This post is compelled by a desire to correct a great injustice. John Bennett Boddie’s inaccurate research has resulted in many researchers overlooking the contributions of this Robert Ballard, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Continental Line during the American Revolution. In his Southside Virginia Families (1955) Boddie placed this Robert Ballard (who removed to Baltimore, Maryland and married Rebecca Plowman) as a grandson of John Ballard of Yorktown (1700-1745), when in fact he came from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, as proven by his own correspondence with President George Washington, which is quoted in full below, and the records of that county.
His descent has yet to be traced by this researcher; we know he left a number of sons and a daughter. There is still much, much work to do with this line.
The compiler is indebted to Brenda Ballard Pflaum for many of the abstracts that follow below – thank you.
Robert Ballard, the son of John Ballard of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, was born c. 1742, died before 7 August 1793 in Baltimore, Maryland. Robert Ballard was three times sworn Sheriff of Lunenburg county: Order Book 1763-64, p. 99; 1764-65, p. 164; 1766-69, p. 133.
On 14 February 1767 he witnessed a deed between Robert Cunningham and John Goode in Mecklenburg county (14 February 1767. Robert Cunningham John Goode; £160 for 370 acres on east side of Cox Creek; Spittle Pulley’s lower corner at mouth of branch; Lewis Parkham, Robert Ballard and Samuel Oldham witnessed. Mecklenburg Co. Va. Deeds Vol. 1, 1765-1768, p. 466.)
On 13 July 1767 he witnessed a deed between his brother John Ballard Jr and George Jefferson. (George Jefferson of St. James Parish to John Ballard Jr; £135 for 400 acres in St. James Parish, on the branches of Miles’ Creek; Ruffins line; part of a tract he bought of Henry Delony. Signed. William Holloway, Robert Ballard and Thomas Farrar witnessed. Mecklenburg Co. Va. Deed Book 1, 1765-1768. p. 453.)
7 March 1772 Robert Ballard, Isaac Holmes, Reuben Morgan, Thomas Taylor Jr, and John Ballard Sr, are bound to John Tabb for £5,000. Agreed that Robert Ballard shall keep 1/3 of Tabb’s fees as clerk, and keep all papers and records. Robert Ballard and John Tabb signed agreement, and others all signed bond agreement. Witnessed by John and William Lucas and William Duncan. Recorded on 13 April 1772 Mecklenburg Co. Va. Deeds, Vol. 3 (1771-1773), p. 336. LDS Film # 0032533
24 September 1773, Accounts of sales of estate of Dennis Lark: John Ballard Jr bought corn and a cart: William Ballard bought wheat: Robert Ballard bought corn. Vol. 1, p. 171. (Mecklenberg Co. Va. Wills, Estates, Probates, Inventories and Sales, Vol. 1 (1765-1782), p. 171. Film # 0032518.
On 12 September 1774, Robert Ballard purchased 150 acres on Huey’s Mill Creek from Joshua Mabry, but the next year sold to Robert Burgon of Granville, North Carolina. He must have removed to James City county, for in the latter transaction he is identified as “Robert Ballard of James City”, and the deed was witnessed by John Ballard, Jr, Joseph Speed, Edward Garland and Bennett Goode (12 September 1774. Joshua Mabry to Robert Ballard; £40 for 150 acres on Huey’s mill creek, at Hughey’s and James Blanto’s lines. Isaac Holmes witnessed. Mecklenburg Co. Va. Deeds, 1774, p. 326).
On 8 May 1775 he participated in a meeting of freeholders of Mecklenburg County to elect a committee of safety pursuant to a resolution of the Continental Congress “the better to secure a due observation of the association entered by the said congress.” The members included John Speed, Bennett Goode, William Lucas, Henry Speed, Francis Ruffin, Lewis Burwell, Robert Burton, Edmund Taylor, Clevieous Coleman, Thacker Burwell, Sir Peton Skipwith, Joseph Speed, John Tabb, John Jones, William Leigh, Robert Ballard, Samuel Hopkins, Jr. and John Ballard, Jr. John Speed, Esq. was chosen chairman, and Mr. Isaac Holmes clerk. The Virginia Gazette, 1 June 1775 p. 1, Col. 1.
Virginia Gazette, 20 October 1775, p. 2, col. 2. Contains reports of military activity related to troops of Lord Dunmore. Reference is made to “two companies of regulars…commanded by Capt. (Robert) Ballard of Mecklenburg and Capt. Fleming of Goochland
He resigned as clerk of Mecklenburg County, Virginia in 1775 to command a company in the 1st Virginia Regiment. He noted this fact in a letter to President George Washington dated 1 January 1789:
My Attachment and Love for my Country have been uniformly ardent and sincere, and though I presume not to claim equal distinction with many other Officers who had the Honor of serving under your Excellency’s Command, yet I humbly hope even my services will not be wholly forgotten. Early in the late glorious Struggle for Peace, Liberty and Safety, sacraficing as well pecuniary as other Considerations, I steppd forth a Volenteer to oppose the Depredations of Lord Dunmore, near Williamsburg; after which I received an appointment to command a Company in the First Regiment raised in Virginia, which I speedily recruited and marched to Camp—resigning at the same time the Clerkship of Mecklenburg County, a lucrative place which I purchased of John Tabb Esqr. the then Clerk after serving five years
After resigning as clerk of Mecklenburg County and joining the Continental Army, he was likely stationed in Williamsburg in James City County when he sold the 150 acres on Huey’s Mill Creek (5 December 1775. “Robert Ballard of James City” to Robert Burton of Granville NC; £100 for 150 acres on Huey’s mill creek. Witnessed by John Ballard Jr, Joseph Speed, Edward Garland and Bennett Goode. Recorded 11 March 1776. Mecklenburg Co. Va. Deeds, Vol. 4 (1773-1776), p. 507).
