George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Allison, 26 April 1784

From John Allison

Alexandria [Va.] April 26th 1784


At a meeting of the Officers of the Continental line in October last to appoint officers of the State Society of Cincinnati; It was there resolv’d, that no officer not holding a Continental Commission should be entitled to become a member 1—As I saw it in a different light from the Gentlemen that compos’d that Body; I beg leave to lay before your Excellency the State & progress, of the Regiment to which I belong’d from its first rise to the close of the War.

April 1st 1776 an order passed the Committee of Safety for raising Nine Companies of Marines for the defence of the State; many of these Companys were compleated in less than a Month, & imeadeately enter’d upon Service.2

In the October Session following an addition was made of Six Regiments to the Continental Line, and three Regts of Infantry was likewise order’d to be rais’d for the defence of the State; In which three Regts was to be incorporated the Nine Marine Companies, they being found useless aboard small Vessels.3

May 1777 the Assembly finding they were deficient in their Continental Quota—Ordered that a Regiment of the State troops should imeadiately march to join the Continental Army under the Command of Genl Washington 4—Which Regt was chiefly compos’d of the Marine Companies (who readily turn’d out Volunteers) And were put under the Command of Coll George Gibson.

The October Session of 1777 pass’d an act that the Regt of State troops under Colo. George Gibson, then in Continental Service, Should remain in place of the Ninth Virginia Regt Captured at German Town, to be considered as part of their Continental quota; And to be entitled to every previlige & emolument of Continental troops from this state, Which Act was coroborated by several others of a Similar Nature.5

In Jany 1779 an application was made to Congress respecting our Regiment, and receiv’d the following proceedings for Answer viz.—6

Sunday 31st Jany 1779

At a meeting of the Committee appointed by Congress to confer with the Commander in Chief—

Present Mr Duane
Mr Laurens In Conference with the
Mr Root Commander in Chief
Mr M. Smith

A letter from Coll George Gibson of one of the State Regiments of Virginia setting forth that he had recd no orders for re-enlisting that said Regiment, & that the time for which the men were enlisted is daily expiring—that very few of the men were enlisted to serve during the War; and that they are willing to enlist on the same terms as the troops from the State of Virginia, in Continental Service, was read; and the said letter being refer’d to this Committee with power to take such order thereon as they shall Judge proper; It is unanimously agreed that the Commander in Chief shall give orders for re-enlisting the men belonging to the said Regiment for the War, allowing them the Contl Bounty, & that if the State of Virginia shall incline to take the Regiments when so re-enlisted into its own imeadiate Service, it shall be at liberty to do so; and in that case, the Bounty money to be advanced out of the Continental Treasury together with the Expences of recruiting shall be returned.

It is further agreed that if Colo. Smith & his Regiment rais’d for the service of the State of Virginia shall make a similar application to the Commander in Chief of the Army of these United States,7 the same ⟨mea⟩sures in all respects to be pursued with Regard to that Regiment.

That a Copy of this resolution be deliver’d to the Commander in Chief, & the Original lodged with the Board of War.

Done in Committee of Conference with the Commander in Chief and Sign’d by their order—


James Duane Chair.

A Copy of the above proceedings was transmited to Virginia, whereupon the House of Delegates came to the following Resolution—

In the House of Delegates May 24th 1780

Resolved, that the officers of the first & Second State Regiments, having been employd for several years in the Continental Army, received by Congress as a part of the Quota of this State, and paid by the Continent as such, ought to have enjoyed equal rank privilege & emoluments, from the time of their being ordered to join the American Army, with the Continental Troops of this State.

Resolved, that the Congress by a Resolution dated the thirty first day of Jany 1779 have declaird their Willingness to take the said Regiments into the Continental line, it is expedient that the said Resolution be carried into execution, and that it be further recomended to Congress to give Rank to the Officers of these two state Regiments, having relation to the state of their State Commissions, Provided that such officers shall not be entitl’d to promotion except in the line of the said two regiments.

Resolved, that all disputes relative to rank or command among the officers of the said two Regiments shall be determined by a Board of Officers in like manner & under the same rules as given in the Continental Army.


