George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Peter Muhlenberg, 23 February 1777

From Brigadier General Peter Muhlenberg

Winchester [Va.] Febry 23d 1777.


The Honble The Continental Congress, pass’d a Resolve the 21st of last Month, Ordering that part of my Regiment, which was still to the Southward to return to Virginia, & that all the Companies belonging to the Regiment, should be Recruited to their full Complement of Men, & Marchd to Camp as soon as Compleat.1 The Detachment from the Southward Arrivd here this Week, in a Shattred Condition, with only Seventy Men fit for duty; so that it will be Allmost impossible to March the Men as soon as I could wish, if the Companies are to be wholly Compleat; I have a sufficient number of Recruits to fill up the three first Companies belonging to the Regt & hope to March them in about Ten days—We have been much retarded in the Recruiting Service for want of Officers, as there are at present 12 or 14 Vacancies in the Regt. I have applied to The Governor & Council of this State, as well as to General Lewis, to know in what manner the Vacancies should be filld up but was told, they were entirely unacquainted with the Matter;2 Colo. Gresson Advisd me to Apply to Your Excellency, & to send a Recommendation, which I have accordingly done; There is at present one entire Company wanting in my Regiment in the room of Captn Stinson’s from Pittsburg, whose Time of Enlistment expird in September last. Mr Swain who waits on Your Excellency with this Letter has Servd as Adjutant in my Regt since it was raisd. He bears the Character of a Good Officer, & would willingly undertake to raise this Company with Your Excellencys Approbation3—I must trouble Your Excellency with another Petition in behalf of my Regiment; The whole Regt at present consists of Riflemen, & The Campaign we made to the Southward last Summer fully convinces me, that on a march where Soldiers are without Tents, & their Arms continually exposd to the Weather; Rifles are of little use, I would therefore request Your Excellency to Convert my Regt into Musketry. Your Excellency’s Most Obedient humble Servant

Peter Muhlenberg


John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg (1746–1807), the minister of a German Lutheran congregation in Woodstock, Va., who had served in the 60th British Regiment of Foot (Royal American Regiment) in the 1760s, was appointed colonel of the 8th Virginia Regiment in January 1776 and sent to the southern department. Muhlenberg was promoted to brigadier general in February 1777 and to major general in September 1783. After the war he moved to Philadelphia. Muhlenberg was elected to the Pennsylvania supreme executive council in 1784 and served as vice-president of Pennsylvania from 1785 to 1788. Before being named collector of customs for Philadelphia in 1801, an office he held until his death, Muhlenberg served three terms in the U.S. Congress.

GW’s aide-de-camp George Johnston wrote a reply to Muhlenberg on 9 Mar., saying that GW “desires that You will use your utmost Industry & Diligence in collecting together all the parts of the Virga Continental Battalions within your reach, & send them off to Philada as they assemble, where they will receive Orders from the Commanding Officer stationed in that City—We have already wrote to Colo. Morgan on this subject, & Mr Swain has Orders similar, to Colo. [James] Wood—These, being immediately under your Eye, You can dispatch—Let a sufficient number of proper Officers from each Battalion be left behind for the purpose of recruiting, with Orders to follow as soon as any of them has completed the quota allotted to him—Much, very much indeed, depends upon our being reinforced immediately. The least tardiness in the recruiting Officers must produce Effects, which they may repent—With respect to the 8th Batn I am desired to inform You, That his Excellency wishes You would nominate Ten Ensigns, to whom he will give Commissions immediately on the Regiments joining the Army, provided they are such Gentlemen as will not disgrace the Appointment & Commission. This however he does not suspect, convinced that You will not take into service any Person whom his Excellency can with propriety discharge.

“Congress having confirmed Majr Campbell in his Office, leaves his Excellency no power to remove him, but for the Commission of some Offence—You will apply to Capt. Stephenson to raise his Company—Till he determines, His Excellency inclines not to interfere—upon your recommendation of Mr Swain, His Excellency has given him powers to raise a Company of Foot, & to appoint his Subalterns. This Company will be assigned to the 8th if Capt. Stephenson inclines to leave the service; if not, Mr Swain will serve in some one of the 16 additionals. His Excellency satisfied of the Justice of your Observations about Rifles, has determined to have as few used as possible—He will put Musketts into the hands of all that Battalion that is not very well acquainted with Rifles. To conclude, His Excellency expects to see you here in a few days; there being at present not a sufficient Number of Genl Officers with the Army” (DLC:GW).

1For Congress’s resolution of 21 Jan. 1777 ordering the 8th Virginia Regiment to return from South Carolina, 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 , 7:52.

2The Virginia council of state acted on Muhlenberg’s request in a resolution of 12 Feb.: “Colo Muchlenburg having informed the Board that the Business of recruiting men to fill up his Regiment, and of furnishing them with necessaries, woud be greatly forwarded by marching from Fredericksburg to Winchester as many of the men already enlisted have Relations there and express a desire of seeing them before they go to the Northward. It is Ordered that he be permitted to do so” (Journals of the Council of State of Virginia description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends , 1:339).

3“Captn Stinson” probably is John Stevenson (d. 1826) of the District of West Augusta who was appointed a captain in Muhlenberg’s 8th Virginia Regiment on 10 Dec. 1775 and raised his company in the area of Fort Pitt. David Stephenson (Stevenson), who also was a captain in Muhlenberg’s regiment, raised his company in the District of West Augusta as well. Francis Swaine (d. 1820) of Woodstock, Va., who became Muhlenberg’s adjutant in December 1775, was married to Muhlenberg’s sister, Mary Catherine Muhlenberg. Swaine was appointed brigade major to Muhlenberg after the latter’s promotion to brigadier general (see General Orders, 16 May 1777, in DLC:GW) but resigned three months later after being reprimanded in general orders for neglect of duty (see General Orders, 22, 26 Aug. 1777, in DLC:GW). Swaine subsequently served as Pennsylvania’s state clothier, and following the war he remained in Pennsylvania.

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