George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Mary Wooster, 8 May 1789

From Mary Wooster

New Haven May 8th 1789


Permit me to address your Excellency on a subject which perhaps may be thought improper for a Woman, but I rely on my particular unfortunate situation and the candor of your Excellency for my justification⟨.⟩ My Son having been excedingly unfortunate during the course of the last War by the loss of his pay⟨,⟩ receiving his debts in Continental Money, by being plunder’d to a very considerable amount by the British and Various other ways, but more particularly by the untimely death of his Father which left him in a very disagreable situation at the close of the war, and from which he has never been able to recover, altho he has made every exertion in his power, and at present is entirely out of business with a large Family to support; he has been preposeing for some time past to go and settle in a foreign Country, but his friends have advis’d him to Stay in this Country if he can with propriety, for this end I know he has petition’d your Excellency for a Post under the new Constitution but I am afraid that with his fortune he has lost his friends, as is too frequently the case, and must entreat of your Excellency to become a Father to him, and relieve him in some measure from his troubles, forgive a Mothers feelings whose future happiness Depends on that of her Son1—I have lost my Husband, I have only one Son to depend on, and if he cannot get into Some place or business here whereby he can support his family, is determind to remove into a foreign Country and leave me in a worse than Widow’d State I must therfore entreat your Excellency to consider his and my Situation, and by relieving us in Some way, receive from us with gratitude the Blessings of the Widow and Orphan. I am with respect & Esteem Your Excellencys most Obedt and Very Humble Servt

Mary Wooster


Presumably this Mary Wooster is Mary Clap Wooster (1729–1807), the daughter of Thomas Clap (1703–1767), president of Yale College from 1739 to 1766, and the widow of Brig. Gen. David Wooster (1711–1777). General Wooster had a colorful but highly erratic military career during the Revolution before he was killed in a skirmish with British troops during Tryon’s raid on Danbury in April 1777. In July 1779 Mrs. Wooster’s home was pillaged by British soldiers, and she spent her last days in poverty.

1Thomas Wooster served as a captain in Webb’s Additional Contintental Regiment from February 1777 until his retirement in April 1779. He early expressed dissatisfaction with the terms of his release from the army. Writing to his former commander in May 1780 Wooster complained that: “I suppose you well know that for some reason or other, the officers of our Regt had never receiv’d their Commissions when I left the Regt; and as I have thought of going to Europe in the Fall, should be much obliged to you if you will take the trouble to get my Commission made out. . . . I should also be glad if you cou’d get me an honourable Discharge from Genl Washington, as I never had one, nor was muster’d out as a supernumerary, . . . I never receiv’d the year’s Pay, which was allow’d to superny Officers, nor indeed never desir’d it, as I did not enter the service for the sake of pay, or Rank, and I imagine shou’d not have quitted it, untill the war was over, if you had not been so unfortunate as to be taken from it” (Wooster to Samuel Blachley Webb, 12 May 1780, in Ford, Correspondence of Samuel Blachley Webb, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends 2:260).

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