George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, 4 October 1780

From Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons

Camp Tapan 4th Octr 1780

My Dear General

If I should remain silent on the Subject of General Smallwoods Promotion, my Conduct would receive Constructions very different from the real Motives; I therefore feel myself under a Necessity of troubling your Excellency on the Subject.1

I do most sincerely acquiesce in the Promotion of that Officer, the strong existing Necessity at the Time as well as his own distinguishd Merit in saving our Southern Army2 I think are Reasons sufficient to have inducd the Measure; and the apparent Necessity of an immediate Attention to that Department may serve at least for an Apology for not taking up the Matter on a larger Scale—but I cannot feel myself reconcil’d to a consequent Disgrace I may be involvd in; I have serv’d in my present Rank more than four Years and am conscious of having at all Times honestly endeavourd the Promotion of the best good of my Country, though many of my Brethren have obtaind a greater Brilliancy of military Character than I have had Opportunity to acquire—more than half this Time I have commanded a Division of the Army; not so much from accidental Causes, as a Deficiency in Numbers of Officers of a Superior Rank to do that Duty, and had the same Principles actuated the Councils of our States as have been the Rules of Proceedings in other Nations I should have had the Rank due to the Command, long since conferd on me; however as No promotions took place by which I could see myself neglected & consequently renderd contemptible, I made myself contented. but my own Honor, the Rights of my Brethren & every Feeling which can most sensibly affect an Officer forbid my continuing to serve in my present Rank longer than A Time sufficient after such Representations as you will make for Congress to consider my Rights as well as that worthy Officers Merits;3 I know there are Difficulties in leaving Service before the Close of the Campaign, these must have there weight to prevent me till that Time. but I mus⟨t⟩ own I should feel myself less obnoxious to the Contempt of my Brethren could I be remov’d to any command detachd from the Army until that Ti⟨me⟩ should arrive. I am too sick to continu⟨e⟩ my Letter, I have very little Expectati⟨on⟩ of being better soon or I should have deferd writing you, I hope my p⟨oor⟩ State of Health will be a Sufficient Apology for any Inadvertancys which may have fallen from me.4 I am dear General with every Sentiment of Affectionate Esteem & Respect Yr Obedt Servt

Saml H. Parsons


2Parsons refers to the Battle of Camden.

3Congress soon promoted Parsons to major general (see Huntington to GW, 26 Oct., and n.2 to that document; see also Parsons to GW, 11 Nov., and GW to Parsons, 16 Nov., both DLC:GW).

4Parsons wrote his wife, Mehetable, on this date that he had “been badly seized with a Fever” for six days (Hall, Life and Letters of General Parsons description begins Charles S. Hall. Life and Letters of Samuel Holden Parsons: Major General in the Continental Army and Chief Judge of the Northwestern Territory, 1737-1789. Binghamton, N.Y., 1905. description ends , 315–16).

Parsons wrote GW from camp, presumably Tappan, on 6 Oct.: “I am convinc’d ’twill be some Weeks before I shall be able to do any Duty, if I should recover from my present Sickness. I beleive my Strength would admit my going to my Family by slow Journeys if I can obtain your Consent for which purpose Mr Lawrence waits upon you—from mine to your Excellency on the Subject of General Smallwood’s Promotion you see I cannot return in my present Rank to the Service of another Campaign; and as the remainder of this, after my Health will probably be restord, will aford little Time for doing Duty after I shall join, I could wish if it was not inconsistant with Your Excellency’s Plans that I may be appointed to the Command of the Troops near N. Castle & Horseneck until their Service shall Expire which I imagine will nearly end my own” (ALS, DLC:GW).

Oliver Lawrence (1759–1808) served as lieutenant in a New York regiment in 1776 and became lieutenant in the 2d Continental Artillery in February 1777. He acted as Parsons’s aide-de-camp from later 1779 until his resignation in September 1782.

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