George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General William Smallwood, 13 January 1778

To Brigadier General William Smallwood

Head Quarters [Valley Forge] 13 Jany 1778

Dear Sir

Since writing to you this morning on the subject of the prize Brig Symetry,1 the Regulations of the Feild Officers of the division for conducting the Sale and disposing of the Cargo was laid before me with a letter from the Regimental Surgeons and Mates to Docr Cochran. These Gentlemen feel themselves so much hurt by the discrimination made by these Regulations between them and the Officers of the Division that they have sent in their Resignations.2

As the common Guardian of the Rights of every Man in this Army I am constrained to interfere in this matter and to say that by the regulations a manifest injury is intended not only to the Gentlemen in the medical line, but to the whole Staff, who, provided the prize should be adjudged the sole property of the Captors, (a matter in my opinion not easily to be reconciled on principles of equity or reason) have undoubtedly as good a right to become purchasers in the first instance and to all other priviledges as any officers in the division.

For these Reasons therefore I desire that you will not proceed to a Sale or Distribution of any of the Articles except the Vessel till you have my further directions, and that you will as early as possible transmit me an inventory of the Baggage and Stores.

The letter to Congress is nevertheless to go on and you will please to forward it as speedily as possible.3

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; LS, sold by Thomas F. Madigan, New York, item 239, June 1928; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The draft of the letter to which GW refers was dated 12 January.

2The letter from the surgeons and mates of Smallwood’s division to Surgeon General John Cochran, dated 11 Jan., is in DNA: RG 93, Revolutionary War Rolls. See Smallwood’s explanation of this controversy in his letter to Henry Laurens of 17 Jan., in Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 12:316–18; see also Smallwood’s lengthy reply to GW of 26 January.

3Fitzpatrick states that the final clause of the LS, “in the possession of the late F. B. McGuire in 1892,” reads: “you will please to forward it by the first Conveyance” (Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 10:302).

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