George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 10 February 1777

From William Livingston

Haddonfield [N.J.] 10 February 1777


Your Favour of the 3d Instant, I received this Day, and am greatly obliged to you for the Intelligence it contains. We are exceedingly anxtious in this solitary Retirement to hear from head Quarters as often as possible: And any Accounts of the spirited behaviour of our Troops, affect us with unspeakable Pleasure—What Pity it is that any of our Officers should be so unacquainted with themselves as in the Day of Trial to reflect Dishonour on their Country; & furnish the Enemies of it, with occasion to triumph. But as lucrative and self-interested Motives have ever sway’d the Majority of Mankind, it would be more than our Proportion to have every Individual in our Service, actuated by the pure Principles of Patriotism—With respect to a certain Expedition, I confess, tho’ greatly chagrin’d, I am not disappointed; as I never entertained any Expectations of it, after I heard under whose immediate Direction it was to be conducted.1

I am happy to find that our militia in these parts are lately turning out in great Numbers; & I hope they will before long retrieve the Honour they have lost by their late Backwardness; tho’ that in reality is rather to be imputed to their officers than themselves. We are exceedingly ill provided with Arms, in which our State has been but too deficient, tho’ I have often urged our Assembly to make provision for importing them without depending for so essential an Article, on any of their Neighbours.

I take the Liberty to inclose your Excellency the Representation of a joint meeting of the Council and Assembly of this State respecting the Rank of the Officers of the four Battalions raising in this State for the Service of the united States; and shall be obliged to your Excellency for your Answer on the Subject as soon as your Leisure will permit.2 I am Dr Sir with great Respect your most obedient & humble Servt

Wil: Livingston

P.S. As I transmitted my Letter of the 6th Instant by a private Conveyance; lest it should miscarry, I take the Liberty of troubling your Excellency with a Copy.

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, MHi: Livingston Papers. Livingston appended a copy of his letter to GW of 6 Feb. 1777 to this letter.

1Livingston is referring to Gen. William Heath’s failure to capture Fort Independence from the British in January 1777.

2The enclosed order of a joint meeting of the New Jersey council and general assembly, held at Haddonfield, N.J., on 6 Feb. 1777 to discuss problems in ascertaining the rank of the state’s Continental officers, requests Livingston to inform GW of its desire to place the New Jersey officers on the same footing with other Continental officers by dating their commissions 27 Oct. 1776. The order is signed by the joint meeting’s chairman, Nathaniel Scudder, and is located in DLC:GW. On 11 Feb. Col Israel Shreve of the 2d New Jersey Regiment wrote to GW from Haddonfield, N.J., to inform GW of his military service: “As the Honle the Council and General assembly of the State of New Jersey has thought proper to Send to Your Excelency for Advice, as to the Rank of the officers in the new Arangement of the four Battns now Raising Dureing the war, I Beg Lieve to Just mention the Rank I have had in the Army of the united States of America, in may 1775 I was Chosen Captain of milita, the 11th of June following I was Unanimously Chosen Colo: of the first Battn of Militia in Gloucester County in this State, the tenth of October the Same Year Obtained a Commision from the Convention for the Same, the 28th of the Same month October was Appointed Lt Colonel in the Second New Jersey Battalion, the 8th of Novem: following Received a Commision from the Honle the Continental Congress, on the 27th of October 1776 Give in my Name at Ticonderoga to the Commisioners to Serve Dureing the war, which was Confirmed by our Assembly the 29th of Novem: following in Giveing Me the Command of the Second Battalion &C.” (PHi: Gratz Collection). Israel Shreve (1739–1799), who was from a family of Burlington, N.J., Quakers, retired from the service following his failure to control a mutiny in the New Jersey Continental line in January 1781. After the war Shreve leased 600 acres of land from GW at Washington’s Bottom on the Youghiogheny River in Fayette County, Pa., and in 1795 GW agreed to sell the property to Shreve for £4,000 Pennsylvania currency (see Shreve to GW, 22 June 1785, and source note).

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