George Washington Papers

General Orders, 11 February 1778

General Orders

Head Quarters V. Forge Wednesday Feby 11th 1778.

Parole: ConstantinopleCountersigns: Conway. Cortlandt.

Representation having been made by the Captains of the Pennsylvania line against the promotion of Michael Ryan Esquire to the Majority of a Regiment as irregular, he is suspended from doing duty in that rank ’till the matter can be adjusted by a proper board of officers.1

At a division Court-Martial whereof Lt Coll Sprout was President Feby 9th Captn Israel Davis of Coll Wigglesworth’s Regiment tried for fraudulently detaining two months pay drawn by him belonging to Giles Tibbits a soldier to the great Damage and Distress of the said soldier—2ndly for detaining a sum of money about the Value of sixty pounds Massachusetts-Currency, the Property of five soldiers being money due to them as a hire from the twon of Newbury—acquitted of the first part of the charge, but found guilty of the second being a breach of 4th Article 12th section of the Articles of war and sentenced to be cashiered & to refund the money, to Thomas & William Clark each fifteen pounds to Hollis Hutchins Reuben Kincade & Benjamin Fletcher each ten pounds aforesaid Currency and that his pay be stop’d to make good those sums.2

His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence & orders it to take place immediately.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1An undated copy of the memorial against Ryan’s promotion, addressed to GW and signed by forty-six captains of the Pennsylvania Continental regiments, reads: “We the Captains in the Pennsylvania Line of the Army now in Camp, beg leave to remonstrate to your Excellency in the most respectful yet earnest manner against the unpresedented promotion of Brigade Major Ryan to a Majority in the line of this State—a Gentleman who never attain’d a higher rank in the Army than that of a 2d Lieutenant, which we presume he must have resign’d when he accepted his Appointment in the Staff.

“In General Orders issued at middle Brook, and repeated in those of the 31st of October last, your Excellency was pleas’d to declare that all Commission’d Officers should rise regimentally according to seniority to the rank of Captains; and from that in the line of the State they belong to, by Seniority also, ’till they attain the rank of Colonel: except where particular Officers signalize themselves by Extraordinary Merit, or where others prove themselves Unworthy of preferment. We are not conscious of such unworthiness in our Conduct, nor do we conceive that Mr Ryan, tho’ no doubt a Gentleman of Worth, has signaliz’d himself by any Merit so extraordinary that we should be thrown a Step back, while he, tho’ entirely out of the line of preferment which your Excellency has been pleas’d to establish, is created a Field Officer over all our heads.

“Exclusive of the good of our Country and the glory of assisting to establish the blessings of Liberty & Independance, the only recompense of our Services, as Individuals, is honour and promotion in Right of Seniority; both which are severely wounded in the present Case—in losing these we are depriv’d of our reward.

“This Step, Sir, is so highly injurious to us, indeed to the youngest Subaltern of this State, that we cannot suppose your Excellency was rightly inform’d of Circumstances, and therefore pray your Excellency to order an Enquiry by a Board of Officers into the Merits of the Case as to grant us such other redress as your Excellency in your Wisdom and Justice may think proper” (DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 15528). For the appointment and determination of the board of general officers, see the general orders of 15 and 20 February.

2Israel Davis (c.1730–1783) of Boothbay, District of Me., had served in 1776 as a captain in the Massachusetts militia and was appointed a captain of the 13th Massachusetts Regiment in January 1777. Giles Tibbets of Boothbay, Reuben Kincade of Newcastle, Benjamin Fletcher of Casco Bay, and Hollis Hutchins, Thomas Clark and William Clark of Pownalborough, District of Me., were all privates in Davis’s company of the 13th Massachusetts Regiment. Section 12, article 4 of the articles of war reads in part: “Every officer who shall be convicted at a court-martial of having embezzled or misapplied any money with which he may have been entrusted for the payment of the men under his command, or for inlisting men into the service, if a commissioned officer, shall be cashiered and compelled to refund the money” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 5:796).

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