George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Captain Moses Ashley, 31 May 1780

From Captain Moses Ashley

Highlands [N.Y.] May 31st 1780

May it please your Excellency—

With the greatest Submission I would beg leave to lay before your Excellency, my situation: as an Officer under your Command.

At the Commencement of the War, I entered Service, with an intention to remain: untill I saw my Country restor’d to Peace. And ever paid the greatest application, & attention to my Duty.

I have the Honour at present to wear the Commission of a Captain in the first Massachusetts Regiment, in which Rank, I have felt entirely easy: ’till by the Death of Major Allen of the 5th Regiment, a Vacancy was made;1 which by my Rank: I look upon myself entitled to. The reason of my not applying before this time, was: There being a Vacancy in the 14th Regt previous to that in the 5th And Capt. Wiley who is elder than myself in Rank: being at that time under an arrest. It was matter of doubt which Vacancy would be my right, untill a few days ago (by the Judgment of a Court Martial) Capt. Wiley was acquitted with Honour.2

For which reason no application was made to the Genl Assembly of the State of Massachusetts Bay.

By a Resolve of the Honble the Continental Congress, of the 21st of March, Investing the power of Appointments in your Excellency,3 I would humbly request to know; what I am to expect concerning the mattter.

Your Excellency need not be told, what disagreable feelings must Actuate the mind of an Officer, when he meets with delays in receiving that Promotion: to which he thinks himself intitled, and therefore will excuse the liberty, I take of addressing my General; upon an Occasion in which my Honour & Happiness are so deeply interested.4 I am with the Greatest Respect and Esteem Your Excellencys Most Obedt Humble Servant

Moses Ashley

ALS, enclosed in Robert Howe to GW, this date (second letter), DLC:GW.

A native of Westfield, Mass., Moses Ashley (1749–1791) graduated from Yale College in 1767 and later resided on the family plantation in Berkshire County. In 1775, he served as a lieutenant in the Lexington Alarm and as a lieutenant and captain in Col. John Fellows’s Massachusetts Regiment. In 1776, Ashley became a captain in the 15th Continental Infantry and transferred in January 1777 to the 1st Massachusetts Regiment. He subsequently became major of the 5th Massachusetts Regiment, transferred to the 6th Massachusetts Regiment in 1783, and served until June of that year. After the war, he settled in Stockbridge, Mass., and was commissioned brigadier general of the militia in 1790. For Ashley’s drowning, see the Columbian Centinel (Boston), 7 Sept. 1791.

1Jonathan Allen had been killed in a hunting accident in January (see William Heath to GW, 21 Jan., and n.6).

2John Wiley, formerly a captain of the 8th Massachusetts Regiment, was promoted to major in December 1779 and transferred to the 14th Massachusetts Regiment. Wiley’s court-martial has not been identified, but see General Orders, 15 Oct. 1778.

3See Samuel Huntington to GW, 23 March, and n.1 to that document.

4GW replied to Ashley on 4 June from headquarters at Morristown: “I have recd your favr of the 31st ulto. You have mistaken the meaning of the Act of Congress; it is not to prevent promotions where they are due, but to put a stop to new appointments except they are thought necessary by the Commander in Chief. You will therefore be pleased to apply in the usual mode to the State for the vacant Majority to which you say you are intitled” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, Nh-Ar: Weare Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; Tilghman mistakenly dated the draft 1778, but it is docketed 1780).

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