Make your own free website on
Court Martial of Thomas Edwards | Court Martial of private Hubertus Reimar | Court Martial of private Bartholomew Gilmore | Court Martial of private Michael Meany | Court Martial of private William Coleman | Court Martial of private James Cairns


Primary Source Documents
Court Martial of private James Cairns

Court Martial of private James Cairns, 22nd Regiment of Foot, Boston, 21 December 1775 W. O. 71/82 pages 241-250

Thursday Decr. 21st 1775

The Court being met pursuant to Adjournment.

James Cairns, private Soldier in His Majesty's 22d Regt. of Foot was brought Prisoner before the Court, and accused of having stolen Sundry goods.

Mr. William Campbell being duly sworn, deposed that Lt. Lane, of the 22d Regt. came to his house, about four months ago, and complaining that he was ill, desired to have a Room, which the Deponent at first objected to for fear of fire, but upon his saying that he should not have any, he consented to his and his servant's residing in the house; that last Friday Mr. McDougal, who was coming to lodge at his house, went up stairs to see the apartments and upon his coming down again, he observed to the Deponent how careless he was, to have a parcel of goods in an open room, which he (the Deponent) was surprized at, and went up into a room on the floor above that on which Mr. Lane and the prisoner who was his Servant lay, and in which were deposited some goods belonging to a Mr. Cunningham and were in charge of Mr. Timmons and Mr. Liddle, and there found some woolen goods, together with cases and boxes, the
door broke open, and the lock laying on the Ground; that he thereupon called up the Prisoner, and said to him Cairnes, what is all this? to which he reply'd that he knew nothing about it, the Deponent then observed to him, that room could not be broke open without the knowledge of him or his Master, as they lay just below it, upon which he observed the prisoner to change Colour, and he answered if I had done it don't you think that I would have fastened the door again, to which the Deponent reply'd perhaps you might not; that having neglected to lock up his shop, he went down stairs again in a hurry, and had no further Conversation with the prisoner at that time; but after he had been some few minutes in the Shop, he observed the Prisoner to go out with his firelock in his hand, and in the Evening he returned, and said that he wanted a Waistcoat belonging to his Master which was up stairs, but the Deponent told him that he should not have it, for there was full proof of his having broke open the room door, and advised him to confess, and bring back the goods he carried away; to which he answered that he had not done it, but the Deponent told him that he need not deny it, as a piece of thickset had been found in a drawer in the apartment leading to his Master's; and that he should not have the Waistcoat, 'till his Master who he wanted much to see, came; and he replied that he told his Master the whole of it, (meaning as he supposed the breaking open the door) and that he and every body knew him to be an honest man, and that he and his Master would come that night or the next morning; that he repeated to him that he had better confess, but he still denied having done it, and then went away, but returned again, and desired to have his Surtout, which the Deponent refused to give him declaring that he should have nothing 'till he saw his Master; that on the next morning Mr. McDougal in going into the room where Mr. Lane used to lay, he found a Surtout with a piece of Broglio in the pocket, cut out for a Waistcoat, but not made up, which he informed the Deponent of, and he went up and saw the same; that on Saturday night Mr. Warden who lodges in his house, took out the bedstead on which Cairns the Prisoner used to lay, and under it found several rollers, such as silks and stuffs are generally rolled upon, and a sheet of brown wrapping paper, marked One piece of Sheeting and on Sunday morning Mr. Chandler coming to take in Inventory of the furniture in the house, put those things which the Deponent did not want, into the Room where the Prisoner used to lay, and the there found hid in a place where a pressbed had stood, two pieces of linnen a Remnant of Callico, some women's Gloves and some Handkerchiefs, which he informed the Deponent of , and he went into the Room, and saw those several things himself; that he remembers looking into this place for a pressbed, when he first went to live in the house, and there were no goods there then; that upon making those discoveries, he went and informed Colonel Campbell of them.
A Waistcoat, A piece of Broglio, two pieces of linen, some Women's Gloves, and handkerchiefs and a piece of Callico shewn to the Witness, he deposed that those were the several goods found as he has related.
Q. Does he know the door of this Room to have been kept lock't.
A. Upon his going up Stairs once with Mr. Chandler he observed to him that that was the room, that contained
Mr. Cunningham's goods, and the door was then lockt.
Q. How long was it after finding the door to be broke open that it was lockt again?
A. He discovered it's being broke open about 11 o'Clock on Friday Morning, and it was lockt again about five
o'Clock in the Evening.
Q. Did the Prisoner lay in the house on Thursday night?
A. Yes. he was the only person that lay in the house that night the Deponent being on guard.
Q. Does the Surtout belong to the Master or the Prisoner?
A. He has seen the Prisoner wear it.
Q. Is the Surtout produced in Court, with the piece of Broglio in the pocket, the one the prisoner came to
A. He supposes it was, as there was no other there.
Q. In the absence of Lt. Lane, could anybody besides Mr. Lane and his Servant, have gone up Stairs, without his (the Deponent's) knowing of it?
A. They Certainly might.
Q. from the Prisoner. When Mr. Lane began to walk out after his Illness, did he not Caution him to keep his doors shut, when he and his Servant were out?
A. Yes, he did give him a Caution of that sort, and in Consequence of this Caution he took care to lock the door.
Q. Could not the Shoemaker who worked in a Shop in the same house, go through the Entry into the back yard, and into the house?
A. Yes, he often went to the back yard, but he never knew him to go up stairs.

