George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Samuel Holden Parsons, 6 February 1781

From Major General Samuel Holden Parsons

Fishkill [N.Y.] 6th Feby 1781

Dear General

I was on my Way to wait on your Excellency but the Difficulty of passing the River prevents my pursuing my Intention.

The inclosd Letter from Major Alden & Certificate from the Officer commanding the Regiment, is to request his Discharge from the Service1—I am sorry his Circumstances require him to leave the Army, but am convincd his Reasons are such as ought to intitle him to his Discharge—I have known him from the Time of his engaging in Service, and no young Gentleman, I beleive, has merited a better Character as an Officer[.] in our late Enterprize he was kind enough to assist me, when I had Opportunity of receiving convincing Proofs of his personal Bravery, coolness & judicious Conduct2—Though I think the Army will loose a very valuable Officer yet I must join him in requesting his Discharge. If your Excellency can think he merits any particular Marks of Distinction in his Discharge: your Approbation of him will be particularly agreable to the Delicacy of his Sentiments & Feelings;3 he has never receivd his Commission is the Reason it is not transmitted. when the River becomes passible I shall wait on your Excellency on other Affairs. Our Line⟨s⟩ at present remain quiet—The Enemy since our Enterprize have remov’d to the Point of Morisania near the Widow Morris’s where (if whale Boats could be provided in the Sound) they may be wholly extirpated with more ease & less Danger than in any other Way. I am with the greatest Respect, Yr Excellency’s Obedt Servt

Saml H. Parsons

ALS, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 779. GW’s aide-de-camp David Humphreys wrote on the docket: “Resignation Accepted Feby 8th 1781” (see n.3 below).

1The “certificate,” a letter from Major Commandant John Palsgrave Wyllys to GW dated at Crom Pond, N.Y., on 26 Jan., reads: “Capt. Alden of the third Connectcut Regiment being desirous of a discharge from the service of the Unitedstates, is hereby recommended for the same” (ALS, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 669).

The undated letter from Capt. Roger Alden, formerly a brigade major, to GW reads: “Since I have had the Honour of serving in the Army under Your Excellency’s command, my satisfaction has been equal to my appointments. Such is my present situation, that a regard to my future Happiness, now impels me to ask a Dismission.

“To a Mind, not flattered by Success, nor depressed with Misfortunes, the small concerns of others may appear trifling—this would make a particular detail of my feelings, and circumstances, disgusting.

“Was I possessed of a fortune to bear the Expences—A Constitution to endure the fatigues, and an Heart to withstand the Temptations, incident to the Life of a Soldier, perhaps my Vanity is so great, that it might induce me to give my Ambition the Appearance of Patriotism—but I cannot do such Violence to my feelings, as to sacrifice my Happiness to my Pride, or make a shew of Principles, which are not the Sentiments of my Heart.

“Neither my Character or Influence is so important or necessary, that my Country will need my services, or the Army require my Continuance. It is mortifying to quit an employment, to which a person is attached from Principle and Affection, when it cannot be done with reputation. Tho my present determinations may be censurable, yet I hope all my past conduct is not liable to the same Imputation. If not, a single mark of your Excellency’s Approbation, would do me more Honour, and afford me more Satisfaction, than all the distinctions and Emoluments my Country can give. but as I have no Merit to boast, I have no favours or rewards to ask.

“If my Request can be granted, it will be very acceptable” (ALS, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 670; copy, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 668).

2For the “late Enterprize,” an attack on a Loyalist camp in lower Westchester County, N.Y., see William Heath to GW, 28 Jan., n.1.

3On 8 Feb., GW wrote a certificate of service for Alden: “At the pressing request & solicitation of Roger Alden Esqr. Capt. in the 2nd Connect. Regt I am induced to grant him a discharge from the Army of the United States. At the same time I think it but justice to his merit to Certify, that so far as his service has been within the compass of my knowledge it has met with my entire approbation; and that from what I have heard and known he has on all occasions supported the character of a Gentleman, and valuable Officer. Given under my Hand at Head Quarters New Windsor, this 8th Day of Feby 1781” (Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 15, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800–1900; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). The adjutant general of the U.S. Army certified the copy on 30 April 1833 as a “true copy from the original, in the hand writing of Genl: Washington.”

Roger Alden had served in the 2d Connecticut Regiment and as aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. Jedediah Huntington before transferring to the 3d Connecticut Regiment in January 1781. He swore in an affidavit on 12 April 1833 that he had been “dis[c]harged from the service by General Washington on the eighth day of february 1781 which original discharge he during the last fall he placed in the hands of” the adjutant general (DNA: RG 15, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800–1900).

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