George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant William Colfax, 10 February 1781

From Lieutenant William Colfax

10th Feby 81.

I address Your Excellency in the behalf of Mr Lee, Mr Lord, Mr Avery & myself: Officers of the late 1st Connt regiment.1 Rather than troble Your Excellency on a subject, of all others the most disagreeable, we had concluded to receive and bear a grievance, tho’ too—intolerable! But on a second view, and relying on Your Excellency’s disposition to Administer justice, we deeme’d it our duty as well as interest, to lay our grievancies before You and pray a redress.

By the New Arrangment of the line,2 we are materially injured in our rank, and have reason to believe that Genl Parsons did not explain to Your Excellency the principles on which he proceeded in this buisiness: otherwise it would not met with approbation.

In this new list of Officers the Lieutenant⟨s⟩ are all returned from their appointments as 2d Lieutenants, without having any respect to their Commissions of 1st Lieutenants: which we plainly see will opperate very partially, & to our prejudice? The promotion must consequently be lenial from a certain time: not from the establishment of the regiments in 1777, nor from any other known period. The subaltern rank, which was thought to be settled three years since, will be thrown into confusion, and new boards of Officers must sit to determine new Claims. We shall be superceded by twenty five Officers, who have considered themselves junior to us for three years, if the present plan is carried into execution, without they refer back to our first appointments, which we neither expect or wish, as it would displace many Captains & derange the whole line—Your Excellency is our only source of redress, and all we ask is, that the subaltern rank may remain as settled in 1778, or that, if an alteration must be made, the inquiry may be carried back to the formation of the regiments. I am in behalf of myself & others Your Excellency’s Most Obed. servant

Wm Colfax

ALS, DLC:GW. Colfax wrote “Refferred to Genl Parsons” on the docket (see GW to Samuel Holden Parsons, 11 Feb.).

1Simeon Avery (d. 1796) joined the 1st Connecticut Regiment as an ensign in January 1777, became a second lieutenant in January 1778, and rose to first lieutenant the following June. He served as regimental adjutant from November 1778 until his transfer to the 5th Connecticut Regiment in January 1781. He left the army in January 1783.

2A new establishment of the Continental army caused new officer arrangements (see General Orders, 1 Nov. 1780).

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