Pompton 26th-29 December 1782
I have the Honour to acknowledge the Receipt of your Excellency’s Letters of the 4th and 9th Instant.
I have called on the Magistrates at this Place to assist in billeting the Troops, and have in Company with them visited the Houses, Families, and Quarters of the Men, and have with some little Difficulty obtained their Approbation and Authority in support of our present Quarters, which extend three Miles, or thereabouts, on each and every Point of the Compass from the Yellow-House, Curtis’s Tavern. I shall establish small Guards on the extreme Parts of the Cantonment, on the Roads leading from the Yellow-House to Ringwood, Kings’ Ferry, Pracaness, and Morris-Town; our Main Guard near the Centre, and my own at my Lodgings at Mr Arent Schuyler’s near a Mile from the Yellow-House. The People are now very busy in making their Quarters as comfortable as possible for the Winter. I shall attend very particular to the Matter your Excellency has been pleased to direct. Desertions from the Enemy are very frequent: Last Evening eight of the 42nd Regiment and two from the Royal Artillery came to this Place; they made their Escape from Paulis-Hook. As I judge it is necessary for those Deserters to have Certificates from the Adjutant-General’s Office, I have detained them here until the return of the Bearer, and beg your Excellency will please to direct whether I shall send those Men to Head-Quarters, or wait the Passes being sent here for them: If the latter, I wish a Number of Blank Passes may be sent, to be made use of in future as Occasion may require: These Men, as well as the Deserters in general, wish to go into the State of Pennsylvania.
I have now to reply to your Excellency’s Letter of the 9th in the Case of Capt. Duncan, in which, and in order to enable your Excellency to judge of the Propriety of the Complaint, it will be necessary to look back to the Establishment of the Regiment, and sundry Regimental Orders and Regulations respecting the Formation of Companies.
In the Resolutions of Congress of the 20th of January 1776 may be seen the Establishment of the Regiment, forming Twenty Companies of Fifty Men each, and on that Establishment, confirmed by sundry subsequent Resolutions, the Regiment still exists.
On the 23rd of Octr: 1776 Congress directed the Regiment to be recruited to its first Original Establishment in any of the United States. Under this Resolution, a Number of Officers were appointed to the Regiment and Capt. Duncan had then his first Appointment as Lieutenant in Capt. (now Major) Reid’s Company. Capt. Reid and Lieut. Duncan by their united Exertion brought fifteen Men into the Field at Princeton in June 1777, as appears by Major Reid’s Recruiting Account, of which six Men are still in Service and in the Regiment, which was formed into eighteen Companies in the Year 1777. I at that Time endeavoured to establish (contrary to the Inclination of many Officers) a Rule to make the Companies as nearly equal as possible, and consequently transferr’d a Number of Men from the stronger to the weaker Companies, which I soon found destroyed every Kind of Emulation amongst the Officers to keep up the Strength of their Companies. Having no State to recruit for the Regiment, or State or Town Bounty to offer, I was led by what I thought good Policy to break through the first Rule of continuing the Companies equal, and directed that those Officers who exerted themselves in the Recruiting Service should be allowed to keep their Recruits in their own Companies, which Rule has since been observed down to the present Period, and which I am convinced has been instrumental of keeping up the Regiment to its present Strength.
In the Year 1778 Capt. Duncan was promoted from a Lieutenant to his present Rank, and directed to take the Command of the then late deceased Capt. Parmalee’s Company.
Finding a great Inconveniency arising in the Course of Duty by such a Number of small Companies, added to the Want of Non-commissioned Officers, induced me to issue the following Order, viz.
"July 15, 1780.
The great Inconvenience attending a Number of small Companies in a Regiment incomplete with Non-commissioned Officers for the Duty in Camp—the Difficulty of drawing and dividing out Provisions—and the Impossibility of keeping exact Details of Duty, makes it necessary to incorporate for the present some of the smaller Companies into the larger, for the greater Ease and Regularity of Duty, and more perfect Discipline of the Regiment, which is to take Place in the following Manner, viz.
CaptsSatterlee’s and Hughes’s Companies
Capts Carlile’s, M’Connel’s and Popham’s Companies.
Capts Heron’s and Duncan’s Companies
Capts Burnes’s and Munson’s Companies
Capts Lloyd’s and Taylor’s Companies
Capts White’s and Pry’s Companies
Capts Liebert’s and Gilbert’s Companies
Capts Olivie’s, Paulint’s and Gosselin’s Companies
These several Companies so incorporated are to draw up and encamp in the following Manner: Capt. Satterlee’s on the Right—Capt. Carlile’s on the Left, and so on from Right to Left, viz: Lloyd’s—Munson’s—White’s—Duncan’s—Liebert’s—Olivie’s. This Incorporation is not however to be understood as a Diminution or Dissolution of any Company or Companies in the Regiment; on the contrary, all Weekly and Monthly Returns, as well as Muster Rolls and Pay Rolls are to be made and kept up in the old former Manner; but on all other Duty whatever, the Regiment is for the present to be considered as composing Eight Companies, for which the Commanding Officers of each will be responsible."
As soon as we got into Winter Quarters the preceding Incorporation was dissolved by an Order herein as follows.
"January 3, 1781.
