George Washington Papers

General Orders, 21 August 1778

General Orders

Head-Quarters W. Plains Friday Augt 21st 1778.

Parole Rotterdam—C. Signs Rumney—Riswick—

The Commander in Chief has tho’t proper to pardon the following Criminals who were under sentence of Death and to have been executed this day—Solomon Lynes, John Craige, Zechariah Ward Richard Burk, Michaël Carmen, William McLaughlin, John Jenkins, Nicholas Fitzgerald David Potter and Neil Megonigle.1

Notwithstanding the general good Character of the Criminal as a soldier, the Wounds he has received in fighting for his Country; the warm Solicitation of several respectable Officers and even the special Intercession of Captain Scott himself to whom the Injury was offered, it was with extreme difficulty the Commander in Chief could prevail with himself to pardon an Offence so attrocious as that committed by Megonigle; The least disrespect from a soldier to an Officer is criminal in an high degree & deserves severe Punishment; when it proceeds to any kind of personal Violence the offender justly merits death, but when it extends to an attempt upon the Officers life as was the Case in the present instance it, assumes a Complexon so enormous and aggravated that it wants a name, and puts the Criminal almost beyond the reach of Mercy itself—The General is happy to reflect that this is the first time an Instance of this nature has come before him—He thinks it necessary to warn every soldier that a similar one will never hereafter be forgiven, whatever may be the Character of the Offender or the Intercessions of the Officers.

Several Deserters from the Army to the Enemy who have since returned having been permitted with Impunity to join their Regiments—The General to prevent an Abuse of his Lenity by its being drawn into Precedent and made an Encouragement to others to commit the same Crime, takes occasion to declare in explicit terms that no man who shall desert to the Enemy after the Publication of this order will ever be allowed to enjoy the like Indulgence, but whether he return voluntarily himself or fall into our hands by any other means will infalliably suffer the Punishment decreed to his Crime.

Captn Lieutt Ambrose Buchanan is appointed Pay-Master to Coll Harrison’s Regiment of Artillery.2

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1A draft of the pardon, in the writings of Alexander Hamilton and Robert Hanson Harrison, is in DLC:GW. Col. Jeduthan Baldwin recorded in his journal that the prisoners were “brought out to the place of Execution” before receiving the pardon (Baldwin, Revolutionary Journal description begins Thomas Williams Baldwin, ed. The Revolutionary Journal of Col. Jeduthan Baldwin, 1775–1778. 1906. Reprint. New York, 1971. description ends , 132).

2Ambrose Bohannon (Buchanan) was a captain lieutenant in the 1st Artillery Regiment (Harrison’s) with a commission dated from 13 Jan. 1777. He served as paymaster at least into 1780 and as captain lieutenant to the end of the war.

Index Entries