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Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 5 [July] 1783

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). The misdatings of “June 5th,” both in date line and docket, were apparently corrected soon after the letter’s receipt. The letter was drafted and signed by Theodorick Bland, although he obviously was also writing on behalf of JM and John Francis Mercer, his two colleagues from Virginia then in Congress. Docketed: “Virginia Delegates Letter Theo Bland one of the Virginia Delegates, justifying the adjournment of Congress to prevent their invasion by the Mutineers. 1783 July 5th.” See Delegates to Harrison, 24 June 1783, ed. n.

Princeton June [July] 5th 1783

Sr:

Your Excellency’s favor with its enclosures reachd us at this place,1 where, you will have learnt from the Public Prints, Congress thought it both prudent and proper to adjourn on the 26th of June. The Causes which induced them to take that resolution your Excellency will find fully Explaind in the report of their Committe herewith enclosed.2 We have little doubt but that the step will meet with the General approbation of our Constituents, when it is considered what pernicious Instruments Congress might have been made in the hands of a Lawless band of Armd Desperado’s, and what fatal consequences might have ensued to the Union in General, had they remaind impotent and Passive Spectators of the most outrageous Insult to the Government, and to the Authority which is vested in them by the Federal Compact. On the part of Congress the most vigorous, and Immediate Exertions were made to preserve their Dignity and restore the Mutineers to that obedience due to Law and Government. A detachment was Immediately ordered from the Army to Suppress the Mutiny and restore order which passed by this place two days ago for Pennsylvania under the Command of Majr. Genl. Howe. we have Since heard that the Mutineers have returnd to their obedience3 but that most of the Ring leaders (among whom we are told were unhappily Six Commissd officers) have fled. the Names of the Officers who have fled are Sullivan and Carberry. those who remaind are Christie, Steel and two others,4 all of which accepted Commissions from a board of Sergeants, to compell a compliance of Govermt. with their demands at the risque of their lives.5

We have laid before Congress the Several Resolutions enclosed in Yr. Excellencys letter and also the application of Mr. Cooper the Pilot, and shall in due time inform you of the Steps which Congress may take thereon.6 we are with the most perfect respect

Yr. Excelly’s most obedt. Serts

Theok: Bland

2The eight folios enclosed in the present letter provided Harrison with copies of congressional resolutions, committee reports, letters, and instructions, dated between 19 June and 1 July 1783, relating to the mutiny. The eighth of these pages is signed, “Extract from the minutes Chas Thomson Secy.” An additional page is docketed: “Honble Mr. Bland Resolutions of Cong. & Report of Committee from June 1st to July 1st 1783. on the insult to Cong by Troops of Pensylvania belo[nging] to the Army of the U.S. June 21st.”

3JM Notes, 19 June, and nn. 6, 7; 20 June, and n. 1; 21 June, and nn. 1–7; Delegates to Harrison, 24 June; JM to Randolph, 24 June; 30 June 1783, and n. 6. After encamping his troops “within a few miles of Town,” where he deemed it “best to keep them,” General Robert Howe reached Philadelphia late in the evening of 3 July (NA: PCC, No. 38, fols. 85–87, 89–92; Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser.; 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 1st ser., X, 66; Colonial Records of Pa., XIII, 619). Although by then the mutiny was over, Howe remained there until September, taking charge of all continental troops in or near that city, of searching for the alleged mutineers who had fled, and of trying by courts-martial those who had been captured. By late in that month only a small number of those soldiers who had been detached in June under his command from Washington’s main army were still stationed in or near Philadelphia (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXVII, 42, and n. 70, 45, 47–48. 100, 114, 147, 162, 170; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 217–18; JM to Randolph, 8 July; to Jefferson, 17 July 1783).

4For Captain Henry Carbery (Carberry, Carbury) and Lieutenant John Sullivan, see JM Notes. 21 June 1783, and n. 8; NA: PCC, No. 38, fols. 119–21; No. 185, III, 70, 72; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XII, 1109; XVIII, 843; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XV, 188, and n.; XXV, 382, and n. Also accused of being implicated in the mutiny were Captain James Christie (Chrystie) (d. 1807) and Lieutenant William Houston (Huston) (d. 1834) of the 2d Pennsylvania Regiment (Heitman, Historical Register Continental description begins F. B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution (Washington, 1914). description ends , pp. 154, 303), Captain Jonas Simonds (Simons, Simmons, Symonds) (d. 1848) of the 4th Continental Artillery Regiment (Lineage Book of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, CXXXVII [1934], 159), and Captain John Steele (Steel) (1758–1827), supernumerary of the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment (Pa. Mag. of Hist. and Biog., LIII [1929], 381–82; American Historical Register and Monthly Gazette of the Patriotic-Hereditary Societies of the United States of America [5 vols.; Philadelphia, 1895–97], III, 644–49). For further information about these four officers, consult Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , index, vols. XXXVIII and XXXIX; Colonial Records of Pa., XIII, 610, 612, 658, n., 664–65, 772; Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser.; 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 1st ser., X, 135, 209; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VIII, 427, 464; XII, 1225; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 212, 223, n. A general court-martial acquitted Christie, Simonds, and Houston (NA: PCC, No. 38, fols. 105–6; No. 185, III, 77; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 565–66; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 297). Steele apparently was released from confinement without being tried.

5JM Notes, 21 June, and nn. 1, 8; Delegates to Harrison, 24 June 1783. Among the members of the “board” were Sergeants Christian Nagle (Nogle) and John Morrison of the 3d Pennsylvania Regiment, William Robinson (alias Taylor), John (?) Smith, Solomon Townsend, and Sergeant Major James Bennett of an artillery corps. Nagle and Morrison, after being condemned to death by the court-martial, petitioned Congress for mercy, strengthened their plea with endorsements from Dr. Benjamin Rush and other prominent Philadelphians, and received “a full, free and absolute pardon” from Congress on 13 September (NA: PCC, No. 38, fols. 105–6, 109, 185–87, 189–91; No. 185, III, 74, 75, 76, 77; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 509–10, 514 n., 517 n.; XXV, 565–66; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 226, 263 n., 264 n.; Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser.; 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 1st ser., X, 63, 67, 69, 72).

As for Robinson and Townsend, the “prime agents” of Captain Carbery and Lieutenant Sullivan in fomenting the mutiny, General Howe stated on 2 September in a letter to Washington that Robinson “demonstrably” had fled to Europe and that Townsend “many think has also left the Continent.” Smith also appears to have eluded capture (NA: PCC, No. 38, fols. 105–6, 119–21; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIV, 310–11; XXV, 90–91, 252). Bennett, who at the time of the mutiny had acted as secretary of the board of sergeants, goes unmentioned in the primary sources after 23 June 1783 (Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, I, 24–25, 36; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 193, n. 2).

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