George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Patrick Henry, 14 October 1778

To Patrick Henry

Head Quarters Fredericksburg 14th Octobr 1778

Dear Sir

Your favr of the 31st July only reached me by yesterdays post1—If Mr White returns to the Army I must be under the necessity of taking notice of his unhappy Affair with Mr Greene—I cannot say whether the friends of the deceased will appear to prosecute, if they do not, I shall have discharged my duty and the thing will pass off. As Colo. Greene is at present in Virginia, Mr White may contrive to know his determination and had better form his resolutions accordingly. I have the honor to be with the greatest Regard Yr Excellency’s most obt.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Tilghman docketed the draft: “14th Octobr 1778 to Govr Henry by Mr Custis.”

1Henry had written GW from Williamsburg, Va., on 31 July 1778: “I beg Leave to trouble your Excellency in Respect to Leiutenant White of the first Virginia Regiment, who unfortunately killed a Mr Green as I’m told in a Duel. It was recommended to him to leave Camp as he says, for a while, ’til the first Heats should be allayed, & until the sober Reflection of the deceased’s Friends should suffer them to veiw the Affair in a just Light. Mr White has done so; & he now thinks that his Honor calls him again to the Army where he hopes to go on his Duty again unmolested, unless the Laws of the Army shall render it necessary to call him to account. He with many others supposes that Custom has in some Sort controuled the Laws agt Duelling in Cases where Provocation can be pleaded. However he submits chearfully to what you are pleased to order. I have only to say that I beleive him a worthy young man & a good Officer” (ALS, DLC:GW). Elisha White, who had been commissioned a second lieutenant in the 1st Virginia Regiment on 11 June 1777, was dropped from the rolls as absent without leave in May 1778. John Green (c.1760–1778) was a son of Col. John Green of the 10th Virginia Regiment.

On 21 Nov. 1778 Col. Richard Parker of the 1st Virginia Regiment wrote GW’s assistant secretary Richard Kidder Meade that White had rejoined the regiment at West Point and that “he is desirous of continuing an Officer if he can do it with propriety[.] It is my wish that he should do so but can not do it without your Excellencys permission. Col. Green who is the only person who wished him prosecuted is reconciled and now wishes him to take command in his Regmt” (PHi: Gratz Collection). Meade replied to Parker on 25 Nov.: “I received your favor respecting Lieut. White, and presented the one it contained to His Excellency. I have it in command from him to desire you will have that Gentleman arrested for having killed Lieut. Greene in a Duel, when the charge is to be transmitted to the Adjut. Genl. this is a step the rules of the Army & a regard to propriety obliged the Genl to take” (DLC:GW). No record of White being tried on this charge has been found.

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