George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 30 August 1779

From Brigadier General Anthony Wayne

Fort Mont[gomer]y [N.Y.] 30th Augt 1779

Dear Genl

I believe every man has his Volarnarable part—& if ever a poor fellow was more sorely tro[u]bled to find it out than me, I sin[c]erely pity him.

When you can have a Leisure Moment I wish you to ⟨peruse⟩ the Enclosed as Numbered—I believe the cause of Complaint is removed & harmony again taken place.1

I do not think it Originated in this Corps—at le[a]st I have some ground to apprehend the Contrary I am Concious of having Committed myself, at a Season when chance might have put it out of my power to render service which my Country has a right to claim.

but hope your own feelings will ⟨illegible2 vail3 any little error which a Soldier tanacious of his Honor may be Impeled to Commit. Interim I am yours most Sincerely

Anty Wayne

I wish to receive the papers Again after you [have] taken Leisure to peruse them.4

ADfS, PHi: Wayne Papers. Many words on the manuscript are barely legible.

1The enclosure marked “No. 1” was a letter from Col. R. J. Meigs to Wayne, dated 22 Aug. at the “Light Infantry Camp,” reading: “I think it my duty to inform your honor, that the account contain’d in your honors letter to his Excellency of the Reduction of Stony Point, is exceptionable to many Officers in the Brigade—It is thought that as the acco[un]t now Stands, the Public must be induced to believe, that Lt Colo. Fleury, Major Stewart, Lieuts. Gibbons & Knox, forced their way into the Works, which made the advancing of the Columns comparatively easy—While the fact is that the voluntears of the Right Column did not Suffer more in proportion than the Colums in General—the Gentlemen don’t object to the encomiums given in your honors letter of any one of the Officers there mention’d, who upon ev’ry principle ought to be distinguishingly noticed But think that there is the appearance of partiallity, in not mentioning any wounded Officer, except Lt Colonel Hay, whose wounds are equally honorable, & no more so than the Others—the Officer who voluntarily took charge of the Pettiaugre on board of which were a considerable part of the Stores, & under a Severe cannonade rowed her off, it is thought deserves Some noti[c]e—I would not think that your honor would deliberately shew a partiallity to any particular Corps or State, On the contrary I am convinced that you are actuated by Sentiments as great as the magnitude of the cause in which we are mutually combin’d.

“The multiplicity of matters which crouded upon your honor at the time you wrote his Exellency, exclusive of the attention necessary to your own wound, made it impossible for you to take up ev’ry circumstance of the attack—I beg leave to submit it to your honor Whether the names of the other wounded Officers; & two or three others who enter’d the Fort nearly at the same instant with Colo. Fleury: ought not to be mention’d in a subjoin’d account. I know they claim it as due to them Since others are mention’d—Our feelings in these matters are exquisite, & are absolutely necessary to us as Soldiers—The honorable mention made of my name with the Other Colonels is to the utmost of my wishes—As Major Hull Commanded a Regt in the Attack, I could have wish’d that his name had been mentiond with the Colonels—A sincere wish that the most cordial harmony may ever subsist thro: the States & Army—and more particularly in the Light Corps at this time has induced me to write” (PHi: Wayne Papers.)

Enclosure “No. 2” was a letter from Lt. Col. Isaac Sherman to Wayne, dated 22 Aug. at the “Light Infantry Camp,” reading: “Can it be supposed that the officers of the New England line are totally void of sentiment, that those fine and delicate feelings which ever distinguish the generous and manly soul are incapable of making any impression on them. Honor and glory are, together with a desire of rendering our country great, happy, and respectable the grand incentives to our continuing in the army. And what can be more agreeable to the man of feeling, or what can be a greater inducement to urge him on to the performance of actions great and hazardous, as well as glorious, but the happiness of his country, or desire of the grateful applause of his fellow citizens, and of transmiting his name in an amiable point of view to the world. Those are the united motives that have inspired you to tread the scenes of carnage; for no one will believe the welfare of your country seperate from every other consideration, was the only incentive. The glory you have acquired by the last daring and well conducted enterprise, has gained you a name which will be coeval with the annals of american history; which, perhaps, time herself will be unable to efface. Similar motives you must think warm our bosoms, and stimulate us to similar actions.

“When first appointed to the Light Infantry [I] was happy to hear the command was given to you. Your brave and spirited behaviour in the action of Monmouth endeared you to your brethren in the field, and merited the highest applause; but your letter to genl Washington on the reduction of stony point, in the minds of many judicious persons, has in some measure tarnished the lustre of your character, and rendered your command less agreeable. However, as we wish to believe it was owing to the variety of business that demanded your attention at that time, rather than any other cause—that your only view was to give an impartial history, to state facts as they really were, without any design of partiality.

