George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General John Stark, 30 November 1780

From Brigadier General John Stark

Westpoint 30th Nov. 80

Dear sir

The Impaired State of my health, and the situation of my family, togither with the unsetled State of my accounts with New Hampshire, renders my presence there the ensuing winter very necessary. I have never as yet setled my depreciation, nor received any Cash on that head from them, I should be very glad to do it this Winter: without which it will be in a manner impossible, for me to subsist in the Army.

The Brigade that I have had the Honor to Command, is now ordered to join their respective States Troops; therefore it is not probable, that it will be in my power to render my Country any essential Service, untill the opening of another Campaign.1

The many favours I have received, and the known Zeal you have shewn for your Officers; together with your care of their Interest, strongly invites me to ask the favour of absence untill the Spring.

That this request may be granted, is, the ardent desire of, Your Excellencys, most Obedient, most devoted, & very Humble Servant

John Stark


GW replied to Stark from headquarters at New Windsor on 8 Dec.: “When I arrived at New Windsor I found your Letter of the 30th Ulto had been lying there several days for me.

“In Answer to your request for leave of absence, I have to observe, there are so small a number of General Officers with the Army, that the good of the service will not permit any further indulgences at this time—Whenever there are more Officers than are absolutely necessary for the Men in Camp I shall be happy in attending to their convenience & gratification, in this respect” (Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

Stark again wrote GW from Peekskill Hollow, N.Y., on 30 Dec.: “Your letter of the 8th Instant was recd. Since that time, I have not been in a situation to go out of my quarters much less to take Command in the field; and a dangerous Cough still attends me. The Troops of my Brigade are reduced to a very few, not more than a Colonels Command, and a sufficiency of Officers will be left to take Charge of them—If after these Circumstances, you can Consent and with the good of the service, permit me to be absent, I shall be very glad” (LS, DLC:GW).

GW replied to Stark from New Windsor on 31 Dec.: “I have recd your favr of the 30th. By a Resolve of Congress of the 18th Inst. Copy of which I enclose, I find that you had made application to them for liberty to retire for the reestablishment of your health. The propriety of this measure, they have been pleased to refer to me, and as I shall signify my approbation, I have no objection to your setting out as soon as your Health will admit—The term of absence, if they chuse to limit it, will depend upon Congress” (LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, NhHi: Stark Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). Stark replied to GW on 1 Jan. 1781 (DLC:GW).

Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, had written GW from Philadelphia on 21 Dec. 1780: “Your Excellency will receive herewith enclosed, a Letter from Brigadier General Starke of the 10th Instant, requesting from Congress Leave of Absence on Account of his ill State of Health, with a resolve of Congress of the 18th Instant referring the Letter to the Commander in Chief to take Order. … P.S. I have been honored with your Letter of the 15. Inst: by Majr Franks” (LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 15; the enclosed congressional resolution is in DLC:GW; see also 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 , 18:1156, and GW to Huntington, 15 Dec.). The enclosure from Stark to Huntington was written at Peekskill Hollow on 10 Dec.: “At the conclusion of six Campaigns, faithfully Spent in the service of my Country; I find my health in a very shattered state, inasmuch, that my tarry in Camp can be of little or no service, untill it is repaired. I shall therefore take it a particular favour, if you will represent the matter to Congress & obtain their permission for me to retire, until⟨l⟩ my health permits me, at which time, I shall readily, & with the greatest Cheerfullness return to my duty.

“If Congress will be pleased to signify their approbation to my request, I shall be Infinitily oblidged if you will let me know by Letter” (DLC:GW). GW replied to Huntington on 2 Jan. 1781 that Congress needed to decide the terms of Stark’s leave (DNA:PCC, item 152).

1The writer wrote “Campign” for this word.

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