George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Darke, 9 August 1791

To William Darke


Dear Sir,Philadelphia August 9. 1791.

I have received your letter of the 24 ult.1—Regarding its contents, altho’ relating to objects of public import, as private communication, I shall reply to, and remark upon them, with that candor which my personal esteem, and my public wishes strongly enjoin.

I need not tell you that my regret is seriously excited by learning that any cause of discontent should exist, either on your own part, or that of your Officers, with General Butler, and it is hardly necessary to express my earnest wish that it may speedily subside, and be entirely done away—But, as I rely greatly on your disposition to advance the public interest, tho’ even by the relinquishment of private opinions, I shall offer to your consideration some remarks which I am persuaded will have weight with you, and induce your influence with your Officers to dismiss their discontents, and to think only of their public duty.

Let it in the first place be remembered that one common cause engages your service, and requires all your exertions—it is the interest of your country—To that interest all inferior considerations must yield. As an apology for the seeming inattention of a commanding Officer it should be considered that the variety of objects, which engage him, may produce an appearance of neglect, by no means intended—In General Butler’s particular instance some allowance should be made for the effects of bodily indisposition, combined with the cares of his station—and I am satisfied no one, either from temper or reflection, will more cheerfully make this allowance than yourself.

On this belief I rest an expectation that every uneasiness will be composed, and that the public service will be proceeded in with harmony and zeal.

The Secretary of War has directed a board of Officers to decide the question of rank between you and Colonel Gibson and others.2 I shall at all times be happy to evince the sincere esteem, with which I am Dear Sir, Your most obedient Servant

G. Washington


1William Darke’s letter of 24 July from “Six Miles from pitsburg” reads: “I after Completing the Virginia Battalion and Geting the maryland Batalion as forward as I could, Arived at pitsburg the first day of this Month, and have bean since that time about pitsburg and down the River about a hundred and fifty miles at the Several places where the Virginia troops are Stationed, and am very Sorey to find that the officers in General are exceedingly discontent, dont like the treatment of the General and Several of them Talk of Resigning. I confess I cannot Rightly understand the General. I have bean in the service of my Country in allmost all the wars Since the year 1755—in one Capasety or other—and Never Served under any officer be fore that I had So little Satisfaction with In deed, I have had no duty to do nor bean on any Command farther than to turn out a bullock Guard of twelve men. I wish to Get to hed quarters and have writ to General St Clear but being in Grate haest as the Botes were Set off before I began to write I did not Give the General my Reasons as fully as I wished to do. The Virginians think General Butler does not like the Virginians, this is allso the opinion of all the principle Inhabitance about where the ⟨illegible⟩ Stationed and they in Concequence dislike him, and think he is partial. I aknoledg I have Noticed Some Same things in the Generals Conduct that I thaught had the apearence of it, but very like may be mistaken—I confess I would Gladly be out of the Service for No other Reason then this, I think I cannot be happy under the Command of Genl Butler except he alters Grately, and have had difficualty to pervail on Several of the officers to Continue, I writ to Genl Butler yusterday—as the Melitia are ordered to the Stations wher the Virginions are to morow—As the River is falling fast—for permition to Go on to head quarters but did not Get the least Satisfaction whether we Should ever Go or not, he did not even Give me as Much Satisfaction as he did one of my officers onst before, which was, as I am Informed he would know when he Saw it in Genl orders—The desertions have bean Grate I beleive twenty have deserted from Captain Hannah, who I think a good officer Some have deserted from the other Companys So that I beleive the Batalion is not quite full Some died with the Small pox two were drownded and Some discharged—so that all though there were 25 or 26 more then the full Batalion enlisted there is Some wanting to make the Battalion Compleat, the Maryland Batalion has not bean full by about 30, and as many have deserted from that, I beleive there are but about 280—I can give No Account of the other battalion from the Southward. The Indians have done no damage Sinc the fourth of this Month except Killing Some Cattle where Captain hannah is Stationed they flashed a gun and Shaped an other at one of his Men who was on his post at the mout of Wheeling, on the Indian Shore but it having Rained all day their Guns mised fire, they went a few miles up the River and Killd Some Cattle—it Seems by what I have heared to be Likely to be a despute between Colonel Gibson and me which is to take Rank Genl Butler I hear Say Colonel Gibson was a Colo. before I was, Colo. Gibson was never an officer in the Continantal line, he was a State officer and I believe as a Colonel of a Small Regement that was never Compleat. but as for his Clameing any thing from that I dont think he has the Least Right. you that apointed us both must know which is to take Rank. I commanded as a Lieutenant Colo. Commandant in the Continantal line. My late Commition is for the first Regiment and Colo. Gibsons the Second which I Conceived would not have bean the Case if Gibson was to have bean first in Command as the Regiments were only forming But if you intinded Colonel Gibson Should Command, I shall Cheerfully agree to be Commanded by him. I Should be very happy to Receive a line from you on the Subject. . . . I hear there are Several Deserters in the Goals in Virginia and have mentioned Somthing of it to Genl Butler, though but very Slitely, as I find nothing that I think of Seems to meat his approbation Nor did I expect to Stay So long about this place the Regiment I Expected to Command is Scatered from fort frankling to fort Washington I Sopose about 700 Miles by water, apart, So that it Seems impossible to teach them much Desapline” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

2GW transmitted this letter to Henry Knox on 10 Aug. with the instruction that “After you have read the enclosed private communication of my sentiments to Colo. Darke, please to seal & forward it, along with your dispatches to the Army” (Madigan, Autograph Letters, n.d., 59, item 332).

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