George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Board of War, 12 October 1780

To the Board of War

Head qrs [near Preakness] Octr 12. 1780


I beg leave to inclose You the Commissions of Lts Emerson & Baxton of the 11th Massachusetts Regiment which it seems are wrong. Mr Emerson is intitled to rank, it is reported, from the 7th of November 1777 and Mr Baxton also as a Lieutenant from the same date.1 It seems unfortunately that there are many Errors in the Captains & Inferior Officers Commissions in this line, occasioned by the inattention & inaccuracy of the Regimental Lists which were laid before the Board that arranged it—& which must be rectified, when the circumstances of the Campaign will permit.2

I beg leave to inform the Board that the Of[f]icers of Colo. H. Jackson’s Regiment are very uneasy at not having received their Commissions & are applying for them almost every day. The arrangement of them was transmitted with that of Webb’s & Moylan’s Regiments, the Officers of both which have long since received theirs3 This I find encreases not a little, the importunities of the Officers in Jackson’s—who for want of theirs are doing duty in many instances under Officers whom they would command. There are Several Other Officers in the Massachusetts & Connecticut lines, who make daily inquiries at Head quarters about Commissions & who say their Warrants or Certificates from their States have been forwarded a considerable time to the Board & who have requested that I would communicate their anxiety and the inconveniences they experience for want of them. Whatever delays may have taken place in the business—I am persuaded have been such as the Board could not prevent, which has been suggested to the parties; but their applications are so frequent & so pressing, that I am led to hope circumstances will admit the Commissions being forwarded by an early opportunity.4 I have the Honor to be.

P.S. I retain the Commissions mentioned above and will make the alterations a subject of inquiry by a Board of Officers I will appoint to examine the other Errors said to exist in the line of Captains & Inferior Officers.5

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

1Col. Benjamin Tupper wrote GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman from camp on this date to correct commissions for lieutenants James Buxton and Nehemiah Emerson that “will not affect a single officer in the Regt but themselves.” Tilghman wrote on Tupper’s letter that the Board of War should date Emerson’s commission “1st Lieut. 28th March 1779” and Buxton’s commission “2d Lieut. 1st January 1777” (DLC:GW).

James Buxton (1745–1817) became a second lieutenant in the 11th Massachusetts Regiment in January 1777 and rose to first lieutenant that November. Named regimental adjutant in March 1780, he ascended to captain lieutenant that October. Promoted to captain in the 10th Massachusetts Regiment in January 1781, Buxton served until January 1783.

Nehemiah Emerson (1749–1832) served in the Massachusetts militia in 1775 and joined the 11th Massachusetts Regiment as an ensign in November 1776. He became second lieutenant in November 1777 and first lieutenant in March 1779. Emerson rose to captain in October 1780, joined the 10th Massachusetts in January 1781, and left the army in January 1783. GW reportedly remarked long after the war that Emerson was “a brave officer, a good disciplinarian, and never lost his temper” (Chase, Haverhill description begins George Wingate Chase. The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, From its First Settlement, in 1640, to the Year 1860. Haverhill, Mass., 1861. description ends , 630).

Tupper also had prepared a document dated 15 Sept. to recommend one lieutenant and five ensigns “for appointments” in the 11th Massachusetts Regiment because “there is a very considerable deficiency of Officers.” GW endorsed the document: “It is indispensably necessary that New appointments should be made in the above Regiment—& having no doubt of the fitness of the above named persons to fill the Vacancies I recommend them accordingly” (ADS, M-Ar). Another endorsement on the document indicates that the Massachusetts Council ordered these commissions on 26 September.

2For this board, see GW to John Jay, 5 Aug. 1779, and n.3 to that document.

4The Board of War wrote GW from Philadelphia on 28 Oct.: “The board have at length the honor to inclose the commissions for Col. Jacksons Regt” (ALS, DLC:GW). The enclosures have not been identified.

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