Washington's Aides-de-Camp

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The American Soldier – 1775.
An aide-de-camp, General George Washington, and General Artemas Ward at the Siege of Boston.

General George Washington's headquarters staff during the American Revolutionary War consisted of a military secretary and a small number of aides-de-camp. A total of 32 men were appointed to these positions, and served between July 4, 1775 and December 23, 1783.[1] Other individuals worked as volunteer aides or assistants, and helped with office duties when needed.[2]

Headquarters staff[edit]

The Second Continental Congress unanimously elected George Washington to the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army on June 15, 1775. He traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and took command of the Siege of Boston on July 3. His headquarters staff initially consisted of his military secretary – Joseph Reed; and one aide-de-camp – Thomas Mifflin.[3] The headquarters staff's responsibilities included managing Washington's military correspondence, making copies of each day's General Orders (to be distributed to the commanding officer at each military post), and making copies of individual orders.[4] The 19-year-old artist John Trumbull, who was skilled at drawing maps, was appointed an aide-de-camp on July 27,[5] and served 3 weeks before being transferred.[6]

Congress had authorized one military secretary and three aides-de-camp for the commander-in-chief,[7] but this number soon proved inadequate. Washington's pleas for Congress to authorize two additional aides were ignored, so he augmented his staff with volunteers.[3] Six aides-de-camp – George Baylor, Edmund Randolph, Robert Hanson Harrison, George Lewis, Stephen Moylan, William Palfrey – were appointed between August 1775 and March 1776, some replacing predecessors who had been transferred. Finally, in January 1778, Congress granted the commander-in-chief the power to appoint headquarters staff as he saw fit.[8]

The military secretary held the rank of colonel in the Continental Army, with a monthly pay of US$66.[7] The aides-de-camp held the rank of lieutenant colonel, with a monthly pay of US$33.[7] The aides-de-camp wore a green riband across their chests as a rank insignia.[9] Washington referred to the headquarters staff as "my family."[10] Some were the sons of his friends and relatives, but above all he valued talent:

The Secretaries and Aid De Camps to the Commander in chief ought not to be confined to the line for plain and obvious reasons. The number which the nature and extent of his business require, in addition to the many drawn from the line to fill the different offices of the staff, when it is considered, that they ought all to be men of abilities, may seem too large a draft upon the line. But a consideration still more forcible is, that in a service so complex as ours, it would be wrong and detrimental to restrict the choice; the vast diversity of objects, occurrences and correspondencies, unknown in one more regular and less diffusive; constantly calling for talents and abilities of the first rate, men who possess them, ought to be taken, wherever they can be found.[11]

On the battlefield, the aides-de-camp were couriers—delivering Washington's orders on horseback and gathering or relaying intelligence on enemy troop movement.[12] Samuel Blachley Webb was wounded at the October 28, 1776 Battle of White Plains and at the December 26, 1776 Battle of Trenton.[13] John Fitzgerald and John Laurens were both wounded at the June 28, 1778 Battle of Monmouth, where Alexander Hamilton's horse was shot from under him.[14] George Johnston served barely 4 months, before dying of disease at the Morristown headquarters. Tench Tilghman served longer than any other aide-de-camp, more than 7 years, about half of it as a volunteer.[15]

The commander-in-chief's headquarters staff was disbanded on December 23, 1783, when General Washington resigned his commission to Congress, then meeting at Annapolis, Maryland.[3] Aides David Humphreys, David Cobb and Benjamin Walker escorted him to and from the ceremony.[3] Many members of Washington's headquarters staff earned his trust and friendship. Some later served in his presidential administration.[3]

Additional aides[edit]

In 1906, Worthington Chauncey Ford, chief of the Manuscripts Division at the Library of Congress, published a list of Washington's 32 military secretaries and aides-de-camp.[2] He added Martha Washington as number 33, acknowledging her unofficial clerical help at Washington's headquarters.[2]

Frank E. Grizzard, Jr., former editor of The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series, adds to the list Washington's nephew, George Augustine Washington—a volunteer aide from September 1779 to May 1781, and from December 1781 to May 1782.[16]

