George Washington Papers

General Orders, 26 December 1777

General Orders

Head Quarters, Valley-Forge, Decr 26th 1777.

Parole: Cape-Henry.Countersigns: Cape-Cod. Cape-May.

A General Court Martial is to sit at the House of Wiley Bodles, near the provost, at nine o’clock, this morning, for the trial of all prisoners which shall be brought before them1—Colonel Scammell is appointed president of this court; and a Captain from Muhlenberg’s, 2nd Pennsylvania, Glover’s, Paterson’s, Huntington’s, & McIntosh’s brigades, and a subaltern from Weedon’s, Woodford’s, Scott’s, 1st Pennsylvania, Lea[r]neds, and Varnum’s brigades, will constitute the members of the court.

Henry McCormick Esqr: is appointed Brigade Major to the first Pennsylvania brigade, and is to be respected as such.2

It is with inexpressible grief and indignation that the General has received information of the cruel outrages and roberries lately committed by soldiers, on the other side of the Schuylkill: Were we in an enemy’s country such practices would be unwarrantable; but committed against our friends are in the highest degree base, cruel and injurious to the cause in which we are engaged—They demand therefore, and shall receive the severest punishment—Such crimes have brought reproach upon the army; and every officer and soldier suffers by the practices of such villains; and ’tis the interest, as well as duty, of every honest man to detect them, and prevent a repetition of such crimes3—The General earnestly desires the General Officers, and those commanding Corps, to represent to their men, the cruelty, baseness and wickedness, of such practices, and the injury they do the army, and the common cause—And still further, to prevent the commission of those crimes, the General positively orders.

1st—That no officer, under the degree of a Field Officer, or officer commanding a regiment, give passes to non-commissioned officers or soldiers, on any pretence whatever.

2nd—That no non-commissioned officer, or soldier, have with him, arms of any kind, unless he is on duty.

3rd—That every non-commissioned officer, or soldier, caught without the limits of the camp, not having such pass, or with his arms—shall be confined and severely punished.

4th—That the rolls of each company be called frequently, and that every evening, at different times, between the hours of eight and ten o’clock, all the men’s quarters be visited, by such officers as the Brigadiers or the Officers commanding corps, shall daily appoint, and all absentees are to be exemplarily punished.

5th—That as some of the villains complained of, have been found mounted upon waggon horses; every waggon-master, and conductor of waggons, is constantly to be near his charge, and frequently, particularly every evening and morning, to inspect his waggons, and horses, and see that neither they, nor the waggoners are missing; and if a waggoner, or any of his horses are missing, and not on duty, he is to be confined and punished.

Complaint has been made by the Surgeons of the hospitals, that the sick are often sent to them, without the lists required by the General Orders issued the 12th of November. To those orders all officers are referred for direction in this point, and for the disposition of the arms of the sick.4

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1“Wiley Bodles” was William Bodley (1746–1780), a captain since 1776 of the 5th Battalion of Chester County militia who was promoted to major in May 1779. His large stone house was located in the northeastern part of the Valley Forge encampment on the Port Kennedy Road, which ran next to the Schuylkill River from Port Kennedy to Valley Creek. The provost guard, consisting of a stone barn in which prisoners were often packed in extreme discomfort while awaiting trial (see General Orders, 30 Dec.), was directly opposite Bodley’s house on the Port Kennedy Road. For a detailed description of Bodley’s property, see sale advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), 20 Mar. 1782.

2Henry McCormick (1746–1813), an Irish native, had served as adjutant of the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment since April 1777. After the end of his tenure as brigade major of the 1st Pennsylvania Brigade, he was appointed in July 1779 to be brigade major and inspector of Anthony Wayne’s light infantry corps. McCormick’s resignation in May 1780 aroused the suspicions of GW, who believed that McCormick might have deserted to the British (see GW to Jedediah Huntington, 6 May 1780, DLC:GW). GW’s fears apparently proved groundless, however, and McCormick settled in New York after the war.

4Brig. Gen. George Weedon’s orderly book continues with a passage taken from the general orders of 12 Nov. relating to the admission of soldiers into hospitals. Following this passage is an additional order which reads: “3 Field Officers are to go down immediately and take command of 50 men each sent of in the Night of the 22d. Instant the whole are to be under the Command of Colo. Morgan Lt. Colo. Heath, Lt. Colo. Davison and Major Hull are appointed to this Duty” (Weedon’s Orderly Book description begins Valley Forge Orderly Book of General George Weedon of the Continental Army under Command of Genl George Washington, in the Campaign of 1777–8: Describing the Events of the Battles of Brandywine, Warren Tavern, Germantown, and Whitemarsh, and of the Camps at Neshaminy, Wilmington, Pennypacker’s Mills, Skippack, Whitemarsh, & Valley Forge. New York, 1902. description ends , 170).

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