John Collins Warren.

Genealogy of Warren, with some historical sketches online

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Charles K. Gardner's "Dictionary of the Army of the
United States." The statement that the list had been
made from official sources, coupled with the fact that the
author had for many years been the Assistant Adjutant-
General of the United States, naturally induced the belief
that it could be relied on as complete and exact.

It contains the names of James Wilkinson, the Chevalier
de la Neuville, Moses Hazen, and Thaddeus Kosciuszko,
who were commissioned brigadier-generals by brevet at
various times prior to November 3,1783; and of Stephen
Moylan, Samuel Elbert, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and
William Russell, who received like commissions on No-
vember 3, 1783, under the pro\'ision3 of a resolution of
Congress passed September 30, 1783.

So far as regards the generals who hud full rank, there is
no om.ission of names ; and until a comparatively late day
VOL. XXVII.— 25 ( 385 )

386 Generals of the Condncntal Line in the JuToIutionary War.

there was no reason to doubt that it contained the names
of all who had obtained the rank of brigadier-general by
brevet. The accidental discovery and exhibition of a com-
mission issued to Colonel Le^^-is Xicola, gi\-ing liim brevet
rank as a brigadier-general under the provisions of tlie
resolution mentioned, started an inquiry which will now
be made with the \'iew of determining, as exhaustively and
accurately as possible, the names of all generals who re-
ceived brevet rank under authority of the Continental Con-
gress. Manifestly, if any such names are to form part of
the list, it should embrace all.

As all records of the commissions issued by authority of
the resolution referred to were lost on the night of Novem-
ber 8-9, 1800, by the burning of the building occupied by
the War Department, little information on the subject can
be had from an official source. The inquiry must, there-
fore, be made on the lines followed in this paper.

The full text of the resolution of September 30, 1783, is
as follows :

" Resolved^ That the Secretary at TVar issue to all officers
in the army, under the rank of Major-General, who hold
the same rank now that they held in the year 1777, a
brevet commission one grade higher than their present
rank, having respect to their seniority ; and that commis-
sions for full colonels be granted to the lieutenant-colonels
of 1777, the resolution of 27th May, 1778, notwith-

The Journals of Congress show that on Xovernber 3,
1783, " on a report from the Secretary of War, to whom
was referred a letter from Colonel Moylan : Resolved,
That Colonel Stephen Moylan, Colonel Samuel Elbert,
Colonel Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Colonel Wil-
liam Russell be promoted to the rank of brigadiers by
brevet." As the report is not in existence, the character of
its contents and the purpose of the Secretary in making it
must be wholly conjectural. Perhaps he doubted whether
the resolution gave him authority to issue the commissions

General? of (he Continniial Line in ihe Jieeohdionari/ War. 387

without tlic forma] approval of Congress ; perhaps lie was
unccrtaiii whether Moylan and Russell, who, acoordinir to
Gardner, had been " disbanded" — that is, " retired"' or
"furloughed" — in June, 1783, were within tlie scope of tiie
resolurion; though, if this were his reason, it is not eusv
to understand why the names of Elbert and Pinckney
should have been coupled with them.

However this may be, we know that the brevet eomniis-
sions were ordered to be issued; and daring the entire
remaining period of the existence of the Congress its Jour-
nals do not contain a word in relation to the issue of anv otlier
commissions as brevet brigadier-genei-als by virtue of the

It cannot be doubted that all officers who had undergone
the hardships, trials, and perils of the war would, at its
close, desire to leave the service with the highest rank ob-
tainable. Hence there is a natural presumption that all
colonels who, under the resolution, were entitled to the
higher brevet commissions received them either upon aj*-
plication to the Secretary of ^"ar or without any applica-
tion, and many such original commissions are in existence.

Mr. F. B. Heitmau, author of the " Historical Register of
Officers of the Continental Army during the "War of tlie
Revolution," who has been connected with the Adjutant-
General's office, as Chief of the Returns Division, for a
great number of years, tells me he has every reason to
believe that all colonels who came under the pro%'isions of
the resolution were commissioned as brigadier-generals by
brevet; and farther says that, according to his recollection.
Colonel Charles K Gardner, who, as Assistant Adjutant-
General in the early part of the nineteenth century, had
personally known many of the officers who served in the
Revolutionary War, had ex-pressed to him the same belief.

The requisites for the brevet commission were two : tlie
officer must have held the rank of colonel in the year 1777,
and he must still hold that rank in the army on September
30, 1783.

