George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant General Cornwallis, 2 June 1777

To Lieutenant General Cornwallis

Camp at Middle Brook June 2d 1777

My Lord,

It is with infinite regret, I am again compelled, to remonstrate against that spirit of wanton cruelty, that has in several instances influenced the conduct of your soldiery. A recent exercise of it towards an unhapp⟨y⟩ officer of ours—Lieutenant Martin—convinces me, that my former representations on that subject, have been unavailing. That Gentleman, by the fortune of war, on saturday last, was thrown into the hands of a party of your horse, and unnecessarily murdered with the most aggravated circumstances of barbarity. I wish not to wound your lordship’s feelings by commenting on this event, but I think it my duty to send his mangled body, to your lines, as an undeniable testimony of the fact, should it be doubted, and as the best appeal to your humanity for the justice of our complaint.1 I have the honor to be, with due respect, Your Lordship’s Most obedient servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, PPRF; Df, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 13–15 June, DNA:PCC, item 152; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1William Martin (d. 1777), a first lieutenant in Col. Oliver Spencer’s Additional Continental Regiment, was killed in a skirmish near Bound Brook on 31 May. An unnamed American correspondent writing from Middlebrook on 7 June says: “A few days ago we sent out a scouting party, from which a Lieutenant Martin with ten men was detached as an advanced scout, who soon fell in with, and engaged a party of Hessians and British light horse, fifteen in number. At the first fire, he killed the commander of the gang; but they spurring up, our men gave way, and left the Lieutenant on the field, who was soon surrounded, and, although calling out for quarters, was butchered with the greatest cruelty; seventeen wounds were plain to be seen, most of which, it is said, were sufficient singly to prove mortal; the body, with a flag, was sent to go into the enemy; but they would not receive it; the letter they did, and promised to answer it in a few days. The answer I have not heard of since” (Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], 12 June 1777; see also Lydenberg, Robertson’s 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 , 135). Martin, who had been commissioned a second lieutenant in the 3d New York Regiment in June 1775 and a first lieutenant in Col. John Nicolson’s New York regiment in March 1776, became a first lieutenant in Spencer’s regiment on 10 Feb. 1777.

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