George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Joseph Reed, 5 May 1781

Head Quarters New Windsor 5th-7 May 1781.


I have been honored with your Excellency’s favor of the 14th of April, inclosing a remonstrance of Colonel Proctor and the officers of his Regiment against the promotion of Captain Eustace to a Majority in it, and the late annexation of Captain Simonds—I am not a little surprized to see Field officers, who certainly are acquainted with the principles of promotion which have been understood and practiced upon far more than two years in the lines of Artillery and Cavalry, joining their subordinate officers in complaints, which, upon investigation, will be found groundless: But I am happy in addressing myself upon this occasion to your Excellency, who, having been upon the several Committees of arrangment in the year 1778, must recollect the various modes of promotion which were then talked of, and the reasons which led to the final adoption of the present system at the White plains.

The Error, which Colonel proctor and his officers is in, lies in supposing that their regiment, previous to the arrangment of october the 3d 1780, belonged to any particular state—It is true Pennsylvania had credit for them as part of her quota, but was not considered as having a right to interpose in making new appointments or promotions after they were annexed to the Continent in 1777.

The resolves of september 16th 1776 and November 24th 1778, which they quote, relate merely to the lines of Infantry belonging to the several states, and as an indubitable proof of this—the several States, tho’ extreemely tenacious of their rights of making new appointments and confirming promotions in their lines of Infantry, have never, in one single instance, attempted an interference in those of artillery and Cavalry, which have been understood to be lines belonging to the Continent at large.

If your Excellency will be pleased, for your further satisfaction, to refer to the resolve of the 24th of November 1778 founded upon the report of the Committee of arrangment at White plains, you will find throughout the whole of it, a distinction made between the lines of states, which were the Infantry and the lines of Cavalry and Artillery.

The Gentlemen are pleased to observe—that the promotion of Captain Eustice to a Majority in their regiment was partial and the only instance which has happened in the line of Artillery during this war. They will, upon reflection, find, that it is the only instance which could possibly have happened—Major Forrest succeeded to the Lieut. Colonelcy by the Death of Colonel Strabach and Captain Eustice as eldest Captain in the line of Artillery to the vacant Majority—There have been no other occasions for promotions of Field officers in the line of Artillery or they would have taken place in the same way, upon the same principles. This Rule has been so invariably pursued in the line of Cavalry, which is upon the same footing with that of the Artillery, that the officers succeeding to vacancies have come and gone from one extremity of the Continent to the other to take their new Command.

The annexation of Captain Simonds with his Company and Captain Porter with his to Colonel Proctors regiment was a matter of necessity, and done in consequence of the new arrangment of the army by the resolve of the 3d of October 1780[.] Those Companies, tho’ originally raised in pennsylvania, had been annexed to Colonel Lambs Battalion, and Captain Simonds had, in course of promotion, succeeded to the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Captain Lee—Lambs regiment had, by these means, two Companies more than the arrangment allowed, and proctors two less, it was certainly then proper to transfer Porter and Simonds to the latter, more especially as their Companies had been as I before mentioned, raised in Pennsylvania. But it could not be supposed that Captain Simonds was to be deprived of his rank because he was not a Pennsylvanian. The officers of Colonel Lambs Battalion, who are Yorkers, might with equal justice say that all those of Connecticut were thrust in upon them, (to use the remonstrants own word) when that regiment was allotted to the state of New York.

After the regiments of Cavalry and Artillery had been, by the resolve of the 3d of October last, allotted to particular states, it became a doubt whether the rules of promotion which had before governed could with propriety be longer practiced under. I therefore wrote to Congress on the subject, and that, with several other regulations respecting rank, is now under their consideration, but whatever may be their determination, it cannot effect former promotions.

I cannot conclude this subject without remarking that Colonel Proctor, upon the 9th of April, sent in his resignation to me, alledging that the situation of his private affairs obliged him to quit the service. He need not then upon the 19th have signed a remonstrance and accompanied it with a threat that he would resign if the prayer of it was not granted.

The representation which Colonel Blaine made to me, of the Council having ordered the state Agent to send no more supplies to the Army, was founded upon a letter which he had received from his Deputy in Philadelphia. That I might not misapprehend a matter which appeared to me of a very singular nature, I call’d upon Colonel Blaine for an official account in writing, with which he furnished me, and which I transmitted to Congress. I also transmitted the accounts respecting Fort Pitt as I received them from Colonel Broadhead, and cannot therefore be answerable for any misrepresentations of his. Now I am upon the subject of provisions, I beg leave to address myself most seriously to Your Excellency and the Council upon our present situation in respect to flour, and to point out the consequences which must ensue if we are not liberally supplied by the state with that article. I must take the liberty of premising, that by the information I have received from the Commissary General, there is a great deficiency of the quotas required by the requisitions of 1779 and 1780. There are, by accounts, about two thousand Barrels between this place and Trenton—I do not learn that there are any quantities at the places of deposit within the state—By the transference of so considerable a part of the War to the southward, the supplies of Maryland and Virginia must be turned toward that quarter—Jersey, which has been the principle residence of the army for several Campaigns, has furnished such quantities of Hay and Grain Forrage and often times Meat in the Hour of distress, that we cannot expect a regular supply of the specific Articles demanded of her, in addition to what is taken by impress and other means—New York, I may say with truth, hath exhausted her Credit and resources, not that there is no Flour yet remaining, but Government have strained their exertions to that height, that the people have almost been driven to open resistance: Indeed they are under very peculiar circumstances totally deprived of Commerce and the most valuable part of their state in the hands of the enemy. Had it not been for a most vigorous step which Governor Clinton ventured to take in the fore part of the winter, the army must have disbanded for want of Bread, as our magazines were exhausted, and transportation by land was impracticable, had there been any thing to act upon. He seized several hundred Barrels in the hands of private Merchants which they had purchased up to exchange for other Articles. The New England states, as they do not produce Flour, are called upon for none—our dependance must then be upon Deleware and Pennsylvania—Their supplies are ample and means must be found to draw them out—or the Army must disband, as there is no other resource. In the present embarrassed state of Finance, little can be expected from the operation of paper money—Specific demands should therefore, in my opinion, be made upon the people, and if they do not comply with them, they cannot complain of compulsory measures—I would not be understood to dictate to your Excellency and the Council the means they ought to pursue, but I think it a duty which I owe the public, and it is a liberty which I daily take with the States which furnish the different kinds of supplies for the army to call upon them in the most pointed manner for the Articles in which they are deficient, and to tell them without reserve what must be the consequence of a noncompliance with the requistions made upon them. I have the honor to be with Respect and Esteem Yr Excellency’s Most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

P.S. 7th May

By letters just received from Brig: General Clinton, who commands at albany, I am very apprehensive that the important part of Fort Schyler will be abandoned for want of provision—To prevent this if possible I have sent off every Barrel of Beef in the Magazin, (being only 24) and shall trust to contingencies for a supply. I mention these things to your Excellency to convince you of the necessity of making the exertions I have recommended, and to shew the dreadfull consequences which must follow a non compliance. I have written as pressingly to the Eastern states for a supply of Meat as I have done to you for that of Flour.

Go: Washington

PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection.

Index Entries