honor of transmitting to your Excellency, the copy of a letter from Maj. Lee.1 At the instance of Baron Steuben, & considering that enlistments went on but slowly, the board consented that the dismounted Dragoons of his Corps, should be increased to three Troops, because they were taught to believe that the Corps would be more perfect in its formation; and that its reputation would induce Men to enlist who probably would not enter into other Corps, & thereby increase the Strength of the Army. At that time they conceived matters, as to the Officers, would either remain as they were, or fall in with any general regulation which might be adopted. Maj. Lee, however seems to think otherwise, & wishes to have promotions both of Capt. McLain & Capt. Peyton—the one Majr of Infantry, the other of Horse, & the consequent promotions of other Officers. The board wish to be favored with Your Excellencys opinion of the propriety & necessity of this measure, as soon as possible.2 They will do all in their power to forward the March of these Troops agreeable to your request.3 I have the honor to be with the highest respect, Yr Excellency’s Most Obed., & Most Hble Servt.

by ord. of the board.
Ben. Stoddert secy

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, DLC:GW. The copy includes a note at the end dated 8 April: “This letter should have been forwarded several days ago, but by some mistake, it was neglected.”

1The enclosed copy of Maj. Henry Lee, Jr’s. letter to the Board of War, written at Philadelphia on this date, reads: “The expedition with which the Commander in chief requires the Troops under my Command to move, induces me to request the immediate establishment of the Officers.

“The Partizan Legion consists of one Battalion of Cavalry and One Battalion of Infantry; the two Battalions form upwards of Three Hundred effective Men. This Number of Men, according to the usage of all Armies demand the aid of Three field Officers. The light Infantry of the American Army, where no Superfluous Commission was allowed, afford full proof of the opinion of the American Officers on this Subject—there each Regiment was composed of two Battalions, each Battalion consisting of eighty two File—the Regimt was Commanded by a Colonel or Lieutenant Colonel Commandant, having under him two field Officers at the Head of the Respective Battalions.

“If therefore three field Officers were necessary to a Corps of Infantry; surely no person can doubt the propriety of allowing them to a Corps equal, in Strength, employed in the same line, and Compound in its nature.

“Exclusive of the reasons suggested by the above state of the matter, I must pray you to attend to the professional feelings of the Gentlemen Interested.

“The Officers of the Partizan Cavalry have served in the line of Calvary from the establishment of that part of the Army, those with me have forgone the advantages common to the line of Horse, for the satisfaction of serving in a light Corps.

“They have, not only given up the Interest of Promotion, but also the bounty emoluments which they would from time to time have received, had they continued in the line of any one State.

“They are now under orders to Join the southern Army, where the rapidity of Promotion, common to the line of the Army, will inevitably throw them in the course of service, under the command of Gentlemen whose superiors they once were.

“Then certainly, it must be agreeable to you, Gentlemen, to allow to the Partizan Legion the Common proportion of field Officers, as it is, not only conformable to the usage of the Army, but also gives a Step to Officers whose attention to the service has been uninterrupted and faithful and who have never yet met with the Common promotion of the Army.

“I am Confident, Gentlemen, you will do me the Justice to acknowledge that I am not interrested personally in the Issue of this proposal, as you must well recollect my answer to the very polite offer you was pleased to make to me on the subject of promotion in consequence of the Augmentation of my Infantry” (DLC:GW; another copy of Lee’s letter also came to GW, enclosed with the copy of the Board of War’s letter to him of this date).

2GW replied to the Board of War on 9 April.

3For GW’s decision to send Lee’s corps southward as reinforcements, see his letters to the Board of War and to Lee or the officer commanding his corps at Burlington, N.J., both 30 March; see also Council of War, 27 March.

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