To Lieutenant Colonel Adam Hubley, Jr.
Head Quarters [Valley Forge] Feby 14th 1778
I am favoured with yours of the 9th instant, accompanied by the proceedings of a General Court Martial, held by order of Major General Marquis De la Feyette.
I am sorry there happens to be an obstacle, ⟨which⟩ must necessarily delay the punishment, due to such atrocious offenders, as those who have been the subject of these proceedings, but as the constitution of the Court was irregular, I cannot, with propriety, confirm the sentences. There is no authority to appoint General Courts Martial vested in any other hands, than those of the Commander in Chief, or the Commanding General in any particular State.
I send you an order for constituting a Court, both for the trial of these criminals and of all others, that may be brought before it.1
There are, however, some mistakes in the present proceedings, which it will be necessary to rectify, in the next. Joseph Rhoad & Windle Myer, being Inhabitants, are not triable on the articles of War; but must be tried on a special resolution of Congress passed the 8th of october last and extended by another of December 29th; which are enclosed for the government of the Court.2 If it can consist of the same members, who composed the former, it will save trouble. I am Sir your most Obedt Servt
p.s. I send you herewith the proceedings of another Court Martial the sentences of which have never been approved, for the same reason of an illegal appointment. The criminals were ordered to be kept in confinement in Lancaster Jail. If sufficient testimonials can be found to proceed against them, I should wish the present Court, to enter upon their trials also.3
LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, Lafayette Papers, LaGrange, France; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
2. On 8 Oct. 1777 Congress granted GW powers until 1 Jan. 1778 to try civilians suspected of carrying supplies to the enemy and to punish those found guilty; on 30 (not 29) Dec. 1777 Congress extended his powers until 10 April 1778 (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 , 9:784, 1068). Joseph Rode died before he could be brought to trial, but Wendle Meyer was executed on 16 Mar. along with his co-conspirator Henry Mansin; see Hubley to GW, 9 Feb., n. 1.
3. The enclosure has not been found, but see Hubley’s reply of 22 February.