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Court Martial of Thomas Edwards

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Court Martial of Thomas Edwards

W. O. 71/83 ppg. 102 - 108
Court Martial of Thomas Edwards, private soldier in Christopher French's company, 19 February 1777.

Proceedings of a General Court Martial held at Newport, in Rhode Island, the 19th of February 1777 by Virtue of a Warrant from His Excellency Sir William Howe, Knight of the most Honorable Order of the Bath, General and Commander in Chief of all His Majesty's Forces within the Colonies laying on the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to West Florida inclusive &c, &c, &c. Dated at Head Quarters in New York the 14th of February 1777.

Major John Innes [Royal Artillery], President
Capt. Core [54th Regiment] Capt. Moram [not identified]
Capt. Haslewood [63d Regiment] Capt. Timpson [22d Regiment]
Capt. Tidswell [54th Regiment] Capt. Innes [43d Regiment]
Lt. Hill [43d Regiment] Lt. Bunbury [54th Regiment]
Lt. Patershall [17th Light Dragoons] Lt. Fage [Engineers]
Lt. Hamilton [22d Regiment] Lt. Shaw [22d Regiment]

Captain Henry Barry [52d Regiment] Dy Judge Advocate.

The President, Members and Deputy Judge Advocate being assembled, pursuant to Orders, and all duly sworn. Prisoner Thomas Edwards, Private Soldier in the 22d Regiment and Major French'es Company A Sauve Guard at the house of Mr. Samuel Dyer, confined by Order of Lieutenant General Clinton, was brought before the Court and Charged with Maliciously Firing a Musket, and thereby wounding two Hessian Soldiers of the Regiment of Ditfourth; one of whom Fuzileer Iburg is since dead of his wounds.

Interpreter Town Serjeant Hornnickle was duly sworn to faithfully Interpret all Questions proposed to, and replied from all such Hessian Evidences as might be produced in the course of the Trial

1st Evidence Col. Bose of the Regiment of Ditfourth, being duly sworn, deposes to the Authenticity of the following Memorial and complaint, presented by him to Lieut. General Clinton, it having been first interpreted to him.

Memorial &ca. Upon the first of January Ult. about five o'Clock in the evening two Soldiers of the Regiment of Ditfourth and my Company went out of Town with an intention to procure potatoes at a neighbouring House, where they had several times purchased them. Approaching the House they were fired upon, by which both were wounded with long slugs or rather a ball cut into square pieces. One received seven wounds the other four, which according to the Certificate of the Surgeon Major, are in danger of proving Mortal.
In a Strict Examination of the wounded men they Declare and Complain, that they were fired upon Maliciously, that they saw no person, and knew nothing more than that they was the fire of a Fuzee from behind a parcel of Hay, and that in all probability it was an English Soldier, perhaps a Sauve Guard who did the Injury without pretext or reason.
I therefore take the liberty to report this melancholy Affair to your Excellency and to present my Complaint of such a proceeding.

(signed) Carl. Bose, Col.

2d Evidence Surgeon Major Limbergen, of the Regiment of Ditfourth, being duly sworn, and having an Interpreter, Deposes, that on the first of January Ult. about six o'Clock in the Evening he was called upon to dress two wounded men of the said Regiment, that he went to the place and found them dangerously wounded in the following manner

1st Fuzileer Iburg had received seven wounds from Balls cut into square pieces, three of which penetrated three or four Inches deep into the parts of the bone of the right leg; two Balls pierced the posteriors to the same depth one the right ham; one entered the Right Arm, in such a manner that without a large incision it would not have been possible to save it- this Operation produced a great Effusion of blood, and was attended with a violent Fever.

2nd Fuzileer Wallenshausen had five wounds, from the same kind of slugs as follows- One in the right Hip near the joint, two others in the outward joint of the Right Hand, followed also by a violent Fever.

3d Evidence Doctor Hoop of the Hessians being duly sworn and having an interpreter was questioned by the Court, Whether to the best of his Opinion, the deceas'd Fuzileer Iburg, died of the wounds he received on the first of January Ulto?
Answers. Yes, to the best of his Opinion he did.

4th Evidence Serjeant Wozeham of the Regiment of Ditfourth, being duly sworn and having an Interpreter, Deposes that two or three days, after the Men of said Regiment were wounded, he was sent by his Colonel to enquire into the Affair; and that meeting the Prisoner, at a house near the place where it happened, he the Prisoner declared to him, that he was the person who had wounded them.

Defence The Prisoner being called to and put on his Defence says, that he was placed, by order of General Clinton, a Sauve Guard at the house of Mr. Dyer, that the Stock on the Farm had been robbed the two preceding Nights to that on which the two Hessian Soldiers were wounded, and that particularly on the night before, in Discharging his duty, and protecting as a Sauve Guard, the property on the Farm, he was Ill treated and draggd about a field by four Hessian Soldiers: That on the third night of these Robberies, about half an hour after Gun firing, he went to look after his Charge, and found about ten Hessians breaking thro' the Fence, on which he Challenged them, but not receiving any answer, Fired upon them, which he conceived it was his Duty to do, as a Sauve Guard placed there to protect the property. And the rather so, as having Reported the Affair of the preceding night to Capt. Brabazon, who lodges in the same House with him, he had received his Orders to fire, in case of any future attempt of the like nature.
The Prisoner then produced his Order of Sauve Guard from General Clinton, to the Court.

