George Washington Papers

General Orders, 31 October 1776

General Orders

Head Quarters, White-Plains, Octobr 31st 1776.

Parole: .Countersign:

The General positively forbids any person going down to the lines, and firing upon the Enemy, without an Order from a General Officer—proper scouting parties are to be kept out by each Major General, for intelligence.1

The General, in a ride he took yesterday, to reconoitre the Grounds about this way, [was] surprised and shocked to find both officers and soldiers, straggling all over the Country under one idle pretence or other, when they cannot tell the hour, or minute the Camp may be attacked, and their services indispensably necessary. He once more positively orders, that neither officer, or soldier, shall stir out of Camp without leave; the first from the Brigadier, under whom he serves, and the latter from the commanding Officer of the Corps they belong to.

The Provost Marshal is to take up all Stragglers; and it is enjoined upon all officers to seize every man, who fires his gun without leave, and to have him tied up immediately and receive 20 lashes.

The General desires that the commanding Officers of Corps will always report, their killed & wounded, to the Brigadier they belong to, who is to give an account thereof, to the Commander in Chief.

The Court-Martial whereof Genl Beall was President, having found Capt: Weisner, guilty of “Misbehaviour before the enemy in the attack on Montresor’s Island”—and ordered him to be cashiered with infamy, The General approves the sentence, and orders him to be dismissed the Army.2

Ensign Joseph Chapman having resigned his Commission, is appointed Pay-Master to Col. Varnum’s regiment.

It is with astonishment the General hears, that some officers have taken Horses, between the Enemy’s Camp and ours, and sent them into the Country for their private use: Can it be possible, that persons bearing Commissions, and fighting in such a Cause, can degrade themselves into Plunderers of horses? He hopes every officer will set his face against it, in future; and does insist that the Colonels, and commanding Officers of Regiments, immediately enquire into the matter, and report to him, who have been guilty of these practices; and that they take an Account of the Horses in their respective Encampments, and send to the Quarter-Master-General, all that are not in some public service.

Wounded men to be sent to Doctor Morgan, at the Houses about a mile from the lines, on the road to North-Castle.

Peter Buise of Col. Haslett’s regiment, convicted by a General-Court-Martial, whereof Col. Hitchcock was President of “Desertion from this Camp, and found near the Enemy’s Sentinels” is sentenced to suffer Death.

The General approves the sentence, and orders it to be executed to morrow at 11 O’Clock, on the crutch of the road which leads to Youngs and North-Castle.3

Commanding Officers of regiments are immediately to have the Arms and Ammunition of their regiments inspected—The Guns that were loaded before the rain to be discharged in Vollies; and they are acquainted that three Waggons, loaded with Ammunition, now wait about a mile on the nearest road to North-Castle, in order to serve such as are deficient.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Benjamin Trumbull, chaplain of Col. William Douglas’s regiment of Connecticut militia levies, says in his journal entry for this date: “Several Deserters come to us this Day and a Sergeant, a very Intelligible Fellow was taken. He had a Plan of the Enemies Lines and Camp; and by Accounts which seem to agree General howe had given orders for a General attack upon us this Morning but the Rain prevented” (“Trumbull Journal,” 206). For Howe’s orders of the previous night directing his army to attack the American line in three columns early this day, see Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:398–99. Heavy rains during the night and morning forced Howe to postpone the attack (see Howe to George Germain, 30 Nov., in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 12:258–64; Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:96; Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 106; Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 66; and Clinton, American Rebellion description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 52–53).

“We had reason to apprehend an attack last night, or by day-break this morning,” Gen. George Clinton writes John McKesson on this date from his post in the vicinity of Hatfield Hill. “Our lines were manned all night in consequence of this, and a most horrid night it was to lie in cold trenches. Uncovered as we are, drawn on fatigue, making redoubts, flashes [fleches], abatis and lines, and retreating from them and the little temporary huts made for our comfort before they are well finished, I fear will ultimately destroy our army without fighting. This I am sure of, that I am likely to lose more in my brigade by sickness occasioned by extra fatigue and want of covering, than in the course of an active campaign is ordinarily lost in the most severe actions. However, I would not be understood to condemn measures; they may be right for aught I know” (Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 1:399–401; see also Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 93, and Martin, Private Yankee Doodle description begins Joseph Plumb Martin. Private Yankee Doodle: Being a Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier. Edited by George F. Scheer. 1962. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 54–55). For the reason why new defensive works were needed, see Harrison to Hancock, this date, n.4.

The plan that was captured with the sergeant on this date possibly is one or both of the diagrams of the British order of battle in ICHi that are endorsed respectively in GW’s handwriting: “Order of Battle: Genl Howe. White Plns 1776” and “Generl Howes Order of Battle White plains 1776.” None of the German forces are included on either diagram.

2For an account of Capt. John Wisner’s court-martial of 30 Sept.—1 Oct. and GW’s effort to have his sentence changed to death, see General Orders, 29 Sept., n.2.

3Peter Buise, who belonged to Capt. Jonathan Caldwell’s company in Col. John Haslet’s Delaware Regiment, had been apprehended “near the advanced Lines of the Enemy” about eleven o’clock on the night of 29 October. At his trial at White Plains the next day, Buise pleaded guilty to the charge of attempted desertion, but he said that “his whole Intentions were to goe to his Wife, who was left in York City, when he marched from that Place” (general court-martial proceedings, 30 Oct., DLC:GW; see also Rau, “Smith’s Diary,” description begins Louise Rau, ed. “Sergeant John Smith’s Diary of 1776.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 20 (1933-34): 247–70. description ends 259). Buise’s execution was delayed twice, probably because of the susequent reployment of the army and preparations to meet an anticipated attack by Howe’s forces. Buise may have been put to death on 6 Nov., but no account of his execution has been found (see General Orders, 1, 4 November).

Joseph Youngs’s tavern stood at an importanct crossroads about halfway between White Plains and Tarrytown and about two miles northwest of GW’s headquarters at Miller’s house. The “crutch of the road” apparently was the fork about a mile northwest of headquarters where a road running northeast to North Castle branched off the road to Youngs’s tavern.

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