From Officers of the Massachusetts Line
West Point June 13th 1779
The Remonstrance & Petition of the Subscribers, Officers in the Massachusetts line Humbly Sheweth.
That to our great Satisfaction, Congress have Established a Rule for Promotion in the line of the Army;1 and we are eaquelly well pleased That Your Excellency was Authorized to Settle the Arrangement & fill the Vacancies.2
But We find Notwithstanding the Celebrated Rule which Congress have laid Down for promotion in the Army—That the Council of the State of Massachusetts Bay, did in Jany last (without knowing the Rank of the Captains in the line of the State) Commission Captain Pettingill a Major in Said line, to the prejudice of a Number of Senior Captains who are equally deserving promotion, and who are under the disagreable Necessaty of leaving the Army on that Account3—Which We Humbly conceive will greatly injure the public Service.
We therefore desire Your Excellency will be pleased to take this Matter into your Wise Consideration and grant redress, by having a regular promotion take place, which will remove the animossities & Confusion which Naturely result from unjust & irregular Promotion.4
John Bailey Coll5
Thomas Marshall Colo.
Michael Jackson Colo.
Noah M: Littlefield Lt Colo.6
Tobias Fernald Majr
Andrew Peters Major
Bara. Bassett Lt Colo.
Nathaniel: Winslow: Majr7
John Greaton Colo.
Jotham Loring Lt Colo.
Thomas Nixon Colo.
Calvin Smith Lt Colo.8
Joseph Thompson Majr
Ezra Newhall Lt Colo:9
Jonathan Allen Major
Robert Oliver Major10
DS, DNA: RG 93, War Department; undated copy, enclosed in GW to John Jay, 5 Aug. 1779 (first letter), DNA:PCC, item 152; undated copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison docketed the DS with a notation that reads: “Field Officers of Massachussets state versus promotion of [Joseph] Pettingill. his promotion dete⟨r⟩m[in]ed irregular by Board of Officers.”
1. Congress passed these promotion regulations on 24 Nov. 1778 (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 12:1154–59; see also General Orders, 18 Dec. 1778).
2. 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 13:143, and John Jay to GW, 5 Feb. 1779, n.1.
4. For the completion of a final arrangement for the Massachusetts Line, see General Orders, 23 July and 2 Aug.; GW to William Heath and a Board of General Officers, 3 Aug. (MHi: Heath Papers); and GW to John Jay, 5 Aug. (first letter; DNA:PCC, item 152).
5. Col. John Bailey commanded the 2d Massachusetts Regiment.
6. Noah M. Littlefield (1737–1821), a captain in the Lexington Alarm of April 1775, received a commission as lieutenant colonel of Massachusetts militia in January 1776 and became lieutenant colonel of the 11th Massachusetts Regiment that November. He left the army in January 1781.
7. Nathaniel Winslow (1741–c.1808) was a lieutenant in the Lexington Alarm of April 1775. He then served as a captain in Col. John Thomas’s Massachusetts Regiment, May–December 1775, and at the same rank in the Massachusetts militia, February–November 1776. Commissioned a captain in the 10th Massachusetts Regiment in January 1777, Winslow became major of that regiment in November and held that position until he left the army in January 1781.
8. Calvin Smith joined Col. Joseph Read’s Massachusetts Regiment as its major and continued at that rank when the unit was redesignated the 13th Continental Infantry in January 1776. He became lieutenant colonel of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment in November 1776 and was made lieutenant colonel commandant of the 13th Massachusetts Regiment in March 1779. Smith transferred to the 6th Massachusetts Regiment as its lieutenant colonel commandant in January 1781 and served until he left the army in June 1783.
9. Ezra Newhall (1733–1798), a captain in the Lexington Alarm of April 1775, joined Col. John Mansfield’s Massachusetts Regiment at the same rank that May. He transferred to the 27th Continental Infantry Regiment in January 1776 and became major of the 5th Massachusetts Regiment in January 1777, with his rank backdated to November 1776. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in May 1777, Newhall served in that position until he transferred to the 4th Massachusetts Regiment in January 1783. He left the army that November.
10. Robert Oliver was major of the 3d Massachusetts Regiment.