George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel George Mathews, 30 October 1780

From Colonel George Mathews

Long-Island [N.Y.] October the 30th, 1780.

Dear General

When the more important duties of your Excellency’s station can spare a moment I beg your attention to the feeling and forlorn state of your Officers of the ninth Virginia Regiment taken at the battle of German-Town.

It was a matter of equal surprise and concern to me to find that the State of Virginia made no provision for my Regiment with the rest of their troops and on an event so feeling and interesting it is easier for your Excellency to conceive than for me to express my feelings Among the evils it produced was having the Regiment incorporated with another and from a resolution of Congress arranging the Army the Officers in captivity to return home supernumerary while much Junior ones remained in service.1

From what cause that neglect proceeds is as difficult for me to conceive as it is for my feelings to surmount the injury A captivity of three years has given me frequent opportunities to reflect on the manner of my being made prisoner and on the most mature deliberation can acquit my feelings as an Officer and a soldier to God your Excellency and my Country but should you sir have reason to think otherwise I must beg you will reserve me for the sole victim of your resentment and my Country’s revenge and treat Lieut: Colol Dark the Officers of my Regiment and those of the Virginia Line taken at the same time with that notice and respect that brave and good Officers have right to expect from your Excellency and who are certainly entitled to a better fate from their Country than being supernumerary while Junior ones remain in service.2 I have the honour to be with due respect and real esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and Very Humble Servant

Geo. Mathews Col. of the Lat. 9th Virga Rigmt


1The 9th and 5th Virginia regiments were consolidated in spring 1778. A congressional resolution adopted on 22 May 1779 provided that all exchanged Continental officers who did not continue in the service be “considered as supernumerary officers” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 14:630). Mathews apparently believed that the new congressional arrangement of the army operated prejudicially on imprisoned or exchanged officers. He subsequently pursued clarification (see Mathews and Christian Febiger to Virginia Delegates in Congress, 28 Dec. 1780, in Madison Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends , 2:263–64; see also Samuel Huntington to GW, 26 Oct., and n.1). Congress clarified the issue in a resolution passed on 1 Jan. 1781 that declared “the sense of Congress” to be “that the officers of the continental lines, who have been exchanged since the [new] arrangement, or are now in captivity, ought to be considered and arranged according to their respective ranks, in the same manner with those who have not been prisoners” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 19:1).

2For GW’s effort to assist Virginia officers captured at the Battle of Germantown on 4 Oct. 1777 upon their exchange, see his letter to the Board of War, 4 Nov. 1780.

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