George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Forrest, 12 November 1780

From Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Forrest

Philadelphia Novr 12th 1780


I feel a degree of regrett at making an application to your Excellency, which nothing but necessity would induce me to request. The length of my services are well known I presume to one of Your Observation. And did not the interesting Cares of a family whom I dearly love, call on me for my immediate Assistance & Support, I should with the highest degree of pleasure still persue Your Excellency’s military fortunes.

But as I find it impracticable without doing injustice to my family & Offspring,1 I am reduc’d to the disagreable & painfull necessity of praying Your permission to retire upon half pay, and be considered as a supernumerary Officer of the Line to which I belong. To one Sir who can feel the delicacy attending my situation it is unnecessary to describe my feeling. But as there are now five Lt Colls of Artillery in Continental Service and as some of them must Shortly be reduc’d, I have to rely upon Your Excellency’s goodness in placing me among the list of the Supernumerary Officers; I have taken the Liberty of writing upon the Subject to the Honorable General Knox, & trust that his good sense will point out to Your Excellency the propriety of this my request.2

Nothing but the most urgent necessity would lead me to a measure of this kind; but as I am driven to it through distress occasion’d by long service, I trust that Your Excellency will indulge me in this my request; Assuring Your Excellency that wheneve⟨r⟩ the exigencies of my Country require the Calling forth of its inhabitants, there’s no man will fly to the feild with more disinterested Chearfulness3 than Your Excellency’s Most Obedient & Devoted Humble Servant

Thomas Forrest Lt Coll of Artillery


1Forrest’s family included at least a son and a daughter.

2Forrest’s letter to Brig. Gen. Henry Knox has not been identified. For the new arrangement of the Continental army, see General Orders, 1 November.

3GW replied to Forrest from headquarters at Passaic Falls on 20 Nov.: “I have recd your favor of the 12th: It gives me pain to find an Officer of merit under the necessity of quitting the service for the reasons you mention, and I should very readily consent to your retiring in the manner and upon the terms you propose, did I see that it could be done consistently with the Regulations of the 3d and 21st of October last.

“When you speak of five Lieut. Colonels of Artillery I presume you include the Lieutenant Colonel of the South Carolina Regiment, but I cannot find, by any construction of the Regulations above referred to, that the Officers of that Regiment can be introduced into either of the four that have served together in this quarter—That Regiment, both as to Officers and Men, appears to me to be totally reformed—Indeed it was always considered as being upon a different foundation from the others—The Officers never rolled together, and while those in the South Carolina Regiment were promoted Regimentally to the Rank of Colonel, those in the other four were promoted lineally to the Rank of Feild Officers—This is a further reason against introducing the former among the latter at this period, as both the Colonel and Lt Colonel of the southern Regiment would I am informed be found (if considered upon a lineal scale of the five Regiments)junior Officers to some of the Majors of the other four” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also Samuel Huntington to GW, 26 Oct., n.1). For officers in the South Carolina artillery regiment, see Heitman, Historical Register description begins Francis B. Heitman. Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783. 1893. Rev. ed. Washington, D.C., 1914. description ends , 54–55. GW subsequently assigned Forrest to command the artillery artificers at Carlisle, Pa. (see Huntington to GW, 25 Nov., and n.2 to that document).

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