George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Captain John Wisner, 14 May 1776

From Captain John Wisner

New York, 14 May 1776. “Proposes to raise a Company of Rifle men for the Continental Service. . . . Capt. Weisner is immediately to begin Inlisting his Company, who are to Continue in pay from the date of their Inlistment if Congress approves of this proposal, otherwise they are to be dismissed on being paid for the time from their Inlistment to their discharge. Capt. Weisner is to be at Liberty to Inlist Volunteers at present in Capt. Moufets & his Own Company of Minute Men.”1


On the reverse of this document there is a memorandum in Caleb Gibbs’s writing which reads: “Captain Wisner is not to Inlist any men but what are now in pay at Forts Constitution and Montgomery in the Minute Service till he receives further Orders from Go. Washington.”

John Wisner, who in March 1776 was elected a captain in Col. Isaac Nicoll’s regiment of Orange County, N.Y., minutemen, was currently stationed with his company at Fort Constitution. Wisner failed to raise his proposed rifle company, and in August 1776 he appears as a captain in Colonel Nicoll’s regiment of New York militia levies who marched to King’s Bridge with several other regiments of state levies to reinforce the Continental army. On 23 Sept. 1776 Wisner took part in the unsuccessful American attack on Montresor’s Island, and a week later a court-martial convicted him of cowardice in that action and cashiered him (see General Orders, 29 Sept., and minutes of Wisner’s court-martial, 30 Sept., 1776, DLC:GW). “I am extremely sorry for (John) Wisner,” John McKesson wrote to George Clinton on 29 Sept. 1776. “I tho’t him weak & flighty, but I really tho’t he would fight” (Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 1:365–67).

1Thomas Moffat also commanded a company of Orange County minutemen at Fort Constitution.

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