George Washington Papers

General Orders, 31 October 1780

General Orders

Head Quarters Totowa Tuesday October 31st 1780

Parole Pittsburgh Countersigns Platt: Quin.
Watchword prepare

[Officers] For the day Tomorrow[:] Brigadier General Wayne[,] Colonel Bradford[,] Lieutenant Colonel Newall[,] Major Ballard[,] Brigade Major Van Laër

Twelve waggoners to be draughted from the line and sent to the Orderly office tomorrow 12 ô clock—Two masons from the Pennsylvania Line to be sent at the same time.

The officers composing the general court martial whereof Colonel H. Jackson is President, are to return to their duty in the line.1

While we continue in the present position the Post rider will leave camp at noon every Thursday instead of Friday morning Letters therefore must be handed to the post office (at the Park)2 in time for the mail to be made up in that hour.

At a general court martial of the line Fishkill October 25th 1780 Colonel Hazen President—Colonel Elisha Sheldon of the 2d regiment of Light dragoons was tried on the following charges

1st Injuring the public service by discharging without proper authority from said regiment, a number of men inlisted upon continental bounty and encouragement to serve during the war.

2dly Defrauding the public by selling and exchanging away regimental horses and converting the avails to his own use.

3dly Defrauding the officers and soldiers of his regiment of plunder taken in action and converting the avails to his own private use.

4thly With unofficer and ungentlemanlike behavior.

The court are of opinion that he is not guilty of either of the charges exhibited as aforesaid, and do acquit him with Honor and a full Approbation: and the court on this occasion think it a duty further to add that the charges did not originate from a Zeal or desire to serve the United States; but rather thro’ private animosity pique or prejudice that the prosecution is vexatious and Malicious; and that doctor Darius Stoddard the Complainant is justly chargeable with all the expence attending the court martial on the Trial of Colonel Elisha Sheldon.

His Excellency the commander in Chief confirms the opinion of the Court and orders Colonel Sheldon to be released from arrest.3

At the General court martial of the line whereof Colonel Bailey is president,4 the 20th instant, George Berrien and James Berrien Boatmen were tried for “Breaking open a box of cloathing, or suffering it to be done whilst under their care, and taking Six pair of leather breeches—five pair of boots and one pair of Shoes belonging to the officers of Colonel Nixon’s regiment.”5

The court on mature consideration are of opinion that the charge against the Prisoners is not supported.

The Commander in Chief approves the opinion of the Court, and orders George Berrien and James Berrien released from Confinement.6

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW had authorized this court-martial on 12 Sept. (see General Orders, that date, and n.3 to that document). Col. Henry Jackson’s court-martial notably acquitted Joshua Hett Smith (see The Smith Family and Major General Benedict Arnold’s Treachery, 26 Sept.–30 Oct., editorial essay, and Document VIII, n.2).

2The general orders refer to the artillery park.

3For the composition of this court-martial, see the general orders for 8 Oct.; see also Benjamin Tallmadge to GW, 23 Oct., n.2.

Darius Stoddard was a surgeon in the hospital department. His brother Josiah had been a captain in Col. Elisha Sheldon’s cavalry regiment prior to his death from illness (see Josiah Stoddard to GW, 24 May 1779).

4For the establishment of this court-martial, see General Orders, 14 Oct.; see also General Orders, 27 October.

5Col. Thomas Nixon commanded the 6th Massachusetts Regiment, stationed during the fall at Tappan, N.Y., and northern New Jersey.

6George Berrien (Barrian) was listed in a “Return of Vessails Employd in Publick Service,” dated 4 Aug. 1779, as master of a pettiauger with two hands (DNA:PCC, item 173). Another return dated 6 Aug. 1779 listed Berrien’s craft as “private property” stationed at Fishkill Landing, N.Y. (DNA:PCC, item 173). The New-York Packet for 12 Aug. 1788 advertised that “George Berrian” sought relief under a New York law for insolvency cases. The National Advocate (New York) for 5 July 1819 again advertised “George Berrian” as seeking relief as “an insolvent debtor.”

James Berrien (Barrian) presumably was George’s relative. For a “James Barrian” who caused problems for his creditors, see a notice in The National Advocate (New York) for 30 June 1817.

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