George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Samuel Holden Parsons, 25 December 1780

From Major General Samuel Holden Parsons

Fishkill [N.Y.] 25th Decr 1780

Dear General

Lieuts. Grant and Cook who were made Prisoners on the Surrender of Fort Washington and are now exchangd, apply to me to be arrangd in the Connecticutt Line;1 on which I beg your Excellency’s Direction—these Gentlemen were appointed Officers for the Army raisd in 1777 but being Prisoners were not Commissiond in the Regiments rais’d on the present Establishment; they were noticed of, and accepted their Appointments; and after some Months waiting and no Exchange appearing soon to take Place, the State appointed other Officers to those Ranks; and thus the Affair has rested until the late Exchange when they apply to be admitted into the Line of the Army2—I recollect a Resolve of Congress, I beleive, in 1778, directing, that Officers who were Prisoners and on their Exchange, should apply to the Governor of the State to which they belong’d & signify their Desire to be cal’d to actual Service, should be intitled to pay & be admitted into the Line in such Rank as they would have been intitled to, if they had continued in their respective Regiments; under this Resolution these Gentlemen Claim—several of the first Lieutenants of the Connectt Line would wish to go out on the present Establishment & some Captains; I beleive the Service will not be injurd by substituting these Gentlemen in such Rank as they would have been intitled to in their ordinary Course of Promotion, if it can be done with Propriety; your Excellency’s Direction will Satisfy the Parties concernd and Oblige your most Obedt Servt

Saml H. Parsons

P.S. Upon Examination I find Mr Cook would have been intitled to the Command of a Company in Jany 1777; I am not yet assertaind of the Time Mr Grant would have been intitled. I beleive the Act of Congress intitles them to their Commissions and pay, and it appears reasonable to me they should be intitled to equal Benefits with their Brethren who have been promoted in the Regiments since their Captivity, nor can there be a Time in which they could be introduced into Service with less Inconvenience than the present; if they can by that Resolve be commissiond the Difficulty will be removd3 I am &c.

S. H. Parsons


1Jesse Cook (1739–1824) served in the 7th Connecticut Regiment as a lieutenant from July to December 1775 before joining a battalion of Connecticut state troops in June 1776. Taken prisoner at Fort Washington, N.Y., that November, Cook was not exchanged until 25 Oct. 1780. He appealed unsuccessfully in January 1781 for a lieutenant’s commission in the Connecticut line, but the state legislature subsequently named him a militia captain. Cook then sought, apparently without success, to secure a Continental commission as captain (see Conn. Public Records description begins The Public Records of the State of Connecticut . . . with the Journal of the Council of Safety . . . and an Appendix. 18 vols. to date. Hartford, 1894–. description ends , 3:287, 505, 529).

Jesse Grant (1742–c.1794) served as sergeant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment from July to December 1775. He became a lieutenant in the 19th Continental Regiment in January 1776. Wounded and taken prisoner at Fort Washington on 16 Nov. 1776, Grant was exchanged on 25 Oct. 1780 and left the service.

2For this prisoner exchange, see GW to Abraham Skinner, 7 Oct. and 8 November.

3GW replied to Parsons from headquarters at New Windsor on 29 Dec.: “I have recd yours by Lieut. Cook. I have had reference to the Resolves of Congress of the 24th Novemr 1778 and 22d May 1779 (Copies of which I inclose you) which make provision for the readmission of prisoners into their respective lines, provided their States think proper to reappoint them, or if they do not, allowing them the pay and priviledges of supernumeraries. The modes are clearly pointed out by the Resolves—It lays with the State therefore to determine the business of the Gentlemen to whom you refer. There can be no vacancies in the line of Captains at present, to which Rank they both say they are intitled—They must therefore wait upon half pay, till Vacancies happen for them, if the State thinks proper to admit them—This I suppose, if it takes place, will create difficulties as usual among the other Officers, and clearly shews the ill consequences, not to say injustice, of superseding Officers during their Captivity” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; the enclosures have not been identified). For the congressional resolutions on the readmission of officers released from captivity into their regiments and on designating officers not readmitted as supernumeraries, see 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 , 12:1155, 1157, and 14:630.

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