“I wish not to depreciate the merit of any officer, neither would I presume to do it, as it is descriptive of a base degenerate mind; but I wish, if any discrimination was necessary to be made, that every officer might be noticed according to his merit in the action, and if any were deficient in duty, they may be particularly pointed out.

“There appears in the account you have given evident marks of a state partiality; all distinctions of which kind I detest, and ardently wish they may be forever banished from the mind of every friend to his country; they have a tendency to lay a foundation for future broils: for when once a man is sensibly injured, if he is possessed of the least feeling, doth not soon forget it. Why cannot we consider ourselves as one and walk hand in hand like brethren? Are we not embarked in the same cause, and does not our independance rest on our united efforts? But rather than be injured, rather than be trampled upon and considered as insignificant beings in the scale—my blood boils at the thought. Nature recoils, and points out a mode, the only one of redress.

“I am not anxious to have my name transmited to publick view, neither do I think any thing can be said of me more than barely attending to duty—I am not writing for myself, but I feel for those officers under my command as well as others who merit as much as those most distinguished by you. Duty, seperate from the ties of friendship is sufficient, to induce me to acquaint you with the sentiments and uneasiness of many Officers under your command, which, perhaps, is more extensive than you may imagin. It is still in your power to place things in their proper channel, to gain our Affection, and confidence; and then, when called into the field, inspired by your example, animated with a desire of crowning you with fresh laurels, every thing will conspire to induce us to play the man.

“However conspicuous you may appear in the eyes of the world, you cannot imagin your reputation is so firmly established as never to be sullied, and that the Affections and confidence of your Officers is unworthy your consideration. You have not arrived beyond the regions of censure, and our feelings as well as interest require, that there should be a more full and impartial representation of facts than you have made. The integrity of my intentions I hope, will apoligize for my troubling you on this subject” (PHi: Wayne Papers).

Enclosure “No. 3” was a letter from Wayne to Meigs, dated 23 Aug. at Fort Montgomery, N.Y., reading: “I was presented with yours of yesterday on my way to Head Quarters—& as I sincerely believe your Inducement for writing that Letter proceeded from the motive you mentiond—I shall therefore answer it with that Candor, which I hope will always govern my Actions whilst honored with the Command I now hold.

“If I know my own heart, I am as clear of Local prejudices as any Gentleman on this ground—perhaps full as much so, as those who effect to suspect me of it, & who feel themselves so much hurt at my Letter of the 17th Ultimo to His Excellency Genl Washington on the Reduction of Stoney point.

“I have re-examined that letter with attention, & am well convinced that it contains a true & Impartial relation of facts, too well known to admit of a Contradiction, & that the mention of such Officers only, whose particular Commands, Situation or Circumstances; rendered it necessary, is warranted by example, & founded upon just & Military principles.

“let us suppose for a moment, that I was to name every Officer who had—or in Similar Circumstances would have equally distinguished himself on that Occation, I am confident that I shou’d have to recapitulate the names of every Officer in the Corps, otherwise not have done justice to their merit, & perhaps it would not have rested here, but must have gone down to every Non commissioned Officer & private, the Absurdity is too Obvious to admit of a serious comment, no but says Suspicion—‘you ought to have placed Other Officers at the head of the Volunteers, and not have given one Command to Lieut. Colo. Fleury—who was a frenchman, & not belonging to any particular State, & the other to Major Steward—a Marylander, & the forlorn hopes to Messrs Gibbons & Knox who were Pennsylvanians.

“In answer to which I need only observe—(& it will strike every Military Gentleman—) that the two former were the only Field Officers in the Corps except Colonels Butler, & Febeger, Lieut. Colo. Hay and Major Posey (who had other Commands Assigned them) that had a Competant, if any knowledge of the Situation of the Enemies works, or Approaches to them, and which they had for many days previous to the Storm, made it their particular buisness to Obtain, I therefore say, that upon every principle, Military, as well as prudencial, they ought to have been placed at the Head of the Columns, and on this Ground I trust I shall stand justified to my General, & in they eye of the World for my Conduct.

“‘but why Gibbons & Knox, why are two Officers belonging to the State of Pennsa to be honored with the forlorn hopes, & so particularly mentioned in your letter of the 17th July.

“As to the first, I am Informed they Obtained it by lot, for my own part I did not even know, that they were among the Volunteers until they had taken post in their Respective Commands.

“The following extract of a Letter from His Excellency, added to their own good Conduct, will best answer the latter[:]

“‘In yours of the 16th[…] you do not mention the names of the two Officers who led the Advanced parties to the two Columns, you will be pleased to do it with all the Circumstances of Conduct, & loss which they Sustained.’

“so that after I had despatched my first Letter to His Excellency, I again wrote it over & Inserted the very particulars which seem to give so much uneasiness—and shou’d Certainly have done the same had they been Officers belonging to any Other State, than that of Pennsa.