Military secretaries[edit]

  • Joseph Reed (1741–1785) – Served as Gen. Washington's military secretary from June 19[17] to October 30, 1775.[18] He took leave to prepare a case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Reed rejoined the Continental Army on June 16, 1776, as Adjutant General.[19]
  • Stephen Moylan (1737–1811) – Served as Muster Master General from August 14[20] to November 1775; and as Gen. Washington's acting-military secretary (in Joseph Reed's absence) from November 1775 to May 1776. He served as a Washington aide-de-camp from March 6 to June 5, 1776, and as a volunteer aide from September 28, 1776 to January 1777.
  • Robert Hanson Harrison (1745–1790) – Served as Gen. Washington's military secretary from May 16, 1776[21] to March 25, 1781.[22] He had served as a Washington aide-de camp from November 1775 to May 1776.
  • Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. (1740–1809) – Served as Gen. Washington's military secretary from June 8, 1781[23] to December 23, 1783.[24]

Appointed aides-de-camp[edit]

  • Hodijah Baylies (1756–1842) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from May 14, 1782[25] to December 23, 1783.[26] He had graduated Harvard in 1777, was commissioned a lieutenant in Jackson's Additional Continental Regiment, appointed as aide-de-camp to General Benjamin Lincoln, and was promoted to major. He was captured by the British at the siege of Charleston. Exchanged in November 1780, he returned to Harvard for a master of arts degree.[27]
  • George Baylor (1752–1784) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from August 15, 1775[6] to January 1, 1777.[28]
  • Richard Cary (c.1746–1806) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from June 21[29] to December 1776. He was written about kindly by Congressman John Adams to another Massachusetts delegate, William Tudor, judge advocate to the Continental Army, and was appointed a brigade major.[30] Cary resigned to get married.[31]
  • Dr. David Cobb (1748–1830)– Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from June 15, 1781[32] to January 1783, and from June[33] to December 23, 1783.[34]
  • Col. John Fitzgerald (d. 1799) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from November 1776 to July 1778. Wounded at the June 28, 1778 Battle of Monmouth,[35] he retired from the Continental Army.
  • Peregrine Fitzhugh (1759–1811) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from July 2[36] to October 1781.
  • Cap. Caleb Gibbs (1748–1818) – Commander of Washington's life-guard,[21] he managed the headquarters household accounts from May 16, 1776 to the end of 1780,[37] and served as a supplemental aide-de camp.
  • Col. William Grayson (1740–1790) – Served as Gen. Washington's assistant secretary from July to August 1776, and served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from August 24, 1776[38] to January 11, 1777.[39]
  • Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from March 1, 1777[40] to April 1781.[41]
  • Alexander Contee Hanson (1749–1806) – Served as Gen. Washington's assistant secretary from June 21[29] to September 1776.
  • Robert Hanson Harrison (1745–1790) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from November 6, 1775[42] to May 16, 1776, and as Gen. Washington's military secretary from May 16, 1776[21] to March 25, 1781.
  • David Humphreys (1752–1818) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from June 23, 1780[43] to December 23, 1783.[34] After the war, he was private secretary to Washington at Mount Vernon, and secretary to President Washington in New York City, 1789-90.
  • George Johnston, Jr. (1750–1777) – Major in the 5th Virginia Regiment; appointed an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington on January 20, 1777;[44] died of disease at Morristown, New Jersey, May 29, 1777.
