George Washington Papers

General Orders, 21 August 1779

General Orders

Head-Quarters Moore’s House [West Point]
Saturday August 21st 1779.

Parole Ludlow— C. Signs Lynn. Malden.

At a General Court Martial of the line the 11th instant Colonel Russell President—Captain Ashmead of the 2nd Pennsylvania regiment, late of the Light-Infantry was tried for “Being drunk in the time of the assault on Stony-Point the morning of the 16th of July last and behaving ridiculously and unbecoming an officer at the head of his company in crossing the Morass.

“2ndly For disobeying the General’s orders by frequently huzzaing during the approach to the enemy’s works, to the prejudice of good order and military discipline & tending to promote confusion among the troops at that critical juncture.”

The Court do unanimously agree that Captain Ashmead is not guilty of the 1st charge and do therefore acquit him of it; but are of opinion that he is guilty of the 2nd charge, being a breach of the latter part of the 5th Article of the 2nd Section of the Articles of War.1

They are of opinion that the breach of orders which subjects Captain Ashmead to be found guilty, agreeable to the Articles of War, did not proceed from a Willful or Designed Disobedience of Orders but from an involuntary impulse of the Mind, owing to Inadvertency, and do therefore sentence him to be reprimanded by His Excellency in General Orders.

Captain Ashmead’s conduct was certainly very reprehensible and of such a nature as has a tendency to defeat the most important and best concerted enterprises.

At the same Court the 14th instant, Mr Jonathan Blake commanding a company of Artificers was tried, 1st “For tearing and concealing a letter wrote by Col. Koscuiszko to Colonel Hay D.Q.M.G. during the alarm, relative to his company’s going to the Fort.” 2ndly For absenting himself frequently from duty without leave 3rdly For employing in a clandestine manner several of his men upon his farm while he drew provisions for them from the public store and return’d them “Fit for duty present”—found guilty of the 1st and 3rd charges exhibited against him and sentenced to make restitution to the public in money by a stoppage from his pay for the time he employed the men of his company on business of his own and for the provisions that was drawn for them from the public stores while they were so employed and that he be cashiered.2

The Commander in Chief confirms the sentence and orders it to take place.

At the same Court the 10th instant, Adjutant English of late Brewer’s regiment was tried for “Ordering and warning Lieutenant Pray for duty when it was not his tour”—found guilty and sentenced to be reprimanded by the officer commanding the regiment in presence of the officers of the regiment.3

Adjutant English is released from his Arrest.

Ezekiel Case of the 5th Connecticutt regiment was tried at a Brigade-General Court Martial whereof Majr Walbidge was President the 19th instant for “Repeated desertion and the last time to the enemy, where he took up arms against the United-States” found guilty being a breach of the 1st Article, 6th Section of the Articles of War and unanimously sentenced to suffer death.4

His Excellency, the Commander in Chief confirms the sentence.5

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The fifth article of the second section of the articles of war reads: “Any officer or soldier who shall strike his superior officer, or draw, or shall lift up any weapon, or offer any violence against him, being in the execution of his office, on any pretence whatsoever, or shall disobey any lawful command of his superior officer, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as shall, according to the nature of his offence, be inflicted upon him by the sentence of a court-martial” (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 5:790).

2Jonathan Blake, of New York, served as a captain in a volunteer New York militia regiment from June to November 1776. He became captain of one of Col. Jedunathan Baldwin’s companies of quartermaster artificers in 1777.

3Andrew Englis (English; 1752–1832), of Richmond, Mass., joined the 12th Massachusetts Regiment as a second lieutenant in January 1777 and became adjutant of the regiment in April 1779. He was promoted to first lieutenant in March 1780. He transferred to the 2d Massachusetts Regiment as a lieutenant in January 1781. Englis died at Tully in Onondaga County, New York.

John Pray (1754–1812), of Kittery, Mass., joined Col. James Scammon’s Massachusetts battalion as a sergeant in May 1775 and then became an ensign in the 18th Continental Regiment in January 1776. In January 1777, he transferred to the 12th Massachusetts Regiment as a first lieutenant and became a captain in the regiment in July of that year. He transferred to the 1st Massachusetts Regiment in January 1781, where he served until he left the army in June 1783. He died in New York.

4On 20 Aug., GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Kidder Meade, at headquarters at West Point, wrote to Brig. Gen. Jedediah Huntington: “I am commanded by his Excellency to acknowledge the receipt of your letter inclosing the proceedings of a Court martial, on the trial of Ezekiel Case—& mentioning the circumstances of Blackman—the former will be approved in tomorrows orders—as to the latter the Genl thinks with you that he had better be held as a prisoner of War—for which purpose you will send him to the A.G. who will report him to the Comy of Prisoners—You will be pleased to give his Excellency the character of Case, & your opinion after consulting yr field Officers, whether an example at this time may be necessary in your line” (DLC:GW). No letter on this subject from Huntington to GW has been found, but Maj. Gen. William Heath provided GW with information on Case (see Heath to GW, 25 Aug., first letter).

Ezekiel Case, of West Windsor, Conn., prior to his service in the 5th Connecticut Regiment, had deserted from Col. Thomas Belden’s regiment of militia, which was called into active service at Peekskill, N.Y., in March–June 1777. He may also have served as a private in the 8th Connecticut Regiment in 1775. Case enlisted in the 5th Connecticut Regiment in March 1778 and deserted in March 1779. He rejoined the regiment in April 1779 and deserted again in June 1779.

Ames Walbridge (1727–1793), of Stafford, Conn., served as an ensign in Connecticut provincial forces in the French and Indian War. He participated in the Lexington Alarm of April 1775 as a captain and then joined the 13th Continental Infantry Regiment as a captain in January 1776. He became captain of the 7th Connecticut Regiment in January 1777 and then major of the 2d Connecticut Regiment in May 1777. He left the army in January 1781.

The first article of the sixth section of the articles of war reads: “All officers and soldiers, who having received pay, or having been duly inlisted in the service of the United States, shall be convicted of having deserted the same, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as by a court-martial shall be inflicted” (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 5:792).

5Despite his confirmation of Case’s sentence of death and his later order for Case’s execution, GW granted a reprieve to Case. See General Orders, 25 Aug.; Heath to GW, 25 Aug. (first letter); and GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 31 August.

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