George Washington Papers

General Orders, 3 October 1779

General Orders

Head-Quarters Moore’s House [West Point]
Sunday Octr 3rd 1779.

Parole Havannah— C. Signs Jamestown Kingston—

At a division Court-Martial held at Ramapough Septr 24th 1779—Mr Thornton Taylor Conductor of Military Stores to General Woodford’s brigade1 was tried—1st “For striking a soldier, and 2ndly For asserting and swearing to a Falsehood.”

The Court having considered the charges the evidence and defence are of opinion that Mr Taylor is guilty of the 1st charge, being a breach of the 5th Article of the 18th Section of the Articles of War:2 They are further of opinion he is guilty of the 2nd charge, being a breach of the 21st Article of the 14th Section of the Articles of War3 and sentence him to be discharged from the service.

The Commander in Chief utterly disapproves the sentence; The testimony brought to contradict the facts said to have been sworn to by Mr Taylor before the Regimental Court Martial is negative and inconclusive, and his own deposition before the court ought to have been produced to ascertain what he really did swear; instead of which, testimony depending on the memory of Witnesses, and in which too they are not precise or uniform, is admitted: This is contrary to that rule of reason and justice which dictates that recourse shall always be had to the highest evidence of which the nature of any case is capable and more especially in charges of so serious & heinous a kind; to say nothing of the dangerous consequences which may arise from a practice of bringing Witnesses to trial for Perjury on slight and frivolous Grounds. Mr Taylor is released from his Arrest.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

On this date, GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote to Maj. Gen. William Heath from headquarters: “His Excellency has only to desire that the prisoners mentioned in yours may be well taken care of untill full examination can be made into their circumstances—We have just recd official intelligence of Count D’Estaings arrival to the southward, but no particulars” (ALS, MHi: Heath Papers). Heath’s letter has not been found.

1Thorton Taylor (d. 1832) joined the 3d Virginia Regiment as an ensign in August 1777. Just before the reorganization of the Virginia Line at White Plains, N.Y., in September 1778 (see GW to Patrick Henry, 7 Oct. 1778), Taylor was promoted to lieutenant but declared a supernumerary officer. An arrangement dated 15 Dec. 1778, listed him as a supernumerary lieutenant and described Taylor as a “sickly Delicate youth not of sufficient constitution to support the fatigues of an officer” (DNA: RG 93, Compiled Revolutionary War Military Service Records, 1775–1783, 3d and 7th Virginia Regiments). In May 1779, Brig. Gen. Henry Knox appointed him conductor of military stores to Brig. Gen. William Woodford’s Virginia brigade, and, in April 1780, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln appointed Taylor deputy commissary general of military stores in the southern department; Taylor was serving in this office when he was captured at the fall of Charleston, S.C., in May 1780.

2For this article, see General Orders, 12 Aug., n.1.

3This article reads: “Whatsoever commissioned officer shall be convicted, before a general court-martial, of behaving in a scandalous, infamous manner, such as is unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman, shall be discharged from the service” (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 5:804).

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