George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major William Galvan, 24 December 1780

From Major William Galvan

West point 24th december 1780.


I am loth to intrude on your Excellency but My particular circumstances And your benevolence will be my apology.

The New arrangement of the Inspector’s department admits of an inspector to the Cavalry and I once more take the liberty to Sollicit that place.1

I am the more emboldened to Claim it, as by the New Constitution of the Army every regiment of Cavalry is now mixed of horse and foot,2 a Circumstance which perfectly Suits the Constant Study which I have made of the discipline And Manoeuvres of both—your Excellency has been pleased to approve my Specimens for the Manoeuvres of the Cavalry: the Success which has attended My efforts during the last Campain, in training the regiment of Light Infantry to which I was appointed,3 will I hope equally intitle me to your Excellency’s Confidence in regard to those of the infantry.

A Sufficient Knowledge of both Your Excellency will Undoubtedly find in Many Officers, but the Constant application and vigilance necessary to prepare those Corps for Solid Services the next Campain, will not perhaps be So easily found, And Are Qualifications which I have always been Anxious to display.

My not being invested with the rank necessary to hold that employ will perhaps be An objection, but your Excellency’s recommendation to the board of war May Soon remove it, and your Excellency May recollect that it was your opinion given to that board last year which fixed the rank I now hold.4 however, I received then their Solemn promise that I should be promoted in the Course of two or three Months (Such were their very words) And that promise, Monsieur Delaluzerne to whom it was repeated, has in a Manner guaranteed—Notwithstanding this, I have hitherto made no application, Nor will I make any without your Excellency’s Consent and patronage, a Conduct which your Excellency knows I have Always Strictly adhered to, And Which I am firmly resolved never to deviate from.

The inclosed Certificate given Me by the board of war when I had almost given up all hopes of being admitted in the American Army, will prove to your Excellency that the rank of Lieutenant Colonel has always been the one I was intitled to in the opinion of that board, and will remove every just Cause of any officer taking Umbrage at my promotion.5 I have the honour to be with profound respect Sir Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and Most humble servant



3Major General Lafayette had written French minister La Luzerne from headquarters at Bergen County, N.J., on 17 Sept. that “Galvan is in my light division and seems satisfied; I am infinitely so with him” (Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 3:174–75).

5The enclosure has not been identified, but GW replied to Galvan from headquarters at New Windsor on 26 Dec. 1780: “I have perused the letter and Certificate you were pleased to put into my hands last Evening. I am sorry that I cannot, consistently with my own Ideas, recommend you for further promotion at this time. My sentiments on this head you are already acquainted with, from what has passed between us, and from what I wrote to Congress or the Board of War last Winter or Spring—I have, as I then observed, a very high opinion of your merit and military talents, and hope they will not go unrewarded—but such rapid promotion as you sollicit, without some very obvious cause, would afford ground of complaint to Officers of older standing than yourself in the Army.

At the time that I make this declaration, I think it incumbent upon me to add—that tho’ I cannot promote your application to Congress or the Board of War for preferment, I have not the smallest objection to your making it yourself, and claiming the compliance with a promise already obtained from the latter.

It is not your present Rank, I believe, that would be a bar to your being appointed Inspector of Cavalry. If there is any, it is your not being of the Corps—One of the Majors of the line of Horse, having, by the Regulations, a right to insist upon the appointment. It is my wish, if it can be accommodated, to see you in that Office, because I think you well qualified to discharge the duties of it” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also n.4 above).

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