George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Peters, 7 October 1777

From Richard Peters

War Office York Town [Pa.] Octr 7th 1777


I have the Honour to enclose by Direction of the Board a Number of Certificates relating to the Bearer Capt. Thomas Rowland who is sent to your Excellency to exhibit his Experiments before you or such Persons as you shall appoint. On his Return he will bring your Certificates of his Performances & Opinion of the Utility of his Scheme. It appears to the Board that the Plan proposed by Mr Rowland will be useful or they would not have troubled your Excellency with the Matter especially as many Persons have claimed your Attention when Speculations have been either ingenious without Utility or merely calculated to get Money from the Public. The Board have furnished Mr Rowland with a Sum of Money to bear his Expenses & leave it to you either to employ him at Camp or send him back as you shall think proper.1

The Board request you will be pleased to point out to them such Regulations in Regard to the Pay & Appointments of Messieurs du Portail, de la Radiere[,] de Laumoy & du Guvion as are suitable to their Rank & the Nature of their Employment as Engineers. I have the Honour to be with the greatest Respect Your very obed. Serv.

Richard Peters Secy

ALS, DLC:GW. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman docketed this letter in part: “ansd 15th Capt. Rowlands invention not usefull.” No reply from GW to Peters or the Board of War of that date has been found.

1A report in the 3 Oct. issue of Dixon & Hunter’s edition of the Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) says that Thomas Rowland (1744–1814), a captain of the Botetourt County, Va., militia, “last week, in this city, made an experiment of his new method of loading and firing rifles, which shews that rifles may easily be loaded and discharged in as short a time as muskets generally are, with their usual certainty as to aim, and with triple execution in time of action. He shot twelve balls into the compass of a large handkerchief, at the distance of sixty yards, in four discharges of his piece, in the space of 52 seconds. Several of the balls were within six inches of the centre, and but three of the twelve would have missed a man’s body. In another experiment, after firing thirty balls in ten discharges, his rifle appeared as clean and cool in the barrel, though she was not wiped during the experiment, as if she had not been fired more than once. Capt. Rowland’s method is looked upon as a valuable discovery; having rendered that instrument of death, which is already so much dreaded by our enemies, capable of being infinitely more destructive and terrible, and that by a simple and easy operation.” Rowland was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the Botetourt County militia in April 1781.

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