George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 25 September 1779

From Major General Horatio Gates

Providence, September 25th 1779


Your Excellency will find in this Packet, the Proceedings of a General Court-Martial held at Providence, upon the Trial of John Millimon, a Soldier in Colonel Angell’s Regiment, sentenced to be shot for Mutiny.1 I have hitherto suspended the Execution, for the undermentioned Reasons, and upon sundry Petitions and Applications, particularly upon one from his Excellency the Governor, and a Committee of the Council of this State. I have since received the inclosed Letter from the Field Officers of the Regiment.2

Reasons for suspending the Execution of John Millimon.

1st The principal Cause of the Mutiny in this Corps was, their State’s delaying to supply the Regiment with such State Stores as they solemnly engaged, and repeatedly promised to the Men.

2ndly The Officers have divided amongst themselves a Quantity of State Stores, of which the Men had no Part, as appears on the Face of the Proceedings, the Officers thinking the Quantity insufficient to be shared with the Men. When Soldiers feel, they do not reason. Those of Colonel Angell’s Regiment saw their Officers supplied; and they were not. The trifling Quantity issued by their State Commissary aggravated their Sufferings, and exasperated them the more.

3rdly The Prisoner has the best of Characters for Bravery, and good Conduct in every Action; is but Nineteen Years of Age, very illiterate, and has no more than Three Months to serve.

I am conscious, Sir, that Discipline is the Soul of an Army; but a Soldiery, composed of Freemen, armed in the Defence of their natural Rights, should not be treated with that cruel Severity, so often, and so wantonly practiced in Royal Armies.

Persuaded that your Excellency’s Wisdom will suggest to you the Determination which shall be most favourable to Equity, and the Support of Discipline, I shall wait for your Orders.3 I have the Honour to be with great Respect, Sir, Your Excellency’s, Most obedient humble Servant

Horatio Gates

DfS, NHi: Gates Papers.

1The enclosure has not been identified, but it probably was the document with the proceedings of the court-martial that tried George Milliman—dated 4 Aug. and signed by Col. Henry Jackson—that is in NHi:Gates Papers.

George MIlliman (Millimon; c.1759-1832) enlisted as a private in the 2d Rhode Island Regiment in May 1777. He was not executed, but he was held as a prisoner at Providence until March 1780, at which point he deserted. Milliman then apparently made his way to the Vermont territory of New York, where he served as a lieutenant from 1781 to 1783 in Nicholas Sharp’s company of Col. John Abbot’s Vermont militia regiment. Milliman later resided in Hoosick, New York.

2The enclosed copy of the letter from Col. Israel Angell, Lt. Col. Jeremiah Olney, and Maj. Simeon Thayer has not been identified. In their letter to Gates, dated 20 Aug. at “Camp Barbors Height,” requesting that the execution of Milliman go forward as a deterrent to future mutinies, the officers advised Gates that “the banefull Spirit of Sedition Still Survives in the Regmt” and would not be eradicated “but by some Sevear & timely Example, Such as disciplin & the Strictest Justice will Support” (Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends ).

4Declaring that Gates was “fully authorized” to judge the case, GW declined to involve himself in the decision of Milliman’s fate (see GW to Gates, 2 Oct.).

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