George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Israel Putnam, 13 March 1779

To Major General Israel Putnam

Head Quarters [Middlebrook] 13th March—79

Dear Sir.

Inclosed are Copies of Affidavits transmitted me by Governor Clinton in consequence of a Complaint exhibited against Lt Col. Holdridge, by James Hallett of the State of New York.

A Representation of the same matter I am informed has been laid before Congress—if they have not ordered differently—You will order a Court Martial for the Trial of Col. Holdridge & in the mean time take proper measures for securing the Vessel and effects in question.1

By the Report of the Officers appointed to revise the Connecticut Arrangement, it appears that Capt. James Beebe of the 2d Connecticut Batt. is advanced to a Vacancy which of right belonged to Lieut. Erastus Woolcot of the same Batt. (an Officer of acknowledged Merit now a prisoner with the Enemy[)]—If this Gentleman is intitled to a Company I cannot conceive how he came to be set down in the arrangement as only the 4th Lieut. I have therefore to desire that the Board of Officers will take the matter fully into consideration, and if it appears to them that Mr Woolcot is justly intitled to a Company that they arrange him as a Captain. If this is done it2 will of course reduce the present youngest Capt. to the Rank of Capt. Lieut., but that must be the case rather than violate the right of a person who is prisoner, and who from that consideration alone is intitled to every mark of attention and justice. I have desired the Board of War to suspend the Commissions of the 2d Regt untill the above point is adjusted. Be pleased therefore to have it settled as speedily as possible.3 I am &.

Df, in John Laurens’s and Tench Tilghman’s writings, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Laurens wrote the dateline, salutation, and first two paragraphs of the draft manuscript; Tilghman wrote the remainder.

1For the dispute between James Hallett and Lt. Col. Hezekiah Holdridge, which resulted in a court-martial that exonerated Holdridge of wrongdoing in his seizure of the schooner General Howe, see George Clinton to GW, 7 March; Samuel Holden Parsons to GW, 25 April, DLC:GW; GW to Parsons, 1 May, CtY: Franklin Papers; and General Orders, 2 May. Hallett’s conduct and character subsequently came into question (see GW to Hallett, 22 July, and Timothy Pickering to GW, 31 Aug., both DLC:GW).

2At this place on the draft manuscript, Tilghman initially wrote “His being a prisoner is an argument in his favr and this.” He then struck out these words and wrote “If this is done it” above the line.

3GW wrote on this date to Board of War secretary Peter Scull: “I am favd with yours of the 11th—Be pleased to defer filling up the Commissions for the 2d Connecticut Regt untill I have the matter respecting Capt. Beebe and Walcot explained, on which I shall write to General Putnam immediately” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). Scull’s letter of 11 March to GW has not been found.

The ranks of James Beebe and Erastus Wolcott were still unsettled when GW wrote to Putnam on 1 April. James Beebe (1751–1812) served as an ensign July–November 1776, became first lieutenant in the 2d Connecticut Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777, and was promoted to captain on 25 Dec. of that year. He transferred to the sappers and miners on 1 Sept. 1779 and resigned from the army in June 1781. After the war, Beebe surveyed land in New York and later settled at Pompey, where he was the jailer and operated a tavern. Beebe’s body was found in the Seneca River after he apparently drowned while fulfilling responsibilities related to his recent appointment as supervisor of the state arsenal.

Erastus Wolcott (1752–1797), named the same as his father, who was a brigadier general of Connecticut militia, served briefly as a private before being commissioned a first lieutenant in the 2d Connecticut Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777. Taken prisoner at Mamaroneck, N.Y., on 1 July of that year, he and numerous other officers imprisoned on Long Island, who anticipated their release very soon, directed an undated petition to Congress that was read on 17 Feb. 1779 to “urge that a General Exchange may immediately take place” (DNA:PCC, item 41). Wolcott, who signed himself as a lieutenant on that petition, subsequently attained the rank of captain, transferred to the 1st Connecticut Regiment on 1 Jan. 1781 and continued in the army until June 1783. He was a probate judge in East Windsor, Conn., at the time of his death.

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