George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Elias Boudinot, 19 May 1779

From Elias Boudinot

E[lizabeth] T[own, N.J.]
Wednesday Evening [19 May 1779]

Dear Sir

I must beg leave to trouble your Excellency once more, with a matter, I think worth Communicating—Some time ago, a Person of a very loose & suspicious Character, who was a mere Gambler in & about this Quarter, was employed as a recruiting Sergeant, or an assistant in this Business for some of our Officers—His Behaviour was such as to give great disgust to our Friends here, and he was repeatedly taken up and examined by the Magistrates—He soon after deserted to the Enemy, calling himself Major Hollet, and was so mentioned in the York Papers, giving an Account of his desertion—He was taken notice of in the City and all Persons forbid to molest him under pain of Military Execution—He soon appeared in a Scarlet Coat with the uniform of Ritzma’s regiment1 and said that he had a Warrant to raise a Company.

He Continued in the City untill last Summer when he again left the City, and to my great Surprize, I am now informed, appears as Chaplain on Board the Continental Frigate Confederacy, which by this Time, is arrived in Philadelphia—I have been carefull to take Examinations of Witnesses to these Facts, but can be no farther answerable for their Truth, than to assure your Excellency that they are Witnesses of good Credit—I doubt not but, that your Excellency will think with me, that as such a Person on Board a Ship of Force, may prove of the most dangerous Consequence, that this matter is at least worthy of farther investigation2—I have the honor to be with great respect & Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedt & Humble Servt

Elias Boudinot

I expect to return Home on Saturday.

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, dated “Wednesday Noon,” NN: Misc. and Personal, E. Boudinot.

1Boudinot is referring to Lt. Col. Rudolphus Ritzema’s Royal American Reformees, a regiment formed from American deserters that remained in New York City until it was disbanded in 1783.

2In his second letter to the Board of War on 22 May, GW forwarded Boudinot’s letter and suggested that James Hallett, a native of Long Island, deserved a “different kind of notice” than an appointment as chaplain on board the Continental navy frigate Confederacy, a 36-gun vessel that had been launched in November 1778 and was preparing for an Atlantic cruise. The Board of War accordingly detained Hallett, who attempted to justify his actions in letters to GW of 10 and 12 July, which have not been found. GW replied to Hallett on 22 July in unsympathetic terms, and on 31 Aug. Timothy Pickering wrote to GW enclosing depositions that Boudinot had taken on 18 May from Ichabod B. Barnet of Elizabeth, N.J., and Lt. John Brown of the 2d Continental Dragoons. Barnet deposed “that while he was in New York a Person calling himself Major Hollet came to that City with a flag of Truce; and told him that he intended soon to come in from the Americans—That soon after, he did come in & obtained a Protection from General Robertson forbidding any Person from Molesting him on pain of Military Execution—Hollet then went over to Long Island and on his return told Barnet, that he had a Warrant to raise a Company in Ritzma’s Regiment. He was then dressed in a uniform Scarlet Coat—Barnet was well acquainted with sd Hollet, and allways found him very violent agt the Americans—The last time he see him in New York was in May last.”

Lt. Brown deposed “that on friday last, he was at Chester in Pennsylvania, when Capt. Harden of the frigate Confederacy then at chester, introduced him to a Mr Hollet the Chaplain of his Ship—That this Examinant knew sd Hollet, being once well acquainted with him, and knows him to be the same Man, who some time ago lived in the State of New Jersey, and was a recruiting officer in the American Service; and this Examinant was afterwards informed that sd Hollet had deserted to the Enemy That this Ext did not make himself known to Hollet, but left him at Chester” (DLC:GW). GW subsequently sent Hallett under guard to New York governor George Clinton, along with the papers describing his conduct, and indicated that Hallett was properly subject to the civil law of his native state rather than to military law; see GW to George Clinton, 7 Sept. (DLC:GW). For Hallett’s previous activities in the army, see Clinton to GW, 7 March, n.2.

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