George Washington Papers

General Orders, 9 September 1778

General Orders

Head-Quarters White-Plains Wednesday Septr 9th 1778.

Parole Glastenbury—C. Signs Graves-end. Grantham.

The following resolutions of the Committee of Arrangement respecting rank in the Army are published at their Request.

The Committee of Arrangement after mature Consideration of the many disputes of rank, subsisting in the Army of the United-States have agreed to the following resolutions founded upon a report made by a board of General Officers of the whole line (vizt).1

1st—That the relative rank in the Continental Line of the Army between all Colonels and Inferior Officers of different States, between like Officers of Infantry and those of horse and Artillery appointed under the Authority of Congress by Virtue of a resolution of the 16th of September 1776,2 or by Virtue of any subsequent Resolution, prior to the 1st of January 1777—shall be deemed to have their Commissions dated on the day last mentioned, and their relative rank with respect to each other in the Continental line of the Army shall be determined from their rank prior to the 16th of September 1776.

This rule shall not be considered to affect the rank of the Line within any State or within the Corps of Artillery, Horse, or among the sixteen Additional Battalions where the rank hath been or shall be settled; but as there is a difficulty in settling the rank of the Line of Artillery by reason of the peculiar Circumstances attending some Appointments in that Corps—it is recommended that the general rule now to be established for the great line of the Army should be the rule to determine the relative rank within the particular line of Artillery so far as their rank remains unsettled.

2ndly—That in determining rank between Officers of different States previous to the 16th of September 1776. preference should be given in the first instance to Continental Commissions, and to State Commissions of those Corps which have been incorporated into the Continental Army, the latter being considered as Continental from the time of their entering the Continental service: That in the second instance Preference shall be given to Commissions in the New-Levies and Flying Camp—That in the third Place Commissions in Militia be considered where they have served in the Continental Army for the space of one Month at least.

3rd—That all Colonels and Inferior-Officers appointed to vacancies since the 5th of January 1777—shall take rank from their Right in Succession to such Vacancies.

4th—That in all Cases where the rank between two Officers of different States is equal, or between an Officer of State Troops and one of Cavalry, Artillery or the Additional Battalions, their Seniority is to be determined by Lot.

5th That a resignation entirely precludes any Claim of benefit from former rank, under a new appointment.

6th—Adjutants, Pay Masters and Quarter Masters taken from the line shall be again admitted into it in the rank they would have been entitled to had they continued in the Line, and such Adjutants, Pay Masters & Quarter Masters not taken from the Line may be admitted into the line in such Subaltern Ranks as by a signed Certificate from the Field Officers of their respective Corps they shall be deemed competent to.3

7th—The rules above laid down for the determination of rank between Officers of different States are to govern between Officers of the same State unless where a rule has been laid down by the State or rank already settled, in which Case it is not the Intention of the Committee to interfere.

Signed in behalf of the Committee of Arrangement

Jos[ep]h Reed Chairmain

At a General Court Martial August 31st 1778, Coll Humpton President, Adjutant Verrier of Coll Patten’s Regiment was tried for—“Cruelly & unnecessarily beating the Fife-Major of the same Regiment while in the execution of his duty”—The Court are of opinion that Adjutant Verrier is guilty of beating the Fife Major unnecessarily but not cruelly and sentence him to be reprimanded by the Commanding Officer of the Brigade to which he belongs in presence of the Officers of the Brigade.4

The Commander in Chief approves the sentence and orders it to take place tomorrow morning.

At the same Court Samuel Bond Assistant Waggon Master was tried for 1st “Picking a Lock; breaking into a public store and taking from thence rum and Candles” which he appropriated to his own use, found guilty of the charges exhibited against him and sentenced to receive fifty lashes and to return to the Regiment from which he was taken. The General remits the stripes & orders said Bond to return to the Regiment from which he was taken.

The Commander in Chief is pleased to confirm the following Opinions of a Division General Court Martial whereof Lieutt Colonel Miller was President held in the Pennsylvania Line August the 30th 1778. Lieutenant McFarlin of the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment tried for unmercifully beating James Welch—soldier of the 7th Pennsylvania Regiment without Provocation.5

The Court are unanimously of opinion that Lieutt McFarlin did not unmercifully beat James Welch and that he had sufficient Provocation to strike him The Court therefore acquit him of the Charges.

At the same Court by Adjournment Septr 4th Mr Allen Quarter-Master to the 2nd Pennsylvania Brigade was tried for Disobedience of General Orders and neglect of duty to the Detriment of the Service and endangering the health of the Officers and Men—The Court are unanimously of Opinion that Mr Allen is not guilty and acquit him of the Charges.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The report of the board of general officers, dated 7 Sept. and signed by generals Horatio Gates, Johann Kalb, Alexander McDougall, Samuel Holden Parsons, William Smallwood, Henry Knox, Enoch Poor, John Paterson, William Woodford, and Jedediah Huntington, gives the first five rules stated below. The board made one recommendation that does not appear here: “To avoid Confusion & perplexity which have arose from Brevet Rank—it is earnestly recommended by the Board that no more Brevets be given except to Officers in the Line or in Cases of very eminent Services” (DLC:GW).

2For Congress’s resolution of 16 Sept. 1776, 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 , 5:762–63.

3After receiving the board’s initial report, the committee on 7 Sept. asked the board to determine “What Rank in the Line shall now be given to Officers of the Staff who have had Rank annexed to their Offices by a Resolve of Congress as Paymasters &c.—and whether when such Rank is given it implys a Right to command according to that Rank in the Line of Succession in the Army of the United States,” and received the preceding paragraph as their reply (DLC:GW).

4James Verrier, who was appointed adjutant of the 5th North Carolina Regiment in October 1776, was commissioned an ensign in August 1777. At this time he ranked as an ensign and served as adjutant in Col. John Patten’s 2d North Carolina Regiment, which he had probably joined in June 1778. The fife major of that regiment was Thomas Tiack (Tyack), who had enlisted for the war in June 1777.

5James McFarlane (1751–1794) was commissioned a second lieutenant of the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment on 13 May 1777 and promoted to first lieutenant on 21 March 1778. He remained a lieutenant of that regiment until the end of the war, serving in 1783 as regimental quartermaster. A resident of Washington County, Pa., McFarlane joined in the Whiskey Rebellion and was killed during that insurrection. James Welch enlisted in the 7th Pennsylvania Regiment in February 1777 and remained a private in that regiment at least through October 1780.

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