George Washington Papers

General Orders, 7 October 1776

General Orders

Head Quarters, Herlem Heights, Octob: 7th 1776

Parole: Countersign: 1

Capt: William McWilliams, of the 3rd Virginia Regiment is to do the duty of Brigade Major in Col. Weedon’s Brigade, ’till further orders.2

Representation having been made to the General, that numbers of the Picquet Guard are absent from their Posts, under pretence of fetching provisions, and water; He positively orders, that every man (as well Officers, as Soldiers) shall carry provisions with, or have it brought to them at their posts, by their Messmates; as the safety of the Army depends too much on their diligence and attention, to admit of such practices—It is moreover expected of the Officer commanding the Picquet, that he does not, under any pretence whatever, suffer the men to straggle from their respective Posts, without they are sent upon scouting parties by himself; But always to have them in readiness to give such effectual opposition, as to allow time to the line to turn out; which being the end and design of Guards, is defeated if the men, who mount, are not in a posture to give instant opposition.

The Quarter Master General is immediately to provide twenty Wood-Axes, for the Picquet Guards, in front of our lines; When provided, he is to deliver them to the Officer commanding the Picquet, who is to see that they are delivered over to the officer relieving, and so from one to the other—the Officer failing will be answerble—These Axes are intended for the purpose of providing Wood, and erecting Hutts for the Guards, which last ought not to be delayed.

The Brigadiers, and Officers commanding Regiments, are to prevent the irregular and promiscuous placing of Hutts, and to see that they are built in such a manner, as to stand the weather and weight of Snow, which may lodge on them, that no accident may befal the men.

Serjt George Douglass of Capt: Fosters Company, late McDougall’s Regiment, being convicted by a General Court Martial whereof Col. Weedon is president of “Embezelling and selling provisions, belonging to the Company”—is sentenced to be reduced to the Ranks, and whipped 39 Lashes—to be continued under Provost-Guard for “Mutinous Speeches and disrespectful language of the Commander in Chief”3—George Harris of Capt: Howell’s Company, Col. Wind’s Regiment tried by the same Court Martial, and convicted of “Desertion”—is ordered to be whipped 39 Lashes.4

The General approves the above sentences, and the Provost Marshall is to see the sentence on Harris, executed to morrow morning at Guard mounting.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1“Williams’ Diary,” description begins “Elisha Williams’ Diary of 1776.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 48 (1924): 334–53; 49 (1925): 44–60. description ends 49:50, gives the parole for this date as “Chester” and the countersign as “Newtown.”

2William McWilliams (1751–1799) of Spotsylvania County, Va., had been commissioned a captain in the 3d Virginia Regiment in February 1776, and prior to this day’s appointment, he had served as regimental adjutant. McWilliams was an aide-de-camp to Lord Stirling from October 1777 to May 1778 when he resigned from the army (see General Orders, 7 May 1778). In July 1780 McWilliams became a major in the Spotsylvania County militia, and in August 1781 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

3Douglass, who had been acquitted of mutiny and sedition in July (see General Orders, 7 July 1776), was convicted on 6 Oct. of stealing and selling flour drawn for some of the men of his company (see the proceedings of the general court-martial, that date, DLC:GW). For Douglass’s trial on the second charge against him, see General Orders, 8 October. Douglass’s company was commanded by William A. Forbes, who entered Col. Alexander McDougall’s 1st New York Regiment as a captain-lieutenant and was promoted to captain on 10 Aug. 1776.

4George Harris, a private in the 1st New Jersey Regiment, confessed at his trial on this day “that he deserted from the Regiment last May when the Regiment was at Albany, & about three Weeks ago was taken up at Brunswick & sent a Prisoner to the Camp at Haerlem” (proceedings of the general court-martial, 7 Oct., DLC:GW). Silas Howell (1746–1812) of Sussex County, N.J., served as captain of the 1st New Jersey Regiment from 14 Nov. 1775 until his resignation on 26 Sept. 1780.

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