George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel William Davies, 20 April 1780

To Colonel William Davies

Head Qrs Morris Town April 20th 1780

D. sir

I have received Your Letter of the 20th of last month1—and Mr Harrison has communicated to me the contents of one he had received from You of the same date.2

The arrangement of Officers for the Regiments gone to the Southward, was made at philadelphia—after the Virginia line marched from hence—and I do not know the reasons which operated, for appointing Colo. Gist to the command of one of them in preference to Others.3 With respect to Yourself it possibly might have happened from an opinion which generally prevailed about the time, that You meant to leave the service. I have not heard that the post of Deputy Adjutant General in the Southern Army was vacant, but on the contrary I believe the Gentleman who has long held it, still acts. At any rate however I do not know that there is any thing in the arrangement of the Adjutant General & Inspector’s department which would give any of the sub Inspectors a right to a vacancy which might happen in the former, on a successional principle; nor do I recollect that it was ever in contemplation to establish in them such a right. I have written to Genl Muhlenburg on the subject of collecting the Recruits & Drafts the State may make at certain places of Rendezvous, and how they are to be disposed of; and with respect to Deserters he will hear from me by another Opportunity.4 From the unhealthiness of petersburg—I have requested him not to assemble the Recruits & Drafts at it—& if it can be done, to remove the Sick now there to some Other place. I have also proposed to him your superintending them for the present—and I doubt not if You are appointed, You will do all in your power to promote their relief. In such case You will advise Genl Muhlenburg of their state & number every Two or Three Weeks—who will of course inform me. I have written to Doctr Brown, who at this time has the direction of the Medical department (Doctr Shippen being in arrest) acquainting him that a physician or more is wanted, & desired him to take measures for having One supplied without loss of time if it can be done.5 As to the pay of the Officers in Virginia—it is difficult to say, from the state of our treasury & their remote situation, what can be done about it. I have mentioned the matter in my Letter to Genl Muhlenburg & perhaps by his transmitting an Abstract of their names—rank & Regiments, to the Honble the Board of War, with whom by the instructions he received from them he is occasionally to correspond, they may have it in their power to make some arrangement by which the Officers may obtain their pay. I am D. Sir with regard & esteem Yr Most Obedt st


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

1For this letter, in which Davies declined appointment as subinspector, see GW to Davies, 16 Dec. 1779, and n.2 to that document.

2Davies had written GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison from Petersburg, Va., on 20 March 1780: “I find it necessary once more to break in upon you in your hurry of business, and must in⟨sist⟩ that if you do answer this at all, you will do it ⟨a⟩s soon as you can—His Excellency directed me to join ⟨the⟩ Virginia troops on their march, but if it was incon⟨ven⟩ient, to signify it to General Woodford, who was empow⟨ered⟩ to appoint Lt Col. Cabell to be Sub-Inspector. I accord⟨ingly⟩ attended at this place, but found that no command ⟨in⟩ the line had been reserved for me, that Col. Gist without ⟨any⟩ right or justice had been given one of the regiments, owing, as I am informed, to a direction from General Woodford to exclude from the arrangement all officers serving in any of the staff departments; I therefore availed myself of the obliging permission his Excellency had given me, and Lt Col. Cabell was accordingly appointed Sub-Inspector on the 6th inst. The post of Inspector without any command in the line is by no means agreeable, but the deep rooted aversion and I may say hatred, which General Woodford has invariably manifested towards me ever since the campaign at Norfolk, decided me fully against serving with him, where I should be under his immediate command and without any acquaintance or interest with the commanding General, which could avail me against any arbitrary or unjust act of his, should he attempt any. According to the present arrangement in the Adjutant General and Inspector’s departments, the eldest Sub-Inspector in the army seems entitled to succeed the Adjutant General in case of vacancy, and upon that principle I should have conceived myself in some measure deserting the rights of the Inspectors if I had not laid claim to the post of Adjutant General to the southern army; I had no right to hope for success in the claim, and if I had succeeded it might have occasioned much dissatisfaction, perhaps confusion among the southern troops. Under these various considerations I think myself justifiable in not altering them—It is not my wish, however, to remain inactive. General Scott, who set out a week ago for the southward, tells me there are near two thousand men in this state that belong to the army, many of whom might be collected, especially with the promise of pardon. I beg leave to mention to you and that in confidence that a considerable number of most pitiable objects are at present utterly incapable of being removed from this place. There are all the marks of horrid mismanagement; a field within my view has been the grave of 150 poor fellows, and Major Ridley tells me the sick are lying at a hospital near camp without a physician and with no other diet than salt provision. Col. Buford sets off today or tomorrow for the southward, and Ridley will then have the command, who owned to me himself that during the whole time he has been here, he has never visited the hospital more than twice. I can hardly forbear interfering, and if I had authority would most chearfully undertake the care of these unhappy young fellows. While I continue in the army I wish to do my country all the service in my power.

“Everybody is landjobbing, and Kentucky is draining the country of numbers of our young men. I am told by Mr Stabler, an honest quaker in this town, that General Lee is going out there soon, and bids defiance to both King and Congress.

“Let me have a speedy answer directed to me at this place, and oblige me with information how and where we officers sent in on furlough are to be paid, for every day’s delay sinks its value! Nothing will give me more satisfaction than an early communication on the subjects of this letter” (DLC:GW).

3The Virginia division had marched south as a reinforcement in December 1779 (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 29 Nov., and the source note to that document). Col. Nathaniel Gist commanded a new 3d Virginia Regiment, which had been formed by consolidating his own Additional Continental Regiment with the 6th and 8th Virginia regiments (see Lesser, Sinews of Independence description begins Charles H. Lesser, ed. The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army. Chicago, 1976. description ends , 161, 163).

5See GW to William Brown, 22 April. For the arrest and subsequent courtmartial of William Shippen, Jr., see the general orders for 13 March and n.1 to that document; see also John Morgan to GW, 27 Dec. 1779, and GW to Morgan, 5 Jan. 1780.

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