George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Nathanael Greene, 10 September 1775

From Brigadier General Nathanael Greene

8 oClock Prospect Hill [Mass.] Sept. 10. 1775

This moment reported me from the Whitehouse Guard that a deserter had made his escape into Bunker Hill—Two Centries fird at him but he made his escape I believe unhurt—As it is uncertain who it is or what he is I have thought proper to alter the Parole & Countersign for these Guards which if your Excellency Approves youl please to signify it at the return of the Sergeant—If this deserter has carried in the Countersign they may easily convey it over to Roxbury—it would [be] a pretty Advantage for a partisan frolick[.] The Rifflers seems very sulky and I am informd threatens to rescue their mates to night, but little is to be feard from them as the Regiment are all ready at a moments warning to turn out—and the Guards very Strong[.]1 I am with due defference your Excellencys most Obedient humble servant

N. Greene

Parole Coventry Countersign Germany

ALS, MHi: Artemas Ward Papers.

1The trouble occurred among Col. William Thompson’s Pennsylvania riflemen. “They had twice before broken open our guard-house and released their companions who were confined there for small crimes,” Jesse Lukens wrote on 13 Sept., “and once when an offender was brought to the post to be whipped, it was with the utmost difficulty they were kept from rescuing him in the presence of all their officers. They openly damned them, and behaved with great insolence. However the colonel was pleased to pardon the man, and all remained quiet; but on Sunday last [10 Sept.] the adjutant [Lt. David Ziegler] having confined a sergeant for neglect of duty and murmuring, the men began again, and threatened to take him out. The adjutant being a man of spirit, seized the principal mutineer and put him in also, and coming to report the matter to the colonel where we were all sitting after dinner, were alarmed with a huzzaing, and, upon going out, found they had broken open the guard-house and taken the man out. The colonel and lieutenant-colonel [Edward Hand], with several officers and friends, seized the fellow from amongst them, and ordered a guard to take him to Cambridge to the main guard, which was done without any violent opposition, but in about twenty minutes thirty-two of Capt. [James] Ross’ company, with their loaded rifles, swore by God they would go to the main guard and release the man or lose their lives, and set off as hard as they could run. It was in vain to attempt stopping them. We stayed in camp and kept the others quiet. Sent word to Gen. Washington, who reinforced the guard to five hundred men with fixed bayonets and loaded pieces. Col. [Daniel] Hitchcock’s regiment, (being the one next to us,) was ordered under arms, and some of Gen. Greene’s brigade, (as the generals were determined to subdue by force the mutineers, and did not know how far it might spread in our battalion.) Genls. Washington, Lee, and Greene came immediately, and our thirty-two mutineers who had gone about a half a mile towards Cambridge and taken possession of a hill and woods, beginning to be frighted at their proceedings, were not so hardened, but upon the General’s ordering them to ground their arms they did it immediately. The General then ordered another of our companies, Capt. [George] Nagel’s, to surround them with their loaded guns, which was immediately done, and did the company great honor. However, to convince our people (as I suppose, mind,) that it did not altogether depend upon themselves, he ordered part of Col. Hitchcock’s and Col. [Moses] Little’s regiments to surround them with their bayonets fixed, and ordered two of the ringleaders to be bound. I was glad to find our men all true and ready to do their duty except these thirty-two rascals. Twenty-six were conveyed to the quarter-guard on Prospect Hill, and six of the principals to the main guard. You cannot conceive what disgrace we are all in, and how much the General is chagrined that only one regiment should come from the South, and that set so infamous an example” (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 10:8–10). Lukens was a gentleman volunteer with the Pennsylvania riflemen. For the punishment of the mutineers, see General Orders, 11 and 13 Sept. 1775.

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