“[’]but why was not the Gentlemen mentioned who Voluntarially took charge of the Boats with the Ordnance & Stores on the Evacuation Of Stoney Point[’]; for the very reasons already Assigned, and because every Officer & Soldier are Generally, & honorably mentioned, in that very exceptional Letter to His Excellency; & because it is actually dated two day’s previous to the Circumstance you Allude to.

“‘But why was not Major Hull & some Other field Officers taken notice of—they were not many, & surely might have been mentioned’—true, & I was not a little hurt on account of the Omission, but the politeness of Congress put it in my power to do that justice to their Merit, which they certainly deserved—& which you’l find in the Enclosed copy of a Letter to His Excellency John Jay Esqr—& which I flatter myself was published by Order of Congress previous to the date of your’s.

“I must therefore Request you to place this matter in it’s proper point of View—not only to the Officers of your Regiment—but to Others who may have read my Letter & Returns with prejudiced, or Inattentive eye, and assure them that I wish for nothing more than an Opportunity of producing a Conviction to the World that I detest Local prejudices, as much as I pity the man who would unjustly suspect me of them—and that I hope the day is not far distant when an Other Brilliant Action or Actions may put it in my power—to do ju[s]tice to their Merit & to recapitulate their good Conduct on a former Occation, i.e,. when I can do it in ⟨a military⟩ way.”

Wayne added the following postscript: “I have recd a letter dated yesterday from Lieut. Colo. Sherman, of a very extraordinary Nature, which at a proper Season will require a very Serious & particular explanation; for altho’ I don’t wish to Incur an Gentlemans displeasure, Yet I put up with no mans Insults” (PHi: Wayne Papers).

Wayne quoted from GW’s letter to him of 20 July. Wayne paraphrased the first five words and added a punctuation mark at the beginning of the actual quote. For Wayne’s letter of 10 Aug. to John Jay, see GW’s first letter to Jay of 16 Aug., n.2.

Enclosure “No. 4” was a letter from Sherman to Wayne, dated 24 Aug. at the “Light Infantry Camp,” reading: “I find in the Postscrip of your letter to Col. Meigs, you think mine of the 22d instant to be of an extraordinary nature; and which will require a serious and particular explanation; that you wish not to incur the displeasure of any gentleman, and that you mean not to receive an insult from any man.

“These are sentiments which ought to inspire the mind of every man of honor, and are entirely correspondent with my own feelings. An explanation of my letter, I wish, and am ready to give when required. To insult you, I declare upon my honor, never was my intention; my view was to acquaint you there was an uneasiness among the Officers of your command, and the cause. They imagined themselves sensibly injured, and wished you to be acquainted with it. I therefore wrote you on the subject, with an expectation that matters would be adjusted to our mutual satisfaction.

“I am sensible, that I expressed myself with a good deal of warmth, arising from my feelings at that time—While on the one hand, I considered we had attended to duty, and merited at least your notice; so on the other, I thought we were viewed of no consequence in the scale of Beings—The thought awoke all my sensations—it would have animated a dead man. So far from thinking to make use of compulsive measures to gain redress, that I can assure you, it never entered my mind” (PHi: Wayne Papers).

Enclosure “No. 5” was a letter from Maj. William Hull to Wayne, dated 25 Aug. at the “Light Infantry Camp,” reading: “When I first saw your Honours Letter to his Excellency giving an Account of the Expedition against Stoney Point, no Arguments that I could use with myself could convince me, that a Degree of Injustice was not done me—Lest I should judge wrong in the Matter, I consulted some of my Judicious Friends on the Subject, and found their Sentiments coincided with mine—desirous that no Broils should be created in the Corps on my Account, I pointed out to his Excellency with as much modesty Modesty as my Situation would admit, the Grounds of my Uneasiness, and only requested Permission to retire to my Regt In Consiquence of this Request, his Excellency was pleased to send me a Note, desirring my Company at his Quarters for the Purpose of giving me a satisfactory Explanation of the Subject of my Letter—I was happy to find the Explanation, satisfactory, and have been made doubly happy since in seeing your Letter of the 10th inst. to the Presidt of Congress, wherein ample Justice is done me, and the Cause of the first Omission clearly pointed out—I am only unhappy that I imputed the Neglect to the wrong Cause, and am now firmly persuaded that you was actuated by no other Principles, than equal and impartial Justice to your Corps—I shall now Sir, consider myself happy to remain in your Corps, and shall make it my Study to cherish & cultivate Harmony & Union with my Brother Officers” (PHi: Wayne Papers).

Hull’s letter to GW and GW’s reply have not been found.

Enclosure “No. 6” was a brief cover letter from Maj. Thomas Posey to Wayne, dated 12 Aug. at Fort Montgomery, enclosing a copy of Posey’s letter to GW of 10 August.

