George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Israel Putnam, 22 February 1779

To Major General Israel Putnam

Head Quarters Middle Brook 22d Feby 1779.

Dear Sir

A Committee appointed by the Council of the State of Massachusetts Bay to inquire into the conduct and behaviour of the Officers both Civil and Military doing duty at Springfeild, having preferred Complaints against Colo. David Mason, Colo. Smith Dy Qr Mr and Major Eyres, the Congress have by a Resolve of the 11th instant (Copy of which you have inclosed) directed me to order a Court Martial upon the several persons accused of Misdemeanors—Reading being the nearest post to which the parties can with any convenience repair,1 I must desire you to give them due notice and order a Court Martial to sit for their trial. You will be pleased to furnish them with a Copy of the Charges and allow them a reasonable time to collect and summon their Evidences, if they should not be already prepared—When the Court has compleated the Business be pleased to forward the proceedings that I may transmit them to Congress. I inclose you all the papers relative to this transaction that have come to my hands, which you will lay before the Court for their information.2

Inclosed you have a Copy of the Arrangement of the Connecticut line, but as some Alterations may have since happened from Resignations and other causes, it is sent up by the Board of War for a revisal before the Commissions are issued. Should any dispute of Rank remain, it must be determined by the Regulations established by Congress for the settlement of Rank and published in the General Orders of 24 Novr Ulto—Copy of which has been transmitted to your Deputy Adt Genl3—Should any promotions take place by Resignation or otherwise they are to be filled up regimentally as high as Captains and from thence upwards in the line of the State—When the Arrangement has been revised be pleased to return it to me with your remarks if any, and with any claims of Rank that may be made. Be pleased also to inform the Officers that when Commissions are once issued, there will be no future admission of any claims whatever.4 I am &c.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Tilghman docketed the draft manuscript in part: “p. Mr Shearman [John Sherman] Pay Mr.”

1GW is referring to Redding, Conn., the site of Putnam’s winter camp.

2John Jay had written to GW from Philadelphia on 15 Feb.: “The Committee appointed by Massachusets-Bay to enquire into the Conduct of the Officers conducting the Public works at Springfield, having reported several facts, charging them with Misdemesnors; Congress have by an Act of the 15th Inst: a Copy of which is herewith enclosed, Resolved that the several papers on this Subject be transmitted to your Excellency, & the Persons accused tryed by Court Martial” (LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 14). The copy of Congress’s act directing GW to order a court-martial that Jay enclosed in his letter is correctly dated 11 Feb., not 15 Feb. as Jay mistakenly said (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 13:163). The other enclosures related to this court-martial have not been identified. For the acquittals of lieutenant colonels David Mason, deputy commissary of military stores, and William Smith, deputy quartermaster general, on charges of appropriating public goods for private use, see General Orders, 14 May (see also Smith to Nathanael Greene, 26 Jan., and Greene to Smith, 11 Feb., in Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 3:187–89, 236–37).

David Mason (1726–1794), who organized a provincial artillery company in Boston in 1763, served as an officer in the Continental artillery from December 1775 until his appointment as deputy commissary at Springfield in early 1777. Congress dismissed him from that post for “negligence and mismanagement” in July 1780 (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 , 17:670–72; see also Henry Knox to GW, 18 Oct. 1780, and GW to Samuel Huntington, 21 Oct. 1780, both DLC:GW).

The charges against Joseph Eayres (d. 1790) puzzled Massachusetts congressman James Lovell, who wrote to Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates on 9 March “that I have ever thought Majr. Ayeres a Man of strict probity and honor and hope he will have every Opportunity of maintaining that Character on Tryal which the nature of such Proceedings admit of. He must be strangely altered if he is now a Rascal” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 12:176). For GW’s desire to court-martial Eayres, see his letter to Putnam, 20 May (DLC:GW); see also GW’s letters of that date to Alexander McDougall (CSmH) and Jeremiah Powell (M-Ar). Eayres remained an artillery artificer at Springfield until his retirement in August 1780.

3On the draft manuscript the words “24 Novr Ulto” are in James McHenry’s writing. Congress adopted regulations for the settlement of rank on 24 Nov. 1778; they were published in the general orders for 18 December. Col. Return Jonathan Meigs was the acting deputy adjutant general for Putnam’s division.

4The enclosed arrangement of the Connecticut line has not been identified. Final settlement of rank among these officers, especially those in the 2d Connecticut Regiment, proved difficult and irksome (see GW to Putnam, 9 and 13 March and 1 April; Jedediah Huntington to GW, 7 April).

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