George Washington Papers

General Orders, 1 February 1781

General Orders

[New Windsor] Thursday February 1st 1781

Parole Countersign [  ]

Light Infantry companies are to be immediately formed—one from each regiment—and to consist of[:] One Captain[;] Two Subalterns[;] Four Serjeants[;] One Drum[;] One Fife—and for the present Twenty five rank and file.

The honor of every regiment is so much interested in the appearance and behavior of the Light troops which are a representation of the whole Army that the General exhorts and expects the commanding officers of them will exert themselves to make a judicious choice for the formation of their respective companies—The Assistant Inspector General is to review each company and reject every man who in his opinion is not likely to answer the above ends—The General would prefer well made men from five feet six to five feet ten inches stature.

Every regiment that has at this time more than two hundred and twenty five rank and file for duty including those on command and on furlough is to give a full ninth of its number instead of twenty five for the Infantry company—and as the other regiments increase in strength and exceed this number they are to do the like invariably—When these Companies are formed they are to relieve the Troops on the Lines and do duty there by rotation in such manner as Major General Heath shall direct.

The General strictly prohibits recruiting men belonging to one state into the Regiments assigned as the Quota of another State.1

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

On this date, GW’s aide-de-camp David Humphreys wrote Lt. Col. Ebenezer Stevens from headquarters at New Windsor: “I have laid your Letter of this day, together with the enclosure before His Excellency the Commander in Chief, who is pleased to grant his free Pardon to William Hart, agreeably to the request of Capt. Hubbell, and yourself” (DLC:GW).

William Hart, of New York, enlisted in the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment with the rank of sergeant in April 1777. He deserted on 26 June 1779. After his pardon, he was evidently reduced to the rank of matross, but he continued to serve in the regiment until May 1783.

1For the background on this prohibition, see GW’s second letter to William Heath of 29 January.

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