George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Marinus Willett, 18 October 1780

From Lieutenant Colonel Marinus Willett

West Point 18th October 1780


The armey I understand is to be new modelled and undergo a very considerable change,1 Many Officers will have to retire; Proper provison will no doubt be made for such; This will be deemed a compensation for their services and with propriety. I am far from entertaining the most distant thought of Injustice or impropriety in measures which may be conceived necessary for prossecuting the grand design of esstablishing the Liberty and tranquility of my Country on a permanet basis. It was to effect this valuable end that I laid aside a peacfull easy employment for the rough and arduous occupation of a Soldier. If to support this great design it becomes necessary for me to leave the Field, and again put on the habiliments of a private Citisen I will most chearfully do it. But as long as there is an Enemy to fight against in America and Soldiers to be employed in the contest, I think it may not be amiss for me to inform Your Excellency, That if I can consistantly be employed in the field I shall prefer it to any other situation—No Gratuities or emoluments which may be confered on those Officers who retire can (by me,) be put in competition with the life of a Soldier, while there are British Soldiers to be found in America to war against.

I have taken the liberty to mention thus much to you Sir, And flatter myself that you will not count me troublesome in requesting (If with propriety I can be continued in Service) Your interest for that purpose, I have thought that if I cannot be continued in the line of the State, Perhaps I may be arranged in the Legion, which I have been told is to be formed, without affecting my rank.2 I have the honor to be Your Excellencies, most Obedient and very humble servant

M. Willett

ALS, DLC:GW. “Honord by Colo. Lamb” is written on the cover.

1For congressional reform of the Continental army, see Samuel Huntington to GW, 26 Oct., n.1.

2GW replied to Willett from headquarters near Preakness on 24 Oct.: “I have received your favr of the 18th: Congress have it in contemplation to reduce the number of Regiments, but the mode or terms in which the reformed Officers are to go out are not yet fixed—It will give me great pleasure to see an Officer of your merit retained in service, but your determination to submit cheerfully to any regulations which may be deemed necessary for the public good, is very laudable, and the surest mark of a disinterested—virtuous Citizen. I have not heard any thing of the formation of a Legion. Colo. Hazens Regiment is the only one of the independent Corps of Infantry which Congress propose keeping up” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). After “the reform took place which reduced the five New York regiments to two,” Willett “quitted the main army with extreme reluctance” (Willett, Willett’s Narrative description begins William M. Willett, ed. A Narrative of the Military Actions of Colonel Marinus Willett, Taken Chiefly from His Own Manuscript. New York, 1831. description ends , 72).

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