BOLDLY SIGNED REVOLUTIONARY WAR DISCHARGE FOR JOEL CROSBY WHO SERVED AS A MEMBER OF GEORGE WASHINGTON’S OWN PRIVATE GUARD
WASHINGTON, GEORGE. (1732-1799). First President of the United States. Partly-printed Document Signed, “G. Washington”. One page, folio. “Headquarters, the 6th day of June 1783”. Countersigned by J Trumbull Jr, and also William Colfax, Captain and Commander-in-chief Guard for Washington’s own private Guard. [The guard was a unit of the Continental Army that protected George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. Formed in 1776, the Guard was with General Washington in all of his battles] . The document reads:
BY HIS EXCELLENCY
GEORGE WASHIGNTON, ESQ.
Commander in Chief of the Forces of the
United States of America.
These are to CERTIFY that the bearer hereof Joel Crosby Private in the 6th Massachusetts Regiment, having faithfully served the United States six years and two months and being enlisted for the War only, is hereby Discharged from the American Army.
Given at Head-Quarters the 6th day of June 1783. G. Washington.”
Fine condition, bearing a bold signature of Washington.
The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard was authorized on 11 March 1776 and organized the next day at Cambridge, Massachusetts. The purpose of the unit was to protect General Washington as well as the money and official papers of the Continental Army. General Washington directed the formation of a “corps of sober, intelligent, and reliable men”. “Despite its impressive unit designation and its important mission,” wrote military historian Mark Boatner, the Guard “appears to have been nothing more than what today would be called a headquarters security detachment.”
The unit was initially created by selecting four men from each Continental Army regiment present at the siege of Boston. Washington’s general order on 11 March outlined the type of men he hoped to recruit:
The General being desirous of selecting a particular number of men, as a Guard for himself, and baggage, The Colonel, or commanding Officer, of each of the established Regiments, (the Artillery and Rifflemen excepted) will furnish him with four, that the number wanted may be chosen out of them. His Excellency depends upon the Colonels for good Men, such as they can recommend for their sobriety, honesty, and good behaviour; he wishes them to be from five feet, eight Inches high, to five feet, ten Inches; handsomely and well made, and as there is nothing in his eyes more desirable, than Cleanliness in a Soldier, he desires that particular attention may be made, in the choice of such men, as are neat, and spruce. They are all to be at Head Quarters to morrow precisely at twelve, at noon, when the Number wanted will be fixed upon. The General neither wants men with uniforms, or arms, nor does he desire any man to be sent to him, that is not perfectly willing, and desirous, of being of this guard. They should be drill’d men.
The strength of the unit was usually 180 men, although this was temporarily increased to 250 during the winter of 1779–80, when the army was encamped at Morristown, New Jersey, in close proximity to the British Army. Because it was an honor to belong to the unit, care was taken to ensure that soldiers from each of the 13 states were represented in the Guard. Major Caleb Gibbs of Rhode Island was the first commander of the Guard, and was given the title of captain commandant. Gibbs was succeeded in 1779 by William Colfax.
The flag and uniform of the Commander-in-Chief’s Guards was described by historian Benson John Lossing: The flag is white silk, on which the device is neatly painted. One of the Guard is seen holding a horse, and is in the act of receiving a flag from the Genius of Liberty, who is personified as a woman leaning upon the Union shield, near which is the American eagle. The motto of the corps, “CONQUER OR DIE,” is upon a ribbon. The uniform of the Guard consisted of a blue coat with white facings, white waistcoat and breeches, black half gaiters, a cocked hat with a blue and white feather.
In the final days of the war, the unit consisted of only 64 men. It was furloughed 6 June 1783, at Newburgh, New York, and disbanded on 15 November 1783.