George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Oliver Towles, 20 February 1791

From Oliver Towles

Virginia February 20. 1791.


The Gentleman that will deliver you this, is Colonel Thomas Towles of Virginia who has been kind enough to undertake the management of a representation of mine to be laid before Congress, being unable personally to attend to the same myself; amongst other things contained in that remonstrance, I have asserted that in the Year One thousand Seven hundred and Seventy Seven, after stating the particulars of my embarrassments, and which being fully submitted to your examination, it was afterwards confided to you as the Commander in Chief, to decide circumstanced as I was, whether I could, consistently with honor, resign my Commission as an officer, to which you anounced both by letter and otherwise, that altho you thought the case a hard one yet upon mature consideration you Judged it not sufficient, at so perilous a crisis of the contest, to admit of a relinquishment of my Commission, in consequence of which, I considered myself bound by the determination, and did continue in the service of the Army1

From the great and Multifarious business you have been constantly engaged in, it is quite improbable, that so trifling a matter, should have continued on your mind, or that you should be able to say any thing, about it except some material circumstance, should previously come forward, that might have a tendency, to bring the fact thoroughly to your recollection; therefore in case Congress, should Judge it necessary to evince that particular, I have requested Mr Towles to lay before you, your letter, adressed to me on the subject, the perusal of which, I am persuaded will sufficiently remind you of the truth of the transaction, and enable your Justifying if necessary what I have alledged.

Most sincerely wishing your life may be prolonged, to a very distant period, with health and happiness during its continuation, and eternal felicity thereafter, I conclude sincerely felicitating you, on the heartfelt satisfaction you must experience, from the unrivalled applause, acquired by a life successfully, and unremittedly devoted to the Publick good; which is gratefully acknowledged, and will ever be remembered by all, and with peculiar pleasure by; Worthy Sir Your most Obedient and Most humble servant

O. Towles

ALS (photocopy), ViU.

Oliver Towles, a Spotsylvania County, Va., lawyer and landowner, served as an officer of Virginia troops in the Continental army during the Revolution. He was commissioned a captain in February 1776 (Felder, Forgotten Companions, description begins Paula S. Felder. Forgotten Companions: The First Settlers of Spotsylvania County and Fredericksburgh Town. Fredericksburg, Va., 1982. description ends 131, 204). On 15 Mar. 1777 Towles wrote to GW explaining that his home had recently burned, destroying papers relating to an estate for which he was serving as administrator, and asking whether he might, “without incurring Dishonour, Resign my Commission” (Oliver Towles to GW, 15 Mar. 1777, DLC:GW). GW replied on 26 April “that you cannot, consistent with the honor of an Officer, quit the Service of your Country at this interesting Period—I am at the same time desirous to give you every indulgence in my power that you may settle your private affairs which from what mention’d in your Letter must be in a State of great Disorder. I shall rely on your Discretion & Sense of Honor to make the most prudent use of this Liberty, to join your Regiment as soon as you possibly can, & that during the approaching Campaign you will not be under the Necessity of returning to Virginia” (GW to Oliver Towles, 26 April 1777, Df, DLC:GW). Towles was taken prisoner in December 1777 and exchanged in 1780. He returned to service as a lieutenant colonel in February 1781 and retired from the army in January 1783.

1Towles’s petitions praying compensation for expenses incurred during his military service and captivity were received by the House of Representatives on 18 Nov. 1791 and referred to the secretary of war for report. His report was tabled on 21 Feb. 1793 (Petitions, Memorials, and Other Documents Submitted for the Consideration of Congress, description begins U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Energy and Commerce. Petitions, Memorials and Other Documents Submitted for the Consideration of Congress, March 4, 1789 to December 14, 1795. Washington, D.C., 1986. description ends 165, 201).

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