On 5 July 1776 Robert Ballard published in The Virginia Gazette (page 2, col. 2) a notice addressing rumors that were being spread about him; this included corroboration from one of his colleagues:
It is with real concern I find an injurious report has been spread through the country, nearly affecting my reputation as an officer and man of honour. As I am conscious of my own rectitude, I am always ready and willing to have a review of any part o fmy military conduct; and, on this occasion, shall lay before the publick the following certificate, which I hope will sufficiently refute the charge that has been alledged against me.
Whereas a report has been propogated, much to the prejudice of capt. Robert Ballard, that he has made use of the soldiers money under his command, and is indebted to them for their wages, tot he mount of 6 or 700l. I take this method to inform the public, that such reports are entirely false and groundless, as it appears, upon examination, that capt. Ballard has punctually paid his soldiers, and now has their receipts in full, with a balance in his favour, and that they are well satisfied in every particular with him.
FRANK EPPES, Lieutenant-colonel of the first regiment.
Money — rather, the lack of it, appears to have been a constant struggle, for on 26 September  he wrote to General George Washington from Fort Constitution (now Fort Lee) in New Jersey, asking permission to sell his commission to Lt. John Pettrus in order to pursue “a Captaincy of Marines in an armed Vessell that is now fitting out in Virginia.” The reason for his request, he says, “is not from any dislike to the service, or for want of zeal to the glorious cause, but from experience [I] find that I cannot afford to stay in the Service, being naturally of an extravagant turn & not fortune sufficient to support that Dignity that is observ’d in our Camp” (DNA:PCC, item 152).
Congress took no action on Ballard’s request, and on 22 March 1777 he was promoted to major of the 1st Virginia Regiment (see General Orders, that date, DLC:GW). In October 1777 Ballard became the regiment’s lieutenant colonel and commanded a garrison on the Delaware River (see GW to Ballard, 25 Oct. 1777, DLC:GW). Ballard transferred to the 4th Virginia Regiment in September 1778, and he resigned his commission the following July.
The Virginia Gazette, 21 February 1777, p. 3, col. 1. Adam Jones and Dudley Ballard, late of Capt, Ballard’s company of minutemen from Mecklenburg…are ordered to wait on the commanding officer at Williamsburg immediately. On failure, they will be treated as deserters. –-Samuel Cobb, lieut.
The Virginia Gazette, 7 March 1777, p. 2, col 2. (Supplement). In regard to the meeting of the officers of the 1st Virginia regiment…announcing the meeting must be rescheduled due to many of the men having smallpox. —Robert BALLARD
The Virginia Gazette, 14 March 1777, p. 3, col. 3, March 4, 1777. “Ralph Cobbs, Edward Cook, Richard Worsham, John McCarter, John Thompson, Matthew Durham, Johnathan Terrell, John McNeal and Gideon Patterson of my company who enlisted as privates in the continental services last August had a furlough given them of ten days, after which time they were to rejoin the company then on the march for General Washington’s army. And, as I have not heard from either of the above mentioned…I deem them deserters and will give a reward of ten dollars for each…” —Robert BALLARD
5 May 1777 John Ballard Jr. to Richard Watts of King William £250 for 116 acres on Miles creek at Dennis Lark’s line to Reedy branch to Willis’s line. Witnessed by Noah Dortch, Mary Watts, Robert Ballard, Ebenezer and Elizabeth Marcharg. Mecklenburg Co. Va. Deeds, Vol. 5 (1777-1779), p. 49. LDS Film # 0032534
The Virginia Gazette, 17 July 1778, p. 3, col. 1. “Baltimore, July 3, 1778. I have instructions from his Excellency General Washington to call together all the Captains and subalterns of the 1st, 5th, and 9th Virginia regiments who are now in Virginia or any (unreadable) whatever. They are therefore directed to meet me in the city of Williamsburg on Monday the (unreadable) when farther orders will be given.” —Robert BALLARD, Lieut. Col.
16 April 1780. Bills of lading for goods shipped by Gov. Hill aboard the Nelson (dated 5 Oct 1780). The goods are consigned to Howe & Harrison. Mr. Robert Ballard and Messrs. Newton & Kelly, all of Virginia. [reference needed]
On 13 July 1780 Robert Ballard married Rebecca Plowman of Baltimore. He noted in his letter of 30 May to George Washington that not only his own funds had vanished in the Baltimore lots speculation but £1,600 belonging to his wife. In the Maryland General Assembly sesson of 3 November 1783 to 26 December, a bill was introduced to authorize him to administer the estate of Jonathan Plowman, late of Baltimore County, deceased, “unadministered by Rebecca Plowman and David Arnold, his executors.” Laws of Maryland, Made Since MDCCLXIII  (Annapolis: Frederick Green, Printer, MDCCLXXXVII ).
1 December 1784. Articles of Agreement between Henry Delony, gentleman and Robert Ballard, a merchant of Baltimore, MD and John Ballard of Lunenberg. Delony agrees to rent to them for 7 years, 5 months and 15 days, that is until 15 May 1792, a 5 acre tract with houses, which was land of David Dortch, deceased, and leased to Dinwidie and Company? With annual rent of £50. All signed. Mecklenburg Co. Va. Deeds, Vol. 6 (1779-1786), p. 470. LDS Film # 0032534
In his letter of 1 January 1789, Robert Ballard asked President George Washington to oblige him with a government appointment in reward for his service to his country, after noting his financial misadventures:
During the infatuation which generally prevailed in this Town for purchasing Lots, I was unfortunately drawn in to speculate to my distruction, and by one ill-fated step, I lost all I had acquired, which hath left me, with a Wife and a number of small Children, destitute of the means of a comfortable support. Thus circumstanced, Sir, if I might venture to name the Office I should prefer, I would solicit the Clerkship of the Federal Court, as I flatter myself my past Experience would enable me to discharge its Duties with propriety. If I should be so fortunate as to meet your Excellency’s Patronage on this occasion, I shall consider it the happiest Event of my Life, and my Children may live to thank their generous Benefactor. I fear your Excellency will think me premature in thus early addressing you on this subject—but I trust my necesstous situation will plead my excuse.
