George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Arthur St. Clair, 2 June 1779

To Major General Arthur St. Clair

Head Quarters M.B. [Middlebrook] June 2 1779.

Dr Sir

I duly received your two letters of yesterday1—I approve your reasons for taking the upper route.2

By the present institution of the Inspectorship neither Major Ryan nor Mr McCormick can in my opinion be appointed Inspectors. It is to be feared however we may be reduced to the necessity of altering it, from the reluctance with which the Majors undertake the office. But I could wish it might succeed as it now stands—If an alteration should take place, that will permit Major Ryan to act in this line hereafter, the opinion I have of his qualifications will make it entirely agreeable to me.3 It is hardly probable any change so extensive should take place as will admit Mr McCormick;4 but if I recollect right there is a resolve of Congress, providing that Brigade Majors shall act as Aid DeCamps to the Brigadiers with the same rank & pay. I do not find this resolve among my papers, but am making enquiry for it.5

I wish Col. Harmar may be induced to accept the Sub Inspectorship—I think he will answer the purpose well6—It is unlucky there is not found greater alacrity among the officers to enter into the inspection—It is certainly a line which affords a handsome opportunity for the display of talents and the acquisition of military knowlege and practice.

You observe that the enemy among other objects may have it in view to prevent a junction of our force7—This is an important idea and ought to have due influence in our movements.

I have ordered a Non Commissioned officer and eight Dragoons from the Marechaussee corps to join you immediately at [  ].8

I send you a little sketch that will serve to give you an idea of the country you are in.9 I am D. Sir Yr Obedt servant.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1These letters from St. Clair to GW have not been found.

2In letters of 29 and 31 May, GW had ordered St. Clair to march his division from Middlebrook toward Pompton, N.J., and be ready to advance rapidly into the Highlands upon receiving accurate intelligence of enemy operations up the Hudson River. The “upper route” probably refers to the road through Ringwood, N.J., from Pompton.

3For the resignation from the army of Capt. Michael Ryan because he did not hold the rank of major, which new congressional resolutions required for brigade inspectors, see Board of War to GW, 29 May; St. Clair to GW, 31 May (second letter); and GW to Board of War, 9 June. Ryan’s letter to GW of 13 June, in which he resigns, reads: “On account of the late arrangement of the Army I am so situated that I cannot reconcile it to my feelings, when the Army march’d from Millstone I was necessitated to take command of the Colonels Company, drafting the Light Infantry and forming one Battalion of the 5th and 9th [Pennsylvania] Regiments deprives me of all command there being so many older Captains than I am in Both Regiments. I therefore request Your Excellency will accept this my resignation of the Commission I bear as I am depriv’d of every opertunity of Serving my Country or gaining any degree of honor” (ALS, DNA: RG 93, Commissions, 1775–1778, vol. 169).

4Henry McCormick, who held no rank in the line, received appointment as brigade major and brigade inspector of the light infantry under Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne in the general orders for 1 July.

A letter from GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison to St. Clair, written at New Windsor, N.Y., on 24 June, reads: “I received Your favor of Yesterday; but could not present it to His Excellency till this morning as he was at West point. The General will consider of Mr McCormick’s case and decide upon it in a few days. We have nothing new” (DLC:GW).

5GW appears to have conflated consecutive congressional resolutions from 20 Aug. 1778. The first resolution annexed the duties of brigade inspectors to those of brigade majors, and the second resolution defined the rank and emoluments of aides-de-camp for brigadier generals (see 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 11:821–22).

6Lt. Col. Josiah Harmar was appointed sub-inspector of the Pennsylvania division in the general orders for 12 June. St. Clair had recommended Harmar for this position in his second letter to GW of 31 May.

7For the British operations then under way up the Hudson River, see William De Hart to GW, 30 May, n.1, and General Orders, 1 June, n.1.

8GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Kidder Meade wrote Capt. Bartholomew von Heer from Middlebrook on this date: “You will be pleased by order of his Excellency, to send a non Commissioned Officer with four Dragoons immediately, to the Virginia encampment, who will there receive their orders from the Commanding Officer of the division—should the troops have left the ground you will give orders to the party to follow them—they are to proceed with that division” (DLC:GW). GW’s assistant secretary James McHenry wrote Heer from Middlebrook later on this date: “It is his Excellencys commands that immediately upon receipt of this you despatch one half of the horse now with you, light and unincumbered of baggage to join the party sent off yesterday to General St Clair. It will be necessary for a commissioned officer to proceed with this detachment, in case you only sent a non-commissioned one with the former. The whole are to be subject to the orders of Genl St Clair. The officer is to be furnished with a copy of this—and to proceed by the route to Pompton” (DLC:GW).

9The enclosed sketch has not been identified.

Index Entries