George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Thomson, 21 July 1777

From Charles Thomson

Summerville [Pa.] July 21. 1777.

Dear Sir,

Having lately met with an Ordinance of the king of France, passed last December, for establishing the corps of engineers I made a hasty translation of it, from which I apprehend some useful hints may be taken for establishing such a corps in this country. And as I know of no better hands into which it may be put for this purpose, I have taken the liberty to send you a copy.1

You are doubtless informed of the four engineers sent over by Doct. Franklin & Mr Deane, three of who⟨m⟩ are arrived & taken into the service of the contin⟨ent⟩ the first as colonel, the second as lieutenant colo⟨nel⟩ & the third as major of engineers. What probability there is of their being men of experienc⟨e⟩ you will see by the enclosed ordinance and the rank they held in the royal corps of engin⟨eers.⟩ Whether their being taken into the service as Colonel &c. of engineers will give them rank of those heretofore engaged simply as enginee⟨rs⟩ with similar ranks will I presume be left t⟨o⟩ your determination agreeably to the ru⟨les⟩ of the Army.2

I congratulate you on the capture of G⟨enl⟩ Prescot, & hope soon to hear of the release o⟨f⟩ Genl Lee. The haughty instrument of tyran⟨ny⟩ will I trust abate his insolence, at least ⟨to ad⟩mit the propriety of now insisting on genl Lee’s release “when you have an officer of equal rank to offer in exchange.” Though I must confess, I should be very glad before any exchange even now took place, that a cartel was settled on such plain and equal principles as to remove all grounds of cavil. The board of war have had the cartel, settled between the French & English in the year 1759, lately reprinted, which you will have undoubtedly seen.3

I cannot forbear thinking that the posts held in the army ought to be attended as much if not more than nominal rank. Without this our enemy will have greatly the advantage. Their general officers have all regiments, so that there are but few colonels. Ought not therefore lieut. Colonels or even Majors when they command regiments to be estimated as colonels.

But I am transgressing my line and I fear trespassing on your time. I am Sir Your obedient humble Servt

Chas Thomson

ALS, MH. The text in angle brackets is mutilated.

1This enclosure, which has not been identified, apparently was a copy in translation of the “Ordonnance concernant le corps royal du génie et le service des places,” 31 Dec. 1776, which can be found in Recueil général des Anciennes Lois Françaises, depuis l’an 420 jusq’ à la révolution de 1789, 29 vols. (Paris, 1821–23), 24:295–323.

2For the arrival of the French engineers, see James Lovell to GW, 24 July, and note 1.

3GW had sought a copy of the February 1759 Treaty of Sluys, or the Cartel as it was popularly called, back in February of this year (see Joseph Reed to GW, 13 Feb. 1777, and note 2).

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