George Washington Papers

To George Washington from a Board of General Officers, 1 September 1778

From a Board of General Officers

Camp White Plains September 1st 1778

Whereas the Captains of Colonel John Lamb’s Battalion of Artillery, did present a Memorial to Brigadier General Knox, commanding the Artillery of the United States, bearing date the 26th day of August last, requesting, that He, and Major General McDougall together with Brigadier General Parsons, (then a Board of General Officers, appointed by the Commander in Chief, to settle the Rank of the Maryland Line,) would hear the Pretensions of the said Captains to rank relative to each other, and settle the same: And also requesting, that the said Brigadier General Knox, would apply to his Excellency, for the necessary order therefor.1 In pursuance of the said Memorial, the Commander in Chief, was pleased to direct, that the said Board of General Officers, would settle the relative Rank of the Captains of that Battalion. The Board have had several Meetings on the Business, and received the Claims of Rank of such Captains as were present, and communicated the Pretensions of each to all of them. The Board also received Information of the Claims of those, who were absent from General Knox.

It appears that the Captains of this Corps, claim Rank on two Principles; one as being experienced Artillery Officers, the other as Senior Officers to them in the Infantry Line of the Army. The First alledge, that as a knowledge of the Science and Practice of Gunnery, is necessary to qualify them for the Artillery; and they have been at much Pains to acquire both those qualifications, and as they were not entituled to promotion, in the Infantry, it is hard and unjust, that Infantry Officers, unqualified for Artillery Corps, when compared with them, should come into their Corps, and claim Rank of them in it, by virtue of their old Infantry Commissions. On the other hand the Infantry Officers say, that as the Congress give no Preference of Rank to the Artillery Officers over those of the Infantry, it is departing from the Articles of war and degrading them, to place them Juniors in the Battali⟨on,⟩ to the Artillery Captains; and therefore that they are entituled to the rank in the Battalion, which their Senior Commissions give them.

The Board having duly considered the arguments on both Sides, and the known usage of Armies, as well as the American Articles of war, do unanimously determine, that the Officers of Artillery, before the 1st day of January 1777, ought to take Rank in the Artillery, of any Officer before serving in the Infantry, because their long Service in the Artillery, ought to give them prior Rank, when serving in the same Artillery Corps: But that the Captains of Artillery, who served as Officers in the Infantry, retain the Rank in the Line of the Army, which their Commissions entitule them to: This the Board conceive to be conformable to our articles of war; and to the usage of old Armies—It being a notorious Fact, that many Field Officers, in the Line of the British Army, are younger Captains in their respective Corps, and do duty in them as such, and yet command agreable to their highest Commissions, on detachment with other Corps.

Captain Mott and the other Officers of Infantry now in Colonel Lamb’s Battalion, being still entituled to this Rank in the Line, will suffer no Injustice or Disgrace, by the former Artillery Officers ranking before them in their own Battalion.2

2dly That the Officers who served as such in the Infantry before this Battalion was formed, and now serving in it, ought to succeed next in Rank, to the former Captains of Artillery: But as the Board are not advised of the date of Captain Bliss’s Infantry Commission; they determine, that Captain Mott and he, take Rank of each other, in their Corps, according to the date of their Infantry Commissions. Upon these Principles the Board beg leave to make the following Arrangement of Colonel Lamb’s Captains, Vizt

1st Beauman 4th Doughty 7th Bliss 10th Porter
2d Lee 5th Moodie3 8th Walker4 11th Mansfield
3d Wool5 6th Mott 9th Lockwood 12th Brown

All which is submitted to His Excellency the Commander in Chief, by his humble Servants

Alexr McDougall
H. Knox

General Parsons agreed to this arangement, but was absent when the fair Copy was made.6

DS, ICHi; DS, DLC:GW. Where the document is damaged, characters have been supplied from the other DS.

At the end of the DS at ICHi, GW wrote: “The above arrangement is approved of by Go: Washington Septr 10th 1778.” The DS at DLC, which has a note reading “approved by the Commander in Chief on the 10th of September,” was submitted to another board of general officers ordered on 11 Sept. to settle artillery ranks. That board reported on 15 Sept.: “The board of General officers assembled by your Excellencys order to settle the relative rank of the field officers in the corps of Artillery—As also the relative rank of the Captains in Colonel Lambs Battalion of artillery—Are of opinion that the above settlement ought to be confirmed and that sd Captain’s should in future take rank accordingly.”

1The memorial of 26 Aug. has not been identified. For GW’s appointment of a board to settle rank in the Maryland line, see General Orders, 18 August.

2Gershom Mott (1744–1786), who was commissioned a captain of the 1st New York Regiment on 28 June 1775 and of Col. John Nicolson’s Continental Regiment in March 1776, became a captain in Lamb’s 2d Continental Artillery Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777. He served to June 1783.

3Andrew Moodie (d. 1787), who was commissioned a second lieutenant in Lamb’s Independent Artillery Company in June 1775 and promoted to first lieutenant in November of that year, was taken prisoner at Quebec on 31 Dec. 1775. After his exchange, he became a captain in the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777 and served to June 1783.

4Robert Walker (c.1746–1810), who was commissioned a lieutenant in the 5th Connecticut Regiment in May 1775, was appointed a captain in Col. Samuel Elmore’s Connecticut State Regiment on 15 April 1776 and became a captain in the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777. He resigned in March 1781.

5 Isaiah Wool (1753–1794) was commissioned a lieutenant in Lamb's Independent Artillery Company in August 1775 and was promoted to captain lieutenant in November of that year. When Capt. John Lamb was captured at Quebec in December 1775, Wool commanded the remainder of his company as an artillery detachment. Wool was commissioned a captain in the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777. He resigned in August 1780.

6The preceding sentence is in McDougall’s writing. A similar sentence (in the scribe’s writing) on the other DS reads, “General Parsons agreed to the above report but was out of Camp when presented to the Commander in Cheif.”

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