Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799)
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TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIV (1798-1799).
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TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 22 July, 1798.
Your favor of the 18th was brought by the post of yesterday. The nominations, according to your list, will be agreeable to me, although I retain the opinion that Colo. Smith is better calculated for a command in the line than for Adjutant-General. But what have you done respecting the QuarterMaster-General? I hope and trust it is not intended to overlook the character I recommended in pointed terms, than whom, I will confidently add, one more adequate is not to be found in the U. States, let the operations of the army be in what quarter it will, nor so fit, if they be in the States south of Maryland, as he knows and is known by every one in those Regions, being the Deputy QuarterMaster General under General Greene in all his active movements; and as much esteemed, as he is extensively known. In a word, if this appointment does not take place, after my explanations, (which I was careful to have well understood respecting this officer,) and after it was given specially in charge to you to consult me thereon, I shall feel very much hurt on the general ground I took. And more so, by confiding with certainty that that officer, for the reasons I assigned, would be made agreeable to me, I wrote to Colo. Carrington, & received the answer herewith enclosed, which may be returned after the proper use is made of it.1
I desire it may be understood, that my predilection for this gentleman proceeds from no other cause, than a full conviction of his fitness to fill the office to which he was assigned in my mind; for having been separated from the main army, he is infinitely better known to me by character than from personal acquaintance (which in fact is slight), and by the steady & firm support he has given to the Government ever since. Such a character, his military knowledge, intelligence, and experience in the duties of QuarterMaster would render him an acquisition to any army; and the only fear I had was, that he would decline accepting it. The present Qr Master Wilkins (I think his name is) may be adequate to the civil duties of that office; & while the present Troops are doing Garrison duty in the Western Country, little more is necessary; but bring him to an assembled & moving army in the field, where encampments & a thousand Military duties would be thrown upon him, and he would be found altogether incompetent, from an entire unacquaintedness with the scenes.
By what circuitous route did you come at Severe1 in the wilderness? He may be an estimable character for ought I know; but, from the impression I have of him, he is better qualified to cut off Indians, than to discipline an army and lead a Brigade to the mouths of Cannon. But, as I may have mistaken his character, I shall halt here with my strictures on it.
Also enclosed you will receive a letter from John Tayloe Esqr. to me, whom you must know by character, being the brother of Mrs. Lloyd, & son-in-law of Mr. Ogle of Annapolis. He is among the most wealthy & respectable men in this State, active, zealous, & attentive to whatever he undertakes. On the Western expedition against the Insurgents, he commanded a Troop of horse, and (I believe, but am not sure,) was aid to the Commander-in-Chief. What he looks to now beyond the expression of his letter, I know not. With respect to the more definite part of it, I have one answer, and that has been & will be given to every application, (unless some very particular case should come forward,) namely that until I take the field, or am in a situation to require Aids, I shall hold myself perfectly disengaged and free; as, in the choice of my (established ones), there are many considerations besides the mere indulgence of my wishes to be combined. In addition to this, I have informed Mr. Tayloe, that I would transmit his letter to you, to be laid before the President, not doubting it would give him, as it had done me, Pleasure to find Gentlemen in his situation, and of Independent fortune, stepping forward at such a Crisis, with a tender of their Services.
I presume he would prefer an appointment in the Cavalry, and I have no doubt that he could raise a very fine troop; but whether he would be satisfied with that, or whether more could be offered with due attention to the old Cavalry Officers of known and acknowledged celebrity, I am not prepared to decide. Possibly such an appointment, with the privilege of chusing his own Lieutenant & Cornet, might induce his acceptance. And here I will take the liberty of giving it as my opinion once for all, that, when the President has fixed upon officers of established character to Command Companies, Gentlemen who prise their own honour and the reputation of their companies, it would be good policy to let them chuse or at least to recommend their own subalterns. It would facilitate recruiting, contribute much to the harmony of the Company, and, if the Captain himself is properly chosen, it may be relied on, that he will be cautious not to hazard his own and the reputation of his company with bad officers, if known or even suspected to be unfit for his purpose.
I do not recollect enough of the present officers in the Cavalry, or of those who have been disbanded, to say with decision which of them is best entitled to the Command of that Corps; but I have no hesitation in declaring it as my opinion, that Major Tallmadge (formerly of Sheldon’s horse) would not disgrace it, & is to be preferred to his former Colonel.
In furnishing the list I gave you when here, from whom Field-Officers might be selected for the Corps to be raised, I omitted, (not seeing his name enrolled), Major Ragsdale of the Artillery. His character in that Corps, I am told stood high. How it has happened, that he is yet in the back-ground, whether from choice or because he has been overlooked, I am unable to say. He is of this State, as Tallmadge is of New York.
A Lieut. Marsteller, (at present of the troop of horse in Alexandria,) has been recommended to me as a man wishing and deserving of an appointment in the army about to be raised. A Doctr. Peyton, son of a very worthy man, and brother to two of the best officers in Lee’s Corps of horse during the Revolution War, has also applied for a birth in the Medical line. I have answered, that appointments are not with me, that recommendations accompanying my letters to them should go to the President direct, or through the Secretary of War. Possibly you may see these. They must speak for themselves.
The first is well spoken of as an officer and Gentleman. He was in the horse in the Western Expedition, and by accident received a wound. The other (Dr. Peyton) is but lately returned after an absence of five years in Europe, I believe in the study of Physick. I have also been told, that the Captain (Young) of the Alexandria Troop is desirous of employment; but, as his application has not been direct, I but barely mention the fact. Doctr. Craik did say something, too, respecting his son (who was in my family) going into the army; but, as nothing definite passed, I shall say nothing more on the subject. His son-in-law, West, (Major in one of the Uniform Corps,) is desirous, in case the Provisional Army is raised, of obtaining an appointment therein. And now, having laid before you every thing that has occur’d to me—I shall add no more at present, than that I am.
P. S. I don’t know whether Mr. Edwd Rutledge would come forward, or not, but I know of none except Genl Knox who would comd. the Corps of Artillery more respectably.
[1 ]On this point the Secretary of War replied: “I enclose the act for augmenting the army of the United States. You will see, that it does not provide for a quartermaster-general; and that the provisional army law provides that the quarter-master-general under it shall have the rank and pay of lieutenant-colonel only. I thought it best, therefore, that no quartermaster-general should be appointed till Congress meet again, when they may amend the act.”—August 1st.
[1 ]John Sevier, governor of Tennessee.