I will no further obtrude on your Excellency’s Time than to add the anxious hope that my true Federal Principles will have some Influence with the Friends of the Federal Constitution, and that I am with the greatest Deference Your Excellency’s Most Obet hum. Servt
In August 1789 President George Washington named Ballard surveyor of the port of Baltimore, and in 1791 Ballard also obtained the office of inspector of that port. His correspondence with General — then President — George Washington and James Madison appears below, verbatim (with notes) as it appears in a database of the National Archives, Founders Online.
Robert Ballard died before 7 August 1793 in Baltimore, Maryland. His death is noted in a letter from David Plunket to George Washington bearing that date, in which he wrote: “The office of Surveyor of this Port haveing become vacant by the death of Colonel Ballard, I take the liberty of recommending to your consideration in the appointment to be made, Mr John H. Purviance son of the late Mr Samuel Purviance of this town—” (Letter to George Washington from David Plunket, 7 August 1793).
An action by his executor to collect a debt for the estate of Robert Ballard appears in the records of Person County, North Carolina: Jacob Vanhook Sheriff to William Dickens of Granville Co. (to satisfy judgment brought by Robert Burton administrator of Robert Ballard, decd. Against Anthony Brown) for £410 lbs, 3 negroes (Ephraim, George, Ben), 290 ac. on Tar River adj. Samual Bumpass. 26 Sept. 1800. Ackn. in open court.
Robert Ballard and Rebecca Plowman had issue [note: this has not been verified or traced]: [The 1790 Baltimore Census shows five sons and one daughter; another as yet unverified record shows five children.
Correspondence Between Robert Ballard & The Founders of the Republic
From George Washington to John Hancock
Head Qrs Heights of Harlem Septr 30th 1776
Since I had the honor of addressing you last nothing of importance has transpired,1 tho from some movements yesterday on the part of the Enemy it would seem as if something was Intended.
The inclosed memorial from Lieut. Colo. Sheppard of the 4th Regiment,2 I beg leave to submit to the consideration of Congress, and shall only add that I could wish they would promote him to the Command of the Regiment and send him a Commission, being a good and valuable Officer and especially as the vacancy is of a pretty long standing and I have [not]3 had nor has he, any Intelligence from Colo. Learned himself who had the command and who obtained a discharge on account of his indisposition, of his designs to return.4 I have also inclosed a Letter from Captn Ballard which Congress will please to determine on, the Subject being new and not within my authority.5 I have the Honor to be Sir Your Most Obedt St
P.S. A Commission was sent for Colo. Learned, which is now in my Hands, having received no application or heard from him since It came.
LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy,DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter and its enclosures on 2 Oct. (JCC, 5:838).
2. GW means the 3d Continental Regiment.
3. The word “not” is inserted above the line at this place in the text in both theLB and Varick transcript by some person or persons other than the copyists who wrote those documents.
4. Lt. Col. William Shepard in his petition to GW of 28 Sept. asks permission to resign his commission, because, he says, “when he views the Regiment to which he belongs, which has been destitute of a Chief Col. for almost six months and not filled, and other Regiments, vacant, but a few hours before they are filled by advancements from their own Corps, Your Petitioner is convinced, that he is judged by the wise and prudent Rulers of the States (whom he will honour and esteem) not to be an Officer worthy of promotion, or the most flagrant injustice is done him” (DNA:PCC, item 152). Congress on 2 Oct. promoted Shepard to colonel of the 3d Continental Regiment ranking from 4 May 1776 when it was calculated that Col. Ebenezer Learned’s command of the regiment ceased (ibid., 839; see also Hancock to GW, 4 Oct.).
5. Robert Ballard (d. 1793), who resigned as clerk of Mecklenburg County, Va., in 1775 to command a company in the 1st Virginia Regiment, wrote GW on 26 Sept. from Fort Constitution (Fort Lee), N.J., asking permission to sell his commission to Lt. John Pettrus in order to pursue “a Captaincy of Marines in an armed Vessell that is now fitting out in Virginia.” The reason for his request, he says, “is not from any dislike to the service, or for want of zeal to the glorious cause, but from experience [I] find that I cannot afford to stay in the Service, being naturally of an extravagant turn & not fortune sufficient to support that Dignity that is observ’d in our Camp” (DNA:PCC, item 152). Congress took no action on Ballard’s request, and on 22 Mar. 1777 he was promoted to major of the 1st Virginia Regiment (seeGeneral Orders, that date, DLC:GW). In October 1777 Ballard became the regiment’s lieutenant colonel and commanded a garrison on the Delaware River (see GW to Ballard, 25 Oct. 1777, DLC:GW). Ballard transferred to the 4th Virginia Regiment in September 1778, and he resigned his commission the following July. In August 1789 GW named Ballard surveyor of the port of Baltimore, and in 1791 Ballard also obtained the office of inspector of that port.
From Major Robert Ballard to George Washington
2 OClock Red Bank [N.J.] Octr 23. 1777
I am just Arrivd at this place on command from Fort Mifflin, and finding that Colo. Green & the Commodore was sending by express to your Excellency the Glorious Event of last Evening and this Morning,1 think proper to give you the particulars from our Garrison. This Morning at half after Six OClock the enemy from Province Island began a very heavy fire from their Bomb Batteries and about an hour after, was Joind by their fleet which kept up on us incessantly ’till after 12 OClock, Our Battery in Consort with the Commodores Fleet playing on them the whole time, in short we Ply’d them with 18 & 32 lb. Shots so closely that they I believe began to give Ground, however they ran a Sixty four Gun Ship and a Twenty Gun Frigate a ground & after fruitless attempts in vain to get them off, they set fire to them both, to our no small Satisfaction as it was out of the Power of our Fleet to take them.2 We sustain’d no Damage except a Capt. & 1 private slightly wounded.
