George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Fierer, 10 July 1793

From Charles Fierer

Dumfries [Va.] July 10th 1793


Your excellency as the Soldier’s friend, will I hope be pleased to pardon the liberty I take in addressing myself, to your Excellency, on a subject of a private nature, but of the greatest importance to myself.

Early in the month of September, in 1778 when the American head-quarters, were at the White-Plaines, I as an Officer in the German service arrived there, from New York, and was introduced to your Excellency, by the late Colo. Wm Grayson,1 with whom I had become acquainted while a Prisoner on Parole in this Town in 1777. It was in consequence of this Gentleman’s recommendation, (I believe) Your Excellency was pleased to honour me with a letter to the then President of Congress, Henry Laurens Esqr. which, as I afterwards found, recommended me to a Commission in the American Army, and in consequence of which I received an appointment, as a Captain in a new Corps, then in contemplation to be raised, out of such of the German Soldiers as should quit the British service. The raising of this Corps being however counteracted, by a resolve of Congress soon after, and I being desirous of an opportunity, to shew my Zeal for the Cause which I had adopted, and for which I had sacrificed every other prospect; in March 1779 through the exertion of Colo. Wm Grayson, I procured the command of a Troop of Horse, in the Virginia State Cavalry; a corps then raising for the protection of the State. In this Corps I made two Campaigns in the Southern States, and served in it both in and out of the State, until peace,2 to the Satisfaction of my Superiors, as will appear by sundry Certificates.3 It is unnecessary to remind your Excellency, of the situation of the Officers in general at that period. Mine however has proved particularly distressing, as a Foreigner: for though the Officers of the State troops were promised the same emoluments, as those on Continental Establishment, the Commutation of half pay has been withheld from us to this day. Ten years successivly, have we in a body petitioned the Legislature of Virginia on this subject, and as often have we been put off; at last worn out, and unable to persevere any longer, the object is generally given up. Takeing my situation however in a different point of view, from my suffering brethren, natives of this Country, and urged on by poverty, and a cruel decree of my Native Country, which confiscated a considerable patrimonial Legacy, in consequence of my joining the American army; I am induced to apply once more individually, and lay a statement of my grievances, before the next General Assembly of this state, with a petition for my Commutation of half pay.4 Conceiving that the Letter your Excellency was pleased to Write in my favour, in 1778 to the President of Congress, will be of great importance to me as it will prove a provision for me on Continental Establishment, which I forfeited, by entering on the State Establishment; I humbly beseech your Excellency to grant me a copy of the same, if one record, or else as much of the Subject, as is within your Excellency’s recollection.5 I once applied for the same at the Public Offices in Philadelphia—but could not obtain it.

Your Excellency’s condescension on this Subject, may perhaps be the means of procuring to me my Commutation, which no doubt I should have been entitled to on Continental Establishment, but of which I was ignorant in those days. I have the honor to remain with profound respect, Your Excellency’s Most Obt and Most Hble sert

Charles Fierer, late Captain in the Virginia State Cavalry

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. The postmark on the cover reads “DUMFRIES. JULY 10.”

1GW kept his headquarters at White Plains, N.Y., from 20 July until 16 Sept. 1778. Col. William Grayson, who was a lawyer from Dumfries, Va., died in 1790. For his Revolutionary War career, including his service as an aide-de-camp to GW in 1776 and as colonel of Grayson’s Additional Continental Regiment 1777–79, see Charles Lee to GW, 5 April 1776, n.6.

2According to GW’s letter to Henry Laurens of 9 Aug. 1778, Charles (Carl) Fierer (Führer; 1756–1794) had been an officer in the Hessian Corps, taken prisoner at the Battle of Trenton, N.J., on 26 Dec. 1776, and resided at Dumfries, Va., during his captivity. On 3 Sept. 1778 Congress granted him a captain’s commission in the German Volunteers, a new corps to be comprised of German deserters. Congress, however, withdrew its approval of this unit on 5 Dec. 1778 (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 , 12:866–67, 1192–93). Fierer apparently returned to Virginia, where he received an appointment as a captain in the Virginia cavalry and fought at the Battle of Camden, S.C., on 16 Aug. 1780. After the war, Fierer published the Times, and Patowmack Packet (Georgetown, D.C.), 1789–91, and the Virginia Gazette (Dumfries), 1791–93.

3The certificates have not been identified.

4For an early attempt by Fierer to obtain a military pension, see Charles F. Führer to President of Congress (John Hanson), 15 Nov. 1781, DNA:PCC, reel 54. In November 1793, Fierer succeeded in acquiring compensation for his military service from the Virginia legislature (Va. House of Delegates Journal 1793 description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Richmond, on Monday, the Twenty-First day of October, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Three. Richmond, 1793. description ends , 15–16, 97–98; Va. Statutes [Shepherd] description begins Samuel Shepherd, ed. The Statutes at Large of Virginia, from October Session 1792, to December Session 1806, Inclusive. n.s. 3 vols. Richmond, 1835–36. description ends , 1:282). On 16 Dec. 1793, the federal government granted him two bounty land warrants for 2,000 acres each (White, Genealogical Abstracts description begins Virgil D. White. Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files. 4 vols. Waynesboro, Tenn., 1990–92. description ends , 2:1186).

5On 17 July, Tobias Lear replied to Fierer from Philadelphia that all of GW’s “letters & papers written during the late war are at Mount Vernon—and it is therefore out of his power to comply with your request at present, by furnishing the copy of the letter which you request, as there is no person at Mount Vernon who can have access to the papers lodged there” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). No further correspondence with Fierer has been found.

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