Page images

," - • L E T T F. R XIK.

Boxbury, January SO, 178?.'"

TIE business of retaliating the execution of capt.Huddy slialf begin the. present letter. Gen. Washington having mad^ Up his mjndon the subject, wrote to Brigadier Hazen at LancasterTM Pennsylvania, on the 3d of May-—"You will immediately, on: the receipt of this, designate by lot for the above purpose (of retaliation) a British captain who is an unconditional prisoner, if such an-one is in your pbssession ; if not, a lieutenant under the same circumstances, from among the prisoners at any of the posts. either in i'ennsvlvania or Maryland. So soon as you have fixed on the person, you wril send him under a safe guard to Phiiadelr phia. I need not mention to you that every possible tenderness, that is consistent with the security of him, should be shown to th&'person whose unfortunate lot it may be to suffer." He received1 about the same time from gen. Robertson a letter of May l, acquainting him, that a court-martial was appointed by Sir Henry Clinton for trying the person complained of and all his abettor* in the death of Huddy, and that Sir Henry had taken measures for it before he received any letter from gen. Washington on the subject. Robertson expressed his wish, that the war might be carrie-d On agreeable to the rules which humanity has formed", and the examples of the politest nations recommended ; and proposed that they should agree to prevent or punish every breach of She rules of war within the spheres of their respective commands. The letterwas accompanied with a number of papers, stating many acts of barbarity committed by the Americans; and which had been put into his hands as vindications of the enormity complained of b'y Washington. Robertson meanttoprevail upon thesiattcr to desist from his purpose. Washington however, in his answer of May 5, said—" So far from receding from that resolution, orders arc given to designate a British officer for retaliation. Butil-'Slill hope the result of your court-martial will prevent'thisdreadful altcrnat: vc." After sincerely lamcntingthe cruel necessity, Which atone could induce so distressing a measure in the present instance, he assured the other that he entertained his wish and-acceded to his proposal. But to some parts of Robertson's ktierr h2-could not refrain from answering—•" RecriminatioOwo^fd'&cwe'ess; 'I forbear therefore to mention numerous jft^tanccswhichluve'Staijired the reputation of your arms, marked

;,' Lf i ■;■■ ' . thz

the progress of this war with unusual severity, and disgraced the honor of human nature itself." When Washington was infotincd that capt. Asgill (a youth of nineteen) had been desigiVare'ii and sent forward, he wrote to.Hazen on the 4th of June—" I art much concerned to find that capt. Asgill has been sent on,. Notwithstanding the information you had received of there beilrijj unconditional prisoners of war in our possession. To remedy, therefore, as soon as possible, this mistake, you will be pleased immediately to order, that licut. Turner, the officer you merrti'ofi to be confined in York jail, or any other prisoner who falls within my description, -may be conveyed to Philadelphia, under th'f same regulations and directions as were heretofore giveft, that he may take the place of capt. Asgill." The same day be ordered col. Dayton of the Jersey line to .permit capt. Lu<U6%, {Asgill's friend, .to go into New-York with such representation as Asgill would please to make to Sir Guy Carleton ; andheWJljSl of .him in the mean time to treat Asgill with every lender attention ami politeness (.consistent with his present situation) tth'ich his rank, fortune and connections, together with his unfortunate «tate demanded. -In a subsequent letter to the colonel he saftl— *' I wish to have the young gentleman treated with aff th'fftf^derness possible consistent with his present situation ;'* arid Sftflr that—" I am very willing, and indeed wish every indulgence to

- be granted him that is not inconsistent with hisperfect seeuH&f-*' -—Captain Asgill, writing to gen. Washington, thus expressed Jiimself—"Inconsequence of your orders, col. Dayton was^e■sirous of removing me to camp, but being ill of a fever, I prevailed on him to let me remain at his quarters (Chatham) close ■confined, which indulgence I hope will not be disapproved of. leannot conclude this letter without expressing my gratitude to your excellency for ordering col. Dayton to favor me as much as my situation would admit of, and in justice to him I must acknowledge the feeling and attentive manner in which those cohv Tnands were executed. You may enquire, why was not XutfiSir, or some other officer, sent on to take the place of Asgill ? .||'1$ •mot in my power to answer.

