George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General William Woodford, 31 August 1779

To Brigadier General William Woodford

Head Quarters West point 31st Augt 1779.

Dear Sir

I have recd your favr of the 28th1 inclosing a list of those Serjeants approved by the Executive of Virginia—a further recommendation of Eleven more—and a letter from the Board of War of Virginia to you2—I shall transmit the first to the Board of War and obtain Commissions upon them.3

I am much averse to the promotion of non commissioned to regimental Officers but upon particular merit or extreme necessity, and nothing would make me consent to a further nomination, but a desire to give all the Colonels an equal chance of providing for a few of the most meritorious of their Serjeants. For this reason I would wish you to confine this second appointment to Harrison—Broadus—Spencer who signalized himself at Stoney point4 and two from Colo. Russel’s Regt—Colonels Wood and Neville seem to have had an opportunity of promoting some of theirs in the first nomination.5 If a list agreeable to the foregoing is made out and transmitted to the State and approved by them, I will procure the Commissions.6 Should any of those in the second nomination have been elder Serjeants than those in the first, it will be unlucky, but those who have been appointed and acting for some time as Officers will expect and must7 take Rank of those appointed hereafter.

I have recd a letter of the 26 July from Colo. Heth in which he says “I beg for permission either to return to my Regt or go on and join Genl Lincoln. I have wrote a confidential letter to Genl Woodford who will give my Reasons for such an extraordinary application.”8 Colo. Heth, I suppose, imagined that you were with the Army immediately under my command. That not being the case, be pleased to communicate, what is necessary for my information, to me.9

I am pleased to find that the Board of War of Virginia have powers to make provision for the line of the State, and I sincerely wish10 that you may feel the good effects of the exertions which the Gentlemen of the Board seem determined to make. I wrote a few days ago to the Governor—pointed out to him the small dependance which was to be put upon the Continental Cloathiers only—and pressed him to make as much provision as possible by means of State Agents.11 perhaps the powers given to the Board may be adequate to the purpose. I am Dear Sir Yr most obt Servt.

P.S. Be pleased to enquire of Genl Muhlenberg whether the State have approved of his nomination of Serjeants, and if they have to transmit the list, that Commissions may be obtained for them also.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1This letter has not been found.

2These enclosures have not been identified. The list of sergeants sent to the executive of Virginia for approval probably contained the names of men from the Virginia regiments who, pending approval of the state, had been promoted to ensigns in the general orders for 22 July.

3GW may have submitted these nominations with his letter to the Board of War of 19 Nov., in which he asked the board to issue commissions for a list of nominated officers from the state of Virginia (DLC:GW); see also GW to Woodford, 22 Oct. (DLC:GW).

4These were probably sergeants Love (Lovet) Harrison, James Broadus, and William Spencer (d. 1813). Harrison was promoted to ensign in the 8th Virginia Regiment in September 1779.

Broadus served as a sergeant in the 2d Virginia Regiment from March 1776 to September 1779, when he became an ensign in the regiment. He left the army in December 1780.

Spencer was commissioned an ensign in the 8th Virginia Regiment in September 1779. He became a lieutenant in September 1780 and a captain in 1781.

5For the list of sergeants from the Virginia regiments provisionally promoted to ensign, an act that most likely constituted the “first nomination,” see General Orders, 22 July.

6On 21 Oct., Woodford sent GW a list of sergeants, from his own and Brig. Gen. Peter Muhlenberg’s brigades, who had been approved for promotion by the executive of Virginia (see GW to Woodford, 22 Oct. [DLC:GW]). GW may also have sent these nominations with his letter to the Board of War of 19 Nov. (DLC:GW).

7After this word, Tilghman crossed out the words “in my opinion.”

8This letter has not been found.

9Col. William Heth’s letter to GW of 26 July has not been found. No reply from Woodford on this topic has been found.

10This word is written above the crossed-out word “hope.”

11See GW’s Circular to the States of 26 Aug. (first letter) and the source note to that document.

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