  • John Laurens (1754–1782) – A volunteer aide from August 9[45] to September 6, 1777; served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from September 6, 1777[46] to March 29, 1779.[47] Congress commissioned him to travel home to South Carolina and attempt to recruit a regiment of slaves.[48] On behalf of the United States, Laurens traveled to Europe and negotiated a 10 million livre loan from the Netherlands, to be guaranteed by France.[49] He returned to the United States in September 1781,[50] rejoined General Washington at the Siege of Yorktown, and helped to negotiate the surrender of British General Cornwallis.[51] He returned to South Carolina in November 1781, and died nine months later in the Battle of the Combahee River.
  • George Lewis (1757–1821) – Gen. Washington's nephew. A volunteer aide from November 1775 to December 1776.[52] Appointed a lieutenant in the commander-in-chief's life guards in May 1776,[21] he transferred to the 2nd Continental Dragoons in December 1776.[52]
  • Dr. James McHenry (1753–1816) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from May 15, 1778[53] to August 1780.[54] An Irish-born Philadelphia medical student, he served as a surgeon early in the war. Left to join the staff of the Marquis de Lafayette.
  • Richard Kidder Meade (1746–1805) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from March 12, 1777[55] to November 1780; supervised the October 2, 1780 execution of British Major John André.
  • Thomas Mifflin (1744–1800) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from June 19[56] to August 14, 1775, when he was promoted to Quartermaster General.[20]
  • Stephen Moylan (1737–1811) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from March 6, 1776[57] to June 5, 1776,[58] and as a volunteer aide from September 28, 1776 to January 1777.[59]
  • William Palfrey (1741–1780) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from March 6[60] to April 1776.
  • Pierre Penet (d. 1812) – A French merchant who had supplied arms and materiel, 1775-76.[61] On Washington's recommendation, Congress confirmed him as a brevet aide-de camp (October 14, 1776).[62] Penet served from October 1776 to January 1783.
  • Edmund Randolph (1753–1813) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from August 15[6] to November 2, 1775.[63]
  • Col. William Stephens Smith (1755–1816) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from July 6, 1781[64] to June 1782.[65]
  • Peter Presley Thornton (1750–1780)[66] – A volunteer aide, August-September 1777; served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from September 6, 1777[46] to [unknown].
  • Tench Tilghman (1744–1786) – A Maryland militiaman who spoke fluent French, he served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington for more than 7 years (longer than anyone else).[15] A volunteer aide from August 8, 1776 to June 21, 1780, Washington confirmed his special status in General Orders.[67] He was appointed an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington on June 21, 1780[68] and served until November 1783.[15] On June 5, 1781, at Washington's request, Congress awarded Tilghman the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, dating his military commission retroactively to April 1, 1777.[69]
  • John Trumbull (1756–1843) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from July 27[5] to August 15, 1775.[6]
  • Richard Varick (1753–1831) – Served as Gen. Washington's records secretary from May 25, 1781[70] to mid-December 1783.[71]
  • Benjamin Walker (1753–1818) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from January 25, 1782[72] to December 23, 1783.[34]
  • John Walker (1744–1809) – Served as a Washington aide-de-camp, February 19[73] to March 1777.
  • Samuel Blachley Webb (1753–1807) – Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Israel Putnam, and was wounded at Bunker Hill.[13] Served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington from June 21, 1776[29] to January 11, 1777, during which he was wounded at White Plains, and Trenton.[13] On January 11, 1777, Washington appointed him commander of a new Connecticut regiment, Webb's Additional Continental Regiment.[74] In December 1777, Webb was captured by the British and held prisoner for three years.[75]

