Council of General Officers
[West Point, 26 July 1779]
At a Council of General Officers held at Head Quarters this 26th day of July 1779
|The Commander in Chief|
The Commander in Chief laid before the Council sundry papers relative to the Muster Masters department transmitted him by a Committee of Congress in a letter of the 5th instant—and requested their advice respecting the matters therein referred to his consideration; but particularly as “to the necessity or expediency of continuing the department” in the present circumstances of the army.2
He also submitted a letter from Congress of the 20th instant, transmitting sundry letters and papers relative to certain complaints, preferred by Doctor Morgan against Doctor Shippen, Director General;3 and requested the opinion of the Board on the measures which it will be proper for him to persue in consequence—whether at this time to arrest Doctor Shippen or not, and whether to bring him to an immediate trial, or defer it, to a future and more convenient period.4
On consideration of the point submitted respecting the Muster Master’s department—The Council determined—the Department unnecessary and the continuing of it inexpedient.5
The Council were unanimously of opinion—That Doctor Shippen could neither be tried now nor a precise day fixed for the purpose; and also that as the sitting of a Court would depend much if not altogether upon the operations & movements of the Enemy—and of consequence would be uncertain and precarious—and might be postponed a considerable time—that it would not be adviseable to arrest him at this time—as the delay might operate not only a great private injury—but also deprive the public of his services at a season when they might be most material.6
Df, in the writing of Alexander Hamilton and Robert Hanson Harrison, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. For the material in Harrison’s writing, see notes 1 and 4.
There is an undated memorandum in Hamilton’s writing that relates to the two councils of war on 26 July. It reads: “Points submitted to the consideration of the Council—Our force stated at 10.300[.] The enemys at 12.000—At stoney Point—1300 Verplanks—700 [Total] 2000—Main body at Philips &c.
“Questions—What general disposition of our Army should be made.
“Whether any and what Offensive movements can be undertaken against the enemy at the present juncture?
“Whether the muster Masters department is necessary? Whether they ought to [be] allowed what they claim? What new regulations may be necessary?
“What is to be done in consequence of Morgan’s complaint against Shippen referred to the General by Congress? Is he to be arrested immediately or not? Can he be tried immediately or not?” (DLC:GW). A postscript unrelated to the councils of war reads: “The bearer brings a Fiddle for Claybourne.”
1. Harrison wrote all the names under the headings “Major Generals” and “Brigadiers,” except for this final one, who was William Irvine.
2. The letter of 5 July from the congressional committee on the mustering department to GW has not been found. That committee consisted of delegates Henry Laurens, Joseph Spencer, and Nathaniel Scudder. In his reply, dated 20 Aug., GW reported that this council of general officers had decided “that the department was now become unnecessary and the continuance of it inexpedient” (DNA:PCC, item 152; see also 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 14:734, 770–71). Congress resolved on 12 Jan. 1780 to discontinue the mustering department and have “the business of mustering the troops be performed by the inspectors of the army, in such manner and under such regulations as the Commander in Chief shall direct; who is hereby authorized to make the arrangements, reporting the same to Congress” (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 16:47; see also 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 15:1329–30).
4. After this paragraph, Harrison wrote the remainder of the draft manuscript.
5. See n.2 above.