George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 7 March 1779

From George Clinton

Pokeepsie [N.Y.] March 7th 1779

Dear Sir

In Consequence of a Complaint made to me by James Hallett an Inhabitant of this State against Lieut. Colo. Holdridge I inclose your Excellency Copies of two Affidavits taken on the Subject not doubting that your Excellency will (if you can with Propriety1 interfere) give such Orders respecting the Matter as will insure to the Party complaining the Justice to which he is entitled.2 I am With the Highest Respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Servt

Geo: Clinton

LS, DLC:GW. The version of this letter that is printed in Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:620–21, apparently was taken from a draft manuscript that has not been found. It varies significantly in wording from the LS in one place; see n.1.

1The text in Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:620–21, does not include the words “with Propriety.”

2Clinton was sent a letter of 3 March from Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall in Peekskill, N.Y., stating that James Hallett “now goes up to enter a Complaint against Lieut. Colonel Holdridge for misconduct in your Government, and to procure a Commission to cruize on the Sound. He is, as far as I know, an honest sober man, and am persuaded he will obey any orders and Restrictions you may think proper to lay him under. The Evidence of his Complaint is inclosed” (Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 4:610). The evidence supporting Hallett’s complaint probably was the two affidavits that Clinton enclosed in his letter to GW, which, while unidentified, are known to have been provided by Capt. Caleb Laurence and Thomas Minor (Miner). These men apparently charged Lt. Col. Hezekiah Holdridge of the 7th Connecticut Regiment with improper seizure of the General Howe after that ship had been captured as a prize of war by Minor and Benjamin Peirce (Pearce) and put under Laurence’s care. A maritime court in Fairfield, Conn., was scheduled “to try the Justice of the Capture of the Schooner General Howe” on 16 March (Connecticut Journal [New Haven], 3 March).

In response to Hallett’s complaint against Holdridge, GW ordered Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam to arrange a court-martial for that officer, which met at Camp Redding, Conn., in April and acquitted Holdridge on all charges (see GW to Clinton, 12 March, and to Israel Putnam, 13 March, and General Orders, 2 May; see also Samuel Holden Parsons to GW, 25 April, DLC:GW; and GW to Parsons, 1 May, CtY: Franklin Papers).

James Hallett, although a native of Long Island, had served as a second lieutenant in the New Jersey militia from December 1775 until joining the 4th New Jersey Regiment with the same rank in November 1776. He was promoted to first lieutenant in February 1777 and then apparently resigned from the army because the New Jersey assembly had omitted him from the list of captains after he had enlisted eighty-two men and spent $1,200 raising a company. Hallett’s claims appear in an undated petition to Congress in which he requested proper rank or reimbursement. Congress read his petition on 1 Oct. 1777 but took no further action (see DNA:PCC, item 41; 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 , 8:757). In April 1778, Hallett took an oath of allegiance to Great Britain in New York City, but afterwards secured the position of chaplain on the Continental frigate Confederacy until the summer of 1779, when the Board of War detained him at the urging of Elias Boudinot, commissary of prisoners. Hallett was then sent to GW for transfer to the jurisdiction of New York, where it was thought he would be prosecuted for crimes against that state. For further details on Hallett, see Boudinot to GW, 19 May 1779; GW to Hallett, 22 July; Timothy Pickering to GW, 31 Aug., as well as the two enclosures to that document; and GW to Clinton, 7 Sept. (all in DLC:GW).

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