George Washington Papers

To George Washington from a Board of General Officers, 23 April 1779

From a Board of General Officers

Bound Brook [N.J.] 23d April 1779.


We the Subscribers met agreable to the General orders of Yesterday to settle the dispute of rank between Majors, Mentges, Murray & Nicholls, and took into consideration the principles on which the Arrangement was made at White-Plains, by the Committee of Congress assisted by B.G. Wayne; We are fully convinc’d That the arrangement then made was just, and we can see no reason why it should be alter’d.1

A promotion or an appoin[t]ment of Major Nicholls, to be a Lieut. Colonel appears by the certificate sign’d P. Scull to have been made by Mr President Reed. We know of no circumstance which ought to induce this extraordinary promotion, or do we conceive that President Reed had any right to make it.

It is our opinion that the Arrangement ought to stand as made at White-Plains Vizt




We also took into consideration a dispute of rank between Colonels Stewart and Craig & are of opinion That the appointment of Colonel Stewart on the 17th of June 1777 was valid, as the State in the first instance had the right of appointment. Colonel Craig’s Commission as Colonel is dated 1 Augt following. We are therefore of opinion that Stewart ought to be senior to Craig.

The Baron deKalb M.G.

W. Smallwood B.G.

H. Knox, B.G. Artillery

Wm Woodford B.G.


1See General Orders, 22 April, source note; for a further discussion of the origins of this dispute among the three majors and the arrangement originally made at White Plains, N.Y., see GW to the Board of War, 26 Feb.; and a Board of General Officers to GW, 1 April. For the report of the Committee of Arrangement at White Plains, see General Orders, 9 Sept. 1778.

2Francis Nichols reacted to the Board’s decision by resigning, as indicated in a letter to GW of 12 May, written from Philadelphia: “it is with Concern I feel my self reduced to the painful task of sollicting your Excellency for leave to resign my Commission as an officer in the line of the State of Pennsylvania, I did not engage in the Service from a liking to the Military as a profession but from the exigency of the times and with a View to render my Country any Service my Small abilities admited of, determined at the Same time to return to a private Station as Soon as the Complexion of public affairs began to ware a favourable Appearance, or my Country Could dispence with my Service, that period I hope is now Arived.

“As I was Unfortunately a prisoner and in the time of my Captivity injured in my rank, which Cannot at this time be remedied, makes it disagreeable to be Commanded by Gentlemen who has no right to do it, nor do I think ever Should, had not that bad fortune falen in my way.

“I hope these reasons will be Sufficient to induce Your Excellency to grant me this indulgance, and as I engaged in the Service purely through principle, I would wish to leave it with the approbation of my friends.

“I beg leave further to Assure Your Excellency, that my declining the Service at this time, does not proceed from any dislike to it, but on the Contrary, I Shall always be ready to render the public, every Service a private Station will Admitt of” (DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 31351). Nichols eventually had second thoughts, but GW denied his request for a reinstatement; see John Armstrong to GW, 7 July, and GW to Armstrong, 13 July, both in DLC:GW.

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