George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Fitzhugh, 13 October 1776

From William Fitzhugh

Annapolis Maryland October 13th 1776.

Dear Sir

I had the Honor to recieve your favr of the 5th Inst. & am much Oblig’d to you.1

I hope you will forgive the trouble I have Given, & may Hereafter Give you by recommendations, & Shew no more regard to them, than you think, or may know they Deserve, As in my Scituation, I have many Applications, which might be thought unfriendly to reject, you may However, be Assur’d, That I will not Name to you a man whom I do not know or believe to be Worthy.

I Suppose Lieutenant Steward If he Deserves it, will be promoted in the Corps to which he belongs, & wth respect to Wilkinson, who I verily believe is a young Fellow of Great Merrit, I will Endeavor, as you are Pleas’d to Advise, to get Him Provided for in The Battalions to be rais’d Here, But in the Intrim, As I presume you have frequent Communication wth General Gates, or the Commanding Offr of the Northern Department, I shou’d be much Oblig’d to you for Making mention of Him, refering to His Conduct & Behaviour.2

This Convention have now Sent Commissioners to your Camp, to Incorporate our Independant Compys & to form into Battalions, Such of Our Flying Camp as will Enter, on the Terms & Conditions, Directed by Congress, for the Continental Army, And Carry wth them, Blank Commissions, for such Officers, who will Continue, or may be promoted: I cannot say, that Confering such a Trust, was Intirely Agreeable to Me, But as it cou’d not be Avoided, I mov’d for & Carried, an Instruction “That the Commissioners be Instructed to Consult with & Take The Advice of His Excellency Genl Washington respecting the Promotion or Appointment of Officers:[”]3 This I Immagine, will Guard against an Evil, which their want of Experience & knowledge in Military Affairs, Perhaps cou’d not have been Avoided; As my Particular friend Genl Beall is of the Flying Camp, & The Term of their Service will Expire on the first Day of December Next, I cou’d Wish to have had Him Appointed Collo. of the Incorporated Independant Compys, But it was thought it might be Injurious to the Field Officers of Collo. Smallwoods Regiment, However, If a Battalion is form’d out of The Flying Camp, & remainder of the Independant Compys now with you, For the Continental Service, The Brigadier (If He will Accept it) Ought of Course to have the Command. It wou’d be a Pity, & a real Loss to the Service, If so Valuable an Officer as Beall, Shou’d be Discharg’d from it, As must be the Case, at the Expiration of the Term of the Flying Camp, Unless some provision is made for Him; I believe this Gentleman had the Honor to be known by you in former Service, & therefore will not Say more of Him at Present, His Brigade Majr is a Brave young Man, & I hope will be provided for in the New Corps.4

I am Glad your Loss on Evacuateing New york, was not Greater than you mention, It is Less than I fear’d and Expected; I never look’d on New york, As a Place Tenable against an Enemy Commanding the Water, Even, If their Land Force had been Inferior to what it was, & I heartily rejoyce, at your having made so Good a Retreat from it, But am Still Distress’d to think of your Winter Quarters, Considering the Want of Tents warm Cloathing, &c., Yet, As Many reinforcements are going to you, & I trust will be provided with every thing Necessary, I Doubt not, but that you will be able to keep your Adversaries within Due Bounds this Campaign, & that they will be Sick of their Enterprize Before the Middle of next Summer.

I am Sorry to find that the Delay of Congress, to Settle a Confederation has Created some Jealousy & Uneasiness, But hope it will not be Attended by any Evil Consequences; I believe Our Convention now Setting, will Remonstrate with Congress, on the Subject of Crown Lands in the Different States, not Already Granted or Located. As there is an Oppinion Held up, That all such Lands, Ought to be Apply’d, to Defray the Genl Expence of the United States in the War.

We have Order’d Eight Battalions for the Continental Army, Including Our Troops already Sent, or Such of them as will Engage During the War, to be rais’d Immediately, & have no Doubt of their being Compleated in Proper time, As the Inhabitants of This State Appear to Me, to have a Warm Zeal for the Cause of America.

I was Apply’d to by many Members of Convention to go as one of the Commissioners to New york, & Shou’d have been Exceeding Happy in the Oppertunity, of Paying my Personal Respects to you, But am so very blind, that I can Scarcely Walk aCross a Room, & as Matters of Importance must come on, in the Formation of a New Government, Which is now under Consideration, I Did not think Myself at Liberty, or that it wou’d be prudent to leave the Convention at this time, & Therefore Declin’d it.

Mrs Fitzhugh is now with Me, & Joins in Affect. Complts & best Wishes for your Health & Success. I have the Honor to be With sincere Regard Yr Excellencys Affectionate & Oblig’d H. Sert

Willm Fitzhugh

P.S. Permit Me to recommend to your Countenance & Favor, Capt. Thomas Smyth Junr of Collo. Richardsons Battalion Flying Camp. Formerly a Lieutenant in Collo. Smallwoods Regiment, He is a Son of My Particular friend Thomas Smyth Esqr. of Chester Town (who is now a Member of Our Council of Safety & Convention) And is a Brave & Worthy young Gentleman.5

This Will be Deliver’d to you by Thomas Contee Esqr. Who goes to the Camp as One of Our Commissioners. I beg leave to Introduce Him to your Usual Civility.6

The Inclosed is a Part of Our Commissioners Instructions, refer’d to in this Letter.7 Dear Sir yrs Affectionately

Willm Fitzhugh


1This letter has not been found.