Our Garrison shew’d a firmness & Resolution becoming brave Men, & I dont doubt will acquit themselves with honor. The Fleet are making down again fast, as low as Billingsport. I am doubtfull we shall want Ammunition for our Cannon & 32 lb. Ball as the quantity on hand will not I am certain last us more than one Days hot fire. Small Cartridges from No. 17 to 20 are absolutely wanting. It wou’d be too much to loose a place of so much Importance for the want of War like Implements, which I haven’t a doubt may easily be <had—>3 the Sizes for our Cannon of Cartridges 18 & 8 lbs. Cartridge paper will not be Amiss. The foregoing are Circumstances which I know at least Strike Colo. Smith & I do not doubt the Baron also. I hope to hear welcome news from your Quarters before long, in mean time every exertion of the Garrison of Fort Mifflin in Opposition to the Enemies fleet will be strictly attended to. We had the upper part of one of our block houses blown up to day. I expect this night or tomorrow night the Enemy will for the last make an Effort to Storm our fort. I have the honor to be Your Excellencys most Obedt Servant
ALS, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 24 Oct. 1777, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.
Congress ordered the publication of a partial version of this letter, which consists of the first paragraph (except the phrase “to our no small Satisfaction as it was out of the Power of our Fleet to take them”) and the first two sentences of the second paragraph (see the Maryland Journal, and Baltimore Advertiser, 18 Nov. 1777).
1. See the letters that John Hazelwood and Samuel Ward, Jr., wrote to GW on this date.
2. Several ships of the British fleet moved up the Delaware River on 22 Oct. to support the Hessian attack on Fort Mercer by engaging the American fleet and Fort Mifflin. Late that afternoon as the British ships maneuvered in the channel to approach the upper chevaux-de-frise near Fort Mifflin, the 18–gun Merlin and the 64–gun Augusta ran aground. On the morning of 23 Oct. the British attempted to refloat both ships, but they were hampered severely in their efforts by American galleys, floating batteries, and fire ships. About eleven o’clock the Augusta caught fire by some undetermined means, and about a half hour later the British deliberately set fire to the Merlin to prevent its capture. The Augusta’s powder magazine blew up about two o’clock in the afternoon, and the Merlin exploded about half an hour later (see the journals of the Roebuck, Camilla, and Pearl, 23 Oct. 1777, in Naval Documents, 10:246, 248, 250–51, and the courts-martial of Capt. Francis Reynolds and Comdr. Samuel Reeve, 26 Nov. 1777, ibid., 603–10). Capt. John Montresor says in his journal entry for 23 Oct. that before the explosion of the Augusta “many of the seamen jumped overboard apprehending it, some were taken up by our ships [and] boats, but the Chaplain, one Lieutenant and 60 men perished in the water” (Scull, Montresor Journals, 470; see also Muenchhausen, At General Howe’s Side, 41).
To Major Robert Ballard from George Washington
Head Quarters [Whitpain Township, Pa.] Octor 25th 1777.
I received your favor of the 23d Inst. and am obliged by the intelligence it contains. The conduct of your Garrison has equaled my most sanguine expectations, and merit my warmest acknowledgements & thanks. Be assured no exertions of mine shall be wanting to give you every support in my power; ammunition is now on its way to the Forts, and a supply of that article shall not be wanting, when possible for me to procure it. I am &c.
Copy, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
From Major Robert Ballard to George Washington
Woodberry [N.J.] 15th Novr 1777
This will be presented by Capt. Moss who waits on your Excellency for leave to Resign he has made me acquainted with the necessity of being with his family. I am Sensible the Service will loose a good Officer, but as the urgency of his business demands his Attention at home, I have given him my Approbation to go. Capt. Boykin is under the same predicament & waits on your Excellency.1 I have Honor to be Your Excellencys Most Obedt Sert
Majr Comt of the 1st V. Rt
ALS, DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 31305.
1. John Moss (c.1743–1809), who was commissioned a first lieutenant in the 1st Virginia Regiment on 22 Feb. 1776, was promoted to captain on 15 Sept. 1776 and resigned from the Continental army on 18 Nov. 1777. Francis Boykin (1754–1805) was made a second lieutenant in the 1st Virginia on 30 Sept. 1775, and he was promoted to first lieutenant on 30 Aug. 1776 and to captain in 1777. Boykin did not leave the service at this time.
To Lieutenant Colonel Robert Ballard from George Washington
Head Quarters Valley Forge 18th June 1778
Having recd information that the State of Virginia have determined to fill their Regiments by Recruits, I have directed the 1st 5th and 9th Regiments to be incorporated for the present, and the supernumerary Officers to proceed to Virginia to superintend the recruiting Service. You are therefore to proceed, with such supernumerary Officers, to Virginia, and, upon your arrival there, wait upon His Excellency the Governor and take your instructions from him. You are to look upon the Officers from Genl Muhlenbergs Brigade as under your particular direction, and you are to designate them to such parts of the Country as they are best acquainted with. You are to desire them, from time to time, to make you returns of their progress, which returns you are to make regularly to me. The sooner the Recruits are marched to Camp, after they are inlisted, the better; and you are therefore to send them forward in Squads, under the Care of Officers; as fast as they can be collected. I lately issued an order, which was published in the Virginia papers, calling upon all Officers in that line, not absent upon command, to repair to their Regiments immediately.1 But you may, under the present circumstances, detain all those of the 1st 5th and 9th to assist in recruiting.2 I am &c.
Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
1. On 12 June, Alexander Purdie’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) published the following notice of 29 May, signed “By his Excellency’s command” by Alexander Hamilton: “The Commander in Chief positively requires all officers absent from the camp, belonging to the troops of the state of Virginia, except those who are detained on publick service by His Excellency the Governour of that state, or any general officer of the same, or those who have furloughs not yet expired, immediately to join their respective corps.”
From Lieutenant Colonel Robert Ballard to George Washington
Williamsburg [Va.] July 24th 1778
Agreeable to your instructions I waited on Governor Henry, on Monday the 20th Inst., expecting to receive from him an Order for recruiting Money &c.,1 The Governor inform’d me he did not know at that time what to do in the matter, as 10 Gentlemen were already employed for to recruit men to fill up the Virginia Regts, but he woud consult the Council on the Occasion; the result of which, was, that the whole of us (meaning the Officers of Gl Muhlenbergs Brigade) was immediately to set out in search of Security for the Money intended to be given us. I was to provide Security for the whole of the Money, & take Security of each Officer for the respective sums given them, at my risque.
I convened the Officers and inform’d them of the Governor & Councils Instructions. They (for very cogent reasons in my Opinion) unanimously objected to the instructions, alledging that after marching 3 or 4 hundred Miles on foot, and having met me agreeable to my Appointment, and then, to set out again in persuit of Security on foot, was an obligation too hard to comply with, and what was not expected by you, nor was it a practice in your Army to go after Security when Ordered on the like business. besides the Officers say they do not know where to provide security, and it is unnecessarily drawing reflections on them; for, if they cannot procure security, the publick is directly aquainted thereof.
As to my part, I conceive it totally out of my power to obtain security for 20 or 30 thousand pounds on the principal of runing the risque of the Money given to each Officer, especially as the Council refus’d to undertake to refund their expences; indeed I thought it unjust to ask a friend to become my security on those terms. I acquainted the Governor & Council of the mode adopted in your Army when Officers were sent out to recruit: And if they chose to Issue Money to me and wou’d receive each Officers rect to whom I delivered money, & place to my Credit I wou’d undertake it with all my heart, but they possitively refused; on which I altogether refus’d to attempt Security.
The Governor and Council affected much Surprize when inform’d of the Number of Officers Sent to Virginia to recruit, and pretended that those 10 Gentn which they had employed was Sufficient for the undertaking.2 Those employed were Gentn who had been living at home enjoying themselves in peace and plenty, taking the advantage of the times to accumulate wealth, to whom very considerably Wages was given; when your Officers who had experienced every hardship at the risque of Life & fortune, for the protection and ease of those in private life, was refus’d any extra pay for their necessary expences. I fear we have an ungrateful publick.
The Officers who march’d under my Command to this place <are> much distressed for want of Money, several of whom I was oblig’d to advance Money, to get them home, I made the Governor & Council acquainted thereof, & beg’d they wou’d Order two or three Months pay to each, ’till I cou’d acquaint you, but I was put off with a kind of a recommendation to any Continental Pay Master I might meet with; at the same time they knew there was no Money in the Military Chest here. I never was so trifled with, by Gentn, in all my life. The Officers beg’d me to request your Excellencys favor in Ordering them pay here, if to remain any time.
I flatter myself my conduct will meet with your Excellencys Approbation. Any Commands Your Excellency may please to communicate shall to the utmost of my power be attended to. I have the Honor to be Your Excellencys Most Obt Sevt
P. S. Colo. H. Recheson is here, & meets with the Same fate with me.3
2. “An act for recruiting the continental army” passed at the May 1778 session of the Virginia legislature authorized the governor “with the advice of the council … to appoint from time to time such and so many recruiting officers in this state as in their judgment shall be requisite” (Hening, 9:454). On 10 July the Virginia council appointed “Francis Smith & Alexander Baugh of Chesterfield; John Lewis of Pittsylvania; Elisha White & Thomas Richardson of Hanover; John White of Louisa; Daniel Barksdale of Caroline; John Holcombe of Prince Edward; William Allen of James City; and Alexander Cummins of Bedford” to fill the positions ( Va. State Council Journals , 2:164).
3. The journals of the Virginia council do not record decisions about recruiting for Muhlenberg’s and Woodford’s brigades by Ballard and Lt. Col. Holt Richeson, but on 24 July the council considered a request by recruiters from Scott’s brigade and decided “that the recruiting Officers already appointed under the late Act of the Assembly would probably succeed better than any of the said Officers—it is judged unnecessary to issue the Warrants they desired” (ibid., 2:172).
George Washington to
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Ballard1
West Point, July 30, 1779. Accepts Ballard’s resignation.
Df, in writing of H, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
1. Ballard was a lieutenant colonel of the Fourth Virginia Regiment.
From Robert Ballard to George Washington
Baltimore January 1st 1789
I flatter myself the period is not far distant when we shall see the new Government in motion, and your Excellency elected President of the United States by the unanimous Voice of their grateful Citizens. I entreat your forgiveness in thus early soliciting an appointment under the new Constitution. I have been urged to the measure by a sad reverse of Fortune, and emboldened by the Idea of your disposition, to relieve the sufferings of the unfortunate soldier.
