George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 26 July 1778

To Henry Laurens

Head Quarters White plains 26 July 1778


The Baron De Steuben will have the honor of delivering you this. I am extremely sorry, that this Gentlemans situation and views seem to have determined him to quit the service, in which he has been heretofore and is capable still of being extensively useful. Some discontents which arose among the Officers on account of the powers with which the Office was at first vested, induced me to arrange the duties of it upon a plan, different from that in which it began.1 The moving state of the Army has for some time past, in a great degree, suspended the exercise of the Inspectorate. When the Troops marched from Brunswic, the scarcity of General Officers, most of them being engaged with the Court Martial either as Members or Witnesses, occasioned my giving the Baron a temporary command of a Division, during the March. On our arrival near our present incampment, I intended he should relinquish this charge and resume his former Office, for which purpose a General Order was accordingly issued.2 But I find that he is intirely disinclined to the measure, and resolves not to continue in the Service unless he can hold an actual command in the line. Justice, concurring with inclination, constrains me to testify, that the Baron has in every instance discharged the several trusts reposed in him with great Zeal and Ability, so as to give him the fullest title to my esteem, as a brave indefatigable, judicious and experienced Officer.

I regret there should be a necessity that his Services should be lost to the Army: At the same time I think it my duty explicitly to observe to Congress, that his desire of having an actual and permanent command in the line cannot be complied with, without wounding the feelings of a number of Officers, whose rank and merits give them every claim to attention, and that the doing it would be productive of much dissatisfaction and extensive ill consequences. This does not proceed from any personal objections on the part of those Officers against the Baron: on the contrary, most of them whom I have heard speak of him, express a high sense of his military worth. It proceeds from motives of another nature, which are too obvious to need particular explanation, or may be summed up in this, that they conceive such a step would be injurious to their essential rights and just expectations. That this would be their way of thinking upon the subject I am fully convinced, from the effect which the temporary command given him, even under circumstances so peculiar as those I have mentioned, produced.3 The strongest symptoms of discontent appeared upon the occasion. I have the Honor to be with great Respect and Esteem Sir Your most obt and humble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The LS is docketed in part: “Read August 1st Referred to Mr Reed Mr Boudinot Mr Chase”; see 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 , 11:737, where it is erroneously called a letter of 25 July.

1See GW’s general orders of 15 June, an extract of which he enclosed with this letter. At this point on the draft, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “This arrangement did not prove to be so satisfactory to the Baron as might be wished, which together with,” but those words were struck out.

3At this point on the draft, Hamilton wrote and struck out the sentence “It was generally the object of much complaint and inquietude.”

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