John Beckley C.H.D.

26th May 1780

Agreed to by the Senate

(Copy)    Will. Drew C.S.

The Regiment in the Spring of 1780 consisting of 100 men for the War, Rendezvous at Petersburg; this number were properly officer’d & sent on to the Southard, where most of them ended their Military carreer in Continental Service; some of the Supernumerary Officers were incorporated with some troops then in the State & thrown into a Legion under Lt Colo. Dabney, which Legion existed to the close of the War.8

The proposals for establishing the Society of Cincinnati Says: All Officers of the American Army &c. &c. have the right to become parties to this institution—had the Gentlemen that compos’d the meeting of the Virginia line attended to the above circumstance; perhaps there might been no necessity of troubling your Excellency on the Subject—Though it was our missfortune throughout the course of the War, to labour under the disadvantage of State Commissions, (owing entirely to our own neglect at our first entering into Contl Service) I believe it is evident; we compos’d a part of the American Army as well as those that held Continental Commissions—To your determination we Submit the matter. In behalf of myself & the Officers of the first and Second State Regiments, I am your Excellencys most Obdt Hubl. Servt

John Allison Lt Colo. 1st S. Reg.


John Allison, a merchant in Alexandria and an occasional visitor at Mount Vernon, was major of the 1st Virginia Regiment when it and the 2d Virginia Regiment were transferred to Continental service in 1777, and he was its lieutenant colonel at the time of his retirement in February 1781. No letter in answer to this has been found, but GW may have responded in person.

1At its initial meetings in October 1783 in Fredericksburg, the Virginia Society of the Cincinnati voted that the matter of “the admission of the Officers of the State Corps . . . should be refered to the decision of the General Meeting” (Edgar E. Hume, Sesquecentennial History and Roster of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Virginia, 1783–1933 [Richmond, Va., 1934], 66). The delegates to the general meeting in Philadelphia in May decided that the officers of such state units were eligible for election to the society (see note 33, Winthrop Sargent’s Journal, doc. II in General Meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati, 4–18 May).

2See the proceedings of the Virginia committee of safety for 29 Mar. and 1 April 1776, printed in Scribner and Tarter, Revolutionary Virginia, description begins William J. Van Schreeven et al., eds. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence. A Documentary Record. 7 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1973–83. description ends 6:266–68, 295–303.

3See “An Act for raising six additional battalions of infantry on the continental establishment” and “An Act for making a farther provision for the internal security and defence of this country” (9 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 179–84, 192–98).

4The journal of the Virginia house of delegates for its May 1777 session has been lost.

5Allison is referring to “An Act for speedily recruiting the Virginia Regiments on the continental establishment, and for raising additional troops of Volunteers” (ibid., 337–49). George Gibson (1747–1791) of Cumberland County, Pa., was colonel of the 1st Virginia State Regiment from June 1777 to January 1782. He returned to live in his native Pennsylvania after leaving the army.

6Colonel Gibson wrote GW on 23 Jan. 1779: “The Assembly of Virginia in their late Act passed for the reinlistment of their Troops [9 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 565–67] have not taken any notice of the Two State regiments anex’d to the Continental Army.” Gibson went on to point out that “His Excelly the Governor & many Gentn of the House of Assembly told me we were considerd as continental troops from the time we were taken into Continental Pay” (DNA:PCC, item 78). From 1777 on the 1st and 2d Virginia state regiments were in the Continental service, paid by the Congress, but they were not “on continental establishment” as were the regular Virginia regiments in the Continental army. GW gave Gibson’s letter to Congress on 29 Jan., when it was referred to a committee. The committee’s report as given here by Gibson has not been found in DNA:PCC.

7Gregory Smith was colonel of the 2d Regiment of the Virginia state line from June 1777 until January 1779.

8Gov. Benjamin Harrison in January 1782 ordered the formation of the Virginia state legion from the remnants of the 1st state regiment and of other units, and Lt. Col. Charles Dabney of the 1st Regiment was given the command of the legion.

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