1st Evidence. Capt. Brabazon of the 22d Regiment, being duly sworn, deposes, that he is quartered on the same House where the Prisoner was a Sauve Guard, that the Stock had been frequently robbed, of which the Prisoner had often complained to him, and requested he might be no longer a Sauve Guard unless he could discharge its Duties. That he this Deponent reported this Account, and particularly the Affair of the Prisoner;s being drag'd about the field, to Lieut. Col. Campbell, and in consequence of his advice ordered the Prisoner to fire if any future attempt should be made, to rob the House or Farm.
This Deponent further says that he had lost two Sheep from off Mr. Dyer's Farm, and that the Prisoner had often taken and brought to him Hessian Soldiers, that therefore he sent 2d Lieut. Proctor to the Hessian Barracks, to inform the Soldiers, that if they came, after night on Mr. Dyer's Farm they must expect to be fired upon. He further deposes, that the Sheep were taken from within thirty yards of the house, and that when the Prisoner fired upon the Hessian Soldiers, they were at or near the place from whence the Sheep had been taken.

2d Evidence 2nd Lieut. Proctor of the 22d Regiment, being duly sworn, deposes that he is quartered on the same house where the Prisoner was a Sauve guard, that there had been robberies of Hay Sheep and other things committed there, and that the Prisoner had often taken up Hessian Soldiers, who had been plundering after Night on the Farm. That the morning after Capt. Brabazon's Sheep were taken, he was sent by the Captain to seek for them in the Hessian Barracks, and that He then informed the Soldiers they must expect to be fired upon, incase they came again to plunder Mr. Dyer's Farm. that notwithstanding this that Night another Sheep was taken away. This Deponent further says, that some few days after the Hessians were wounded, two others were found by the Prisoner, taking away Hay, and that when followed, he the Prisoner was attacked by them, and would have been overpowered had not a Negro Man of the House come to his assistance, by which means he was enabled to secure both of them and that they were sent Prisoners to the Guard.

3d Evidence Willm. Royston, Private Soldier in the 22d Regiment, being duly sworn, deposes that he is quartered on the House the Prisoner was the Sauve Guard to, that on the Night preceding that the two Hessians were wounded, the Prisoner came into the House some little time after Gun firing, with the Appearance of having been attacked by some Men, his Shirt being open, and himself seemingly much confused, and that he said he had been drag'd about the field by some Hessians, and then demanded why none of them had come to his Aid. That on the Night the two Hessians were wounded the Prisoner went out of the house, about a quarter of an hour after Gunfiring, and that in half an hour afterwards he heard a Shot, by which he has been informed, the Hessian Soldiers were wounded.

4th Evidence William Harris Private Soldier in the 22d Regiment, being duly sworn, deposes, that he was in Mr. Dyer's house the Evening the two Hessian Soldiers were wounded, and that it happened about half an hour after gun firing.

Sentence The Court having heard and considered the Evidence in behalf of the Charge, as also the Prisoner's Defence, and the Evidence in support of it is of Opinion he is not Guilty of the Crimes he is charged with, which appearing to the Court to have occurred in the discharge of his Duty as a Sauve Guard, it doth therefore Acquit him.
John Innes Major
of Artillery President
Approved W Howe.

Thomas Edwards had been a soldier in the 65th Regiment of Foot, and was drafted from that regiment into the 22d in June of 1776. He was killed at the Battle of Rhode Island on August 29th, 1776.

A "Sauve Guard" is a Safe Guard; this unusual spelling has not been encountered elsewhere. Preparatory to landing on Rhode Island, General Clinton ordered, "A Corps of Safe Guards, consisting of one Subaltern and 15 men from each British and Hessian brigade, to be commanded by a Captain from the British, is to be formed as soon as the troops are landed." Subsequently, safe guards were placed at mills and other locations subject to plunder (W. O. 36/2, entries for 7 December and 12 December 1776).

Thomas Edwards was originally tried on 14 January, at which time the court found, "Thomas Edwards, of his Majestys 22d Regiment, tried by the General Court Martial of which Major Bruce was President, for maliciously firing at 2 Hessian Soldiers (one of whom is since dead) is acquitted; it being done in the Execution of his duty as a safeguard." On 16 February, however, it was ordered, "There being a want of form in the proceedings of a General Court Martial held the 14th January 1777, where of Major Bruce of the 38th Regiment was President. It is the Commander in Chiefs' pleasure, that a new trial do take place, in order to secure the prisoner, Thomas Edwards from a further prosecution for the same charge. A General Court Martial will therefore sit, consisting of one Field Officer, Six Captains, and 6 Subalterns, on Wednesday next at three o'Clock at the Court house, to try prisoners as shall be brought before them." (General Orders, Rhode Island, 13 January, 16 January and 16 February, 1777. W. O. 36/2, Public Records Office, London).

Richard Proctor, served as a volunteer in the 65th Regiment in Boston, where he was wounded on 28 August 1775 (Howe to Gage, 29 August 1775. Gage Manuscripts, Volume 134 (Reel 65), William L. Clements Library) and then in the Royal Fencible American Regiment (W. O. 65, PRO). He was commissioned Ensign in the 22nd Regiment on 7 August 1776 (W. O. 12/, PRO). He served in Captain Brabazon's company until his death on September 1778, of wounds received at the Battle of Rhode Island on 29 August 1778. The reference to his rank as "2d Lieut." is unusual, that rank occurring only in Artillery and Fusileer regiments; it was equivalent to Ensign. This may be because the president of this court was an Artillery officer.

William Roystone was a laborer from Cambridge, England. He was born in 1743 and had served in the army since about 1765. He was discharged after the regiment returned to England at the end of the war, and received a pension through Chelsea Hospital (WO 120, PRO).