George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Thomas Douglass, 17 March 1779

From Lieutenant Thomas Douglass

Philadelphia March 17th 1779

May it please your Excellancy

I understand by your letter to Colonel Procter, that the Arraingment of the Corps of Artillery, is to take place, and the officers desired to send Your Excellancy their Claims.1 on making enquiry of some Gentlemen, who Assisted in Arrainging the rank of the Army, whether any respect was paid to former Commissions or not, they informed me there was, I beg leave to inform Your Excellancy I at presant hold a first Lieutenants Commission in Colonel Procters Regiment, bearing deat first April 1777—but previous to that held a first Lieutenants Commission in Captain James Montgomery’s Company of Artillery, orderd to be raisd by Congress, dated the Second Decemr 1776, and Joind your Excellancy before the second affair in Trinton, and Serv’d in that Station untill the Company was discharged, as Captain Montgomery belong’d to the Sea,2 I a Short time after was honer’d with the Commission I now hold—I am inform’d that four Companys is to be Annex’d to this Regiment, and that Captain Jones’s is to be one, if so, it will be very disagreeble—as Captain Jone’s first Lieut. David Fick, was a Serjeant in our Regiment Feby 1777 and paid as Such, tho’ he now holds a first Lieutenants Commission dated in January same year, least Your Excellancy may not be aquainted with it, I take the liberty to inform you thereof, not doubting the Gentlemen that is to settle the Arrangment will see the Improperity of an officer, being Commanded by his former Serjeant,3 Your Excellancy will for ever obledge me to order this to be sent to they Gentlemen, that is to Settle the Rank of Colonel Procters Reigt. I have the honour to be your Excellancy’s most Obedient Humble Servent

Thomas Douglass

ALS, DLC:GW. Douglass addressed the cover: “To His Excellency General George Washington Esqr.—Commander in Chief of the Forces of United States of America per Captain Joseph Rice.”

Thomas Douglass, who had been born in Ireland, was appointed, as he says in this letter, a first lieutenant in Colonel Thomas Proctor’s 4th Continental Artillery Regiment on 1 April 1777. Sometime between 3 April 1779 and 29 March 1780, Douglass was promoted to captain-lieutenant in that regiment with a commission backdated to 14 April 1778 (see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 5th ser., 3:965, 974–75, 978). He became a captain on 12 Oct. 1781 and retired from the 4th Artillery on 1 Jan. 1783. During the spring of 1783, Douglass acted as intendant for the exchange of naval prisoners with the British in New York (see William Stephens Smith to GW, 21 March 1783, DLC:GW, and GW to Smith, 23 March 1783, NjMoHP). In August 1784 Douglass was appointed captain of a U.S. army artillery company and served until October 1785, when he was replaced for unknown reasons (see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 5th ser., 3:971). Douglass was dead by 1789.

2James Montgomery of Philadelphia, who commanded galleys in the Pennsylvania navy before he became a privateer captain in the fall of 1776, had volunteered on 1 Dec. 1776 to form his crew into an artillery company to reinforce GW’s army then retreating across New Jersey. The following day Congress agreed to take the company into Continental service for two months, “unless sooner discharged,” and appointed Montgomery as captain, Samuel Carson as captain-lieutenant, and Douglass as lieutenant of the company (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 , 6:998).

3The Continental artillery company commanded by Capt. Gibbs Jones remained independent until 1 Jan. 1781, when it was consolidated with a company in the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment. David Fick had enlisted as a gunner or bombardier in Capt. Thomas Proctor’s independent company of Pennsylvania artillery on 30 Oct. 1775 (see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 5th ser., 3:945–46, 947). Commissioned an ensign in the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment on 7 Dec. 1776, Fick served only a short time with that regiment before becoming first lieutenant of Capt. Gibbs Jones’s artillery company with a commission dated 1 Jan. 1777 (see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 5th ser., 3:383). Fick subsequently was promoted to captain-lieutenant with an apparently backdated commission of 1 June 1778. He retired from Jones’s company on 1 Jan. 1781.

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