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To George Washington from Brigadier General Henry Knox, 14 April 1780

From Brigadier General Henry Knox

Morris-town 14th April 1780.


I do myself the honour to enclose to your Excellency, a representation made by Lt Col: Carrington, stating the principles of promotion which operate in the Corps of Artillery under my Command, and the inconveniencies which will arise, if the Regiment of artillery, in South Carolina under the Command of Col: Beekman (which is said to be a continental Regiment) shall not be obliged, to conform to the general Rules of Rank, which have been adopted.1

The South Carolina Regiment of Artillery must be either a State, or Continental Regiment—If it shall be clearly ascertained to be the former, all the difficulties which are feared, will be removed at once, because the relative Rank, between State Officers and continental Officers of the same Grade, are fully understood—but, If it shall be found (as I believe it will be) a Regiment with continental commissions and pay, an indispensible necessity arises, of placing it on the same footing with the rest of the Corps.

I observe by the return of Col: Beekmans Regiment, that it consists of but six companies, whereas the continental Establishment is twelve.2 It is an evident impropriety, to have three field Officers to six companies, and so few men as are mentioned in the Return of the Regiment. I would therefore, with due deference propose, that in consideration of the probability of the Seat of War being in a considerable degree, transferred to the Southward, and the confidence and safety, the knowlege of Artillery must give to any State, that Capt: Kingsbury’s company from North Carolina, should be added to Beekmans Regiment, and that the State of North Carolina, should be called upon to raise five other companies of Artillery, to be also added to that Regiment, which will compleat its companies, according to the continental establishment, and that Regiment to be recieved as part of the established Corps of Artillery, belonging to the United States, and the principles of promotion already adopted, to operate as fully in that, as any other Regiment in the Corps.

The Captains of the new companies proposed to be raised in North Carolina, to be taken of the oldest Capt: Lieutenants or Lieutenants in the Line of Artillery, for this obvious reason, that those Officers have been long in the Service, and in every respect, better qualified than Officers newly appointed, can possibly be.

Should this arrangement be conformable to your Excellency’s Ideas, I should be extremely obliged, by your writing to Congress immediately on the Subject,3 and also to remind them of the Arrangement of the Maryland companies, to Col: Harrisons Regiment4—Lt Col: Carrington will go to Philadelphia tomorrow or next day, in order to get in readiness the ammunition designed for the Southward. He will be happy in taking your Excellency’s commands, on these Subjects, and as he is particularly interested in them, will pay every possible attention to them, whilst he shall be in Philadelphia. I am with the greatest respect, Your Excellencys Most Obedient, humble servant

H. Knox


1The enclosure was a letter from Lt. Col. Edward Carrington to Knox, written at Morristown on 12 April: “The present prospect of my being removed to the Southern Army, has led my views to the probable Circumstances under which I fall there with respect to Rank. I find the footing on which the Artillery in that Quarter stands, to be Such, that, Contrary to what was ever understood to be the Constitution of the Continental Corps, I may remain, Altho’ugh the eldest Lieutenant Colonel, in a Subordinate Capacity there till, even the Youngest Lieutenant Shall ascend above me. It has been Understood that all the Artillery in the Service of the United States, bore a Common relationship to you, as the General Commanding Officer, & was Constituted on principles of being one Corps, with Regimental lines of promotion to the degree of Captains, & thence upwards, with one line of Promotion throughout the whole. So Strictly has this System been Attended to, that, so far as the different parts of the Artillery have hitherto had Cognizance of each other, whenever it hath been found that any Corps, or Companies, had by any means risen up, unconnected with, or independant of, the Corps at large, they have been, as soon as possible, incorporated therewith, and any future inconveniencies of premature promotions amongst them to the injury of the Corps at large prevented. A Company raised in North Carolina, Commanded by Captn John Kingsbury, affords the only instance in which this has not been the Case, with all the Artillery hitherto falling within your view in Service. Eastward of that State, there is none at this day independant of the Corps at large, and I Suppose, had not Kingsbury been removed, from a Cooperating Situation with the Corps in this quarter he would also have been incorporated with it.

“The Scene of War however, in the Southern States, has now become of Such Magnitude, as to influence the Operations of this Quarter, and by drawing into Service there some part of the Main Army, and Corps of Artillery, you for the first time, are led, officially, to Acknowledge of the Artillery in that Department—You there find a Regiment raised in the State of South Carolina, on Continental establishment, independant of the Corps at large; Claiming & using a Seperate line of promotion; Commanded Some time ago, by Colo. Roberts, But now by Colonel Beekman in Regimental order of Succession—If that Regiment is to remain on this principle, You will readily perceive that all the Officers of the Corps at large, below the Rank of a Colonel, Communicating therewith must remain in a Subordinate Capacity, possibly ’till their Juniors Shall, to the last of them rise over them, Contrary to the Constitution of the Corps of Artillery. That this will be the case in many instances is highly probable, & indeed that it has already happened in the case of Lt. Colonel Beekman’s promotion is very likely.

“The early prospect of my Connection with the Artillery in the Southern Department has Occasioned me particularly to address you on the Subject—it is not the result of an Ambitious mind—I am happy under the Command of those who are duly placed above me: But it is a duty I owe to myself, & which every one owes to the Corps he has the honor to be Connected with, to guard against every possibility of injury in point of Rank or Command.

“It is my wish, that if the South Carolina Regiment stands established as a Continental one, that it be by an early Period incorporated with the Corps at large under your Command, & thing[s] fixed on the received Constitutional footing of the Continental Corps of Artillery—and I will Just take the Liberty to remark that Kingsbury’s Company, from the Vicinity of the State in which it was Raised, and the proba[bi]lity that it will always hereafter Act in the same Department with this Regiment, might with convenience be made a part of it, as the Regiment it seems, has not yet its full number of Companies. This Step would I believe put all the Artillery, in the Service of the United States, on one great Scale, & completely Organize the whole, agreeable to the Constitution we have always Conceived.

“You will I trust Pardon me for the liberty I have taken in addressing you on this Subject, as the motive will I hope appear a proper one. And Should you agree with me in Sentiment I Shall be Obliged to you for taking the proper Steps for bringing the matter under the Consideration of the Honorable the Congress” (DLC:GW).

Barnard Beekman (c.1721–1797), a South Carolina mechanic with land and political interests, began as captain in the Charleston Regiment of Artillery in 1774. He became major of the 4th South Carolina Regiment in the Continental artillery in November 1776 before rising to lieutenant colonel in October 1778 and colonel in June 1779. The last promotion followed the death of Col. Owen Roberts. Taken prisoner upon the surrender of Charleston on 12 May 1780, Beekman remained on parole for the rest of the war.

2This return has not been identified.

3See GW’s first letter to Samuel Huntington of 17 April.

4See GW to the Board of War, 18 April. Knox had proposed combining Maryland artillery companies with Col. Charles Harrison’s 1st Continental Artillery Regiment to maintain “the system of promotion in the line of the artillery” (Knox to GW, 26 Dec. 1779; see also Maryland Council to GW, 27 Oct. 1779, and GW to Thomas Sim Lee, 19 Feb. 1780).

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