To Lieutenant Colonel Morgan Connor
Hd Qrs V[alley] f[orge] May 12th 1778
I have duly received your two favours of the 25th of April1 and 6th of May, with the inclosed proceedings of two General Courts Martial held by order of the Board of War.
With respect to Boyer, his trial does not appear to have been regular; The resolution of Congress empowering the Board of War to appoint Courts Martial extends only to those persons and cases, cognizable by the rules and articles of war; whereas the present trial is founded on a special resolve of the 27th of february, which is no part of those rules and articles.2 Had the circumstances of Boyers case been such as to require rigor and punishment—it would be necessary for me to constitute another Court Martial—But the extreme stupidity, if it may not rather be called, phrenzy, of the man having very properly induced the Court to recommend him to mercy, a second trial of the matter appears to be useless. You will therefore be pleased to have him released from confinement.
I approve the sentences respecting Lt Armstrong and Cornet Rushworm, and desire they may be carried into execution; the former cashiered and discharged from service, the latter acquitted and released from arrest.3 I am Sir Your very hum. &c.
Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
1. This letter has not been found, but a copy in DLC:GW of a congressional resolution of 17 April empowering the Board of War to appoint courts-martial is docketed “sent in Letter 25 April from Colo. Connor” (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:362).
2. The court-martial proceedings of Boyer, which have not been identified, apparently were contained in Connor’s missing letter of 25 April. Congress had resolved on 17 April “That the Board of War be empowered to order and appoint general courts martial as often as occasion requires, for trying officers and others under arrest, agreeably to the rules and articles of war, in the place where Congress may sit, and that the said courts report their proceedings to the Commander in Chief” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:362). The “special resolve” of 27 February stipulated that Loyalists who captured—or helped the British to capture—American citizens would “suffer death by the judgment of a court martial, as a traitor, assassin, and spy, if the offence be committed within seventy miles of the head quarters of the grand or other armies of these states, where a general officer commands” (ibid., 10:204–5).
3. James Armstrong, who had been appointed a cornet in the 3d company of North Carolina Light Horse in April 1776 and served as a lieutenant in the North Carolina Dragoons after October 1777, had been found guilty of drunkenness, rioting, and granting excessive furloughs. William Rushworm, who served from April to June 1777 as a second lieutenant in the 3d North Carolina Regiment and subsequently became a cornet in the North Carolina Dragoons, had been accused of drunkenness and ungentlemanly behavior.