Volunteer aides[edit]

  • George Augustine Washington (1759–1793) – Gen. Washington's nephew. A volunteer aide from September 1779 to May 1781, and from December 1781 to May 1782.[16] Estate manager at Mount Vernon, 1780s-1793.
  • John Parke Custis (1754–1781) – Gen. Washington's step-son. A volunteer aide from October to November 1781, including during the Siege of Yorktown. Died of camp fever, November 5, 1781.

Possible aides[edit]

  • Peter Bowman (1761–1835)[76] – "Among the graves of distinguished Revolutionary War soldiers in Onondaga County [New York] is that of Peter Bowman, an aide of Gen. George Washington, who is buried in Belle Isle Cemetery."[77]
  • John Hopwood (1745–1802) – Family tradition holds that Hopwood was an aide to Gen. Washington.[78]
  • Ebenezer Mann (–) – "Dr. Ebenezer Mann was a Brigade Surgeon at the Battle of Monmouth and Yorktown."[79]
  • Albert Pawling (1750–1837)[80] – A family history claims he was an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington.[81] Major Albert Pawling was an officer in Malcolm's Additional Continental Regiment, and tendered his resignation on February 25, 1779.[82] Washington tried to persuade him to reconsider, but was unsuccessful.

Note[edit]

  1. ^ Lefkowitz, p. 15.
  2. ^ a b c Worthington Chauncey Ford, "List and Writing of Washington's Aides-de-Camp and Secretaries," in Calendar of the Correspondence of George Washington with the Continental Congress, (Library of Congress, 1906), p. 9.[1]
  3. ^ a b c d e John C. Fitzpatrick, "The Aides-de-Camp of General George Washington," Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, vol. 57, no. 1 (January 1923).[2]
  4. ^ George Washington to William McIntosh, October 21, 1776 (see note), from National Archives.
  5. ^ a b General Orders, July 27, 1775, from National Archives.
  6. ^ a b c d General Orders, August 15, 1775, from National Archives.
  7. ^ a b c John Adams to George Washington, June 19 or 20, 1775, from National Archives.
  8. ^ Elbridge Gerry to George Washington, January 13, 1778, from National Archives.
  9. ^ Steven A. Bingaman (2013), The History of American Ranks and Rank Insignia, p. 11.
  10. ^ George Washington to Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., May 14, 1781, from National Archives.
  11. ^ George Washington to the Continental Congress Camp Committee, January 29, 1778, from National Archives.
  12. ^ John Laurens to George Washington, June 28, 1778, 9:30am, from National Archives.
  13. ^ a b c General Orders, July 22, 1775 (note 2), from National Archives.
  14. ^ Alexander Hamilton to Elias Boudinot, July 5, 1778, quoted in "The Battle of Monmouth," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 2, no. 2 (1778), pp. 145-46.[3]
  15. ^ a b c "Tench Tilghman", from Encyclopedia of George Washington.
  16. ^ a b Frank E. Grizzard, George!: A Guide to All Things Washington, (Mariner Publishing, 2005).
  17. ^ Washington Diary, June 19, 1775 (see note), from National Archives.
  18. ^ George Washington to Joseph Reed, October 30, 1775 (note 1), from National Archives.
  19. ^ George Washington to Joseph Reed, April 23, 1776 (note 1), from National Archives.
  20. ^ a b General Orders, August 14, 1775, from National Archives.
  21. ^ a b c d General Orders, May 16, 1776, from National Archives.
  22. ^ George Washington to Robert Hanson Harrison, March 25, 1781, from National Archives.
  23. ^ General Orders, June 8, 1781, from National Archives.
  24. ^ Lefkowitz, p. 233.
  25. ^ General Orders, May 14, 1782, from National Archives.
  26. ^ George Washington to Benjamin Lincoln, July 15, 1784 (note 1), from National Archives.
  27. ^ Lefkowitz, p. 256.
  28. ^ George Washington to George Baylor, January 9, 1777 (note 1), from National Archives.
  29. ^ a b c General Orders, June 21, 1776 (note 1), from National Archives.
  30. ^ Lefkowitz, p. 56.
  31. ^ Richard Cary married Anna Low, of New York, December 20, 1776, in Philadelphia. See: Richard Cary to Samuel Webb, December 22, 1776, in Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb, (New York: Wickersham Press, 1893), vol. 1, pp. 175-76.
  32. ^ General Orders, June 15, 1781, from National Archives.
  33. ^ David Cobb to William Heath, June 15, 1783, from National Archives.
  34. ^ a b c George Washington to Robert Morris, January 4, 1784 (note 5), from National Archives.
