George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Captain Job Sumner, 23 December 1780

From Captain Job Sumner

West Point [23 Dec. 1780]. Sumner complains that a board of Massachusetts officers unfairly interpreted his congressional commission as captain in making the new arrangement in the state line.1 He asks GW for redress.


GW replied to Sumner from headquarters at New Windsor on 29 Dec.: “I have received yours of the 23d. Before I can satisfy you on the point which you have submitted to my determination, you must inform me at what time you were appointed a Captain in the line of Massachusetts, and whether you were in the first instance appointed to that Rank, or whether you rose to it from a lower Grade—Because you may possibly be intitled to rank in the Army at large from the Date of your Brevet Commission in July 1776, and in the line of Massachusetts from a later time” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; the “9” in the dateline of the draft is written over a “6”).

Sumner replied to GW from Verplanck Point, N.Y., on 2 Jan. 1781: “In Answer to your Excellency’s Letter of the 29 Ult.—I can inform, that Congress by an Act of the 14th Ult. were pleased to determin the Point in debate against me, in the Line of the State. that Body who gave may take away I can say nomore, only that I Still Reprobate the Conduct of the Board” (ALS, DLC:GW). After receiving a report from the Board of War on a letter from Sumner, Congress resolved on 14 Dec. 1780 that “their resolution of the 7th of April, 1779, meant to give him the rank of a captain in the army at large, from the 1st day of July, 1776 … but that no alteration was intended to be made in the line of the State to which he belonged, in which he should take his promotion” (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 , 18:1150).

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