George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Nathaniel Smith, 10 November 1786

From Nathaniel Smith

Baltimore 10th November. 1786


From the difficulty I have met in the Settlement of my Accounts with the State of Maryland, & a hope that your Opinion on the Matters pending between the said State and myself, would tend to Obviate that difficulty, I have taken the freedom to Trouble you with the present letter—I would in the first place beg leave to Acquaint you Sir, that I entered into the Service of the Contenant in January 1776 and was appointed to the Command of a Company of light Infantry but when we begun to raise the men, I was directed to take the Command of a Company of Artillery and Stationed at the Fort on Whetson Point—at the latter part of 1776 & beginning of 1777 another Company was raised & placed under my direction; and the State then gave me a Majors Commission and the Chief Command of the Fort. In 1778 The Assembly resolved a Company of men from those under me should, be drawn & Commanded by Capt Richard Dorsey should march to join the Continantal Army—and at the Same time passed further Resolves, that all officers and Soldiers at Annapolis and Baltimore Should have and enjoy every priviledge of those in the Contenantal Service.1

In the month of September 1779 Govener Johnson Sent for me and Acquainted me, the Assembly had Ordered the Remainder of the Artillery to join the Troops then under your Command and Asked me if I was Willing to march with them, I told him I was if I could have my Rank agreable to the Resolves of 1778—he said it could not be done—I observed to him that it would be hard for me to Serve under one of my former Serjants, (Leiutenant Colonel Strobach then of the Pensilvania line)2 in which he agreed with me, and Added that Somthing would be done for the Supernumerary Officers who Could not be employed in those Companies—In the Resolves it is Said “The Govener & Council are directed to Recomend the Supernumerary Officers to his Excellency General Washington and that they Should be in full pay until they enter into the Contenantal Service”—Now what I would particularly Request of you Sir, is to inform me wheather you Reciv’d any Recmmendatory letter Concerning myself or any other Supernumerary Officer, of the Artillery of this State.

With Some difficulty, I Obtained my depreciation Up to September 1779 the time the last of the Troops ware Ordered to March—About two years past I handed in a Memorial to Our Assembly—A Committee was appointed to Set on it—who reported, the Memorial was Just, and that I ought to be Allowed, the Commutation pay—the Senate passed it & Ordered the Intendant of Finance to Settle with & pay me for all Services done as Major of Artillery and for Some as Commissary for prisoners of War. The latter the Intendant did but refused adjusting the former.

As I entend presenting another Memorial this Session of Assembly, I would beg your Answer, not only as to my Recmmendations but your Opinion wheather I am not entitled by the Resolves to full pay to the end of the War or the Commutation, or Boath.3 I Crave your pardon for the Liberty taken in this and am with the most profound. Veneration Sir, your Most Obedient Humble Servant

Nathaniel Smith

ALS, DLC:GW. Meaningless dots between words have been eliminated.

1Capt. Richard Dorsey’s independent company of the Maryland artillery on 30 May 1778 became a part of the 1st Continental Artillery. Dorsey was wounded and taken captive at the Battle of Camden on 16 Aug. 1780.

2Lt. Col. John Martin Strobagh of Pennsylvania became lieutenant colonel of the 4th Continental Artillery Regiment in March 1777 and died 2 Dec. 1778.

3At the bottom of Smith’s letter James McHenry endorsed it in these words: “It will give me great pleasure if your Excellency can recollect any circumstance which may be applied to Mr Smiths interest. He is a worthy citizen and was a diligent and useful officer.” On 12 Nov. Samuel Purviance of Baltimore wrote this letter in support of Smith’s claims: “Sir My Friend & Neighbour Major Nathl Smith, who served as Commander of the Artillery in this Place in the late War, has found many difficulties in obtaining a Settlement of his Claims against the State of Maryland, which occasions his application to you for some Information, which he conceives might remove the Objections made to his Accounts—Lest you shoud have forgot his Name or Station, he requests me to mention him on this Occasion to your Excellency; which I do with the more pleasure, from a long & perfect knowledge of his Merits & public Spirit thro. the late War, for which I conceive he has not been duely rewarded. If you can render him any Service in the establishment of his Claims, You will serve a worthy Man, whose little Fortune, and the Interests of his family have been sacrificd by his attentions to the Service of his Country. I am with the greatest respect Sir Your most hble Servt Saml Purviance” (DLC:GW).

GW responded to Purviance from Mount Vernon on 20 Nov.: “Sir, Your letter of the 12th instant came duly to hand. I should be very happy if it was in my power to render your friend Majr Smith any service by giving him the information which he desires; but as I do not remember to have received any recommendatory letter which he alludes to, nor have any knowledge of the payment of the Officers of the Continental Army, much less of those who were in the pay of their respective States, I cannot do it; however desirous I may be of obliging the deserving soldier or worthy Citizen. I am &c. G: Washington” (LB, DLC:GW). On the same day GW wrote Smith: “Sir, I have received your letter of the 10th inst: am sorry that it is not in my power to give you the information which you desire; as I do not remember to have received any recommendatory letter concerning yourself or any other supernumerary officer, of the Artillery of your State.

“Having wholly laid aside public business, I am not able to say anything with certainty, even respecting the payment of the officers & soldiers who were in the Continental service, much less of those who were in the pay of their respective States. I am &c. G: Washington” (LB, DLC:GW). For Smith’s application for office under the new federal government, see Smith to GW, 10 July 1789.

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