George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Patrick Henry, 3 October 1777

To Patrick Henry

Head Quarters 20 Miles from Philadelp⟨hia⟩
3d October 1777.

Dear Sir

I have been honored with yours of the 5th and 8th ⟨Septemr.⟩ As you are pleased to make allowance for the great variety ⟨of⟩ Business that engages my attention, I must plead that in ex⟨cuse⟩ for not acknowledging the rect of your favors sooner. Had any thing in the motions of the Enemy seemed to indicate an attack upon Virginia, I should not have delayed one moment in giving you proper intelligence.

Colo. Thomas Marshall of the 3d Virg⟨inia Regt⟩ informs me that the State are about raising a new Regiment of Artillery. He seems desirous of exchanging the Foot Service to that of the Artillery, as he thinks he can render his Country more service in that line. His Mathematical Abilities a⟨re⟩ sufficiently known in Virginia, and he possesses, in addition ⟨to⟩ those necessary qualifications for an Artillery Officer, th⟨at of⟩ indubitable Bravery, of which he has given proofs upon ⟨every⟩ occasion. Colo. Marshall has sollicited the command ⟨of this⟩ Regiment and requested me to mention that if the ⟨State⟩ should please to honor him,1 that his leaving the foot Service would not be disagreeable to me, it being his own Choice.2

The inclosed recommendation in favr of Capt. Charles Porterfeild, at present attatched to the 11th Virginia Regt was handed to me by the Gentlemen who subscribe it,3 with a desire that I would request your interest4 for the Commission of Lieutenant Colonel or Major of the new Regt of Artillery if the places are not already disposed of. I cannot undertake to recommend Capt. Po[r]terfeidl upon my own particular knowledge, but he is universally esteemed by his acquaintances in the Army as an Officer of very extraordinary merit. He also I am informed has made the military Branches of the Mathematics his particular Study. This Gentleman entered very early into the Service of his Country, he accompanied Genl Arnold in his expedition to Quebec, at the Storm of which under Genl Montgomery he was made prisoner.5

I shall cheerfully communicate every peice of intelligence particularly interesting to the State of Virginia, to Capt. Peirce, and ⟨any ot⟩her of such nature that it may be made public without injuring the Service. I therefore hope that, thro’ him, you will be informed of every material occurrence in the Army. He is not about Head Quarters at present, and as my attention is taken up in planning a matter of great importance I must beg leave to refer you to a very full letter which I wrote to Genl Nelson a few days ago, in which I gave him a particular account of all our late transactions.6

The inclosed hand Bill contains a full account of Northern Affairs, we are very anxious to hear the issue of them.7 Genl Burgoine seems to be in a fair way of being utterly ruined. Nothing but a successful stroke can extricate him. I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect and Regard Dear Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS (mutilated), in Tench Tilghman’s writing, Vi: Executive Department, Governor’s Office, Letters Received; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The mutilated portions of the text on the LS are supplied within angle brackets from the draft. Tilghman addressed the cover of the LS: “To His Excllency Patrick Henry Esqr. Governor of the State of Virginia at Williamsburgh,” and GW franked it.

1At this place in the text, the draft and the Varick transcript include the words: “with it.”

2At this place on the draft manuscript, Tilghman first wrote: “indeed I think him better qualified for the Artillery than the Last.” He then struck out that phrase and wrote above the line the words: “it being his Choice.”

3The enclosed undated document, which is signed by Col. Alexander McClanachan of the 7th Virginia Regiment, Col. Thomas Marshall and Lt. Col. William Heth of the 3d Virginia Regiment, Lt. Col. Richard Parker of the 2d Virginia Regiment, and Lt. Col. Christian Febiger of the 11th Virginia Regiment, recommends “Captn Charles Porterfield; as an Officer of Virtue, & Abilities. The very early and disinterested part he took in the present dispute, is a proof of his Virtue. And his undaunted, and prudent Behaviour, as a Volunteer, at the Attack upon Quebec; compar’d with the more recent Instances, he has given as an Officer, have render’d his military Abilities equally indisputable. To this We wou’d beg leave to add, that his Inclination and Service have ever led him to the Study of the Mathematics, of which Gunnery constitutes a part, & that We believe, a small Share of practice wou’d enable him to discharge with Credit, the duty requir’d of an Officer in that Line” (Vi).

4The draft reads: “that I should forward it to you and request your interest.” The Varick transcript contains identical wording.

5Charles Porterfield (1750–1781) of Frederick County, Va., who served as a volunteer with Daniel Morgan’s rifle company in Arnold’s 1775 expedition to Quebec, was exchanged by February 1777 when he became a captain in the 11th Virginia Regiment. Failing to obtain a commission in the proposed Virginia artillery regiment, Porterfield became brigade major of Gen. William Woodford’s brigade in July 1778, and the following September he took command of a rifle company in the 7th Virginia Regiment. Porterfield resigned his Continental captaincy in July 1779 to become major of the Virginia State Garrison Regiment, and the next month he was named lieutenant colonel of that regiment. Appointed lieutenant colonel commandant of a special detachment of Virginia state troops sent to reinforce the Continental army in the Carolinas in the spring of 1780, Porterfield was wounded severely and captured at the Battle of Camden in August 1780. He died of his wounds in January 1781.

7GW apparently enclosed a copy of the handbill concerning the American victory at Bennington that was printed on 22 Aug. by order of Congress (see Hancock to GW, 22 Aug. 1777, n.4).

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