George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Captain Stephen Olney, 23 February 1781

To Captain Stephen Olney

Head Quarters New Windsor 23d Feby 1781


I have recd yours of the 11th inst.1 and a letter from you to Colo. Angell, dated at Morris town the 15th May last, was about that time laid before me2—Capt. Allen, with whom you say you have a dispute of Rank, has never put in any claim, and as I find you are set down the 4th and he the 5th Captain in the new arrangement lately made out by Colo. Greene and transmitted to the Board of War3—I conclude that Capt. Allen has either withdrawn his claim, or that Colo. Greene and the Feild Officers, who settled the arrangement, have been convinced of your right of priority. I am &.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1On 11 Feb., Olney had written GW from “Quarters”: “There is a dispute of rank between Captain Allen and myself, our pretentions were deliverd to Colonel Harrison (last April) who inform’d Colonel Angell he would present them to Your Excellency for determination, to which we the disputants cheerfully Consented, but from the multiplicity of more important business which soon after Occurd, I immagine they were not laid before Your Excellency, I am therefore under the necessity of requesting (if it is Your Excellen[c]ys Pleasure) the matter may be determined by said Pretintions” (ALS, DLC:GW). GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman noted on the letter: “By the Arrangement handed in by Colo. Greene Capt. Stephen Olney is 4th and Capt. Allen 5th Captain.” For the “pretentions” of Capt. William Allen, see his letter to GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison, 14 May 1780 (DLC:GW).

Stephen Olney (c.1753–1832) joined the 2d Rhode Island Regiment as an ensign in May 1775, and in January of the following year he became a lieutenant in the 11th Continental Regiment. In January 1777 he transferred to the new 2d Rhode Island Regiment, rising to captain the following month. Olney was wounded at the Battle of Springfield on 23 June 1780. Retained in the combined Rhode Island Regiment formed in early 1781, Olney was wounded at the Battle of Yorktown and served until March 1782.

William Allen (1752–1815) served as an ensign in the 2d Rhode Island Regiment from June to December 1775 and as a lieutenant in the 11th Continental Regiment in 1776. He transferred to the new 2d Rhode Island Regiment in January 1777 and became a captain the same month. In January 1781, Allen was retained as a captain in the combined Rhode Island Regiment. He left the army in November 1783.

2In his letter to Col. Israel Angell dated 15 May 1780 at “Quarters” near Morristown, N.J., Olney explained his preference that GW decide the rank dispute, detailed the history of his commissions, and contested any contention that he had spent “eleven days in February 1777” out of the service (DLC:GW).

3GW had transmitted the arrangement—otherwise unidentified—to the Board of War on 19 Feb. (first letter).

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