George Washington Papers

General Orders, 31 August 1778

General Orders

Head-Quarters W. Plains Monday Augt 31st 1778.

Parole Leonidas—C. Signs Liberty. Law.

A board of Field-Officers to sit this afternoon in General Poor’s Brigade to settle the relative Rank of the Majors and Captains in said Brigade; Colonels Hazen, Scammell & Cilley will compose the Court; One Officer at least from each Regiment to attend the board.

General Poor will appoint a Captain from each Regiment and a Field Officer as President to settle the relative rank of the subalterns.

At a Brigade General Court Martial Augt 22nd 1778—Coll Greaton President—Lieutt Welch of Coll Putnam’s Regiment was tried for challenging Captain Barns to fight a Duel and for insulting and abusive language offered to him (Captain Barns) found guilty of the Charge exhibited against him & sentenced to be cashiered.1

The Commander in Chief is not fully satisfied that Lieutt Welch’s behaviour to Captain Barns amounted to a challenge in the sense intended by the Articles of War, nevertheless his conduct was highly culpable & merited a sentence similar to that passed by the Court.

The indecent heat and fury with which he acted and the Insult and Abuse given to Captain Barns which appeared to have been unprovoked are certainly a high Impeachment of his Discretion—Nevertheless the good Character, the General has heard of him as an Officer induces Him to restore Lieutt Welch to his command.

At another Brigade General Court-Martial August 20th—Major Lee President, Captn Ewell of the 1st Virginia State Regiment was tried—1st “For embezzling money the property of several soldiers” and 2ndly “For Embezzling Cloathing belonging to the Public”—acquitted of the 1st charge but found guilty of the 2nd—and sentenced to be reprimanded in General orders. The General disapproves the sentence; For if Captain Ewell was guilty of the Charge of embezling public Cloathing, the sentence is entirely inadequate to the offence; if he was not guilty he ought to have been acquitted—He is to be released from his Arrest.2

The Regimental Surgeons are to be supplied with Paper by the Brigade Qr Masters.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

On this date GW’s secretary James McHenry wrote Assistant Quartermaster General Charles Pettit: “Circumstances have since appeared which makes some alteration necessary in the measures mentioned by his Excellency’s orders in my letter of the 29th Instant.

“In case the public boats are not removed from Norwalk they may be continued there and all belonging to individuals discharged” (DLC:GW).

1Peter Welsh (d. 1831), formerly a sergeant in Col. John Mansfield’s Massachusetts Regiment and the 27th Continental Regiment, was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 5th Massachusetts Regiment in January 1777. He resigned on 30 April 1780.

2In February 1777 John Lee, who had served as a captain in the Virginia marines in 1776, was issued a commission, dated 1 Jan. 1777, as a captain in the 1st Virginia State Regiment. He was commissioned a major of the 2d Virginia State Regiment in February 1778 and served until 1782. Thomas W. Ewell was commissioned a captain of the 1st Virginia State Regiment in January 1777 and served into 1781. Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall’s orderly book includes an additional paragraph at this point: “At a 3d Brigade General Court Martial August 30th, Lt Colonel Ford President, Lt James Ewen [Ewing], of the 2d Maryland Regiment was tried for insolent & abusive Language & acquitted” (NHi; see also Artillery Brigade orderly book, NHi).

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