George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Robertson, 1 May 1782

New York 1st May 1782.


A Commission from the King appointing me Commander in Chief of his forces in this country having arrived by a late conveyance—I make it one of my first cares, to convince you of my wish to carry on the war agreeable to the rules which humanity formed and the example of the politest nations recommends—I make this declaration of my resolution, in hope that I may find a similar inclination in you.

To effectuate this, Let us agree to prevent or punish every breach of the rules of war within the spheres of our Commands.

The papers accompanying this will show that many acts of Barbarity have been committed—Some of them you may not have heard of, of some I hear with satisfaction, you have declared your obhorence—These have been put into my hands as vindications of a late enormity complained of by you.

I can by no means admit the inference—Nothing but the utmost necessity can justify retaliation, and if this cruel dangerous measure, was to be trusted in the hands of incensed men—universal horror and Barbarity would ensue.

A Court Martial is appointed to try the person you complain of and all his abettors in the death of Huddy, by Sir Henry Clinton, who had taken measures for this, before he received any letter from you on the subject.

These papers will afford you opportunities in like manner of vindicating the rights of humanity and of punishing the insult offered to your command by perpetrators of Cruelties.

I find that Mr Hetfield and Mr Badgely, tho under the protection of a flag of truce—have been taken prisoners at Elizabethtown, where they were by the direction of your Commissary of Prisoners, on unjustifyable pretences.

As the first proof that you accept the proposal I make to join you in preventing every infraction of the rules of war—I desire you will be pleased to order these men to be sent back to Staten Island—every request of yours to me founded on this principle will most readily be complied with. I have the honor to be, Sir, Your Excellency’s Most Obedient and Most humble Servant

James Robertson

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


26 April 1782

City of New York ss William Mullock being sworn deposeth and saith that in the Month of July 1777 this Deponent Daniel Current, Isaac Alyay, Jacob Day who is since dead and Ebenezer Jones were brought before Willm Alexander commonly called Lord Sterling a Major General in the Rebel Service who was then at Peeks kill, in the County of Westchester being apprehended by the Continental Troops—upon being first brought before him—He asked who are these fellows, being answered that they were Prisoners he turned to us and called us Damned Rascals they shall every one be hanged, and pointing to the said Danl Current said you shall be hanged first, see him kicking on the tree which he immediately without any tryal, or examination whatever ordered his Aid de Camp to put in Execution and followed himself to see it done, and stood under the tree during the whole transaction—This deponent further saith, that said Current was never examined nor even allowed to say any thing in his defence, and when he attempted it, was interrupted by Sterling, who called him a damn’d Rascal and that if any examination or trial had taken place this deponent would have known it as he was with him during the whole time, soon after his capture untill the execution and this deponent verily believes that the whole space of Time from their being first brought before Sterling to the time of the Execution was not more than half an hour & further said not

Wm Mullock

Sworn this 26th day of April 1782

Before me Wm Waddell Justice


27 April 1782

City of New York ss Isaac Alyay being duly sworn deposeth and saith, that in the Month of July 1777, he was apprehended by the Rebels, in company with Daniel Current William Mullock, Jacob Day and   Jones and were brought before Lord Sterling who was then at Peeks kill and a Major General in the Rebel Service, that Sterling without any trial, or the smallest examination, ordered the said Current to be hanged on a locust tree, that was adjoining the House where he kept his Quarters which Order was instantly obeyed, Sterling himself standing by and directing the execution—And this deponent further saith, that he was with said Current during the whole time from his Capture to the Execution above mentioned, & that if there had been a tryal of an Examination, he must have known it, and that when Current was carried out to meet his fate, he importuned Sterling with the greatest intreaties to allow him a Clergyman and a little time to prepare for so great a Change, which Sterling Refused, he then intreated only for time to say his Prayers, which was also Refused, Sterling ordering him to be instantly hung up—And this deponent further saith that the Rope being either tied too loose or streching occasioned the said Current to fall on the ground, where he was suffered to lye untill he came to his Senses again. Current than repeated his Solicitations with great earnestness for time and a Minister, which was Refused him by Sterling who again directed him to Mount the Cart and he was accordingly executed, Current denying during the whole time, and in all his conversations, that he was a Spy, and that he came out of the British Lines only to see his Wife and Child, then in the Country—And further this deponent saith not