Enclosure “No. 7” was Wayne’s reply to Posey, dated 28 Aug. at Fort Montgomery, reading: “Your very Laconic note of the 12th Instant enclosing a Copy of a long letter to His Excellency Genl Washington—I purposely delayed Answering until you had an Oppertunity of being convinced that I had made use of the first Opening of doing justice to your merit.

“You’l now permit me to make some Observations on your Letter to his Excellency of the 10th Instant. You say—‘it is perfectly well known to General Wayne that I led the Battalion which Composed the front of the Right Column, where he himself mar⟨ch’d⟩ until we came to the beach—when Genl Wayne left the Head of the Column After which I had the sole Guidance & Direction of it.

“surely you had forgot that a brave & Intrepid Lieut. Colo. Fleury was Immediately in front of you who had some claim to the Guidance of it, & that if Genl Wayne had left the Column Intirely, yet a Meigs, a Febiger, a Sherman, & a Hull (were present and each of them Senior Officers to you) would have claimed the Direction of it but I am Certain they have too much Modesty to assume it—as it’s too well known that I myself continued to direct it even after I had Recd my wound—& that at the point of my Spear—I at least helpt to direct the greater part of the Column over the abbatis and into the works, & to take measures to Secure them & the prisoners after (which perhaps may not be so well known to you Sir as to Other Gentlemen).

“You ask a number of Queries of Genl Wayne all tending to prove that you did at least your duty, Genl Wayne answers you, that you did, & that he highly approved of your Conduct appears in his letter of the 17th Ultimo viz:

“‘I should take up too much of your Excellency’s time was I to particularise every Individul who deserves it for their bravery on this Occation’—(& again)—‘It’s with the greatest pleasure I acknowledge to your Excellency that I was supported in the Attack by all the Officers & Soldiers to the utmost of my wishes.’

“but not Content with this, as soon as Congress put it in my power, I did that further Justice to your Merit which I thought you Entitled to—as you’l see by the enclosed Copy of a Letter to John Jay Esqr. on the Occation.

“I now request you to read my Letter to His Excellency Genl Washington & the Returns of the Killed & wounded with an attentive & unprejudiced eye, together with the Copy of a letter herewith transmitted, Reexamine yours of the 10th to His Excellency Genl Washington—& then consult your own feelings, perhaps on cool reflection you may find that there are some expressions made use of tending to hold up an Idea of want of Prowess in me—which was Supplied by you.

“Was that realy your Intention, and you still Continue in the same Opinion—I know that you will have Candor enough to acknowledge it, (not to me as your Superior Officer) but as a private Gentleman very tanacious of my Honor, which honor is now plighted to meet you on that ground only.

“But should you have no Intention to cast a Shade on my Military Character (as a Gentleman of those nice feelings which I believe you to possess)—I now call on you to place that matter in a proper point of View” (PHi: Wayne Papers).

Enclosure “No. 8” was Posey’s answer to Wayne’s letter of 28 Aug., dated that same day at Fort Montgomery, reading: “Yours bearing this present date in answer to a copy of a letter which I had Occation to trouble his Excellency with on the 10th Inst. I have received a few hours ago, & find inclos’d a copy of your letter to Congress.

“I have notic’d each & every paragraft of your letter, & find you appear princeapaly hurt in my letter to his Excellency Genl. Washington; you imagine I have cast some reflections on your courage or conduct in your military Charactor. I can Aver to you upon the word of a man of honor of a Gentn, that I had no intention, (in any sense of the word) to cast any reflections upon your military Charactor, or your charactor in any manner whatsoever. My design was only to state the matter as it realy was, in Justice to my own feelings, without diminishing or graspeing at any part of the honor which you deservd through the course of the enterprize.

“I am as far to attack any mans reputation, as I am to endure the least ground for mine to be questiond. You had (consistant with my Ideas) injured me, my reputation was at stake; I calld for redress, your sence of honor & Justice has induc’d you to give me satisfaction; your letter to Congress is a sufficient one. & I hope this will be a satisfactory one to you” (PHi: Wayne Papers).

Enclosure “No. 9” was Wayne’s reply to Posey’s letter of 28 Aug., dated 2 Sept. at Fort Montgomery, reading: “As you seem to attribute my Letter to the president of Congress (of the 10th Ulto)—to the effects of yours to me of the 12th, I must beg leave to put you right by a perusal of the enclosed, as published by order of Congress—in which you’l also find the real & only cause that could possibly produce it” (PHi: Wayne Papers).

2At this place on the draft manuscript, the word “assist” appears in the left margin, but it seems to have been marked out and is followed by the illegible text.

3This word is followed by the word “Over,” but it appears to have been crossed out.

4Following this postscript and an address line, an apparently unrelated note in Wayne’s writing appears at the top of the next page:

“Capt. Allisons Wife } tea & Shuggar & hard Cash”
John Races Wife
Greens Wife

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