George Washington Papers

General Orders, 2 January 1781

General Orders

Head Quarters New Windsor Tuesday January 2d 1781

Parole. Countersigns——

At a General Court Martial held by order of the Honorable the Board of war at Philadelphia the 13th of November last Colonel Febiger President Lieutenant Abraham Wood of the invalid regiment was tried for “His conduct unbecoming an officer and a Gentleman by keeping a tippling house and shuffle board and entertaining Soldiers.”1

The Court after maturely considering the Charges exhibited against Lieutenant Wood and the Evidences are of opinion that Lieutenant Wood has been guilty of Conduct unbecoming the Character of an Officer and Gentleman being a breach of part of the 21st Article 14th Section of the Articles of war and do sentence him to be discharged from the service of the United States and his Commission to be revoked and cancelled accordingly.2

The Commander in Chief Approves the sentence and orders it carried into execution.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1On 19 Nov. 1780, Lt. Abraham Wood had written GW: “I most humbly beg leave to Lay my case before you; my wif keeping a tavern as She has done these many years for the Support of herself & Children; it happned on the 10th of this month there Came 4 men in Plain well dress’d Cloath to the house at the time I was abroad & ask my wife for entertainment they Satt up till after 9 OClock Paid their Reckoning and was going to bed as I Came home; from my next Neighbours a dispute arose about the Quality of whatches; one of them said he was a Soldier and Call’d another Serjant to Certify it I told him my wife did not entertain Soldiers, he gave a great deal Insolent Language till I was Oblidg’d to Confine him. and ordered the others away, the Serjt beg’d he & the Rest might not be sent to the Barracks as they had no Blanketts that they was four Volenteers from Virginia Come to Coll Feibiger for Clothing for his Regt. Some Officers in the house Pleaded with my wife to let them Stay all Night gave them leave & lent them Blankets; they Staid all night and went away early in the morning; & Complaind to Coll Febiger that one of their Party was Confin’d; but when I got up I Releas’d him on Promise of his good behaviour; Coll Febiger acquainted Coll Nicola that one of his men was Confin’d the Coll Sent & Enquire’d & foun’d he had been releas’d before the Report was sent in, Coll Nicola glad of the oppertunity sent his Clerk about to Inquire for the men & on enquiry found three of them had been entertain’d all Night in my house; for which he was Pleas’d to Put me under Arrestt; the tryal Came on the 14th I being Very much Afflicted with a Nervous fever, & Rhumatick Pains Could scarce attend; the Court being Satt I Objected to Coll Febiger as he Coll Febiger was first Complain’d to, the Court thought my objections not Sufficient, he sat as President, after Coll Nicolas Prosecution I beg to be be Indulg’d with Some time to bring in my Defence, Mr President Granted me untill the morrow Mornning at 10 OClock I did not Receive a Copy as the President had ordered the Judge advocate to Send me one untill 9 at Night at which time I was Greatly Afflicted with the fever & Pains in my head & Breast: in the morning I found my self so bad I Could Scarce See out of my eys, & unable to make out my defence by the time Appointed. I Sent a Note to the President & Court Informing them of my Great Indisposition & beg’d their further Indulgence a few hours I Soon Receiv’d an Answer, I must Attend Imeadiately; my fever going ⟨o⟩ff I got into a Great Sweat; I sent my Resspects to the Cour⟨t⟩ & Inform’d them I Could not Imeadiatly, without hazarding my life Coll Nicola sent his Doctor & the Judge advocate Came with him he the Doctor Sent me some Powders directly, I was then waited on by Coll Nicola the Judge advocate & Lieut. Honeyman who Said they Came by order of the Court to take down my defence I decli⟨ned⟩ giving it & told them my head was too much Disstres’d to give it at that time & beg they would Allow me a few hours untill about 3 OClock & if Able I would do it if not I would get Somebody to do it for me; the Judge advocate Agreed to my Proposal on behalph of the Court & said then you’l send it On. I answer’d if God Spares me; as they went away I heard Coll Nicola Say an Imediate Example in his Discource but Little thought of my Self at the time which I afterward found to be the Case. I had my defence Ready by about one oClock & a Serjt Came & took it for me to the Court martial Room he soon Return’d & told me the Adjutant Inform’d him the Court was over; not knowing weather he meant Adjour⟨ned⟩ or Disolv’d I told him to take my Defence Down to the Presi⟨dents’⟩ Quarters; I was waited upon by two of the Members & they Informed me the Court was Disolv’d; Supris’d at this Informati⟨on⟩ I Acquainted them my Defence was Ready long ago & Sent on two hours before the time Agree’d to betwen the Judge advocate and my Self; I then found my Cause was made an Imediate Example of by Some Missrepresentation; (or no friend of mine Since I was unable to give in my Defence I Cannot Properly find out) I hope your Excellency will take my Case into your Consideration; Contious of having ever done my Duty as a Soldier & Officer in the field with honour & Reputation, to Certify which I would Call upon General Wayne Colls Johnston and Robinson & all the Officers of the Pennsa Line thats Acquainted with me Perticqularly the 5th Pennsa Regt to which I formerly belong’d; before my wounds & Infirmites Ocasioned me to be transfer’d to the Corps of Invalids Commanded by Coll Nicola who has Put me Under an Arrest on Account of my wife keeping Tavern & he Says Shuffleboard which has been Down Long before my Arrest: Coll Nicola has Stood & Look’d at Gentlemen Amusing themselves at it about Eighteen Months ago & made not the Least Mention of it untill my Arrest; if I must Leave the Service after Serving my Country Near five years I hope Your Excellency will Allow me to Resign” (ALS, DLC:GW).

Abraham Wood joined the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment as an ensign in January 1777 and became a second lieutenant the following March. Wood also acted as regimental quartermaster. Wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Brandywine on 11 Sept. 1777, Wood transferred to the Invalid Regiment in October 1778.

2Section 14, article 21, of the articles of war 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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