  35. ^ Alexander Hamilton to Elias Boudinot, July 5, 1778 (note 14), from National Archives.
  36. ^ General Orders, July 2, 1781, from National Archives.
  37. ^ George Washington to New York Committee of Safety, May 6, 1776 (note 2), from National Archives.
  38. ^ General Orders, August 24, 1776, from National Archives.
  39. ^ George Washington to William Grayson, January 11, 1777, from National Archives.
  40. ^ General Orders, March 1, 1777, from National Archives.
  41. ^ Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, April 27, 1781, from National Archives.
  42. ^ General Orders, November 6, 1775, from National Archives.
  43. ^ Lefkowitz, p. 262.
  44. ^ General Orders, January 20, 1777, from National Archives.
  45. ^ George Washington to John Laurens, August 5, 1777 (note 1), from National Archives.
  46. ^ a b General Orders, September 6, 1777 (note 1), from National Archives.
  47. ^ Thomas Nelson to George Washington, March 23, 1779 (note 1), from National Archives.
  48. ^ Henry Laurens to George Washington, March 19, 1779 (note 2), from National Archives.
  49. ^ C.W.F. Dumas to John Adams, November 28, 1781 (note 1), from National Archives.
  50. ^ John Laurens to Anonymous, September 24, 1781, from National Archives.
  51. ^ George Washington to Thomas McKean, October 19, 1781, from National Archives.
  52. ^ a b Fielding Lewis to George Washington, November 14, 1775 (note 1), from National Archives.
  53. ^ General Orders, May 15, 1778, from National Archives.
  54. ^ Marquis de Fleury to Alexander Hamilton, 1778 (note 2), from National Archives.
  55. ^ General Orders, March 12, 1777, from National Archives.
  56. ^ Washington Diary, June 19, 1775 (see note), from National Archives.
  57. ^ General Orders, March 6, 1776, from National Archives.
  58. ^ General Orders, June 7, 1776 (note 2), from National Archives.
  59. ^ George Washington to John Hancock, January 22, 1777, from National Archives.
  60. ^ General Orders, March 6, 1776, from National Archives.
  61. ^ Pierre Penet to George Washington, August 3, 1776, from National Archives.
  62. ^ George Washington to John Hancock, October 7, 1776 (note 2), from National Archives.
  63. ^ George Washington to John Hancock, November 2, 1775, from National Archives.
  64. ^ General Orders, July 6, 1781, from National Archives.
  65. ^ George Washington to William Stephens Smith, June 24, 1782, from National Archives.
  66. ^ Peter Presley Thornton, from Library Thing.
  67. ^ "[T]he General’s Orders are delivered by the Adjutant General, or one of his Aid’s-De-Camp, Mr Tilghman, or Col. Moylan the Quarter Master General." General Orders, September 17, 1776, from National Archives.
  68. ^ General Orders, June 21, 1780, from National Archives.
  69. ^ General Orders, June 5, 1781, from National Archives.
  70. ^ George Washington to Richard Varick, May 25, 1781, from National Archives.
  71. ^ George Washington to Richard Varick, January 1, 1784 (note 2), from National Archives.
  72. ^ General Orders, January 25, 1782, from National Archives.
  73. ^ General Orders, February 19, 1777, from National Archives.
  74. ^ George Washington to Samuel B. Webb, January 11, 1777, in Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb, (New York: Wickersham Press, 1893), vol. 1, p. 181.
  75. ^ Lefkowitz, p. 54.
  76. ^ Peter Bowman - Belle Isle Cemetery, from Find-A-Grave.
  77. ^ From a 28 June 1931 Syracuse Newspaper Story About DAR Marking Graves of 595 Revolutionary War Soldiers Buried in Onondaga County. “Marking of Revolutionary War Graves By D.A.R. Signals Start of Campaign to Identify 595 in Onondaga County.”
  78. ^ "William H. Hopwood, M.D." in Samuel T. Wiley, Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, (Chicago: John M. Gresham & Co., 1889), p. 349.[4]
  79. ^ "Mrs. Susan McCullough," in Lineage Book of the Charter Members of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, (Washington, D.C.: D.A.R., 1908), p. 186.[5]
  80. ^ Col. Albert Pawling - Old Mount Ida Cemetery, from Find-A-Grave.
  81. ^ Katherine Wallace Kitts, Henry Pawling and Some of His Descendants, (privately printed, 1903), p. 19.[6]
  82. ^ Maj. Albert Pawling to George Washington, February 25, 1779, from National Archives.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Lefkowitz, Arthur S.(2003). George Washington's Indispensable Men: The 32 Aides-de-Camp Who Helped Win the Revolution, Stackpole Books.