George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Wooster, 29 September 1780

From Thomas Wooster

New Haven Sepr 29th 1780


Permit me to address you by that Title, as being the Father and Saviour of your Country; and at the same time pardon the impertinent boldness of what I am about to request, as it flows from a sincere Love of my Country; and a particular veneration for your Person and Character.

It is now eighteen Months since with the greatest reluctance, I resign’d the Post I held in the Army, owing mostly to a disagreable misunderstanding, between the Officers of our Regt in general, and myself in particular, with the commanding Officer of the Regiment at that time, which occasion’d a considerable number of them to resign, as well as myself; his manner of behaviour to us, which was the cause of our resignation, Col. Humphry can inform your Excellency as well as myself.1 I find that I cannot remain easy at Home, an idle Spectator, as long as the War lasts; and at the same time am sensible, that my resignation has entirely precluded me, from the Line of the Army for the future; but still shou’d be exceeding glad, to rejoin it again in some Character, where I cou’d have an opportunity of serving my Country in some measure, and also of gaining the most knowledge to myself: these considerations have induc’d me to request your Excellency wou’d permit me, to serve in your Family as a Volunteer, if it is consistent, with the rules and customs of the Army, and your own inclination; I shou’d expect to continue with the Army, as long as the War lasted, (if my Life was spar’d) and shou’d think my⟨self⟩ very happy, to be so near your Excellency, that I might form myself, both by your precepts and example. If my request shou’d not be thought improper, but shou’d be agreable to your Excellency be pleas’d to communicate it to Col: Humphry, and he will inform me of your sentiments on the matter, by the first opportunity.2 I have the Honour to be your Excellency’s Most Obedt And very Hbl. Serv.

Thos Wooster


Thomas Wooster (1751—c.1793) graduated from Yale College in 1768. He initially served as aide-de-camp to his father, Brig. Gen. David Wooster, and became captain in Col. Samuel Blachley Webb’s Additional Continental Regiment in February 1777. Declared a supernumerary officer after a furlough, Wooster resigned in June 1779 and later moved to Louisiana.

1Wooster had written Webb on 12 May seeking his help in obtaining “an honourable Discharge from Genl Washington … I did not enter the service for the sake of pay, or Rank, and I imagine shou’d not have quitted it, untill the war was over, if you had not been so unfortunate as to be taken from it” (Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends , 2:260).

2GW replied to Wooster from headquarters near Passaic Falls on 23 Oct. 1780: “I have just received your Letter of the 29 Ulto and have to inform you; that at the same time I am greatly Obliged by the favorable sentiments of me you are pleased to express, and the tender of personal services you make—I do not find myself at liberty to accept the Offer, in the way you propose, without deviating from the line of conduct I have long since adopted.

“After declining several proposals of the same kind, from Gentlemen in nearly the same situation, it would be impossible to apologize to them for giving a preference to a posterior application—Besides the reason is much more forcible, at this period than it formerly has been, for appointing Gentlemen from the line of the Army for this service, (if I should have occasion to augment my family)—Because by the reduction of the Army in contemplation, many valuable Officers now in service, will be totally unprovided for—Your candor &justice will acknowledge the first attention ought to be paid to these.

“I entreat you therefore to beleive that there is nothing personal in the objection; but on the contrary You may rest assured, the Memory of Your gallant Father, and your own reputation will always entitle you to every mark of consideration and esteem” (Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also Samuel Huntington to GW, 26 Oct., n.1). David Wooster died from wounds received during a raid on Danbury, Conn., in April 1777.

GW’s aide-de-camp David Humphreys wrote Wooster on 24 Oct. 1780: “It was not until within these two days that I have been favoured with your letter of the 8th inst. … You will see by his Excellency’s letter to you the reason why he could not accept of your proposal. He expressed to me in conversation his entire satisfaction as to your character and abilities; his unhappiness in not being able to gratify you, repeating the names of the Gentlemen whose services he had previously declined, and discovered a delicate apprehension lest you should consider the matter in any improper point of view Tho’ the reasons for his conduct, I am confident will be satisfactory to you” (Humphreys, Life and Times of David Humphreys description begins Francis Landon Humphreys. Life and Times of David Humphreys: Soldier—Statesman—Poet, “Belov’d of Washington.” 2 vols. New York and London, 1917. description ends , 1:185–86).

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