My Attachment and Love for my Country have been uniformly ardent and sincere, and though I presume not to claim equal distinction with many other Officers who had the Honor of serving under your Excellency’s Command, yet I humbly hope even my services will not be wholly forgotten. Early in the late glorious Struggle for Peace, Liberty and Safety, sacraficing as well pecuniary as other Considerations, I steppd forth a Volenteer to oppose the Depredations of Lord Dunmore, near Williamsburg; after which I received an appointment to command a Company in the First Regiment raised in Virginia, which I speedily recruited and marched to Camp—resigning at the same time the Clerkship of Mecklenburg County, a lucrative place which I purchased of John Tabb Esqr. the then Clerk after serving five years.1
During the infatuation which generally prevailed in this Town for purchasing Lots, I was unfortunately drawn in to speculate to my distruction, and by one ill-fated step, I lost all I had acquired, which hath left me, with a Wife and a number of small Children, destitute of the means of a comfortable support.2 Thus circumstanced, Sir, if I might venture to name the Office I should prefer, I would solicit the Clerkship of the Federal Court, as I flatter myself my past Experience would enable me to discharge its Duties with propriety. If I should be so fortunate as to meet your Excellency’s Patronage on this occasion, I shall consider it the happiest Event of my Life, and my Children may live to thank their generous Benefactor. I fear your Excellency will think me premature in thus early addressing you on this subject—but I trust my necesstous situation will plead my excuse.
I will no further obtrude on your Excellency’s Time than to add the anxious hope that my true Federal Principles will have some Influence with the Friends of the Federal Constitution,3 and that I am with the greatest Deference Your Excellency’s Most Obet hum. Servt
Robert Ballard (d. 1793) served with the Virginia forces in the Continental army during the Revolution, rising to the rank of colonel before his resignation in 1779. GW wrote a noncommittal reply to this letter from Mount Vernon on 2 Mar. (GW to Thomas Barclay, 2 Mar. 1789, note 1). Ballard renewed his application for a clerkship in the federal court on 30 May, and on 25 June he wrote GW of his willingness to accept an appointment as surveyor of the port of Baltimore if a clerkship was not available. In August 1789 Ballard received the appointment as surveyor and in 1791 assumed the duties of inspector of the port as well. For his complaints that he was not adequately compensated for either post, see Ballard to GW, 4 Sept. 1791.
1. In his letter of 30 May Ballard added this summary of his Revolutionary career: “It was my fortune to be on the heights of Haarlem—the White Plains—the celebrated retreat through Jersey, and the memorable enterprize of Trenton—Here I received Orders from Lord Sterling major General for the day to march the captured Troops off the field. I was next at Brandywine—and shared in the defence of Fort Mifflin till the last day of that Seige, as well as in all the hardships of the Winter at Valey Forge” (DLC:GW).
2. On 13 July 1780 Ballard married Rebecca Plowman of Baltimore. He noted in his letter of 30 May that not only his own funds had vanished in the Baltimore lots speculation but £1,600 belonging to his wife.
3. Three prominent Baltimore federalists attested to Ballard’s “Federalist Principles.” James McHenry wrote to GW on 17 April that the appointment of Ballard, among other candidates, would “give great joy to the federalists of this town.” McHenry also indicated that he was persuaded “that he [Ballard] is competent to the business of the office, and . . . that he will execute it faithfully.” Samuel Smith affirmed on 24 June that Ballard’s appointment “will give Satisfaction to almost all the respectable Merchants in this Town—but especially to all those who have been the friends of the present Government,” and on 5 July Otho Holland Williams wrote GW that Ballard “has generally (I believe uniformly) acted, with the friends to order, and good Government.” All of these letters are in DLC:GW.
4 August 1789. The Senate confirmed president Washington’s nomination of Ballard as surveyor for the Port of Baltimore.
From Robert Ballard to James Madison
Baltimore Mar. 5th 1789
I am very sory that I had not the pleasure of seeing you in Baltimore on your way to Congress.
The Inclosed, will I hope excuse the liberty of Addressing a Gentlemen on business of a Public Nature, to whom I am not known.1 On receiving Mr McHenry’s Note to you I purposed to follow you, and Mr Lee, as far as Mr Scarrets Tavern, but Mrs Ballards indisposition prevented. Sir, to be as brief as possible I am very depended, indeed, Poor—and want the aid of friends, to Assist me in obtaining an Office under the new Government, that will yield a support to a large family, that have been brought up to ease. At a time when my Country wanted the assistance of its Citizens, I turned out a Volenteer to oppose Lord Dunmore near Williamsburg; and afterwards appointed to a Company in the first Regiment raised in Virginia, which I speedely recruited and Marched to Camp, sacrificing as well pecuniary as other considerations. Under these impressions I place faith in the gratitude of my Countrymen to give a return of service.
The Office that I at present contemplate, is the Clerkship of the Federal Court, as I flatter myself my long experience in that business, would enable me to execute its duties with propriety—having injoyed the Office of Clerk to Mecklenburg County Court, several years; after serving five Years apprentiship; which Office I relinquished when I went into the Army. It will be very important to me if I am so happy as to meet your patronage and Interest on this occasion.2 As it is my intention to be in New York very soon, I will not comment any further on my Necessitous situation, only to thank you to present my respects to Mr Lee, and will esteem myself greatly obliged for his friendship and Interest on this my day of Trial. I have not the Honor of being acquainted with Mr Lee—but am on terms of friendly intimacy with Coll Henry Lee his Brother, from whom I received the other day a pleasing letter on this business. I have wrote you much hurried, and am with all deference Sir Your Ob Servant
RC (DLC). Addressed by Ballard. Docketed by JM.
From Robert Ballard to James Madison
Baltimore [ca. 1 February 1790]
The Secretary of the Treasury has wrote the Officers of this Port, for the exact Sum, each Officer has received, up to the first of January.1
I hope the Secretary is of Opinion that our Fees are too small and that he will lay a Statement thereof before Congress, for Their Consideration.
I have estimated on a frugal Plan the Sum I must expend for the Support of my Family, and find it will considerably exceed the Sum my Fees produces, for the same time—a circumstance I am persuaded the Rulers of my Country will not permit.
The Attention I am necessarely obliged to pay to the Inspectors, Weigher, Measurer, Guager, and measuring the Vessells, ascertaining the Tonnage and recording it, obliges me to Keep a Clerk, and such a One as requires large Wages.
