George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Board of War, 25 June 1779

To the Board of War

Head Quarters New Windsor June 25: 1779


I was last night honoured with Your favors of the 18 & 19 Instant.1

I have directed the Commissary of Prisoners to permit Capn Fetherston (I believe he was only a Lieutenant when taken) to go to New York on parole, subject to be recalled whenever we think proper, unless his absolute exchange is effected, which I would prefer.2

I have examined and considered the petition of Captain Judd—and it appears to me, that his claim has no foundation. He has no right to precedence of the Officers arranged before him by the State, from the Majority he held in the Militia. The appointment of Officers was with the State—and they had an unquestionable right to promote any before him, who was only then introduced into the Army. Besides the Resolution of Congress of the 16 September 1776 which authorised this—those of the 24th of November last are explicitly against his pretensions in every point of view.3 He must stand at the point of rank in which he was placed.

I return the Arrangement of Colo. Brodhead’s Regiment, which I suppose is generally right:4 However as there are Two Lieutenants and the whole of the Ensigns of new appointments, it will be proper for the Board to have it approved in these instances, by the State, previous to their issuing Commissions. Archibald Reed must be arranged before Alexander Graham if these Commissions are dated when the Vacancies to which they are appointed happened. there is an inconsistency as they now stand.5 Colo. Brodhead mentions that Capn Swearingen & Lieut. Hardin intend to resign.6 I shall be very sorry if they do, as they are both exceeding good Officers—and particularly calculated as he observes, for a Frontier—desultory service; yet I do not know that any thing can be done for ’em—or that they have been injured in their promotion—indeed this is not suggested. The Board will see the appointments of Colo. Brodhead & his two field Officers in the Arrangement of the Field Officers transmitted in my Letter of the 23d.

I am just now favoured with Your Letter of the 21st inclosing one from Mr Pettingill of the Massachuset’s line.7 The Arrangement of this will be entered upon as soon as possible, when his case will be considered. The promotion he received from the State is remonstrated against by a number of their Officers, among whom there are Sixteen Field Officers.8 I believe I shall never have done with disputes of this sort—scar⟨c⟩ely a day passes without applications on the subject. If in the course of events, it should become necessary to levy New Troops on account of the expiration of the inlistments of the Old, I trust that some mode will be adopted, by which the Arrangements made & making, will be held inviolate. I have the Honor to be with great respect & esteem &c.


P.S. Capn Judd’s petition is dated 21st May 1779—It is probable that he is with the Army; but as he addressed the Board—he may expect an Answer from them. If Major Massie is in philadelpa, The Board will be pleased to have the inclosed delivered to him; if not, they will return it.9

Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

2GW’s direction to John Beatty regarding Capt. William Featherstone, if written, has not been found.

3The resolution that Congress passed on 16 Sept. 1776 establishing eightyeight Continental regiments gave to each state government the power to appoint all officers and fill all vacancies below the rank of general officers for its quota of troops (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 5:762–64). The resolution passed on 24 Nov. 1778 formulated “general principles” to settle rank disputes (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 12:1154–56).

4The enclosed arrangement has not been identified. Col. Daniel Brodhead commanded the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment.

5Archibald Read (Reed; d. 1823) became paymaster of the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment in December 1777, an ensign in June 1778, and a lieutenant that December. A court-martial held in July 1781 acquitted him of charges that he defrauded soldiers and detained their pay (DLC:GW; see also Kellogg, Frontier Retreat, description begins Louise Phelps Kellogg, ed. Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 1779–1781. Madison, Wis., 1917. description ends 484–90). In a letter to GW written at Fort Pitt that 19 Aug., Read and two other officers stated “it is our highest Ambition, to Continue Under Your Excellencies Command to the end of the Contest” (DLC:GW).

Alexander Graham became an ensign in the 5th Pennsylvania Battalion in August 1776 and a 2d lieutenant in the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment in August 1777. Brodhead appointed him brigade major on 18 July 1778 (see Kellogg, Frontier Advance, description begins Louise Phelps Kellogg, ed. Frontier Advance on the Upper Ohio, 1778-1779. Madison, Wis., 1916. description ends 426). His promotion to 1st lieutenant was dated April 1779.

6GW likely is referring to a letter from Col. Daniel Brodhead to Timothy Pickering, written at Pittsburgh on 6 June. Brodhead’s letterbook copy reads: “In my last I took the liber[t]y of informing you that a number of officers had been appointed in general orders—they have ever since done the duty of officers and behaved well, I now take the liberty of troubling you with their names and dates of their commissions and appointments of the Captains and Subalterns of my Regiment. You will perceive that my Regiment is rather deficient of officers for the service in this part of the Country. Lieut. Harding and Captain Swearingen intend shortly to resign, because they conceive sufficient notice has not been taken of their Merits; they are both very deserving, and I wish to retain them in the service, particularly Mr. Harding, who has really great merit, and has on many occasions distinguished [himself] under Col. Morgan, and he is particularly calculated for the service here. I sincerely wish he may be encouraged” (Pa. Archives, description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends 1st ser., 12:128–29). Capt. Charles Van Swearingen resigned from the army that August. For Lt. John Hardin, see Brodhead to GW, this date, n.5.

7For these letters, see Joseph Pettingill to GW, 12 June, and the source note to that document.

8For the protest of Massachusetts officers regarding Maj. Joseph Pettingill’s promotion, see Officers of the Massachusetts Line to GW, 13 June.

9The enclosure has not been found, but for the draft of this letter, see GW to Thomas Massie, this date.

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