Meanwhile the British court-martial proceeded on the trial of capt. Richard Lippincot, thought to be the principal in executing captain^luddy. When it was finished, the proceedings of"the court were sent to gen. Washington by Sir Guv Carletort.- "It appeared in the course of the trial, that gov. Franklin, the president of the board of associated loyalists gave Lippincot verbal orders for what he did, and that the same were known and a'

•to by seyeral of th.e board, without being expressly oppost



any. The board seemed desirous ofexculpating themselves wholly,, and of leaving Lippincotto his fate. A paper was produced in court as being in the hand, writing of Mr. Alexander, a member of the board. It,mentioned that one of their associates, Philip White, was inhumanly and wantonly murdered by the guard Who were carrying him to Monmouth jail. Itcomplained of many daring acts of cruelty, perpetrated with impunity by a set of vindictive rebels, known by the designation of Mmunouth lictaliat&rs, associated and headed by one gen. Forman,.whose.horrid acts oi cruelty gained him universally the name of Black David.. Jt set forth,, that many of their friends and neighbors were butchered in cold blood under the usurped form oflaw, and often without that ceremony, for no other crime than that of maintaining their allegiance to the government under which they were born,, audaciously called by the rebels treason against their states ; and that their associators thought it high time to begin a retaliation: that they therefore pitched upon Joshua H eddy as a proper subject,, he having been a very active and cruel persecutor of their friends, and having boasted of being instrumental in hanging .Stephen Edwards, ths first of their brethren whafell a martyr, to republicaa fury in Monmouth county. Huddy, it asserted, tied the knot and gut the rope about the neck of that inoffensive sufferer. The plea, urged by the parties, who defended the execution of Huddy., was —" By a strange fatality the loyalists-are the only people that have been treated as rebels during the unhappy war, and we are constrained by our sufferings to declare, efforts have beea made by the government, under whose protection we wish to live, {p §ave our brethren from ignominious deaths* The rebels punishithe loyalists, under their uauai distinction of prisoners of stater jfrom prisoners of war."

When the business had been fully and impartially heard and discussed, it was finished by the following, declaration—" Tha court having considered the evidence for and against the captain, and it appearing that (although Joshua Huddy was execute;! without proper authority) what the prisoner did, was not the effect of malice or ill-will, but proceeded from a conviction, that it was his duty to obey the orders of the hoard of directors or'as-r sociated loyalists, and his not doubting their having full authority to give such orders, the court is of opinion that he is not gu'Ujjoii the murder laid to his charge, and therefore acquit him."

Sir Guy Carleton, in a letter which accompanied the trial of capt. Lippincot, declared in unequivocal tci ms to gen. Washington, that notwithstanding the acquittal of the captain, he ivp»o"feate.d the measure, and gave assurances of prosecating a further


