George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Cochran, 25 March 1779

From John Cochran

Manor of Livingston [N.Y.] March 25th 1779

Dear sir

I should not trouble your Excellency at this time, but am under Apprehensions that, my Absence may be attributed more to a Neglect of Duty, than any real Cause. When I came to this Place, on my Way from Boston to Head Quarters,1 I found Mrs Cochran so dangerously ill that I could not possibly leave her, but at the utmost risk of her Life, and am sorry to say that, her Circumstances are such that I cannot justify myself in abandoning her at present.2 I hope, as the Weather grows more mild, she will recover, so that I may be Able to join the Army; but if my immediate Attendance cannot be dispensed with, I shall be reduced to the disagreeable Necessity of resigning my Commission, which would give me much Pain, for as I have already bore a share in the Contest thus far, I should be sorry to retire, until we see the End of it.3

As I would not trouble your Excellency heretofore, I wrote to Doctor McHenry to acquaint you of the Reasons of my being delayed;4 my Silence on that Head, I flatter myself will not be construed into a Want of respect. You will oblige me infinitely in ordering o⟨ne⟩ of the Gentlemen of your Family to favor me with a Line. I am, with best Compliments to Mrs Washington Dear sir your Affectionate and very humble servant

John Cochran


1Surgeon General Cochran had accompanied an ill Lafayette to Boston, where the latter embarked for France on 11 Jan. (see GW to Benjamin Franklin, 28 Dec. 1778, and n.1 to that document).

2Cochran married the widow Gertrude (Geertruy) Schuyler (1724–1813), a sister of Philip Schuyler, in 1760. In late 1776 or early 1777, she moved with their three sons from the Cochran home in New Brunswick, N.J., to the home of her daughter, Cornelia Schuyler Livingston, at Livingston Manor, New York.

3For Cochran’s return to Middlebrook in April despite his wife’s continued illness, see Philip Schuyler to GW, 15 April, and GW to Schuyler, 27 April, both DLC:GW; see also Safford, Cochran, 54–55.

4In this letter of 29 Jan. from Livingston Manor, Cochran wrote GW’s assistant secretary James McHenry that “I much hoped by this time to have been at Head Quarters with my Family & to have spent the remainder of the Winter in the very agreeable manner, I begun it, but on my arrival at this Place, I had the unhappiness to find Mrs Cochran extremely ill of a most inveterate Rheumatism & Fever which have confined her chiefly to her bed for these four Weeks, in exceeding great Pain. As I have little Expectations of her recovery shortly, (if at all) I must necessarly be confined here & wait the Event, of which I beg you will acquaint the commander in chief; Whom God long preserve” (CSmH).

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