George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Isaac Mansfield, 19 September 1792

From Isaac Mansfield

Marblehead [Mass.]
Sepr 19. 1792

May it please your Excellency,

I had the Honour of serving as a Chaplain in the late Army of the United States under your Command—I was introduced to the Regiment under the Command of Genl Thomas in October 1775.

The same Regiment commanded by Coll J. Bailey after Jan. 1. 1776 (which Coll J. Bailey had been Commandant under Genl Thomas) I was continued with, till they moved on from Roxbury to New York in March 1776.1

Directions were given in your general Orders in December 1775 that no Return was to be made of a Chaplain till further Orders; because, it having been proposed to Congress that each Chaplain should have the Charge of two Regiments with £10 pr Month they, the Congress had not advised you thereon.2

On Feb. 7. 1776 Directions were given in your general Orders in the Words following—“The Continental Congress have been pleased to order & direct that there shall be but one Chaplain to two Regiments, and that the Pay to each Chaplain shall be 33⅓ Dollars pr Calendar Month.” Having never received my Pay, Application has been made to Congress; & after having laid before them the two last Sessions—the Settlement seems now to be referred to the Pay Master.

Notwithstanding a Commission from you with which I was honoured dated Apr. 1. 1776 & appointing me Chaplain to two Regiments speaks for itself, the Matter labours on this account I perceive; the Pay Master does not observe by any Resolve of Congress that the pay of Chaplains was augmented or their Service increased by an additional Regiment till July 1776.3

The Design of my addressing your Excellency at present is to request a Copy of the Directions in your general Orders beforementioned attested by your Secretary or authenticated in the usual way, which Copy I presume will answer as a sufficient Document.4

I have apprehended that there is an Arrearage in respect of Rations, but I perceive that the Pay Master is of Opinion that no Allowance is to be made on that account notwithstanding I have candidly pointed him to a Receit I once gave for some R⟨a⟩tion Money; if not too troublesome shall ⟨be⟩ very much obliged by your Advice thereon likewise.5

In the Close of 1776 Sir, I retired f⟨rom⟩ the more public Service of our Country & settled in the Ministry at Exeter in [New] Hampshire; having left that place b⟨y⟩ mutual Agreement I became an Inhabitant of this Town with a purpose, under the Direction of my late Father who was for many years before & since the Revolution a Practitioner at Law, to qualify myself for usefulness in the civil Line. I should now esteem it a very great Favour to be on, the List of Candidates for any Appointment within your own Direction; & hope if honoured by any Appointment I should be able to recommend myself by Fidelity in the Discharge of its Duties.6

Wishing you the continued Care of that kind Providence which has guided & so eminently protected you thro’ Life thus far, I conclude Your’s with great Respect

Isaac Mansfield

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. Mansfield wrote “a Duplicate” near the bottom of this letter. The mutilated text in angle brackets is provided from Mansfield’s original letter dated 11 June 1792 (ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

Isaac Mansfield (1750–1826), a Harvard graduate who had served as a chaplain to Massachusetts troops from the spring of 1775 to the summer of 1776, became the minister of the First Church of Exeter, N.H., in July 1776. Dismissed from his pastorate in August 1787, he returned to his hometown of Marblehead, Mass., in 1790, where he studied law with his father, Isaac Mansfield (1720–1792), before joining the Massachusetts bar in 1796. During his residence at Marblehead, Mansfield held a number of local offices, including justice of the peace and coroner.

1Mansfield first served as a chaplain of the regiment commanded by John Thomas (1724–1776), whom the Continental Congress commissioned a brigadier general in June 1775 and gave command of the brigade stationed at Roxbury, Mass., during the siege of Boston in 1775–76. John Bailey (1730–1810), who was promoted to colonel in July 1775, assumed command of Thomas’s regiment upon Thomas’s promotion. Thomas, promoted to major general on 6 Mar. 1776, took command on 1 May 1776 of the American army laying siege to Quebec, only to die a month later of smallpox. Mansfield chose to remain with those troops left at Boston after the Continental army moved to New York in April 1776.

2No such general order for December 1775 has been found, but GW wrote John Hancock, president of Congress, on 31 Dec. 1775 that as “frequent applications had been made to me, respecting the Chaplains pay,” he had decided to recommend that there be “an advancement of their pay” and “that one Chaplain be appointed to two Regiments.” Congress approved GW’s recommendation on 16 Jan. 1776 (see JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 4:61).

3For Mansfield’s unsuccessful petition to Congress in December 1790, see DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972–. description ends 3:634–35.

4Tobias Lear replied to Mansfield on 29 Oct. 1792 from Philadelphia: “The President of the United States has received your letter of the 19th of september, requesting a copy of the general Orders relative to Chaplins, issued on the 7th of February 1776, and in obedience to his command I have the honor to enclose you an extract from those orders attested as you desired.” Lear enclosed an extract from GW’s general orders given at Cambridge, Mass., on 7 Feb. 1776: “The Continental Congress having been pleased to order & direct, that there shall be one Chaplain to two Regiments; & that the pay of each Chaplain, shall be Thirty three dollars and one third per kalender month; the &c.” Lear attested that this extract was a “true Copy from the Records of General Orders now in possession of the late Commander in Chief of the Armies of the United States of America, & extracted therefrom by his direction” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

5Mansfield wrote Tobias Lear on 16 April 1794 that he had received his back pay but still had not obtained any compensation for his rations. In that same letter Mansfield referred to Joseph Howell, Jr., the acting paymaster in the early years of GW’s administration until Caleb Swan was appointed to that position on 8 May 1792 (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

6Mansfield did not receive any federal appointment.

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