George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Peter Scull, 22 February 1779

From Peter Scull

War-Office [Philadelphia] 22d Feb. 1779.


Inclosed are some additional papers respecting the arrangement, which have just come to hand.1 I have the honor to be Your Excellency’s Most hb. Serv.

P. Scull Secretary


1Scull enclosed the letter that Maj. John Murray of the 2d Pennsylvania Regiment had written to the president of Pennsylvania, Joseph Reed, on 14 Feb. regarding his dispute over date of rank with Maj. Francis Nichols of the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment. Murray wrote: “In the Arrangement of the Army made at White Plains last August I was placed second Major, in the Penna Line which was my just Rank, I am informed that Major Nicholes, who was third Major since he has been in Philade. has by some [means had] the Arrangements altered, and got himself placed first Major in the Line, but with what propriety I cannot see.

“Shortly after I was appointed Major in the state Regt the Regt was takin in the Continental Service with the Rank the Officers then held, in this Situation I have remained fully satisfied & contented untill I was informed I was superceded by Major Nicholes, without knowing the reson of it.

“I do assure Sir, I would be the last person that would clame rank that justly belong’d to another, and the first that would not tamely give up what I knew to be my Right.

“the Inclosed paper will shew the rise of Major Nicholes as far up as Captain.

“I reque[s]t it a particular favour that Major Nicholes may not be permited to assume rank of me, untill the matter be farther inquired” (DLC:GW).

Murray’s undated memorandum regarding Nichols’s advance in rank, which Scull also enclosed, reads: “Major Francis Nichols, was appointed a second Liut. in the Rifle Regimt the 24th of June 1775, upon the Compy March to Quebeck the 1st Liut. Died the 31st of Decemr following, the Capt. was Kill’d, and Major Nichole made Prisoner, in which situation he remained untill some time of the fall of the Year following, when he was promoted to the Rank of Capt. in the Ninth Regt; but agreeable to the Arrangement of the first Regimt he was not In-titled to the Command of a Compy in that Regt before sepr 1776” (DLC:GW).

This dispute, which also involved Maj. Francis Mentges of the 7th Pennsylvania Regiment, was settled in April by a board of general officers, which ranked Mentges first, Murray second, and Nichols third among the Pennsylvania majors, thus enabling Mentges, instead of Nichols, subsequently to become lieutenant colonel of the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment with a commission backdated to October 1778 (see General Orders, 30 March and 3 May 1779, and a Board of General Officers to GW, 1 and 23 April, all DLC:GW; see also GW to the Board of War, 26 Feb., 4 March, 8 April, and 18 May; Board of War to GW, 13 April, and Peter Scull to GW, 21 May, all DLC:GW).

John Murray (c.1731–1798) had been appointed an ensign in the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment in January 1776, and two months later he became a captain in Col. Samuel Miles’s Pennsylvania state rifle regiment. Murray was commissioned a major on 18 March 1777 in the newly organized Pennsylvania state regiment of foot, which was taken into the Continental service as the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment in November 1777. He transferred to the 2d Pennsylvania Regiment in July 1778, and sometime after April 1779 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel of that regiment with a commission backdated to 10 December 1778. Murray retired from the army in January 1781.

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