388 Generals of the Continental Line in the Jievolutionari/ War.

Leaving for separate consideration tlic names of those
colonels who wore "retired" during the year 1783, prior to
the passage of the resolution, the list of those who were
clearly entitled to the higher brevet rank is as follows:

1. George Baylor. Lieutenant-colonel and aide-de-camp
to General Washington, August 15, 1775, to January 9,
1777. Colonel of the Third Continental Dragoons, January
9, 1777.

This regiment was consolidated with the First Conti-
nental Dragoons, November 9, 1782, Baylor retaining the
command. Served to the close of the war.

Ilis original commission is in existence.^

2. Daniel Brodhead. Colonel of the Eighth Pennsyl-
vania Eegiment, ^Larch 12, 1777; to rank from September
29, 1776. Transferred to the First Pennsylvania Regiment,
January 17, 1781. Served to the close of the war, — that is,
until the final disbandment of the army on November 3,

His original commission as brigadier-general by brevet
is in existence.

3. Richard Butler. Colonel of the Xinth Pennsylvania
Eegiment, June 7, 1777. Transferred to the Fifth P^enn-
sylvania Regiment, January 17, 1781, and to the Third
Pennsylvania Regiment, January 1, 1783. Served to No-
vember 3, 1783.

His original commission is in existence.

4. John Crane. Colonel of the Third Continental Ar-
tillery, January 1, 1777. Transferred to corps of artillery,
June 17, 1783. Served to the close of the war.

His original commission is in existence.

5. John Gibson. Colonel of the Sixth Virginia Regi-
ment, October 25, 1777. Transferred to the Ninth Virginia
Regiment, September 14, 1778, and to the Seventh Virginia

' When an original commission is said to be in existence, it is to be
understood, unless otherwise stated, that it has been seen by ilr. Ileit-
man or by the writer, and that it is a commission as brigadier-general
by brevet under the resolution.

Generals of the Confincntal Lme in (he Ixecohdioiar^' War. 389

Regiment, February 12, 17S1. Served to the eloee of tlie

6. Jolin Giinby. Colouel of the Seventh Maryland Rogi-
ment, April 17, 1777. Transferred to the Second Maryland
TJegiment, January 1, 1781. Served to the close of the war.

In A. A. Gunby's sketch of the Revolutionary services
of Colonel Gunby it is stated that " shortly after the close
of the war he was given the title of brigadier-general."
Also, that he was an original member of the Society of the
Cincinnati for the State of Maryland; and that, in the
minutes of that Society for July 5, 1784, "Brigadier-Gen-
eral Gunby" is mentioned as being present.

7. Richard Humpton. Colonel of the Eleventh Penn-
Bylvania Regiment, October 25, 1776. Transferred, suc-
cessively, to the Tenth, Sixth, and Second Pennsylvania
Regiments. Served to the close of the war.

His original commission is in existence.

8. Henry Jackson. Colonel of one of the sixteen addi-
tional Continental regiments, — afterwards designated as the
Sixteenth Massachusetts Regiment, — January 12, 1777.
Transferred to the l!S'inth Massachusetts Regiment, January
1, 1781, and to the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment, Janu-
ary 1, 1783. Retained as colonel of the Continental or
First American Regiment, November 3, 1783. Served to
June 20, 1784.

His commission as brevet brigadier-general, under the
resolution, is of record in the "War Department.

9. Michael Jackson. Colonel of the Eighth !klassa-
chusetts Regiment, January 1, 1777. Transferred to the
Third Massachusetts Regiment, June 12, 1783. Served to
November 3, 1783.

10. Monsieur de Laumoy. French officer, commissioned
as colonel of engineers, November 17, 1777. Served to
October 10, 1783. On the latter date Congress adopted
the following resolution :

''licsolved, That Major-General Duportail, Brigadier-
General Laumoy, and Colonel Gouvion, wlio have served

390 Gaierals of the Coidincntal Line in the licvoluiionary War.

with distinguished merit in the department of engineers,
have leave to retire from the service of the United St;ites,
their aiiairs requiring their presence in Europe, and no ar-
rangements haN^ing yet been made by wliich Congress might
employ the abilities of these gentlemen, however desirous
they might be of their services."

11. George ^lathews. Colonel of the Xintli Virginia
Regiment, February 10, 1777. 'W^'ounded and taken
prisoner at Germantown, October 4, 1777. Exchanged
December 5, 1781. Served to the close of the war.

The late Colonel Charles C. Jones, the historian of
Georgia, told me that, after a careful and thorough inquiry
to ascertain whether Mathews had been made a brigadier-
general by brevet in the Continental service, he was con-
vinced such was the case. His principal reason for this
belief lay in the flict that when Mathews came to Georgia,
from Virginia, at the close of the year 1783, — not in 1785,
as stated in Appleton, — he was called and recognized as
General Mathews.

