General George Washington Advises Governor Clinton of the Murder
of a Van Tassel Family Member
Dr. Sir: I am extremely sorry that it is in my power to inform you, that a Captain Colson51 of the 5th Virginia Regiment a few days ago, violently wounded a Mr. Vantassel52 of this State, of which he died in a little time after. The moment I was apprized of it, I directed a Letter to be written and sent to Genl. Muhlenburg, to whose Brigade he belonged, to have him secured, in order that he might be delivered to the Civil Magistrate, in case the wound should prove mortal, as you will perceive by the inclosed copy. I have reason to believe that every exertion was used on the part of the General, to have him apprehended; but he was not able to effect it, as he kept himself out of the way, according to report, from the time he gave the wound and went off, most probably, the instant he got intelligence that Mr. Vantassel was dead. Mr. Colson is a native of Virginia, but whether he is gone there, or to some Seaport, to procure a passage to the West Indies, where it is said he has a Brother, seems to be a matter of doubt. I do not know the causes, which led to this unhappy accident; but I wish he could have been taken, that he might receive a regular and proper trial, in the ordinary course of Justice. If you shall think it requisite, I will chearfully join you in any expedient, or pursue any you may point out, to recover and put him into the hands of the civil authority.
["Mr. Van Tassel is Jno. Van Tassell, Enlisted Fourth Co., Fourth Reg,
N.Y State Line May 5, '78 and
dec'd Sep 1 '78. Source: New York in the Revolution, Berthold Fernow, Albany, N.Y. 1887, p. 214]
[Note 51: Capt. Samuel Colston (Colson). Heitman records him as retired Sept. 14, 1778.]
[Note 52: Van Tassel. His first name is blank in the index to the Clinton Papers, New York State Library.]
From: The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.