George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Benjamin Stoddert, 3 April 1780

War office April 3rd 1780.


The board have the honor of transmitting to your Excellency, the copy of a letter from Maj. Lee—At the instance of Baron Steuben, & considering that enlistments went on but slowly, the board consented that the dismounted Dragoons of his Corps, should be increased to three Troops, because they were taught to believe that the Corps would be more perfect in its formation; and that its reputation would induce Men to enlist who probably would not enter into other Corps, & thereby increase the Strength of the Army. At that time they conceived matters as to the Officers, would either remain as they were, or fall in with any general regulation which might be adopted. Maj. Lee, however seems to think otherwise, & wishes to have promotions both of Capt. McLain & Capt. Peyton. the one Majr of Infantry, the other of Horse & the consequent promotions of other Officers. The board wish to be favored with your Excellencys opinion of the propriety & necessity of this measure as soon as possible—They will do all in their power to forward the March of these Troops agreeable to your request. I have the honor to be with the highest respect, Yr Excellency’s Most Obed., & Most Hble Servt

by ord. of the board.

Ben. Stoddert secy

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


c.3 April 1780


The expedition with which the Commander in chief requires the Troops under my Command to move induces me to request the immediate establishment of the officers.

The Partizan Legion consists of one Battalion of Cavalry and one Battalion of Infantry; The two Battalions form upwards of three Hundred Effective Men. This Number of Men, according to the Usage of all Armies demand the Aid of three field Officers.

The light infantry of the American Army, where no superfluous commission was allowed afford full proof of the opinion of the American Officers on this subject—there, each regiment was composed of Two Battalions, each Battalion consisting of eighty two File—the Regiment was commanded by a Colonel or Lieutenant Colonel Commandant, having under him two field Officers at the Head of the Respective Battalions.

If therefore three field Officers were necessary to a Corps of Infantry, Surely no person can doubt the propriety of allowing them to a Corps equal in Strength, employed in the same Line, and compound in its Nature.

Exclusive of the reasons suggested by the above State of the Matter; I must pray you to attend to the professional feelings of the Gentlemen Interested.

The officers of the Partizan Calvalry have served in the Line of Cavalry from the establishment of that part of the Army, those with me have forgone the advantages Common to the Line of Horse for the satisfaction of serving in a light Corps.

They have not only given up the Interest of Promotion, but also the bounty emoluments which they would from time to time have received, had they continued in the Line of any one State.

They are now under orders to Join the southern Army, where the rapidity of promotion common to the line of the Army, will inevitably throw them, in the course of service, under the Command of Gentlemen whose Superiors they once were.

Then certainly, it must be agreeable to you, Gentlemen, to allow to the Partizan Legion the common proportion of Field Officers, as it is, not only Conformable to the usage of the Army, but also gives a Step to Officers whose Attention to service has been uninterrupted and faithful, and who have never yet met with the Common promotion of the Army.

I am Confident, Gentlemen, you will do me the Justice to acknowledge that I am not interested personally in the Issue of this proposal, as you must well recollect my Answer to the very polite Offer, you were pleased to make to me on the subject of Promotion, in consequence of the Augmentation of my Infantry. I have the honor to be, Gentlemen, with great respect, Yr obedt Hum. Servt

Henry Lee Junr

M. A.

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