The Nature of my Office makes me acqu[a]inted with most of the Masters of Vessells, as well Coasters as Foreigners. They all agree that the Officers Fees are so trifling that they scarcely feel them, and the Coasting Gentlemen laugh at us, and tell me: I do their Business for nothing, which is really the case! For Instance, a Boston Vessel arrives with a Cargo of Onions Potatoes &ca: &ca. that fills a Manifest, as long as my Arm, which I am to record, examine the Vessel, receive the Inspector’s Report and compare it with the Manifest, and enter it in my Book, agreeing or disagreeing, as the case may be—for all this trouble, I do not receive on an average more than 18. Cents. Vessells from the adjoining States I receive nothing from, Or the Vessells trading up this extensive Bay. And Sir, I will venture to say:They are the Vessells that will attempt smuggling. I am obliged to search and attend them. Surely then the Labourer is worthy of Hire. Another Piece of Service is particularly hard on the Surveyor: He is obliged to measure and ascertain the Tonnage of all foreign Vessells, record the same, and transmit a copy thereof to the Collector, for all Which trouble, he does not receive One Farthing. I have it from a Number of Masters of Vessells, that in the Ports of England they demand and receive Four Dollars and a half; for every American Vessel the Surveyor measures.
The Surveyor incurs a heavy Expence for Books, Paper, and blank Manifests. I have already wrote Two Rheams of writing Paper. And I calculate my Expences for Stationary and Printers Bills, at nothing less than Thirty Pounds per Year. The Law does not secure a Return of this Money. There are other Circumstances to shew that the Surveyor has not an adequete proportion of Fees for Services he must render, if he regards his Duty, and his Country’s Good. I have at an early period discovered a Zealous Attachment for the Wellfare of my Country. I have been unfortunate, and am honoured With a Commission by Our Truly Honourable and Worthy President. The Office on my part shall be executed with Fidelity.
I trust Sir, from Your own Observations, and what little Light I may have thrown on the Subject, that You will rather Coincide with me, that the Ratio of Fees to the Surveyor, are unequal to the Services he must perform. In that case permit me Sir, to sollicit Your Patronage and Aid, With each branch of the Legislature for further Allowances in Fees.2Inclosed I will take the Liberty of discribing what I think at Least the Surveyor deserves.
The Collector of this Port is very anxious, that each Officer shou’d collect his own Fees. I am sattisfied it should be so, provided the Law secures the Officers in such a Manner, that they may not be deprived of their Fees.
Knowing the goodness of your heart, to act and explain on all occasions for the best, I have taken the liberty to address you on this subject. Sir, I cannot l<ive> on the present fees—my family accustomed to live well must be stinted. I am sure the Proportion of fees I have laid to each sized Vessell, cannot be objected to by any Owner.
One Case more I will suggest. A Vessell arrives from a Forreign Port, the Surveyor performs all his Duty of receiving a Manifest recording it, examines the Vessell, Measures her, Ascertains Tonage, records it also, & passes a Certificate to the Collector, & receivesonly five Shillings. The Collector & Naval Officer Divide Five Dollars besides Perquisite fees. I am with great respect Yr Hb. Servt
From Robert Ballard to James Madison
Balt. Decr. 25th. 1790
Through some of my friends in Congress, I hope application is made for a further allowance in fees to the surveyor at Entry of Vessells under One Hundred Tons burthen, and for an allowance in fees from the Coasting Vessells. Vizt.
Vessells from a Forreign Ports with Dutiable Goods
All under 70 Tons, Two Dollars
All above 70 Tons, Three Dollars
From 60 to 100 Tons are generally the Sized Vessells which trade to the West Indies, and they require more duty to be performed by the Surveyor than a Vessell of 200 Tons laden with dry Goods. Scarcely any one of them but what have Goods to be Weighed Measured and Gauged—every Hhd. of Rum of each Cargo must be proved by the Surveyor, and Six different quallities to be Ascertained and Certified by him to the Collector—and perhaps all those things come to five or six different Consi[g]nees. Surely then One Dollar & a half is not addequate to the trouble.
To the Surveyor on Coasting Vessells.
|from 15||Tons||to 30||Tons||One Quarter’ Dollar|
|from 30||“||to 60||“||half a Dollar|
|All above 60 Tons three quarters’ Dollar.|
(Pilate Boats to be excepted)
Sir, It is generously believed that through the Medium of Small Vessell’s will all the Smugling business be attempted. I am oblig’d to search the whole of them and receive little or no compensation for my trouble.
The sums as above Proportioned, are so small that they would not be objected to, and are by no means less than what the surveyor of right ought to have.
Hopeing for your Aid & interference in this business, I am with the most perfect Respect sir Your most Obedt. Servt.
surveyor of Port’ Balt.
P. S. I am sorry to trouble my friends in Congress, but my poverty, and fees falling short of maintaining my family, obliges me to call on them. My utmost exertions have and shall be applyed for the interest of the Revenue.
From Robert Ballard to George Washington
Balt[imore] April 3d 1791.
