George Washington Papers

General Orders, 21 September 1779

General Orders

Head-Quarters Moores-House [West Point]
Tuesday Septr 21st 1779.

Parole Farmington— C. Signs Gosport Hanover—

The General Court Martial whereof Colonel Putnam is President is dissolv’d and another ordered to sit tomorrow morning nine ôclock for the trial of all persons who shall come before them.

Colonel Bradford to preside.1

It being represented to the Commander in Chief that the time when the Massachusett levies were received by Continental officers at Springfield cannot be yet ascertained; they are not to be included in the Muster or Pay-Rolls for August.

At the General Court Martial whereof Colonel Putnam was President, Colonel Richard Butler was tried upon the following charges.2

1st For endeavoring to excite the soldiers of Captn Ashmead’s company to mutiny, by ordering the non commissioned officers not to obey any orders of his (Captain Ashmead’s).

2ndly For treating Captain Ashmead in an unprecedented & unofficerlike manner, by refusing him liberty to wait on Genl Wayne to complain of ill-treatment and seek redress and sending him under guard from the Light Infantry Camp to West-Point after having received Colonel Stewart’s orders to go to the Infantry and take the command of his (Captain Ashmead’s) company.

The Court are of opinion that Colonel Butler is not guilty of the 1st charge; They do acquit him of refusing Captn Ashmead liberty to wait on General Wayne to complain of ill-treatment and seek redress.

They are of opinion that Colonel Butler was not justifiable in sending Captain Ashmead under guard from the Light-Infantry to West-Point, being a breach of Article 5th Section 18th of the Articles of War3 and do sentence him to be reprimanded by the commanding officer of the Corps of Light-Infantry.

The Commander in Chief approves the sentence and directs it to be carried into execution;4 At the same time he thinks Colonel Butler’s conduct blamable in not permitting Captain Ashmead to see General Wayne unless he would engage to comply with a condition which Colonel Butler had no right to annex; nor was there any need of such a condition as there were always proper means of inforcing discipline, if Captain Ashmead after applying to General Wayne had persisted in a refractory behaviour.

To prevent any misunderstanding, in future, the General directs that the nomination of all Captains and Subalterns to relieve others, if necessary, or fill vacancies in the Light-Corps while it remains together, be reported to the Adjutant General and receive the approbation of the General before they be sent to take command: For this purpose the officers commanding regiments of Light-Infantry will report to the Adjutant General the vacancies that happen, who will give notice that officers may be appointed from the line to fill them, to be nominated by the officers commanding the regiments from which they are taken.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

GW’s expenses for this date included £1.4 “To Cash pd man for bringg venison a present” (Revolutionary War Household Expenses, 1776-1780, DLC:GW, Ser. 5).

1At this point, the orderly book of the 6th Maryland Regiment has the following additional orders: “The Pennsylvania Connicticut and Maryland Lines, give each a Lieut. Colo. or Major and 2 Capts. and the Garrison 3 Captains for Members” (DLC: Peter Force Collection).

2These charges stemmed from the dispute between Col. Richard Butler and Capt. Jacob Ashmead (see General Orders, 5 Sept.; Anthony Wayne to GW, 7 Sept.; and GW to Wayne, 8 Sept.).

3For this article of war, see General Orders, 12 August.

4Brigadier General Wayne, commander of the Light Infantry Corps, did not reprimand Butler as GW directed. In his orders to his corps of 23 Sept., Wayne extracted the last five paragraphs of these orders and then added the following: “as Genl Wayne Cannot Repremand Colo. Butler for any Part of his Conduct Respecting Capt. Ashmead without Violating his own judgment & feelings he orders Col. Butler Immedieately out of an arrest & to take Charge of his Command in the Light Infantery” (ViHi: Orderly Book for Light Infantry at Fort Montgomery).

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