inquiry. This changed the ground the gen. was proceeding up'o&i and placed the matter upon an extremely delicate footing. Si* Guycharged him with want of humanity in seleetingavictim from among the British officers, .so early as he did. But Sir Guy should have considered, that by the usages of war, and upon the principles of retaliation, the general would have been justified inexecu* ting an officer of equal rank with capt. Huddy immediately upoa deceiving proofs of his murder, and then informing Sir Henry Clinton he had done so. The ground which the genera! was pro* ceeding upon being changed, he by a letter of the \Uih of Au~ gust laid the whole matter before congress for their di recti* & The affair being put into this train, the general sent word to col. Dayton on the 25th, "You will leave capt. Asgill oil parole at Morristown, until further orders." The captain was admitted to his parole even within tenor twelve miles of the British lines. He was indulged with a confidence yet more unlimited, by being permitted for the benefit of his health, and the recreation of his mind, to ride not only about the American cantonments, btrtin* to the surrounding country, for several miles, with his friend and companion, major Gordon, constantly attending him. Every mi' litary character must suppose that these indigencies flowed from the American commander in chief: which was the real case, and is not to be ascribed to the interference of count Rochambeatl. Congress referred gen. Washington's letter and the proceedings of the British court-martial upon Lippincot to a committee, who delivered in their report on the 17th of October. Ten days before, [Oct. 7.] Washington wrote in a private letter to the Secretary at war—<( The case of capt. Asgill is now before-congress. Was I to give my private opinion respecting Asgill, I should pronounce in favor of his being released from his duresse; and that he should be permitted to go to his friends iirEurope1." Congress delayed bringing the matter to an issue. At length the general received a. letter from the count de Vergenness, dated the 29th of July, interceding for capt. Asgill. It was accompanied with an uncommonly pathetic one from Mrs. Asgill, the mother to the count. Vergcnncs in the most polite, humane and powerful manner pleaded her cause. "Your excellency {he said) will not read this letter without being extremely affected : it had that effect upon the king and upon the queen, to whom I communicated it. The goodness of their majesties hearts induces them to desire, that the inquietudes of an unfortunate mother may becalmed, and her tenderness reassured.—There isonr consideration, Sir, which though not decisive, may have an influence upon your resolution. Capt. Asgill is doubtless yc"



prisoner, but he is amongihose whom the arms of the king con* tributedtoputinto your hands at YorkrTown, Although this cirg^ms^ance does not operate as a safeguard, it however justifies f he interest. I permit myself to take in this aifuir. In seeking t» fleJiver.Mr, Asgill from the fate which threatens him, I am far from engaging you to seek another victim; the pardon, to he perfectly satisfactory; must be entire." Washington sent copies: 4»f the, letters, with one of his own of the 25th of October, to congress., On the 7th of November they "resolved, That thefcommauder in chief be, and he is hereby directed to set captain ,&sgi!i at liberty." It afforded gen. Washington singular pleasure is> have his power to transmit a copy of this resolve to the fapt. tUe iSth; and as he supposed the latter would wish to g<j f&p New-York as soon as possible, he sent with it a .passport tin' thf4 purpose, They were accompanied with a letter, which «lQS«i-W}th-T-" I cannot take leave t>f you, Sir, without assuring jfW, that in whatever light Hjv agencv in this unpleasmg'affair aiay be viewed, 1 was never influenced, through thewholeot it, £,y, sanguinary motives; but by what I conceived to be a sense of jtyjr duty, which loudly called upon me to lake measmes, howr pyer disagreeabje, to prevent a repetition *>f those enormities fvj.iich have been the subject of tliScusMuit. And that this im.j>pr£ant end is likely to be answered without the effusion of the jiioodc-f an inppcent person, is not a greater relief to you,than it fS \p, SUvypur most obedient, humble servant, George. Washingjpa.". Though the treatment capt. Asgill met- with from the ger jjeral, in the various indulgences that ware granted him, mcrii^rf jin acknowledgment aftei his liberation, none was offered, and. |he captain is thought to have been -deficient in politeness. • ,

.it was not long after Sir Guy Cai leton's arrival, ere he broke «ptjie board of associated loyalists, and thereby precluded a. reper jijioriof the likeenormity that had been practised on lluddy. He .arrived on the 5th of May; on the llh lip wr ote to gen. WashjngtprijandseHt him some public papers that biscxccllency. might Jparn ftom them, the dispositions that prevailed in the government and people of Great-Britain relative to the making of apeace yrith the Americans. How necessary this is for the United States* £he fbUowjng extracts from the public and private letters of genr ileinen of the first eminence, wijl convince you—"May li'. Our •urnxy is.perfectly naked, without pay or- ruin. • The greatest der ci.Sjittn and severity has been used to prevent the consequences ^utipoHS.disposition which generally pervaded the troops. Its appearances are removed, but 1 know of no expedient mat wiH j*ee.ure th£ existence of Uus£tbe southern]. arm\, u:ikss supplies

M^h Q.<1 arrive

« PreviousContinue »