2James Wilkinson (1757–1825), an indefatigable schemer and self-promoter best known for his unscrupulous postwar business and political activities on the western frontier and his deep involvement in the Aaron Burr conspiracy, was at this time a brigade major in the northern army. A native of Calvert County, Md., Wilkinson studied medicine at Philadelphia before enlisting as a private soldier in Capt. William Richardson’s independent Maryland company during the spring of 1775. In September 1775 Wilkinson joined Col. William Thompson’s rifle regiment at Cambridge, Mass., as a volunteer, and from November 1775 to April 1776 he apparently served in some capacity on Gen. Nathanael Greene’s staff. Commissioned a captain in the 2d Continental Regiment in March 1776, Wilkinson accompanied his regiment that spring to New York and then to Canada, where in June and July he acted as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Benedict Arnold. General Gates appointed Wilkinson a brigade major in the northern army on 20 July and assigned him to Mount Independence near Ticonderoga. Although Wilkinson was made lieutenant colonel of Col. Thomas Hartley’s Additional Continental Regiment on 12 Jan. 1777, he resigned that commission the following April in order to remain with the northern army as an aide-de-camp to Gates (see GW to Hartley, 9 April 1777, DLC:GW). In May 1777 Wilkinson became deputy adjutant general of the northern department, and as such he carried Gates’s dispatches concerning the British surrender at Saratoga to Congress in late October. Congress rewarded Wilkinson for that service by brevetting him a brigadier general on 6 Nov. 1777, and on 6 Jan. 1778 it elected him secretary to the Board of War (see 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 , 9:851, 870; 10:24) Widespread resentment in the Continental officer corps at Wilkinson’s being given so high a rank for so little cause obliged him to resign his brevet commission in early March 1778, and at the end of that month Wilkinson also resigned as secretary to the Board of War because of a bitter quarrel with the board’s president and his former mentor, General Gates (see ibid., 226, 297, and Henry Laurens to Wilkinson, 31 Mar. 1778, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 9:359). On 24 July 1779 Congress chose Wilkinson to be Continental clothier general (see 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 , 14:883–84). Although Wilkinson’s consistent neglect of that office greatly displeased GW, he did not resign until March 1781 (see GW to William Heath, 18 Nov. 1779, MHi: Heath to Papers; GW to Samuel Huntington, 24 Mar. 1781, DNA:PCC, item 152; GW to Wilkinson, 24 Mar. 1781, DLC:GW; and 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 , 19:313).

3For the Maryland convention’s resolution of 9 Oct. authorizing these commissioners and incorporating the instruction moved by Fitzhugh, see DNA:PCC, item 70. Fitzhugh enclosed a separate copy of that instruction with this letter (see note 7). The four commissioners appointed were James Lloyd Chamberlaine, Benjamin Rumsey, Thomas Contee, and John Hanson, Jr.

4Daniel Jenifer Adams (1751–1796), of Charles County, Md., who recently had struggled to discharge a large debt that he owed GW for flour sold in the West Indies, was commissioned a third lieutenant in Rezin Beall’s independent Maryland company on 2 Jan. 1776, and on 27 Aug. Adams became brigade major of the Maryland flying camp. Named major of the 7th Maryland Regiment on 10 Dec. 1776, Adams served with that regiment until he resigned his commission on 1 June 1779.

5Thomas Smyth, Jr. (1757–1807), who had been appointed a first lieutenant in Col. William Smallwood’s Maryland regiment on 14 Jan. 1776, served from July to December as a captain in Col. William Richardson’s 4th Regiment of Maryland flying camp troops. On 10 Dec. Smyth became major of the 5th Maryland Regiment, from which he resigned on 12 Mar. 1778. He represented Kent County in the lower house of the Maryland assembly in 1782 and 1783. Thomas Smyth, Sr. (1730–1819), a Chestertown merchant and planter, represented kent County in several Maryland conventions between 1774 and 1776. A major in the county militia, he owned a shipyard where he apparently built vessels for the state during the war.

6Thomas Contee (1729–1811), a Prince George’s County, Md., tobacco trader and planter who resided at Brookefield, his family estate near Nottingham, was an uncle of Alexander Contee Hanson, GW’s assistant secretary at this time. Contee repeatedly served in the Maryland assemblies and conventions between 1769 and 1778, and he was a member of the council of safety from 1776 to 1777. A major in the county militia by 1776, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel during this year.

7The enclosed copy of this instruction, most of which Fitzhugh quotes in the fourth paragraph of this letter, is in DLC:GW (see note 3).

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