The Incorporation of the Companies, as by the Orders of the 15th of July last, is dissolved."
Finding still an Inconveniency by the Number of small Companies, they were again incorporated, by the Recommendation of the Honourable Major-Genl Baron Stuben, by an Order as follows, viz.
"March 15, 1781.
The Companies are to be embodied and formed agreeable to the Orders of the 15th of July 1780, with the following Alterations only, Viz.
Capt. Olivie’s Company to remain as it is.
Capts Liebert’s and Paulint’s.
Capt. Hughes’s to be joined to Satterlee’s.
Capts Munson’s, Gilbert’s, and Pry’s.
Capts Carlile’s, Popham’s, and the late M‘Connel’s.
Capts Lloyd’s, late Heron’s, and Duncan’s.
Capts White’s and Lee’s.
Capt. Gosselin’s to remain by itself.
Capt. Selin’s to make the 9th Company, which is to do Duty with the Regiment."
Under which Regulation we served the Campaign of 1781.
On the first of January 1782 Lieut. Col. Antill, by my Approbation, issued the Order now complained of; herein recited.
"January 1, 1782.
It being highly necessary for the Regularity of the Accounts as well as the mustering of the Regiment that the same be arranged; it will from this Day, and until further Orders, be formed into eight Companies, in the following Order, viz.
1st Satterlee’s, Hughes’s and Duncan’s. Lieuts Anderson and Bugbee.
2nd Munson’s, M’Connel’s, and Popham’s. Lieuts Dionne and Lee.
3rd Olivies. Lieut. Mooers and Ens. Gosselin.
4th Lloyd’s, late Gilbert’s, and White’s. Lieut. Torrey.
5th Pry’s and late Heron’s. Lieut. Cady.
6th Gosselin’s. 390—Lieut. Feriole and Ens. Boileau.
7th Lee’s and Carlile’s. Lieut. Stuart.
8th Selin’s and Liebert’s. Lieut. Gilmant and Ens. M’Pherson.
"The Regiment will do Duty, Parade, and be returned and mustered agreeable to this Arrangement; and all Accounts of Arms, Ammunition; Clothing, &c. &c. to be regularly kept by the Commanding Officers of Companies respectively."
Which Regulation we have since observed to the entire Satisfaction of every Officer in the Regiment, except the Complainant Capt. Duncan, and his Patron Major Reid.
It appears by your Excellency’s Letter that Capt. Duncan has not fairly stated the Subject of his Complaint, as he says Captains Gosselin, Selin, and Lee are younger Officers than himself; all of whom he perfectly knows will dispute Rank with him. Capt. Gosselin was a Captain in my Regiment before Duncan was in Service. Capt. Selin was a Captain in the Army at a Time Duncan was a Lieutenant: They both Command their own Companies, chiefly inlisted by themselves: Gosselin is a Canadian, and commands a Canadian Company: Selin a German; his Company is chiefly composed of Germans that do not understand the English Language. The Want of the French and German Language would render Capt. Duncan unfit to command either of those Companies.
In the Next Place, suppose for a Moment Capt. Duncan’s Assertion respecting his Seniority of Rank to Capts Gosselin, Selin, and Lee, to be true, yet his own Argument will condemn himself; for we muster twelve Captains in the Regiment, which is formed into eight Companies—Capt. Duncan does not pretend to be higher up amongst them than the ninth Captain, of course no Company remains for him. If therefore he wishes to succeed in any Point of View, it must be by throwing the Companies into their Original State, by which he may have the remains of Major Reid’s Company, consisting of six Men, or those of the late deceased Capt. Parmelee consisting of ten Men; both Numbers include the Non-commissioned Officers.
The Incorporation of the Companies by the Regimental Orders of the first of January last was not I am persuaded calculated to prejudice Capt. Duncan; for the first governing Principles were to make the Companies as nearly equal as possible, having Regard at the same Time to the Difference of Languages and the States to which the Men belonged, to bring those Classes together and assign the proper Officers to Command them. He has been allowed to take his pretended Rank in the Regiment; he is considered in the Details of all Duty and Commands.
The Rank of the Officers in the Regiment has not ever been finally settled, and the Minister of War has deferred his Arrangement of the Regiment until his return from Boston. These are Matters that I am anxious to have settled, tho’ I think the latter should be the first attended to, as that will most probably settle the greater Part of the Disputes of Rank. Capt. Duncan, if his own Declarations are to be credited, means to retire, and is only waiting for the first of January next to see if the Regiment will be reduced or not; whether or not, he is one out of two Officers that is opposed to the Existence of the Regiment, and has been for this near three Years past labouring all in his Power to break it up. I sincerely wish he was provided for in a Manner more agreeable to himself, and where he might be more useful to this Country.
I have thus far endeavoured to give your Excellency a general Idea of the Case in Question. As Capt. Duncan has served patiently the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in a similar Situation to that which he is in at present, their will be no great Hardship in his continuing for a few Days longer, until the Secretary at War arranges the Regiment and the Rank of the Officers is settled. I have the Honour to be, With the most profound Respect, Your Excellency’s most obedient And very humble Servant
P.S. Decemr 29th, Since writing the above I have received your Excellencys letter of the 26 Current.
DLC: Papers of George Washington.