12. John Xe^-ill (or I^e\-ilie). Colonel of the Eighth
Virginia Regunent, December 11, 1777. Transferred to the
Fourth Virginia Regiment, September 14, 1778. Served to
November 3, 1783.

Ilis commission as brigadier-general by brevet, under the
resolution, is in the possession of the family.

13. Matthias Ogden. Colonel of the First Xew Jersey
Regiment, January 1, 1777. On April 21, 1783, Congress
granted him leave to visit Europe. All the biographical
dictionaries mention the fact that he received the commis-
sion of brigadier-general by brevet.

14. EHsha Sheldon. Colonel of the Second Continental
Dragoons, December 12, 1776. Served to the close of the

15. Heman Swift. Colonel of the Connecticut State
Regiment, July to December, 1776. Colonel of the Seventh
Connecticut Regiment, January 1, 1777. Transferred to
the Second Connecticut Regiment, January 1, 1781. Re-

Geff^i'cds of the Gyntinerdal Line in (he lievob'f.ionar)/ War. 391

tained as colonel of the Consolidated Connecticut Regiment,
June, 1783. Served to December, 1783.
His original commission is in existence.

16. Philip Van Cortlandt. Colonel of the Second Xeu'
York Regiment, Xovember 21, 1776. Served to the close
of the war. Appleton (" Cyclopredia of American Biogra-
phy") says, " After the disbandraeut of the army at the
peace, Congress gave him the rank of brigadier-general."
Drake says that he was promoted to the rank of brigadier-
general, but erroneously states that the promotion was
made on account of his gallant conduct at Yorktown.

17. Gozen (or Gosse) Van Schaick. Colonel of the
Second iJs'ew York Regiment, June 28, 1775. Colonel ot
the First Xew York Regiment, March 8, 1776. Served to
the close of the war. Drake (" Dictionary of American
Biography") states that he was appointed a brigadier-gen-
eral by brevet on October 10, 1783. Blake (" Biograpliical
Dictionary") says he was a brigadier-general in the Ameri-
can Revolutionary arm}'.

18. Joseph Vose. Colonel of the First Massachusetts
Regiment, January 1, 1777. Served to Xovember, 1783.
Appleton says he was brcvetted brigadier-general. Mr.
Heitman tells me that the records of the War Department
show that he was so addressed by the Department.

19. Samuel B. Webb. Lieutenant-colonel and aide-de-
camp to General Washington, June 21, 1776. Colonel of
one of the sixteen additional Continental regiments, Janu-
ary 11, 1777. Transferred to the Third Connecticut Regi-
ment, January 1, 1781. Served to November 13, 1783.

The follo^-ing extract from "Reminiscences of General
Samuel B.Webb, of the Revolutionary Army," is, of itself,
sufficient proof that the commission was issued to him.

"A Committee of Officers to General Webb.
" A number of Brigadier-General Sam'l B. Webb's par-
ticular and real friends present to him their respectful
compliments, and inform him that they have possessed

392 General of th(. Cc'ndnental Line m (lu' Ixevolufionari/ War.

themselves of a large Packet addressed to liim by his new
Title, and which contains the Commission from Congress
to jnstifj the Title, fav'd by Honorable Samuel Hunting-
ton. They would further inform the General, that if it
should be agreeable to him, and he is disengaged, that a
number of Ids friends (perhaps a dozen) propose to wait oii
him tliis evening with the Packet, and with their Compli-
ments of Congratulation on the happy event, and to testify,
jointly and severally, how much they rejoice in. his pro-

"Wednesday, 11 o'clock. Nov. 15, 17S3."

"We come now to the consideration of those colonels
wdio, ha\dng been " retired" during the year 1783, prior to
September 30, were entitled to the brevet rank given by
the resolution.

After the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown on Oc-
tober 19, 1781, it became apparent that the war was draw-
ing near its close. In fact, this surrender of the main
British army in America practically closed active hostili-
ties, though the independence of the United States was not
formally acknowledged by Great Britain until more than a
year afterwards (November 30, 1782), nor the treaty of
peace concluded until September 3, 1783.

The consolidation of depleted regiments, invohdng the
retirement from active service of many officers, was at once
commenced, economy in the public expienditures demand-
ing that it be done as speedily as possible.

