George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel David Mason, 16 April 1778

To Colonel David Mason

Head Quarters Valley Forge 16th April 1778

Dear Sir

I recd yours of the 1st instant inclosing the proceeding of a General Court Martial upon John Bates and others.1 I am under the necessity of disapproving the sentences as the Court was illegally constituted, no Officer under the Rank of a Brigadier commanding in a separate state, except authorised by me, having a right to constitute a general Court Martial, as I wrote to you in my last:2 But that the Offenders may not escape the punishment due to their Crimes, I herewith inclose you a Commission empowering you to summon another Court for their trial.3 I am Dear Sir Yr most obt Servt.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Neither the letter nor its enclosure has been found. A notice by Mason offering $100 for the recapture of Bates, dated 19 April, appeared in Dixon & Hunter’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) of 24 April. Mason described Bates as “a soldier of the 6th Virginia continental regiment, who is under sentence of a general court martial to be shot for desertion, and inducing others of his fellow soldiers to the like villainous practice. He made his escape on Tuesday night last from the public jail with fetters on his legs. The said Bates is about 25 years of age, a likely fellow, rather tall. He is well known to the southward for his many base practices, and will probably attempt to reach Georgia, where he has lived for several years.” Mason also asked those who thought they had suffered from thefts by Bates and his confederates to come forward, as Bates had provided a list of his crimes. Although Bates was later captured, Mason was unable to collect enough officers for a trial (see Mason to GW, 1 July 1778). A John Bates was subsequently advertised as a deserter from the 3d Georgia Regiment on 21 Feb. 1779 (Dixon & Nicolson’s Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg], 12 Mar. 1779).

3The enclosed commission has not been identified.

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