George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Francis Barber, 6 February 1781

From Lieutenant Colonel Francis Barber

Pompton [N.J.] Feb’y 6th 1781


I transmit to your Excellency the arrangement of the Jersey brigade.1 The inclosed certificate of Colonel Shreve will explain upon what principles he is deranged.2

In the return of the supernumerary officers which accompanies this, you will observe that Captain Philips is deranged on account of an agreement between him & Capt. Lieut. Weyman of the same regiment, the former going out on the half pay of the latter. Colonel Shreve has undertaken to vouch for the propriety of the measure, from his having good information that the like has been admited in other lines of the army.3

I am unwilling to trouble your Excellency with complaints of any kind, but I conceive it my duty to represent the disagreeable situation we are in for want of a Commandant of brigade. The eldest officers in camp are Lt Colonel D’Hart & myself, between whom there is a dispute of rank, altho it was descided last summer in my favor by the Legislature of the State to whom the dispute was refered. This difficulty might be removed & many good purposes obtained could a Brigadier General be spared to take the command until Colonel Dayton’s health will permit him to join the brigade. I have writen to Col: Dayton urging the necessity of his attendance in camp, but he has informed me his health will not allow him.4

Col. Shreve requested I would inform your Excellency that in consequence of application from Major Barber, he has consulted both the Majors in the brigade & the oldest Captains respecting their accepting the office of Brigade Major, and that they wish to decline it. I know this to be [the] case, and not only so, that it is their as well as the superior officers wish that, Major Barber be appointed Brigade Major to this Brigade⟨.⟩ Major Barber is very anxious to come into the brigade as well as to continue in the service. Should your Excellency conceive it admissible upon the principles here related, you will confer an obligation on him & the brigade to order the appointment.

I have the pleasure to inform, that since the subduction of the revolters, the soldiers have behaved regular & obedient, and that no desertion has happened, which is contrary to my expectation.5 I have the honor to be, with the most perfect respe⟨ct⟩ & Esteem your Excellencys most obe⟨di⟩ent, humble Servant

F. Barber Lieut: Col.


1The enclosed arrangement has not been identified. The new establishment of the Continental army had reduced the New Jersey regiments from three to two and required several officers to leave the service (see General Orders, 1 Nov. 1780; see also Israel Shreve to GW, 29 Dec. 1780 and 8 Jan. 1781).

2Col. Israel Shreve’s certificate has not been identified, but he had indicated his desire to retire from the army (see Shreve to GW, 28 Jan. 1781).

3The return has not been identified.

Jonathan Phillips (Philips; 1744–1801) joined the 2d New Jersey Regiment as a second lieutenant in November 1775. He rose to first lieutenant in November 1776 and to captain in December 1777. He became a supernumerary officer in January 1781 and left the army in April 1783.

Abel Weyman (Wayman), of New York, joined the 1st New Jersey Regiment as an ensign in August 1776 and transferred to the 4th New Jersey Regiment the following November. He rose to second lieutenant in January 1777 and to first lieutenant in November of that year. He transferred to the 2d New Jersey Regiment in July 1778. He became a captain lieutenant in April 1780 and a captain in January 1781. He left the army in April 1783.

4Neither Barber’s letter to Col. Elias Dayton nor Dayton’s letter to Barber have been identified.

5For the suppression of the New Jersey line mutiny, see Robert Howe to GW, 27 Jan.; see also Shreve to GW, 20 Jan., and the source note to that document.

GW replied to Barber from headquarters at New Windsor on 7 Feb.: “I have just received your Letter of the 6th enclosing the Arrangement of the Jersey Regiments.

“It is impossible that a Brigadier Genl should be spared to take the command of the Jersey Brigade, as there is not one with the line of the Army at this time. I cannot but hope Col. Dayton will be able to attend very soon; I have written pressingly to him on the subject. In the mean time, as the dispute of Rank between Lt Col. D’Hart & yourself has been determined in your favor by the Legislature of the State, you will take the command of the Brigade, in the absence of the Colonels, untill further Orders.

“I should be perfectly satisfied to have Major Barber do the duty of Major of Brigade to the Jersey Troops, but from his not belonging to the Line there appears upon the present system to be an impropriety in the appointment. I must therefore wave the matter for the present” (Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

GW wrote Dayton from New Windsor on the same date: “I find by the Arrangement of the Jersey Brigade, which has just come to hand, that Colonel Shreve has retired from service—this makes your presence extremely necessary with the Troops; and the more so at this time, as some dispute about rank is said to exist between Lt Col. Barber & Lt Col. D’Hart—which, while there is no superior Officer ⟨to⟩ both of them, may produce parties and cabal⟨s⟩ to the great detriment of the service.

“Altho your health should not be perfectly established, I cannot but hope you will have so far recovered as to be able to join, and continue with the Brigade⟨.⟩ I would not wish you to expose yourself, or attempt impossibilities, but I am certain you will be persuaded of the ne⟨c⟩essity of being with your Troops at such a critical and ⟨in⟩teresting period—Even ⟨if⟩ yo⟨u⟩ are but ⟨in⟩ a convalescent state, I s⟨hould⟩ suppose you might obtain such comfortable accomodations abroad, as would promote your recovery as effectually as at home. especially since you will find the Brigade at so small a distance as Morris Town” (LS, in David Humphreys’s writing, PPAmP: David Library; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Mutilated portions of the LS are supplied in angle brackets from the draft, which Humphreys also penned). For Dayton’s reply, see his letter to GW, 17–20 February.

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