On December 19, 1781, Congress passed a resolution re-
questing the Commander-in-Chief to inform the Secretary of
War, from time to time, of the number of general officers
whom he judged necessary to be in the field in the main
and separate armies ; and that, after such officers had been
designated by the Secretary of AYar, all others should be
considered as being on the half-pay establishment, but liable
to be called into thejiehl.

On August 7, 1782, Congress directed that the Secretary
of "War should, on or before January 1, 1783, effect such a

General of the Gmthwiial Lint in the JRecoIiitionari/ War. 393

consolidation of the non-commissioned ollicers and privates
belonging to the lines of the respective States iis would
form complete regiments or regiments of not less than five
hundred rank and file, drawing from the junior regiments
to fill the senior regiments; that the officers of the line of
each State should meet and agree and determine upon the
officers who should remain in sers-ice to command the
troops so arranged into new regiments; that, in default of
such agreement, the junior officers of each grade should
retire ; and that the officers so retiring should retain their rank-
in the armu, and be called into the service, from time to time,
according to senioritg, in case of dcf.cicncics of ojicers.

On May 26, 1783, Congress passed a resolution instruct-
ing the Commander-in-Chief ''to grant furloughs to the
non-commissioned officers and soldiers in the service of the
United States, enlisted to serve during the war, who shall
be discharged as soon as the definitive treaty of peace is
concluded, together vrith a proportionable number of com-
missioned officers of the diflerent grades."

In compliance ^\-ith this direction. General AVashington
issued a general order in June, 1783, under which the
greater part of the army was furlonghed, and so remained
until final discharge from ser\nce.

On October 18, 1783, Congress adopted a proclamation
directing that the entire army standing engaged to serve
during the war should be absolutely discharged from ser-
vice on and after Xovember 3, 1783; and also declaring
that, as '^ the further seirices in the field of the officers irho are
deranged and on furlough . . . can now he dispensed with, they
have full permission to retire from service."

It -VN-ill be seen that, by the express language of the reso-
lution of August 7, 1782, officers retiring under its provi-
sions retained their rank in the army, and were subject to be
called into ser\'ice if occasion required. The word <' re-
tired" must, therefore, be interpreted to mean " temporarily
relieved from active duty;" as, in view of what has been
said, it is capable of no other signification, and cannot

394 Gnurals of th.c Continental Line in the Bcrolutionary War.

possibly be considered as the equivalent of " left the ser-

The most conclusive proof that the right of these officers
to the brevet rank allowed by the resolution of September
30, 1783, was fully equal to that of the officers who con-
tinued in active service until the disbandment of the army,
and was so recognized by the Secretary of War, rests in the
fact that the original commissions as brigadier-generals by
brevet, issued under the authority of the resolution to Colo-
nel AValter Stewart, who was retired on January 1, 1783,
and Colonel Lev.-is ^STicola, who v.-as retired in June, 1783,
are in existence. That these commissions were given in
strict conformity with the provisions of the resolution will
be apparent when we remember that they were to issue " to
all officers in th.c arm>/" who then held the same rank that they
held in the year 1777. There was no restriction of brevet
rank to those who were in active service. All who were in
the army, whether in active service or temporarily retired
from it, were on the same footing under the resolution.

Li the face of such positive evidence there can be no
occasion for further pursuing an inquiry into the status of
such officers, and we pass at once to the consideration of
the names of the remaining colonels who, having held that
rank in the year 1777, retained it hi continuous service
until retired between January 1 and June 12, 1783.

20. Thomas Clark. Colonel of the First Xorth Carolina
Regiment, February 5, 1777. Retired January 1, 1783.

His descendants state that the commission of brigadier-
general by brevet was issued to him.

21. Christian Febiger. Colonel of the Second Virginia
Regiment, September 2*3, 1777. Retired January 1, 1783.

IBs great-grandson, Mr. Christian C. Febiger, writes me,
" Colonel Febiger always preferred that title, as by it his
friends knew him best; but he was granted the title of
brigadier-general when discharged at the close of the war.
When my grandfather moved from this city (Philadelphia)
to Pittsburgh, tlie trunk containing this commission, and

Generah of the OmHnmia.l Line in the I\erol\iiio)\ary War. 395

ninny others of Colonel Febiger's papers, was unfortnnately
lost." Applcton states that he was brevetted briira<lier-
general on September 30, 1783.

22. John Lamb. Colonel of the Second Continental
Artillery, Jannary 1, 1777. Retired June 17, 1783.

It was the hope and expectation of Lamb's friends that,
for his valuable services at Yorktown in September and
October, 1781, Congress would give him the rank of briga-
dier-general (see Leake's " Life of Lamb"). This, however,
was not done, and it was a bitter disappointment to him.
After the war his occupations were entirely in the civil line.
He had no connection with the militia of his State. From
the fact that, immediately following the close of the war,
he was known as General Lamb, and was always so ad-
dressed, there can be no doubt that he received the brevet
commission under the resolution.

