George Washington Papers

General Orders, 6 November 1780

General Orders

Head Quarters Totowa Monday November 6th 1780

Parole Prussia Countersigns Plenty Peace
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[Officers] For the Day Tomorrow[:] Brigadier General Huntington[,] Lieutenant Colonel commandant Butler[,] Lieutenant Colonel Holdridge[,] Major T. L. Moore[,] Brigade Major Pettingal.

The Honorable the Board of war having called for a Return of all officers holding military rank who are not adopted by or considered as belonging to any State in order that means may be fallen upon to make good the depreciation of their former pay—A Return of all those who come under the above description is to be made to the Adjutant General by the 1st day of December next; but as some Officers who are interested in the foregoing may be at too great a distance to send in their names by the above time, they are requested to do it as soon as possible afterwards, not exceeding the 1st day of January next.1

The General has just received information that Colonel Ogden and Captain Dayton who were in Elizabeth Town, were taken last night in their beds by the Enemy.2 A convincing proof that they have the most minute intelligence of every thing that passes in that place and that it is dangerous for an officer (except with a guard or under sanction of a flag) to remain there during the night; He has assured the Officers in General Orders that if any of them are taken out of the line of their duty and by their own imprudence that their Exchanges shall be postponed while there is an officer remaining in Captivity of their rank.3 He again repeats this in most solemn terms, with this further declaration that whenever they are exchanged, they shall be arrested and a full investigation had into the circumstances of their capture. The General means this as a caution to the army, not as a reflection upon the present conduct of Colonel Ogden who he has reason to believe was in the execution of business by proper authority:4 He is yet uninformed of the reason of Captain Dayton’s being at Elizabeth-town.

It is with infinite regret the General is obliged once more to take notice of the disorderly conduct of the soldiers arising in a great measure from the abuse of passes: the whole country is overspread with straggling soldiers with the most frivolous pretences, under which they commit every species of robbery and plunder.5 In a ride he took the other day he found soldiers as low as Aquakanung bridge on both sides the river and as far as he has ever yet gone round the environs of camp the roads and farm houses are full of them. To remedy these evils and to have the army ready for any sudden emergency the General does in most express and positive Terms forbid all but General Officers, and Officers commanding Regiments to grant passes; and not more than eight from a regiment are to be given by the latter in a day, and those only to Soldiers of orderly conduct.6

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1For an example of compliance with this order, see Bartholomew von Heer to GW, 16 Dec.; see also GW to the Board of War, 7 Nov., and n.1.

2The Royal Gazette (New York) for 8 Nov. (Wednesday) reported that “Mr. Cornelius Hetfield, and two of his associates” had taken “from Connecticut Farms in Jersey, Colonel Matthias Ogden, and Capt. Jonathan Dayton, officers in the rebel army: they were found in the night horizontal, Cheek by Jowl.” Paroled on Monday, they were “permited to return to their abodes in Jersey. … Very liberal offers in money were made, en the route, for the enlargements of these worthy Wights, well known to have been violently exerted in the cause of this dirty rebellion.” Another notice appeared in The New-Jersey Gazette (Trenton) for the same date: “We hear that on Saturday night last Col. Ogden and Capt. Dayton, were taken prisoners by a party of six refugees from Staten-Island, headed by the infamous Smith Hetfield. These gentlemen were surprized at Connecticut Farms, about four miles from Elizabeth-Town.”

4Col. Matthias Ogden pursued espionage activities (see Lafayette’s second letter to GW, 27 Oct. 1780, postscript, and John Vanderhovan to GW, this date).

5For previous expressions of GW’s exasperation with such conduct, see the general orders for 9 Aug. and 12 September.

6GW wrote Major General Lafayette from headquarters on this date: “As you are in a fixed Camp, you can make your trial & punishment as summary as need be—and where the latter can be inflicted legally it is to be preferred—I therefore advise you, to order a Court Martial to be convened immediately for the trial of the Culprits—and if they are condemned to have one or two of the greatest Offenders immediately executed.

“The measures you are about to pursue to stop this licentious spirit, I much approve & wish you to carry them into execution—I shall put something in Orders to day respecting passes &c.” (Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also General Orders, 19 Aug.).

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