George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Israel Shreve, 20 January 1781

From Colonel Israel Shreve

Pompton-Camp [N.J.]
20th Jany—81. 10 OClock, P.M.

Dear General,

It is with pain I inform Your Excellency, that the troops at this place, revolted this evening, and have marched towards Trenton: Their behavior and demands are similar to those of the Pennsylvania Line; though no blood has been spilt.

I was informed, by a woman, of their intentions, late this afternoon, and immediately ordered all the men off duty to be paraded; with an intention to detach them in different parties for the night; but found but very few that would turn out. I was amongst them for some time but could not prevail upon them to desist. They have lately received a part of the depreciation of their pay, and most of them are much disguised with liquor.1 Col. Frelinghuysen, one of the Commissioners of the State is now here, we mean to follow them in the morning and endeavour to bring them to reason. I apprehend the detachment at Chatham will join them.2 If the other detachments shoud leave their posts, I shall direct Major Troop to send a garrison to Dobbs’s ferry, and to cover the stores at Ringwood and this place.3 Col. Dayton, I make no doubt, will be able to do duty, and will exert himself to compromise matters with those at Chatham.4 I am Your Excellency’s Very humb. servt

I. Shreve Colo.


After learning of the mutiny in the New Jersey line, GW acted swiftly to suppress the contagion of rebellion that had already infected the Pennsylvania line and resulted in its temporary dissolution (see GW to Shreve, 21 Jan.; see also Anthony Wayne to GW, 2 Jan., source note). He requested that Congress not intervene, gave orders to form a detachment to crush the mutiny, and placed Maj. Gen. Robert Howe in command (see GW to John Sullivan or the Continental Congress Committee on the Pennsylvania Line, 21 Jan.; to Frederick Frelinghuysen, same date, n.2; and to Howe, 22 Jan.; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 23 Jan.). The mutineers moved to Chatham, N.J., and after conversations with Col. Elias Dayton and the commissioners of the state government, who offered a pardon for all who would return to duty, the troops marched back to their camp at Pompton (see Frelinghuysen to GW, 23 Jan., and Dayton to GW, 24 Jan.).

By the time the mutineers had returned to Pompton, Howe had led his corps to Ringwood, New Jersey. After assessing the situation and finding many of the New Jersey troops recalcitrant, Howe moved his troops to Pompton and surrounded the camp of the mutineers. When the mutineers hesitated to comply with orders to lay down their arms, Howe began an attack. The mutineers quickly surrendered and returned to duty. Howe, using authority granted by GW, convened a court-martial, which condemned three ringleaders, two of whom were immediately executed (see Howe to GW, 27 Jan.; see also Howe to GW, 25–26 Jan.). GW, who had moved to Ringwood to monitor events more closely, applauded Howe’s swift action and the loyalty of the troops in his corps, and he reported the successful suppression of the mutiny to Congress (see GW to Howe, 25 Jan.; General Orders, 30 Jan.; and GW to Huntington, 31 Jan.). For additional details, see Van Doren, Mutiny in January description begins Carl Van Doren. Mutiny in January: The Story of a Crisis in the Continental Army now for the first time fully told from many hitherto unknown or neglected sources both American and British. New York, 1943. description ends , 204–27.

2Parts of the New Jersey brigade had been sent to Chatham, N.J., during the mutiny of the Pennsylvania line (see Shreve to GW, 8 Jan., and n.1 to that document).

3Maj. Benjamin Throop’s detachment of New England troops was covering the public stores at Ringwood (see William Heath to GW, 8 Jan., and n.2 to that document). GW ordered Throop to march his detachment to West Point but soon countermanded those orders on learning of the rebellion of the New Jersey troops (see GW to Throop, this date, and the source note to that document).

4For Col. Elias Dayton’s actions at Chatham, see his letter to GW of 24 January.

Index Entries