From Colonel William Richardson
General Smallwood’s Quarters
July 4th 1778
May it please your Excellency
It is irksome to call your attention to a subject with which you have been already so often troubled, but my very disagreeable situation will, I hope, apologize for requesting your interposition toward settling the Rank of the Maryland Officers, the uncertain State of which gives great uneasiness to many, is productive of frequent Warmths & Heartburnings among us, and has Occasioned several good Officers to quit the Service. I am not unapprized of your frequent directions to General Smallwood to have it done, whom I believe has taken much pains to effect it: but in vain. Indeed, to be plain with your Excellency, it is not likely that it ever will, nor proper that it ever should be settled by the Maryland Officers who are all, more or less, involved in the dispute. I think a more eligible Mode (should it meet your approbation) will be to appoint a board of three or more General Officers unconnected with the Maryland Officers, to hear & determine upon the premisses: this will Certainly be allowed by all parties to be the most impartial way of deciding it.
I apprehend the dispute, when once set about, may soon be ended, since it chiefly depends on a Single Point I.E. whether the Flying Camp Officers have Rank with provincial Officers or not? This point being once fixed, the Principle will then be laid down, by which most of our Claims are to be determined. here I beg leave to remark that the Convention of our State, at the time of raising the flying Camp, ranked the Officers on a line with those of the State Regiment then under Command of Colo. Smallwood—that is to say Flying Camp Colonels to Command the Lieutenant Colonel of the State Regiment, & so on downward—this General Smallwood knows to be true. I would also observe that by a resolution of Congress all Flying Camp Officers have Rank with the Officers of their State Battalions respectively.1
While I am honored with a Commission in the Service of my Country I wish to be within the line of my duty, but I cannot think of taking Command untill my Rank is Ascertained: I should therefore be happy to have it done soon; but if it Cannot, I wish to retire to my Family; relinquishing my Pay until the matter Can be settled. I have the Honor to be with profound respect Your Excellency’s most obedient And most Humble Servt
ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; Sprague transcript, DLC:GW.
1. Richardson’s intended references are not clear. The Maryland convention resolution establishing the flying camp, 25 June 1776, did not address the relative ranks ( Maryland Convention Proceedings, June 1776 description begins Proceedings of the Convention of the Province of Maryland, Held at the City of Annapolis, on Friday the twenty-first of June, 1776. Annapolis, . description ends , 5–7). A subsequent resolution of 16 Aug. 1776 directed that the flying camp brigadier general be subject to then-colonel Smallwood ( Maryland Convention Proceedings, August 1776 description begins Proceedings of the Convention of the Province of Maryland, Held at the City of Annapolis, on Wednesday the Fourteenth of August, 1776. Annapolis, . description ends , 6). In GW’s general orders of 18 Aug. 1778, he appointed a board of general officers to settle the rank of the Maryland line, and that board’s report of 7 Sept. placed Richardson fourth among the seven Maryland colonels (DNA: RG 93, War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Revolutionary War Rolls, Maryland). On 13 April 1779 another board appointed to settle continuing complaints about the Maryland arrangement specifically ruled against Richardson’s claims, arguing that the Maryland resolutions of 14 and 15 Jan. 1776, establishing Smallwood’s independent corps and giving its officers precedence over higher-ranking militia officers, “gave the Field Officers of Colo. Smalwood’s Battalion, the right of Commanding any Field offi[c]er of whatsoever Rank in the Flying Camp, or in the Militia belonging to the State” (DNA: RG 93, War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Revolutionary War Rolls, Maryland; see also DNA:PCC, item 173; for the resolutions, see Maryland Convention Proceedings, December 1775 description begins Proceedings of the Convention of the Province of Maryland, Held at the City of Annapolis, on Thursday the seventh of December, 1775. Annapolis, 1775 or 1776. description ends , 42–54).