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TO THE BOARD OF WAR. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Vol. IV (1776).
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TO THE BOARD OF WAR.
New York, 29 July, 1776.
At length I have been able to comply with the first part of a resolution of Congress, of the 27th ulto., relative to a return of the vacancies in the several regiments, composing that part of the army under my immediate command. I thought to have made this return much sooner, but the dispersed situation of our troops, the constant duty they are upon, the difficulty of getting returns when this is the case, especially when those returns are to undergo several corrections, and the variety of important occurrences, which have intervened of late to draw attention from this matter, will I hope be admitted as an excuse, and the delay not ascribed to any disinclination in me to comply with the order; as I shall while I have the honor to remain in the service of the United States, obey to the utmost of my power, and to the best of my abilities, all orders of Congress with a scrupulous exactness.
With respect to the latter part of the aforementioned resolution of the 27th of June, I have to observe that I have handed in the names of such persons as the Field officers of the several Regiments & their Brigadiers, have pointed out as proper persons to fill these vacancies. I have neither added to, or diminished ought from their choice, unless the following Special Information which I conceived my indispensible duty to give should occasion any alterations.
For the 20th Regiment then, late Arnold’s, there are two competitors, to wit: Col. Durkee, the present Lieut. Colonel, who has had charge of the Regiment ever since the first establishment of it, and Lieut. Colonel Tyler of Parson’s Regiment.
The pretensions of both, and a State of the case, I have subjoined to the list of vacancies given in by General Spencer. As I have also done in the case of Col. Learned, to another list exhibited by General Heath. If Learned returns to the Regiment the vacancies stand right; If he should not, I presume the Regiment will be given to the Lieut. Colonel William Shepperd who stands next to Tyler in Rank and not second to him in reputation, this change would in its consequences occasion several moves. There is a third matter in which I must be more particular, as it is unnoticed else where, and, that is, the Lieut. Colonel of Wylly’s Regiment. Rufus Putnam acts here as a Chief Engineer, by which means the Regiment is totally deprived of his services, and to remove him from that department, the Public would sustain a capital injury, for altho’ he is not a man of scientific knowledge, he is indefatigable in business and possesses more practicable knowledge in the Art of Engineering than any other we have in this Camp or Army. I would humbly submit it therefore to Congress, whether it might not be best to give him (Putnam) the appointment of Engineer with the pay of Sixty Dollars per month; less than which I do not suppose he would accept; as I have been obliged in order to encourage him to push the business forward in this our extreme hurry, to give him reasons to believe that his Lieutenant Colonel’s pay would be made equal to this sum.
If this appointment should take place then, it makes a vacancy in Wyllys’s Regiment which I understand he is desirous of having filled by Major Henly an Active and spirited officer, now a Brigade Major to General Heath.
I am sorry to take up so much of your time, as the recital of particular cases, and some others, requires, but there is no avoiding it, unless Congress will be pleased to appoint one or more persons, in whom they can confide, to visit this part of this army once a month, inspect into it, and fill up the vacancies, as shall appear proper to them upon the spot. This cannot be attended with any great trouble, nor much expense, as it is only in the part of the army under my immediate direction, that such regulations would be necessary; the officers commanding in other departments having this power, I believe, already given them.1
I have the honor to enclose a list of the officers of the regiments at this place, and long ago directed the like return to be made from the northern and eastern troops, which I hope is complied with. I also make return of the artillery according to Colonel Knox’s report, and of the ordnance stores &c, agreeably to the commissary’s return.
I come now to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 20th Instant, with several Inclosures relative to a proposal of Mr. Goddard and beg leave to give it as my opinion, that the Introduction of that Gentleman into the Army as Lieut. Colonel would be attended with endless confusion. I have spoke to Colo Parsons who is a very worthy man upon this subject. I have done more—I have shewn him the memorial; in answer to which he says, that in the conversation had between him and Mr. Goddard the latter was told, that unless Lieut. Colonel Tyler was provided for, Major Prentice advanced to a Lieut. Colonelcy in some other Regiment, and his eldest Captain (Chapman) not deprived of his expectation of the Majority, his coming in there would give uneasiness, but nevertheless if it was the pleasure of Congress, to make the appointment, he would do every thing in his power to make it palatible. If all these contingencies were to take place before Mr. Goddard could get into a Regiment he had been paving the way to, what prospect can there be of his getting into any other without spreading Jealousy as he goes?
With respect to the regiment of artificers, I have only to observe, that the forming them into one corps at the time I did, when immediate action was expected, was only intended as a temporary expedient to draw that useful body of near six hundred men into the field, under one head and without confusion. The appointment of officers, therefore, in this instance, was merely nominal, and unattended with expense.
The mode of promotion, whether in a Continental, colonial, or regimental line, being a matter of some consideration and delicacy to determine, I thought it expedient to know the sentiments of the general officers upon the consequences of each, before I offered my own to your board; and have the honor to inform you, that it is their unanimous opinion, as it is also mine, from observations on the temper and local attachments of each corps to the members thereof, that regimental promotions would be much the most pleasing; but this it is thought had better appear in practice, than come announced as a resolution, and that there ought to be exceptions in favor of extraordinary merit on the one hand, and demerit on the other; the first to be rewarded out of the common course of promotion, whilst the other might stand, and sustain no injury. It is a very difficult matter to step out of the regimental line now, without giving much inquietude to the corps in which it happens. Was it then to be declared, as the resolution of Congress, that all promotions should go in this way without some strong qualifying clauses, it would be almost impossible to do it without creating a mutiny. This is the sense of my officers; as also, that the promotions by succession are not meant to extend to non-commissioned officers, further than circumstances of good behavior may direct.
As the Lists of Vacancies are returned in consequence of an order of Congress, and would I doubt not be referred to your Board, I have sent no Duplicates, nor have I wrote to Congress on the subject, but that I may [not] appear inattentive to their commands, I must request the favor of having this Letter or the substance of it laid before them. I have the honor, &c.
[1 ]To this paragraph the President of Congress replied August 2d:—“I am particularly instructed by Congress to answer that part of your letter, directed to the Board of War, which relates to the filling up vacancies in the army. The Congress are concerned to find, that an opinion is entertained, that greater confidence has been placed in, and larger powers given to, other commanders in that respect, than to yourself. They have in no instance, except in the late appointment of General Gates to the command in Canada, parted with the power of filling up vacancies. The great confusion and many disorders prevalent in that army, and its distance, induced Congress to lodge such a power in that general for the limited space of three months, and only during his continuance in Canada. Should Congress ever empower its generals to fill up the vacancies in the army, they know of no one in whom they would so soon repose a trust of such importance as in yourself; for future generals may make a bad use of it. The danger of the precedent, not any suspicion of their present Commander-in-chief, prompts them to retain a power, that, by you, Sir, might be exercised with the greatest public advantage.”