Isaac Alyay

Sworn this 27th day of April 1782

Before me Wm Wadell Justice


27 April 1782

Aaron White a Loyalist from Monmouth, deposeth and saith—That on Saturday the 30th day of March he was laying [too] off Long Branch in a Schooner, waiting for Philip White & Moses [Foe], that were landed there the day before. That this deponent saw them engaged with a party of the Rebel horse, that he instantly landed and went to their assistance, That Hendrickson, one of the Rebel Horse was killed, and that they were in pursuit of the others—when the Rebels were Reinforced by a considerable party of Horse, that this deponent with the others fled in their turn and endeavoured to make their escape by getting into Swamps, that this deponent was the first taken prisoner, when George Brinley one of the Rebel Horse came up to him and swore they would put him to Death unless they caught Philip White or Moses [Foe] they soon after took Phil. White, when the said George Brindley came up to him and told him he wou’d be damned if he should go alive to Freehold—Moses Foe fortunately escaped being taken, that they were carried under Guard to Colts neck, (this deponent in the Waggon with Hendricksons Corps—and P. White on Horse back at the tail of the Waggon) about 12 Miles from the place they were first taken at—and there halted untill the Commanding Officer with the remainder of the Horse came up. That they were here, threatened and Abused, and Philip White frequently observed to this deponent that the Rebels wou’d murder him, before they got to Freehold, that this deponent was hurried in the Waggon, That Philip Whites Guard was changed and that John North John Russel and Willm Burden took charge of him, and kept him far in the Rear—That this deponent then verily believed from the Rebels changing P. Whites Guard—from George Brinleys declaring he shou’d not go alive to Freehold from their frequent other declarations to this purport, and from their keeping him at such a distance in the Rear, that they intended murdering him—This deponent further saith that David Rhea and George Brinley stopt with the Waggons in which he was a Prisoner when the main body of the Horse passed the Waggon—That they frequently looked back and exclaimed that P. White was making his escape—That after several of these declarations they run their Horses back to the Guard in the Rear—soon Returned and said P. White was killed—This deponent reply’d you are Joaking—they replied no by God he was Killed—And asked this deponent if he did not see him endeavor to make his escape, his own safety occasioned his acquiesing—That this deponent was confined in Freehold Goal—That Robert Clayton one of the Rebel horse, and the very person who first had charge of Philip White, told this deponent if they had not Removed him from out of his charge, he would have brought him safe to Freehold—that Moses Mount, another of the Rebel horse informed this deponent, that if Hendrickson had not been killed, White would not have been Murdered and this deponent further saith, that during his confinement Genl David Forman came to him and wanted him to make Oath that Philip White was making his escape when Killed—That he told Genl Forman that he never saw him endeavor to make his escape, and that he wou’d suffer death before he would make such an oath—Forman than asked him if he had not confessed to the Guard, that he saw him running when killed—he replyed that he had acknowledged it, from apprehension that he would have been Murdered himself did he not acknowledge it—And this deponent further saith that General Forman Qualified him relative to the time they left new York, when & when they landed, the Circumstances of the Engagement with the Horse—and the manner of their being taken—That he never Read the affidavit—and that no more of it was Read, to this deponent than what Related to the above circumstances And this deponent further saith that after his escape from Freehold Goal—he saw several of his Friends who all informed him that Philip White was designedly most inhumanly and Savagely Murdered which this deponent verily believes to be true.

Aaron White

Sworn this 27th day of April 1782

Before Me Wm Waddell Justice

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