To John Hancock
New York Augt 12th 1776
This will be handed you by Colo. Campbell from the Northern Army, whom the Inclosed Letter and proceedings of a Genl Court Martial will shew to have been in arrest and tried for Sundry matters charged against him.1 As the Court Martial was by Order of the Commander in that department—the Facts committed there—the Trial there, I am much at a loss to know Why the proceedings were referred to me to approve or disapprove. As my Interfering in the matter would carry much Impropriety with It, and shew a want of regard to the Rules and practice in such Instances, and as Colo. Campbell is going to Philadelphia—I have submitted the Whole of the proceedings to the consideration of Congress for their decision upon his case, perfectly convinced that such determination will be had therein as will be right and Just.2 I have the Honor to be Sir Yr Most Obedt Sert
LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, NPee.
1. GW enclosed the LS that Horatio Gates wrote him on 21 July. “Upon my Arrival at Crown point with General Schuyler,” Gates says, “I found Colonel [Donald] Campbell, the Quarter Master General in this Department, in Arrest by Order of Brigadier General Sullivan. the day I left Crown point a Court Martial was Order’d for the Trial of Colonel Campbell, which General Arnold has Transmitted me, & which I have now the Honour to Inclose to your Excellency. Genl Schuyler being at the German Flatts upon the Mohock [Mohawk] River, at an Indian Treaty, & Col. Campbell being Order’d down the Country to settle his Accounts with The Congress, I thought it best to send your Excellency the Court Martial, it not being in my power to Approve, or disapprove the proceedings; General Sullivan, who is probably at New York, knows the circumstances, & the reasons that Induced him to confine Col: Campbell to whom I beg leave to refer your Excellency. I shall write to your Excellency this day, or tomorrow upon the State of Affairs here, as it is uncertain when Col. Campbell may get to New York I think it better to send my Dispatches by Express” (DNA:PCC, item 152; a copy is in DNA:PCC, item 169). The enclosed court-martial proceedings have not been identified. For a discussion of Campbell’s case, see Schuyler to GW, 1 July 1776, n.4.
2. Congress read this letter and its enclosures on 19 Aug. and promptly resolved that “the proceedings and judgment of the court martial against Colonel Campbell, be sent to General Schuyler for his approbation or disapprobation” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 5:667). On 16 Oct. 1776 Congress approved a similar resolution, asking the commanding officer of the northern department to approve or disapprove the sentence of the court-martial (ibid., 6:882). Apparently receiving no answer to either request, Congress on 11 Jan. 1777 took the opportunity of General Gates’s presence in Baltimore, where the delegates were then meeting, to ask him to decide the matter. Gates wrote Hancock the next day that in his opinion Campbell “does not deserve to be cashiered for the crime adduc’d against him in the general court martial” (DNA:PCC, item 154; see also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 7:29; Schuyler to Hancock, 30 Oct. 1776, DNA:PCC, item 153, and Campbell’s memorials to Congress, 14 Oct. and 10 Dec. 1776, DNA:PCC, items 41 and 78). Congress accepted Gates’s decision, and on 13 Feb. 1777 it resolved that Campbell “be continued in his former pay and rank” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 7:45, 114). Campbell did not return to active duty, however.