George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Butler, 1 June 1782

Carlisle June 1st 1782


I with pain trouble your Excellency with the proceedings of a second sitting of the general courtmartial of which I am president by order of Brigadier General Irvine the 18th march last by Adjournments.

Your Excellency will find by the proceedings, the case of Captn William McCurdy, 1st Pennsa Regt (Arrested by Brigadr Genl Hazen on complaint of Captn Charles Asgill 1st Regt Footguards a Brritish prisoner of War) the first that came before the court at this Sitting, but want of evidence Inducd the court to defer the trial from time to time in order that the british officer might Appear with his Evidence to prosecute which was totally (& rather contemptuously) neglected till all the other prisoners were tried, the court having no other business to justify further protraction of trial were Obligd to proceed to A Conclusion.

Your Excellency will also find that Thomas Glenn Soldier in the first Pennsa Regt charged with repeated desertions is capitally convicted.

The Prisoner John Glover Soldier in the fifth Pennsa Regt which the court have recommended to your Excellency for pardon I have known to be a good Soldier in the Rifle corps & a brave man, which I think my duty to mention exclusively.

John Connor Dragoon, I think (from his former mode of life, character, person, & Apparent infirmity) totally unfit for Service, & reflects little credit on the officer that recruited him, and although he is sentenced as the law directs in his case, I beg leave to Asure your Excellency he is a greater Object of charity than fit Subject for punishment.

I am sorry to have occasion to inform you Sir that I have never met with so licentious a set of men as the Soldiery now at this post, & although the officers take every possible care, Desertion, theft, & drunkenness prevails in A most Scandalous degree, I have got them generally well cloathed, tollerably Armd, & by exercise (in which they improve fast) endeavour to keep them from mischief, but find it impossible. Punishment by garison court martial is inflicted with proper Severity, & forgiveness where it may be admited with propriety yet all Seems ineffectual—I fear now they have got their cloathes desertion will be still more prevalent than it has been as they meet encouragement from too many of the Inhabitants who Screen them & purchase their necessaries, Seven left us in two nights & our most vigilant parties can get no Acct of them, Indeed I believe Service with other troops will be the only way to correct their vices, if this cannot take place I fear Punishments of a more Exemplary nature will be indispencibly necessary, & if it can with propriety be admited one capital prompt punishment on detection of desertion may have a better effect than all the Smaller punishments in the power of inferior Courtsmartial, particularly as the length of time after conviction in Superior courtmartial before the Sentence is known decreases the tenor of the punishment.

In your Excellencys of the 17th April you was pleasd to refer the case of Harling to my final decision—With orders to Apply for A Warrant in case I found mercy could not be extended without too much prejudice to the publick Service—I had determined Against him & would have applied for the warrant for his execution as I Could find no one Argument in his favour (he having deserted twice & joind the Enemy) but he made his Excit by Sickness the 14th may.

The case of Captn McCurdy I consider to be of a very peculiar & delicate nature & Sincerily wish the Affair had been conducted in A different maner than that which Appeared to the court improper & officious on the part of general Hazen.

Your Excellency will observe they conceivd the right of the prisoner in his choice of trial Attacked, The dignity & authority of General Courtsmartial, Presumed upon, & their Veracity as officers Obliquely Struck at by insinuations which had no grounds, the whole transactions with General Hazens letters are herewith Submited to your Excellencys [candour] & they rest Sattesfied your Excellencys decision will be founded on the justest principles.

I observe by the General orders of the 17th April that all discharges are to be from Head quarters, therefore beg leave to mention to your Excellency A certain Thomas Reed Soldier of the 5th P. Regt who claims his discharge—I have not his inlistment to prove him A Soldr for the War though I think him such, he has procured three depositions of Inhabitants which I inclose—your Excellency will please decide on the matter & give Such directions as it merits.

I cannot omit mentioning a case in which I conceive myself in honor bound in behalf of Serjeant Andrew Nelson 5th P. Regt—he has Servd with great fidelity since the begining of the War, and at the mutiny of the Pennsa line his good conduct was the means of preserving the Regimental publick Stores & bagage as well as that of the chief of the Officers, on joining at Trentown he requested his discharge as a man deserving Such indulgence from his long Service & good conduct—I gave him my promise he Should have it at the close of the last campaign—he is return’d from the Southd & claims my promise which is not in my power to perform without your Excellencys concurrence. I have hopes of detaining him by persuasion, but if that Should fail I beg your Excellencys acquiescence rather than Suffer me to forfeit my Word which I have ever kept Sacredly with Soldiers in all Possible cases.

The bearer Mr Glenn is father to the unfortunate Glenn under Sentence the Solicitude of A father induces him to lay A memorial before your Excellency in behalf of his unfortunate son in whoes favour neither the courts or my self can say one word. I am Sir with great Sincerity Your Excellencys most Obedt and very Hbl. Set

Rich. Butler Col. 5th P. Regt

Presidt Genl Courtmartial

P.S. Notwithstanding many Applications to the War office & Q.M. Gls offices with returns I cannot obtain the necessary Camp Equipage for the Troops.

There Appears A Solicitude in the officers both of Artillery & Dragoons to have their Proportion of men divided from the General Stock of recruits, this I dont think my self justifiable in doing till I receive your Excellencys directions what proportions to make, therefore keep them at general duty & Exercise till you are pleasd to order the mode & proportion.

R. Butler Col.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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