George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Benjamin Stoddert, 2 January 1781

From Benjamin Stoddert

War Office [Philadelphia] Jany 2nd 178[1]


I have the honor to inclose an extract from the minutes of the board of this day, together with the letter referred to.1 I have the honor to be with the highest respect Yr Excellency’s most Obed. humble Servt

Ben Stoddert. Secy

ALS, DLC:GW. Stoddert wrote “1780” in the dateline. GW replied to the Board of War on 10 January.

1The enclosed letter from the Board of War to Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, dated 23 Dec. 1780, reads: “There are four sweedish Officers in Philadelphia, where they have lately arrived by the way of Boston from Gottenburg in Quest of employment in the Service of the United States, they ⟨ha⟩ving no papers or Documents whatever. They appear however not to be impostors but on the contrary modest in their expectations and make no pretensions to military Fame in their own Country, in which they say they were only Subalterns, and they would be content to serve in the same Grade in our Army. The difficulties of entering into our Service have been explained to them and they represent that had they been accquainted with them, they would have remained at home. but as their finances are exhausted and they cannot think of returning were it in their power to their own Country after a fruitless errand, they wish to be employed if possible, they would even except of Ensigncies in the State lines. Colo. Armand would take two of them as Lieutenants; previous to the Board’s taking any Official Measures for their being reportd to Congress as proper to be employed it was thought but to state the matter to Congress on a General footing that their sense might be obtained on the subject; that if it is not deemed proper to pass any public Act some of the Honble Members in their Individual Capacity might recommend them if they pleased to their States or if it were thought expedient the Board directed to report on their case. These are the first Officers from Sweden who have requested employment in our Army. They say their King knew of their intentions to come to America and permitted them to resign their Commissions but would not give them any public passports lest he should involve himself in Consequence This rests on their own relation and the whole is submitted to the Consideration of Congress. They are on Expences here and would wish as speedy an Answer as was suitable with the Engagements and opinion of Congress to give” (DLC:GW).

Stoddert also enclosed minutes from a board meeting on 2 Jan. 1781: ‘A letter of the 23d Ulto from the board to Congress having been referred to the board of war who may recommend the Officers therein mentioned to the Commander in Chief to be admitted as Volunteers in the American Army, whereupon Agreed.

“That the said Officers be recommended to His Excellency the Commander in chief, to whom the Secretary is directed to transmit a Copy of the boards letter respecting them, & also of this determination” (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 , 19:1).

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