George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Adam Hubley, Jr., 9 February 1778

From Lieutenant Colonel Adam Hubley, Jr.

Lancaster [Pa.] February 9th 1778.


Inclosed, I transmit to your Excellency the proceedings of a Genl Court-martial, held at this place. By order of Major Genl The Marquiss—de La Fayette.1

I must beg leave to inform your Excellency that the detection of this plot, has discovered a number of considerable persons, possess’d of Estates, chiefly Country people, near this place, who have had a hand in the Vilanous practice of purchasing Horses for the use of Genl Howes Army. Unfortunately none of them (the Condemn’d Wretches excepted) have been taken. I am in hopes (unless they are gone to their friend Howe) they will be soon taken and meet with their deserts.

I am certain some Examples will put a total stop to those vile practices, And am happy, the present Oppertunity offers of making such Examples.

Your Excellency will in your wisdom give such sanction to the proceedings of the Court as you shall think proper. I am Sir, with greatest respect your most obt hume Servt

Adm Hubley Jr Lt Cl
Prest of Ct Ma[rtia]l

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; Sprague transcript, DLC:GW.

1The proceedings of the court-martial have not been identified, but on 10 Feb., Col. George Gibson sent GW a copy of the order to convene it (see note 1 of Gibson’s letter to GW of that date). On 10 Mar. the Royal Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) printed an “Extract of a letter from Lancaster, dated Feb. 12,” apparently giving an account of this court-martial: “Last week a court-martial was held here to try a fellow which General Howe had sent out to buy horses from the tories, and to take such as belonged to the whigs. He was taken upon his return near the enemy’s lines, with a number of horses procured as aforesaid. Two others also were made prisoners, who accompanied a flag from Gen Howe, but broke off from the same some miles into the country, and were taken up as spies, and tried with the former. It is said that they are all condemned to be hanged, but the judgment is not yet made public.”

In his reply to Hubley of 14 Feb., GW reluctantly refused to confirm the verdicts of the court-martial because of doubts as to its legality. Two of the men were retried in March, however; the third, Joseph Rode, had died in custody. The results of the later trial in Lancaster were printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette (York) on 21 Mar.: “In pursuance of orders from His Excellency, the Commander in Chief, a General Court Martial was held at this place, when Henry Mansin (who confessed himself an officer in the British army) and Wendal Myer, an inhabitant of this county, were brought before the Court and charged with being spies, carrying on a traitorous correspondence, and supplying the enemy with horses, &c. The Court, after a fair and candid trial, which lasted some days, and every opportunity given to them to make their defence, found them guilty, and unanimously sentenced them to suffer death:—in consequence of which, they were on Monday last [16 Mar.] executed near this town, amidst a very numerous concourse of spectators.—The unhappy wretches, before their execution, acknowledged the justice of their sentence, and died fully convinced of the heinousness of their offence.—They have discovered several persons who aided and assisted them, but unfortunately made their escape upon the caption of these culprits, however it is hoped that justice will overtake them, and inflict the punishment due to such parricides.” Henry Mansin, a native Prussian who had immigrated to America about 1772 and held a lieutenant’s commission in the Queen’s Rangers; Joseph Rode; and Wendle Meyer provided detailed accounts of their activities in depositions taken on 2–3 Feb. (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:221–26). For other letters concerning the prisoners, see GW to George Gibson, 21 Feb., 11 Mar., Gibson to GW, 19 Mar., and Hubley to GW, 22 Feb.; see also Duane, Marshall’s Diary description begins William Duane, ed. Extracts from the Diary of Christopher Marshall, Kept in Philadelphia and Lancaster, during the American Revolution, 1774–1781. 1877. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 172.

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