George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 30 September 1776

To John Hancock

Head Qrs Heights of Harlem Septr 30th 1776


Since I had the honor of addressing you last nothing of importance has transpired,1 tho from some movements yesterday on the part of the Enemy it would seem as if something was Intended.

The inclosed memorial from Lieut. Colo. Sheppard of the 4th Regiment,2 I beg leave to submit to the consideration of Congress, and shall only add that I could wish they would promote him to the Command of the Regiment and send him a Commission, being a good and valuable Officer and especially as the vacancy is of a pretty long standing and I have [not]3 had nor has he, any Intelligence from Colo. Learned himself who had the command and who obtained a discharge on account of his indisposition, of his designs to return.4 I have also inclosed a Letter from Captn Ballard which Congress will please to determine on, the Subject being new and not within my authority.5 I have the Honor to be Sir Your Most Obedt St

Go: Washington

P.S. A Commission was sent for Colo. Learned, which is now in my Hands, having received no application or heard from him since It came.

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter and its enclosures on 2 Oct. (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 , 5:838).

2GW means the 3d Continental Regiment.

3The word “not” is inserted above the line at this place in the text in both the LB and Varick transcript by some person or persons other than the copyists who wrote those documents.

4Lt. Col. William Shepard in his petition to GW of 28 Sept. asks permission to resign his commission, because, he says, “when he views the Regiment to which he belongs, which has been destitute of a Chief Col. for almost six months and not filled, and other Regiments, vacant, but a few hours before they are filled by advancements from their own Corps, Your Petitioner is convinced, that he is judged by the wise and prudent Rulers of the States (whom he will honour and esteem) not to be an Officer worthy of promotion, or the most flagrant injustice is done him” (DNA:PCC, item 152). Congress on 2 Oct. promoted Shepard to colonel of the 3d Continental Regiment ranking from 4 May 1776 when it was calculated that Col. Ebenezer Learned’s command of the regiment ceased (ibid., 839; see also Hancock to GW, 4 Oct.).

5Robert Ballard (d. 1793), who resigned as clerk of Mecklenburg County, Va., in 1775 to command a company in the 1st Virginia Regiment, wrote GW on 26 Sept. from Fort Constitution (Fort Lee), N.J., asking permission to sell his commission to Lt. John Pettrus in order to pursue “a Captaincy of Marines in an armed Vessell that is now fitting out in Virginia.” The reason for his request, he says, “is not from any dislike to the service, or for want of zeal to the glorious cause, but from experience [I] find that I cannot afford to stay in the Service, being naturally of an extravagant turn & not fortune sufficient to support that Dignity that is observ’d in our Camp” (DNA:PCC, item 152). Congress took no action on Ballard’s request, and on 22 Mar. 1777 he was promoted to major of the 1st Virginia Regiment (see General Orders, that date, DLC:GW). In October 1777 Ballard became the regiment’s lieutenant colonel and commanded a garrison on the Delaware River (see GW to Ballard, 25 Oct. 1777, DLC:GW). Ballard transferred to the 4th Virginia Regiment in September 1778, and he resigned his commission the following July. In August 1789 GW named Ballard surveyor of the port of Baltimore, and in 1791 Ballard also obtained the office of inspector of that port.

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