George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Artemas Ward, 13 May 1776

To Major General Artemas Ward

New York 13th May 1776


your favor of the 4h Inst. with return of the division of the Army under your Command is Come to hand.

the acct you give of your progress in fortifying the town & Harbor of Boston is very agreeable, when the works are Completed I think you will have but little to apprehend from the enemy shoud they incline to pay you another visit.

Inclosd is a petition from Col. Varnum which I beg you will attend to, if the facts are as Set forth therein he must be redressd for if Such practices as he complains of are given the Least Countenance to—it will have the worst of Consequences by encouraging Soldiers to shift from one Regt to another & throw the whole army into Confusion1—I have had no advice from Congress relative to your resignation, I shall write them this day to know whom they may think proper to apoint to the Command in your Stead, when I receive their answer you shall be informd thereof.2

inclosd is Copy of a Resolve of Congress respecting the Cannon in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay.3 Yrs &a

LB, in Stephen Moylan’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Col. James Mitchell Varnum states in his petition to GW of 10 May that on or about 22 Mar. Capt. John Lane, a recruiting officer for Varnum’s 9th Continental Regiment, sent Sgt. Benjamin Thompson and fifteen privates that Lane and Thompson had enlisted in Cumberland County, District of Maine, to join the regiment at Prospect Hill outside Boston. When the sergeant and his men arrived there, they found that the regiment had marched to New York. At that point, “By some means or other, the whole sixteen were reinlisted into Colo. [Edmund] Finney’s [Phinney’s 18th Continental] Regiment, stationed at Boston; . . . upon Capt. Lane’s Arrival at Boston, he applied to General Ward to have the Men redelivered; But, instead thereof, the General advised the Capt: to receive the Money back, which he had advanced to them, & refused giving any Redress agreable to a General Order.” Varnum accused Lt. Daniel Merrill of Phinney’s regiment of reenlisting the soldiers and of inducing “the Serjt & Men to burn the old inlistment, by which means he imagined he could the more easily conceal the Fraud.” This transaction, Varnum complained, “was in direct violation of the General Order [of 12 Nov. 1775], as the Officers knew the Circumstances before they reinlisted the Men.” He asked “that Capt. Lane may be empowered to receive the Men, & that the Expences be a Regimental Charge to Colo. Finney, or that your Excellency will grant such kind of Redress as to Right shall appertain” (DLC:GW). For Artemas Ward’s account of this matter and his action on it, see Ward to GW, 19 May, 3, 23, 30 June, 4 July, and GW to Ward, 16 June 1776.

Lt. Daniel Merrill (1732–1808) was cleared of any wrongdoing by two court-martials, both of which determined that Captain Lane’s enlistment of the men was not legal (see the proceedings of the court-martials, 24 May and 26 June 1776, DLC:GW). Merrill, who had been a lieutenant in Col. James Scammans’s Massachusetts regiment during 1775, became a captain in the 12th Massachusetts Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777 and served until 1 April 1779. Sgt. Benjamin Thompson apparently was commissioned a lieutenant in the 12th Massachusetts Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777 and resigned on account of ill health two years later. Capt. John Lane is said to have deserted in September 1776.

3GW enclosed Congress’s resolution of 4 May which returned to Massachusetts the cannon that it had provided the Continental army and gave the colony the cannon that the British army had left there (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 , 4:327; see also Hancock to GW, 7 May, and GW to the Massachusetts General Court, 16 May 1776, and note 1.

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