George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Stirling, 31 August–30 September 1777

From Major General Stirling

[August–September 1777]

Dear Sir

It grieves me exceedingly that I am [under] the Necessity of bringing any disagreable Matter before your Excellency, especially at this Time; But the late behaviour of General Conway renders it unavoidable. Since the Complaint entered against him in June last at Middle Brook Camp, of behavior unbecomeing a Gentleman and an Officer he has frequently behaved in a Manner very inconsistent with an Officer or Gentleman but of late he has endeavoured to throw Contempt on every order I have Issued to the Division, Mr Barber who Acts as Brigade Major to his Brigade tells me that Genl Conway has Strictly forbid him to Obey any order from me untill it has had his approbation,1 that three day’s on his Informing him, that I had sent for a Guard of a Sergeant and twelve Men his Answer was, “Tell my Lord I do refuse him the Guard,[”] that yesterday Morning on Shewing him a like written order, he put [it] in his pocket without paying the least attention to it. Such apparent determination to disobey my orders puts me under the Necessity of again Complaining of Genl Conway as Guilty of behaviour unbecomeing an Officer or Gentleman, and of disobedience of Orders. Nothing would at present have prevailed on me, to have taken this measure, but the InJustice I should do myself in Risqueing my reputation in the hands of a man Capable of disobeying my Orders, and that perhaps at a time when it may be attended with the most Serious Consequences to the public as well as myself.

L, NHi: William Alexander Papers. This letter is docketed: “To Genl Washington 1777.” The text indicates that it was written after June 1777, when the Continental army was encamped at Middlebrook, N.J., and during the period when William Barber acted as Conway’s brigade major, which apparently was from sometime after 16 July 1777 to sometime before 3 Oct. 1777 (see note 1).

1William Barber (c.1756–1799), who was born in Princeton, N.J., but resided for much of his life in New York, served as an ensign in the 3d New Jersey Regiment during the fall of 1776, and on 1 Jan. 1777 he was appointed an aide-de-camp to Gen. William Maxwell with the rank of lieutenant. Promoted to captain in April 1777, Barber apparently became acting brigade major of Gen. Thomas Conway’s brigade sometime after Peter Taarling left that position on 16 July 1777 (see warrant book no. 2, DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 18), and he apparently served in that capacity until sometime before 3 Oct. 1777 when Thomas Mullens was named acting brigade major for Conway (see General Orders, 3, 6 Oct. 1777). In may 1778 Barber became an aide-de-camp to Stirling with the rank of major, and he served in that capacity until the end of the war in spite of being wounded at Yorktown in the fall of 1781.

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