The writer has seen several letters of this period — Xo-
vember, 1783, to ^larch, 1784 — written by Lamb, which
bear the endorsement " General Lamb."

23. Lewis Nicola. Colonel of the Livalid Regiment,
June, 1777. Retired June, 1783.

His original commission is in existence.

24. William Shepard. Colonel of the Third Continental
Infantry, October 2, 1776. Colonel of the Fourth Massa-
chusetts Regiment, January 1, 1777. Retired January 1,

The Journals of Congress show that, on December 4,
1782, an efibrt was made to secure his promotion to the
rank of brigadier-general. Allen (" American Biographical
Dictionary") says he was made a brigadier-general in 1783.

25. Walter Stewart. Colonel of the Pennsylvania State
Regiment, — afterwards called the Thirteenth Pennsylvania
Regiment, — June 17, 1777. Transferred to the Second
Pennsylvania Regiment, July 1, 1778. Retired January 1,

His commission from Congress as brigadier-general by
brevet, dated October 10, 1783, is in the possession of his

396 GohTals of the Co/itincntai Line in ike Bcvoludonayi/ War.

descendant, Major Pvichard Clmroli, of Belvidorc, Alle-
gany County, Xew York.

26. Benjamin Tapper. Colonel of the Eleventh Massa-
chusetts Regiment, July 7, 1777. Transferred to the Tenth
Massachusetts Regiment, January 1, 1781, and to the Sixth
Massachusetts Regiment, January 1', 1783. Served to June
12, 1783. Both Drake and Appleton say he received the
commission of brigadier-general by brevet.

The list is now completed; but before closing this in-
quiry it will be well to mention several names which may
be thought to have a claim for inclusion.

According to Ap}tleton, David Cobb was a brevet briga-
dier-general at the close of the war. As he had not, at
any time prior to 1783, held a higher rank than that of
lieutenant-colonel, it is clear that he did not come within
the pro%'isions of the resolution; and it is certain that no
such promotion was given him by any special resolution
of Congress. All efforts to learn whether the statement in
Appleton is well founded having failed, we are forced to the
conclusion that it is an error arising from the fact that
shortly after the war Cobb was a major-general of militia.

Thomas Craig (colonel of the Third Pennsylvania Regi-
ment, August 1, 1777. Retired January 1, 1783) and
Charles Harrison (colonel of the First Continental Artillery,
January 1, 1777. Retired June 17, 1783), though appar-
ently entitled to the brevet rank under the resolution, did
not, 60 far as can be ascertained, receive it.

There remains for consideration the supposed right of
Richard Caswell, Governor of Xorth Carolina 1777-1779,
to a place among the major-generals in the Continental line.

On September 25, 1778, Congress " Jiesolced, That in case
Governor Caswell shall find it consistent with the duties of
his station, and shall be inclined, to march to the aid of
South Carolina and Georgia, at the head of the Xorth
Carolina forces, he shall, while on this expedition, have the
rank ajid pay of Major-General in the Army of the United
States of America."'

Gt-ncrah of (he Continental Line i)i tJic Bcvoluiionary War. 397

If, ichiU he vms governor, he had led the Xorth Carolina
forces to the aid of the States named, he would certainly
have been entitled to the rank given by the resolution,
even thongh its duration, was limited to the time of his
absence on the expedition. But it was not until the year
1780, after he had ceased to be governor^ that he commanded
the iSTorth Carolina troops who were engaged, under General
Gates, in the Southern campaign, and who took part in
the disastrous battle of Camden.

The terms of the resolution therefore preclude the con-
clusion that this ser\'ice gave him the rank of major-general
in the Continental army.

Complete List of GE^-ERALS of the Eevolutionary "War,


spective Terms of Service in Each Rank held by


General and Commander-in-Chief.
George Washington. June 15, 1775, to December 23,


Major- Generals.

Artemas Ward. June 17, 1775, to April 23, 1776 (when

he resigned).
Charles Lee. June 17, 1775, to January 10, 1780 (when he

was dismissed).
Philip Schuyler. June 19, 1775, to April 19, 1779 (when

he resigned).
Israel Putnam. June 19, 1775, to June 3, 1783 (when he

was retired).

Online LibraryJohn Collins WarrenGenealogy of Warren, with some historical sketches → online text (page 29 of 39)