George Washington Papers

General Orders, 2 May 1779

General Orders

Head-Quarters Middle-Brook Sunday May 2nd 1779

Parole Ratisbon—C. Signs Roer Rye.

At a division General Court-Martial held at Reading April 1779—by order of Major General Putnam, Colonel Bradley President— Lieutenant Colonel Holdridge was tried for “Taking the Schooner (called General Howe) from Captn Caleb Laurence left in his care by Thomas Miner and Benjamin Pearce who brought her from the enemy laden with sundry articles, and holding the abovesaid Miner and Pearce under guard ’till they would consent to sell their shares of the above-Schooner at the price offered, and in consequence thereof converting some part of the abovesaid Schooner and goods to his own profit.”

The court having considered the evidence are of opinion that the taking and removing the Schooner from Byram river was an act of prudence and good conduct in Lieutenant Colonel Holdridge, whoever the claimers or right owners were—The other matters alledged the court are of opinion they are not proved and supported, and thereupon give judgment that Lieutt Colo. Holdridge is not guilty & that he be acquitted from the charge.

Lieutenant Colonel Holdridge is released from his arrest.1 At the same Court Serjeant Gray of Colonel Bradley’s regiment was tried for, “Deserting to the enemy and inlisting with them, stealing a dragoon horse & carrying him to the enemy.” The Court taking into consideration the crime of which Gray the Prisoner is guilty do sentence him to be shot to death; but at the same time considering his excuse of being destitute of the use of his reason at the time he committed the crime, and that he took the first opportunity to return, and from the information of some respectable inhabitants of his acquaintance that the prisoner has been subject to turns of delirium, or insanity of mind, & also the offer of his brother to indemnify the public for the loss of the Light Dragoon horse; The Court do unanimously recommend the Prisoner Gray to the General for his Mercy and Pardon as being more particularly at this time consonant with the pardon offered by His Excellency General Washington to deserters.

His Excellency the Commander in Chief is pleased to remit the sentence of death against Gray and order his release from confinement.2

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Adj. Gen. Alexander Scammell’s orderly book entry for this date includes the following additional general orders: “A Sub—Serjt Corpl & 20 privates from the Virginia Line furnishd with three Days provisions to be send to relieve the Baron Steuben’s Guard Tomorrow Morning” (orderly book, 22 Dec. 1778–26 June 1779, DNA: RG 93, Orderly Books, 1775–1783, vol. 28).

A general review of the army took place on this date to celebrate the arrival in camp of Conrad-Alexandre Gérard, the French minister to the United States, and Juan de Miralles, the Spanish agent to the United States (for their arrival and discussions with GW, see GW to Gérard, 1 May, and source note). Preparations for the review began as early as 27 April, when Alexander Hamilton wrote to Brig. Gen. William Smallwood on GW’s behalf: “By his Excellency’s order, I am to inform you that you are to take the command of the four batalions appointed to manœuvre in presence of the French Minister. I inclose you the manœuvres which are to be performed. If there should be any thing in them which requires explanation (though I imagine you will find them pretty clear) The Baron De Steuben will with pleasure give the explanation, if you think proper to apply to him—The Batalions must practice these manœuv[re]s tomorrow, and the next day if we have time. Col. Fleury, I dare say, will be glad to assist in the execution of your orders upon this occasion” (DLC:GW).

The order of maneuvers that Hamilton enclosed to Smallwood along with some diagrams reads: “La Brigade qui doit Maneuvrer pour L’Envoyes de france, se forme en Parade.

“A son approche L’artillerie tire 13 Coup de Canons, quand il arrive sur l’aile droite Les Battaillions presentent les Armes, les Tambours battent La Marche—et les Officiers et Tambours saluent.

“Quand L’Ambassadeur et le General se trouvent Vers le Centre les Battailions se forment en Battaille, et commence Le feu dans L’ordre suivante deux feu de Plotons et chacque piece de Canons deux Coup: deux feu de Division et deux decharges des Canons: Deux feu de Battaillion et Deux decharge de Canons.

“La ligne Avance a 150 pas.

“Charge avec la Bayonnette pas redoublé Halt: Deux feu de Battaillion et Deux decharges de Canons.

“La Ligne fait la retraite en Echequier le 2 et 4 Battaillion se retire, le premier et 3 fait deux decharges par ploton et les Canons de ces battaillion deux decharge quand le 2 et 4 Battaillion a fait face le 1. et 3 se retire et decequils ont passé les Battaillion 2 et 4, Ceux cy font la decharge deux fois par ploton et leurs Cannons de meme les Battaillions 2 et 4 se retirent de rechef et rentre dans les intervalles en S’allignens avec 1 et 3. et toute la Ligne fait La decharge 1 fois par plotons.

“La Brigade se forme en quatre Collonne serré avance dans Le point de Vue, chacque Collonne se deploie par la gauche et fait une decharge par ploton, et les Cannons de meme une decharge.

“Toute La Ligne se rompe par ploton par la droite forme deux Collonne; deploi par la gauche et se forme en deux ligne sans faire feu.

“La Brigade fait le passage de Ligne; Rompe ensuite par ploton par la Gauche serre la Collonne se deploi, se forme de rechef en une Ligne, rompe ensuite par ploton par La droite et defile devent L’Ambassadeur” (DLC:GW).

Dr. James Thacher described the review in his journal entry for 2 May: “The whole of our army in this quarter was paraded in martial array in a spacious field, and a stage was erected for the accommodation of the ladies and gentlemen spectators. At the signal of thirteen cannon, the great and splendid cavalcade approached in martial pomp and style. A very beautiful troop of lighthorse, commanded by Major Lee, a Virginian, marched in front, then followed his excellency the commander-in-chief and his aids-de-camp, next the foreign ministers and their retinue, and the general officers of our army and their aids, closed the procession. Having arrived on the field of parade, the commander-in-chief, with the foreign ministers and general officers, passed in front of the line of the army, from right to left, in review, and received the military honors due to their rank; after which, the gentlemen dismounted and retired to the stage, and took seats with Mrs. Washington, Mrs. Greene, Mrs. Knox, and a number of other ladies, who had arrived in their carriages. The army then performed the field manœuvres and evolutions, with firing of cannon and musketry. The business of the day was closed by the troops deploying, and marching in front of the stage, and paying the marching salute to their excellencies. The whole performance was conducted with such marked regularity and precision, as to reflect great honor on the character of our army, and afford the commander-in-chief and the spectators the highest degree of satisfaction. On this occasion we cannot but pride ourselves on the conspicuous figure exhibited by our commander-in-chief. While mounted on his noble bay charger, his stature appears remarkable; and being a good horseman, he displays a lofty carriage, and benign dignity of demeanor, and I hope not to incur the charge of undue partiality, when I say, his appearance was incomparably more majestic and dignified than either of his illustrious visitors” (Thacher, Military Journal description begins James Thacher. Military Journal of the American Revolution, From the commencement to the disbanding of the American Army; Comprising a detailed account of the principal events and Battles of the Revolution, with their exact dates, And a Biographical Sketch of the most Prominent Generals. Hartford, 1862. description ends , 162–63; for GW’s and Gérard’s thanks to the army, see General Orders, 3 May).

2For more on Sgt. Eliphalet Gray, see Parsons to GW, 25 April, and GW to Parsons, 1 May.

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