George Washington Papers

General Orders, 31 August 1779

General Orders

Head-Quarters Moores-House [West Point]
Tuesday August 31st 1779.

Parole Ashfield— C. Signs Boston. Charlestown.

The General Court Martial of which Coll Stewart is President is dissolved.

Lieutenant Cleveland is appointed Captain Lieutenant in the Corps of Sappers and Miners vice—Little resigned.1

The whole Army to pass a review of Inspection between the 1st and 5th of September next and reports thereof made agreeable to the form lately communicated.2

At a General Court Martial of the line whereof Colonel Stewart was President held at West Point the 25th instant, Colonel Armand was tried upon the following charges.3 [”]For 1st During Colonel Armand’s stay at Colonel Vandeburgh’s house (which was about two hours) he with sundry of his officers in a most atrocious and wanton manner, beat and abused a son of his, without cause of offence.

Secondly—Putting him under a guard of two Centinels, giving orders that Vandeburgh, or any other person should not speak to him, keeping him confined during their stay, and frightening or compelling him to ask Pardon, before he was dismissed.

Thirdly—Putting the whole of his family and some Gentlemen belonging to the Continental Army (during their stay) in bodily fear.

Fourthly—Knocking off sundry respectable People’s hats from their heads for no other reason than because they dare to stand in his presence covered, tho’ some came in promiscuou[s]ly on hearing so much noise in the house.

Fifthly—Knocking off Jeremiah Clark’s hat and kicking him out of his (Armand’s) room, an apartment where he was, for only requesting Colonel Armand to enlarge Coll Vandeburgh’s son.”4

The Court do acquit Colonel Armand of the 1st charge, also of the 3rd and 4th charges; but are of opinion that he is guilty of the first part of the 2nd charge, also of the 5th charge, being a breach of the 1st Article 9th Section of the Articles of War;5 They find him also guilty of the charge exhibited against him by Jonas Adams, being a breach of the aforesaid Article and do sentence him unanimously to be reprimanded in General Orders.

The Confinement of a Citizen by military authority was irregular and blamable, and there appears to have been an improper degree of warmth in Colonel Armand’s conduct towards Clarke and Adams.

At a Court of Inquiry the 25th instant whereof Captn Burnham was President into Captain Lieutenant Verner’s (of the North-Carolina troops) conduct for “Playing Cards in camp contrary to General, Brigade, and Regimental Orders, encouraging the soldiers in the same practice by certain expressions when he was President of a Brigade Court-Martial on the trial of prisoners for that crime, and not sending for evidence against the prisoners charged with playing Cards, and for allowing the Court to set them free for want of evidence before Lieutt Dickinson (who went for evidence and desired the court to wait) could return with the evidence.”6

The Court are unanimously of opinion that the charges are justly founded and that the matter ought to be taken cognizance of by a Court-Martial.

The 1st charge is refered to the determination of a General Court Martial;7 as the two last affect Captn Lieutt Varner in a judicial capacity, the Commander in Chief thinks his trial upon them would be a precedent for a dangerous inquisition into the official conduct of members of Courts-Martial.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

On this day, GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote from headquarters at West Point to Capt. Bartholomew von Heer, commander of the provost troop of light dragoons, or “Maréchaussée Corps”: “I have it in command from His Excelly to desire you to send down to General Wayne four more Dragoons. As they are to do duty at an advanced post, you will be pleased to pick out Men in whom you can confide and who understand [and] speak English well” (DLC:GW).

1Moses Cleveland had been appointed to the Corps of Sappers and Miners at the same time as Andrew Lytle; see General Orders, 2 August. Lytle declined his appointment to continue serving as a lieutenant in the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment.

2For these reports and GW’s orders that this army-wide inspection take place each month, see General Orders, 1 July; see also General Orders, 1 October. For the inspection of the army held in August, see General Orders, 31 July.

3For the court of inquiry held to investigate complaints against Colonel Armand and GW’s resulting orders for the convening of a court martial, see General Orders, 5 Aug., and n.6 to that document; see also GW to Robert Howe, 14 August.

4The orders may be referring to the Jeremiah Clark of Orange County, who represented that county in the New York Provincial Congress in 1775 and 1776 and the New York legislature from 1777 to 1789.

5The first article of the ninth section of the articles of war reads: “Every officer commanding in quarters, garrisons, or on a march, shall keep good order, and, to the utmost of his power, redress all such abuses or disorders which may be committed by any officer or soldier under his command; if, upon complaint made to him of officers or soldiers beating, or otherwise ill-treating any person; of disturbing fairs or markets, or of committing any kind of riots to the disquieting of the good people of the United States; he the said commander, who shall refuse or omit to see justice done on the offender or offenders, and reparation made to the party or parties injured, as far as part of the offenders pay shall enable him or them, shall, upon proof thereof, be punished, by a general court-martial, as if he himself had committed the crimes or disorders complained of” (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 5:794-95).

6John Burnham (Burnam; 1749-1843) served as a lieutenant in Col. Moses Little’s Massachusetts Regiment from May to December 1775. In January 1776, he joined the 12th Continental Infantry Regiment as a first lieutenant. Burnham transferred to the 8th Massachusetts Regiment as a captain in January 1777, and, in January 1783, he became major of the 5th Massachusetts Regiment. Burnham left the Continental army in June 1783. He subsequently joined the U.S. Army as a major in the 2d U.S. Infantry Regiment in March 1791 and left the army in December 1791. He died in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

Richard Dickenson joined the 6th North Carolina Regiment in April 1777 and became a lieutenant in the regiment in October of that year. He transferred to the 1st North Carolina Regiment in June 1778. Dickenson was dismissed from the army in November 1779 for behavior unbecoming an officer and gentleman; see General Orders, 20 Nov. (DLC:GW).

7For this court-martial, which found Capt. Lt. Robert Varner guilty and sentenced him to be cashiered, see General Orders, 1 October.

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