I discover by the Act of Congress for laying an Additional duty on Forriegn Spirits and Spirits Distilled in the U.S.—and that your Excellency & the Supervisor are to make appointments for carrying into effect the Services the Act requires to be performed. and furthermore that your Exellency may appoint such Officers of the Custom’s as may seem Proper to you. I am therefore humbly to sollicit your Exellency’s favor in granting and giving me the appointment of superintending and performing the duties for the Port of Baltimore agreeable to Law.1
I have not had time to peruse the Law with strict attention, but I observe that the duties to be performed, will come more immediately under the Observation of the surveyor in Sea Port Town’s, than any other Person; he, being constantly employed on the Water & Wharfs. If Sir, I have read the Law right, the Supervisor makes appointments for the home made Spirits. In this Town at present there are only two both immediately on the Water; by each I pass in my Barge four times a day—the Duty to be performed there like wise come natural and easy for the Surveyor, and at the same time, save the Additional expence of another Boat and hands. Your kindness in giving me the Surveyors Place for this District will make a lasting impression on my mind, and I hope to merit by my works the good opinion of your Excellency. I beg to observe that altho<’> I am pleased with the Office your Excellency has intrusted to my care, yet the Emoluments fall short of maintaining my family. My only wishnow is to live to maintain my house full of Boys, give them an Education and make them usefull Citizens. I have the Honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedt hum. Servt
1. Robert Ballard, whom GW had previously named surveyor for the port of Baltimore, was appointed excise inspector during the recess of Congress. His appointment was confirmed by the Senate on 8 Mar. 1792 (Executive Journal, 104, 111). For Ballard’s later complaints about the inadequacy of his compensation, seehis letter to GW, 4 Sept. 1791.
From Robert Ballard to George Washington
Baltimore Septemr 4th 1791
I must once more take the liberty of trespassing on your time with a few lines, which respects the compensation to be allowed me for my services as Inspector of the Revenue.1The Supervisor in his Circular Letter to me, says that, “as it was supposed that the Office would add but little trouble to the Office of Surveyor, no particular compensation is allotted.” I cannot find any part of the Law which warrants such an opinion—and I am sure that in exercising the duty, I find the entire service falls on me. Mr Gale performs not any duty other than that of furnishing me with blank Cerficates, and semiquarterly a Copy of my proceedings. I am, sir, to acknowledge the very great obligation I owe you for your goodness in bestowing this second kind favor on me; and permit me to assure your Excellency, that I shall observe the most watchful attention in the exercise of my duty—but sir, if Mr Gales Opinion prevails, that is to say, I do all the duty, and he receive all the pay, then I am more than ruined. My fees arising from my Surveyors Office is far short of maintenance, and nothing but the kind indulgence of my Creditors prevents me from Suits. The duty of an Inspector of the Revenue, is very arduous, and the office important & respectable—at present I keep only one Clerk who does nothing but write in the Office; to him I give £100 Year. In the Spring when the Crops of Spirit comes in, I must have an additional Clerk. It is a melancholy reflection where my whole time and service is yielded to the Public to know that the emoluments allowed, falls considerably short of Support: especially as I am growing old & have a large family to maintain and educate—and that is all I now look up to.
I have, may it please your Excellency, been thus particular, well knowing that when any case comes fairly before you that the strictest justice will be done, I must furthermore add that the Ex<mutilated> business falls considerably heavy on my other duty, without any reward for it. The Gauger and Weigher are paid for their share of that duty, and nothing is allowed to the Surveyor.2 I have the Honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellency’s most Obedt humble Servt
ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.
1. On 3 April Robert Ballard, surveyor for the port of Baltimore, solicited from GW the post of excise inspector for the port. He apparently already assumed his duties under Maryland district supervisor George Gale, although his appointment, together with that of the other inspectors, was not confirmed until mid-March 1792 (Executive Journal, 111).
2. Tobias Lear informed Ballard on 7 Sept. that he first should have brought the matter to the attention of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton: “As it is impossible for the President to attend to the minutiae of business which may be communicated by Individuals, he wishes always to receive such information as may be proper to come before him, relating to the several Departments, thro’ the heads of the Departments to which the business properly belongs. Upon this view of the matter the President is persuaded, Sir, that you will not consider his declining to reply to the subject of your letter, at this time, as a singular case; for he observes the same conduct on all occasions of this nature” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Lear forwarded to Hamilton Ballard’s letter along with a similar one Boston collector Benjamin Lincoln wrote Lear (Lear to Hamilton, 7 Sept. 1791, DLC:GW; see also GW to Lincoln, 14 Aug., n.3, and Hamilton to Ballard, 17 Oct. [letter-not-found entry], in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, 9:401).
From Robert Ballard to James Madison
Baltimore April 1st 1792
I had a long while impatiently waited to see the Secretary of the Treasurys report on the mode of compensation to the Officers of Revenue. Since that report was made, I cannot see by the debates, that the Honble. Congress, have acted on it.1 To speak of myself, my fees as Surveyor last year did not exceed £300—out of that sum, I have to pay for House rent & Clerks hire, £175. From last December to the Middle of March I did not receive a fee, being blocked up by the ice. I see nothing before me but inevitable ruin, if the Honble. Congress does not do something for us, before they close the Session.
Since I was honored w[i]th the Commission of Surveyor, my fees fall short of support upwards of Four hundred Pounds, which money is now owing to the Merchants and Tradesmen here: and if the Surveyors fees are not raised, and a generous compensation given to the Inspectors of the Revenue; (whose Arduous service is well known) I then know my fate. My Creditors will distress me; the consequence, will be I must go to Goal. My Commissions (the only things I have to look up to) taken from me, thereby beggaring my Wife and a house full of fine Boys, whose education is my greatest wish.
I have not the pleasure of being personally known to you, yet I have taken the liberty of addressing you on this subject, being fully persuaded that it is your Wish, the Officers of the Customs should be amply compensated; and that your aid in bringing forward the business before the Session is over, will not be wanting. I have the Honor to be with great respect, Sir, Your most Obedt. Servt.
RC (DLC). Addressed by Ballard. Docketed by JM.
1. Hamilton urged the House of Representatives to increase the compensation for revenue officers in his “Report on the Difficulties in the Execution of the Act Laying Duties on Distilled Spirits” of 5 Mar. An act which became law on 8 May increased the compensation to officers in many ports but for the collectors at Baltimore provided only that one-fourth of their expenses would be paid by the district naval officer (Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton, XI, 77, 104–6; U.S. Statutes at Large, I, 274–75).