George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 21 August 1778

To Henry Laurens

Head Qrs White plains Augt 21: 1778


I do myself the honor of transmitting to Congress the inclosed Memorial of Colo. Rawlings, presented in behalf of himself and the Maryland Officers, who were under his command in the year 1776.1 The facts which are stated in it, are generally true—and I can not but feel myself exceedingly interested in favor of these Gentlemen. The conduct of this whole Corps, when Fort Washington was attacked is so generally known and approved, that it is almost unnecessary to add upon the subject. However, I think it but justice to observe, that every representation of that day’s transaction gave them the highest credit. They fought with a degree of veteran bravery—and though but a handful, they maintained their ground a considerable time, notwithstanding the most vigorous efforts to force them. All who were spectators upon the occasion have declared this—and the Enemy themselves have not refused ’em applause. It seems hard that Officers of their merit should be overlooked—and a loss to the service, that they should remain unemployed. But the consequences that would attend their incorporation with any of the Corps now existing, appear too disagreable to try the experiment. Colo. Rawlings himself from the information I have had, does not incline to give any uneasiness to the line of the Army—and would rather make a distant part of it against the Indians, in case he could be provided for in that way. Captain Beal who is charged with this, will be able to inform Congress more fully than I can of the wishes of the Colonel and the rest of his Officers; and his account may lead perhaps to some suitable and practicable provision for them.2 As I have observed before they are men who deserve well of their Country. I only mention the Maryland Officers upon this occasion, because that part of the Corps which came from Virginia, was provided for by the state in their present arrangement, as I have been credibly advised.

Mr Rawlings was never in the compleat and actual command of the Regiment under his direction, as Colonel, because he never obtained a Commission; but he became intitled to it, according to the then common rule of promotion, by the death of Colo. Stephenson and the Nonacceptance of Colo. Morgan who was appointed to it. With the latter circumstance Mr Rawlings I am persuaded, was never apprised, as it was kept a secret, from an apprehension that the Enemy might claim an Officer of the rank of Colo. in exchange for Morgan who was then a prisoner on parole, if his promotion came to their knowledge. Major Williams of the Maryland part of the Corps, was appointed by the State to one of her regiments now in the field, and is the only Officer in his predicament I know of, that they arranged. I have the honor to be with great respect & esteem sir Your Most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 25 Aug. and referred it to the Board of War (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 , 11:836).

1The undated memorial to GW from Lt. Col. Moses Rawlings states “That sometime after his entering into the Army (by the usual gradation thereof) he obtained the Command of a Regiment composed of five Companies from Virginia, and four from Maryland. That on the 16th of November 1776, your Memorialist together with all the officers and privates under his Command were either Killed wounded or taken Prisoners at Fort Washington; that during his confinement with the Enemy the States Adopted the method of Alloting to each Colony or Province the number of Regiments they were deemed Capable of raising towards filling up the Continental Army, in complying with which allottment your Memorialist & his Regiment have been totally Overlooked, neglected, or forgot, by the State of Maryland, so that he and the officers under his command are quite out of the Line of Promotion by the new Arrangement of the Army. Your Memorialist has hereto Subjoined a List of the Officers belonging to his Regiment at the Battle of Fort Washington together with the number of Privates fifty of which were killed & wounded in the field & most of those that survived the Battle died Prisoners with the Enemy. If your Excellency thinks the Peculiar Situation of your Memorialist, & his officers, Merits and admits any Relief and your Excellency will take the same under consideration your Memorialist as in duty bound shall pray &c.” The subjoined list includes 16 Maryland officers and 9 Virginia officers and states that 214 privates were made prisoner (DNA:PCC, item 41).

2Thomas Beall (1744–1823) of Frederick County, Md., a captain in Rawlings’s regiment, was listed by Rawlings as exchanged. By 1780 he was stationed at Fort Pitt as captain commandant of the remnants of Rawlings’s regiment, but in August of that year he was sentenced to dismissal by a court-martial, a sentence that GW confirmed in general orders of 13 Oct. 1780. After the war, Beall founded what became the town of Cumberland in Allegheny County, Maryland.

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