George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Artillery Captain Lieutenants, 30 August 1778

From Artillery Captain Lieutenants

Artillery Park [White Plains, N.Y.] 30th Augt 1778.


It is with the most unfeigned concern that the Captain Lieutenants of Artillery find themselves under a real necessity of beging your Excellency’s attention to their case, as they conceive themselves very sensibly affected by a Resolve of the Honorable Congress passed the 27th May last.1 They wish your Excellency to be assured that no consideration but a clear conviction of the justice they owe to their reputation could have prevailed on them to trouble you with an affair of this nature, or intrude on those moments of your Excellency’s which are constantly devoted to subjects of a more public and general utility—at the same time, they pray your Excellency’s indulgence, while they state the several matters of which they think they have reason to complain.

The Resolve refered to respects the Establishment and Pay of the American Army, by which we, the Captain Lieutenants of Artillery, are pointed out to the world as the only exception to the general rule observed by Congress on that occasion.

On forming the Corps of Artillery in 1776, the Pay of the Captain Lieutenants was fixed at the same rate as Captains of Infantry, and that of Captains and Field Officers at twenty five per cent more than those of equal rank in that Line, to commence the first day of January following,2 it took place accordingly, and has been received by them ever since. Several reasons we presume might be offered in support of the propriety of this Establishment, we will only mention one: that as the nature of the service required a greater number of Officers in the Artillery under the degree of Captains, and at the same time did not allow us to rise in any other than our own Line, the appointment of Captain-Lieutenant, with the Pay of Captain in the Infantry, was considered as a compensation for the inconveniences sustained by us in having our promotion confined to such narrow limits.

Under these circumstances, and at a time when it was universally expected by the Officers of the Army that their Pay would, at least, have been continued, and which in fact is done by the Resolves refered to, as far as respects the Infantry—we, the Captain Lieutenants of Artillery, are exceedingly surprized and concernd in finding ourselves the only persons who experience a contrary treatment. The more so, as it is, by a subsequent Resolve of the same date, fixed, “That, when supernumerary Lieutenants are continued under this arrangement of the Battalions, who are to do the duty of Ensigns, they shall be intitled to hold their rank, and receive the pay such rank intitled them to receive”. In this case, Lieutenants in the Infantry, though doing duty as Ensigns, are nevertheless intitled to their Rank and Pay as Lieutenants; while Captain-Lieutenants of Artillery, who have ever been acknowledged, respected, and obeyed as senior to any and every Lieutenant in the Line, both as to Rank and Pay, have had the latter reduced to the same standard with that of a Lieutenant; and are not without just apprehensions that the former also will be regarded by the Army at large as proportionably reduced.3

We are the more induced to apprehend consequences of this nature, as in the Resolve of the 2d of June, allowing subsistence to Officers, no notice is taken of such a Rank in the Army as Captain Lieutenants, and of course no provision made for them.4 In this instance we know not whether to consider ourselves as intitled to subsistence at all—whether as Captains—or only as Lieutenants and Ensigns. Upon the whole, we are exceedingly at a loss indeed upon what principles to account for the exception Congress have been pleased to make in our particular case; especially as they have not extended it to that of any other Officers, even in our own Corps.

Having just mentioned these Concerns, we are happy in refering them to Your Excellency’s consideration, fully convinced, that ourselves cannot be more ready to complain of grievances than Your Excellency to recommend a redress of such as may appear resonable.5

We beg Your Excellency’s pardon for this intrusion—and are, with every Sentiment of Respect and Attachment, Your Excellency’s most dutiful Servants,

Isaiah Bussey Wm Fleming Gaines
Ebenr Finley Oliver Brown
Jonas Simonds Daniel Gano
John Gridley Thos Vose
Willm Power S. Shaw
James Smith Tho. Barr
James McClure Edward Archbald
John Pryor Geo: Fleming
Wm Godman Jacob Reed
A. Bohannon Thos Jackson
Lewis Booker Thos Thomptson
Whitehead Coleman Joseph Thomas
John Lillie Philip Jones
William Stevens

DS, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. The copy in item 152, which was enclosed with GW’s letter to John Jay of 24 April 1779, omitted the signatures but noted that the document was “signed by 21 [27] Capt. Lieuts. being all who were at that time in camp.” Ambrose Bohannon, Lewis Booker (1754–1814), Whitehead Coleman, Ebenezer Finley, William Fleming Gaines (c.1750–1797), William Godman (1754–1825), John Pryor, and James Smith (d. 1782) were in the 1st Continental Artillery; Edward Archbald, George Fleming (d. 1822), Daniel Gano (1758–1849), James McClure, William Power (1759–1835), Jacob Reed, Jonas Simonds (d. 1816), William Stevens, Joseph Thomas (d. 1804), and Thomas Thomptson (d. 1780) were with the 2d Continental Artillery; and Oliver Brown (1753–1846), Isaiah Bussey (b. 1741), John Gridley (d. 1830), Thomas Jackson (d. 1790), John Lillie, and Samuel Shaw were with the 3d Continental Artillery. Thomas Barr and Thomas Vose (d. 1810) belonged to Maj. Ebenezer Stevens’s Independent Battalion of Artillery, annexed to the 3d Continental Artillery, and Philip Jones served with Capt. John Kingsbury’s Independent Company of North Carolina Artillery. Coleman’s promotion to captain, dated 15 Aug., apparently was not yet known, while Shaw was functioning as a brigade major and Gaines as an adjutant.

1The captain lieutenants were referring to resolutions creating a new arrangement of the Continental army ( 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 , 11:538–43).

2When on 20 Dec. 1776 GW wrote then-president of Congress John Hancock to press for augmentation of the corps of artillery, he wrote that the artillerists’ dissatisfaction with their pay had induced him “to promise Officers & men, that their pay should be augmented 25 per Ct.” Congress passed a resolution on 27 Dec. 1776 that authorized GW to recruit three regiments of artillery “and to establish their pay” (ibid., 6:1045–46).

3The new resolutions set the pay of artillery captain lieutenants at $33⅓ per month, the same as artillery lieutenants and less than infantry captains, who received $40 per month. Infantry lieutenants (and captain lieutenants) were to be paid $26⅔ per month. For the quoted resolution, see ibid., 11:543.

4For this resolution, see ibid., 11:560–61.

5According to GW’s letter of 24 April 1779 transmitting a copy of this to Congress and supporting the appeal, at this time he submitted the protest to the committee of arrangement, but no action was taken.

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