Revolutionary War-dated LS signed “Go: Washington,” one page, 8 x 13, March 1, 1777. Written in the hand of George Johnston, a letter to Colonel George Baylor, in full: “Your several favours of the 31st January and 7th February are now before me. I am happy in being informed that the Gov. of Virga. has consented that their Muskett factory shall equip your Regiment with Carbines & Pistols. I have no doubt of your keeping the Workmen closely to their duty; nor of your using your best Endeavors to purchase proper horses. As I am not acquainted with all the Gentlemen mentioned in yr. Letter, shall refer my Approbation of them till they join the Army. I observe that you have appointed Messrs. Jno. Stith and Willm. Armistead. If they are the Gentlen. who were in the 4th. & 6th. Virga. Battalions, I must disapprove the Choice. They left the Army without permission, and must return to their Companies immediately, or expect to be treated roughly. If you find upon Inquiry, the fact to be as I suppose it is, you will inform these Gentlm. of my Resolution, and fill up their Vacancies. Wishing you success equal to your warmest desire, I am….” Reverse bears an address panel, presumably in Johnston’s hand, to “George Baylor, Esq., Colo: of a Regiment of Cavalry near Fredericksburg,” and also bears a reception docket and remnants of its red wax seal. Professionally inlaid into a slightly larger sheet and in very good condition, with intersecting folds (several light vertical folds through signature), scattered creases and wrinkles, a few small pinhole separations along folds, and small repair to seal-related paper loss along bottom edge, affecting nothing.
In 1777, Washington and the Continental Army marched from victories at Trenton and Princeton to encamp near Morristown, New Jersey, from January to May. It was during this period that this correspondence was dispatched to Colonel Baylor, Washington’s first aide-de-camp and the man who brought the news of the Battle of Trenton to the Continental Congress. Here Washington informs Baylor his regiment shall be equipped by the Virginia “Muskett factory,” referring to the Fredericksburg Gun Manufactory. Established in 1775, it was the first such factory in America and manufactured and repaired small arms for Virginia regiments during the war. Washington also scolds Baylor for appointing two men he accuses of desertion. Desertion was common during the Revolution, especially in the early years of the war when the desertion rate of the Continental Army was estimated at over 20 percent. Short-term enlistments and punishments perceived as overly harsh contributed to the problem. Washington’s promise to treat the soldiers “roughly” lest they return to their companies likely indicated lashings; deserters received 100 on average. A remarkable Revolutionary War-dated letter revealing Washington’s intolerance for desertion. This item originated from the collection of Judge E. A. Armstrong, of Princeton, New Jersey.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.