The Court Adjourned 'till next morning at 10 o'Clock

Friday December 22nd 1775.

The Court being met pursuant to Adjournment.

Mr. Rufus Chandler being duly sworn, deposed that he had let the house (in which the room was broke open, and the goods stolen) to Mr. Campbell, and upon Mr. Campbell's informing him of the matter, he went to the house, and in a place made for a pressbed in the room where the Prisoner used to lay, he found the handkerchiefs, A piece of Callico, three pieces of linen, a piece of plush, a piece of flower'd flannel, and the women's Gloves, produced in Court, and in the Chamber adjoining to his Master's, he found a piece of Broglio, cut out for a Waistcoat, in a great coat pocket; and in a drawer in the same Chamber he found a piece of thickset, and a brown Cloth waistcoat, and he is certain that those things sere not there, when the prisoner first went to the house.
Q. (from the Prisoner) Was either the prisoner's room door or the place for the press-bed where the things were found lockt?
A. No, Neither, but the door of the press-bed was tied with a string
Q. from the Court. Did he ever tax the prisoner with having taken those goods?
A. He asked him some questions concerning them, and he answered that he had found them on the Stairs.
Q. (from the prisoner) When he let the house to Mr. Campbell, did he desire him to inform his lodgers that there was a Store there
A. No.

Mr. Henry Liddle, being duly sworn, deposed that when Mr. Cunningham went out of Town, he left the key of the room in Mr. Campbell's house, where the goods were deposited in his and Mr. Timmon's charge, that upon it's being discovered that the room door had been broke open Mr. Campbell sent to inform him of it and he went to the house and found several cases and trunks broke open and the goods taken out, that he never previously examined the goods, nor had any inventory of them, but he is so well acquainted with Mr. Cunningham's hand writing, that he is certain the marks on the goods produced in Court are of his marking.
Q. Does he know the door of the room, where the goods were deposited to have been lockt?
A. Yes; he was in the room about a fortnight or three Weeks ago and the goods appeared to be in the same order as he had left them before, and he particularly saw some bales of Coating of Different Colours laying on the Shelves, and he then lockt the door, that he is certain that those chests and trunks were nailed down, when Mr. Cunningham went out of Town, and from their weight appeared to have goods in them.
Q. Does he know any of the goods produced in Court to have been deposited in that room?
A. He cannot pretend to say whether they were or not, but is certain that some of them have Mr. Cunningham's mark on them, and he does not know of his having any other goods in town but what were deposited in that room.

John Watkins private Soldier in the 22d Regiment of Foot, being duly sworn, deposed that he cut out a Surtout for the prisoner, which to the best of his knowledge is the one produced in Court, and he cut ut a suit of brown Cloaths for Lt. Lane, and the Waistcoat produced in Court, he is Certain is the one belonging to the Suit.
Q. How long ago is it since he cut out the Great Coat for the prisoner?
A. To the best of his knowledge it is three Weeks or a Month ago.
Q. Did he not make a Great Coat for Lt. Lane?
A. Yes.
Q. How long ago?
A. About a Month or six weeks, at the time of his coming out after his illness.

Patrick Lennegan, private Soldier in the 22d Regt of Foot, being duly sworn was examined.
Q. from the Court. Did he not make a Surtout for the Prisoner?
A. Watkins gave him a Surtout to make, which he found afterwards was for the prisoner.
Q. (the Surtout produced in the Court being shewn to him) Does he know that to be the Surtout?
A. Yes, he does
Q. How long ago is it, since he made the surtout?
A. About ten or eleven days ago.

The Court Adjourned till eleven o'Clock next morning

Saturday December 23d 1775.

The Court being met pursuant to Adjournment

Mr. Duncan McDougal being duly sworn, that when he went up stairs to look at the apartments in Mr. Campbell's house, he saw the door of the room, where Mr. Cunningham's goods were deposited upon a Jarr, and when he went up a second time with Mr. Campbell, he observed the lock laying on the ground.
Q. (from the Prisoner). Did he not hear Mr. Campbell desire the prisoner to clean out the rooms?
A. Yes, he thinks that he did.
Q. Had he brought any of his goods to the house before he saw the prisoner there?
A. He thinks that his own Servant, and another man had brought up one or two of his Trunks that morning, but he cannot say at what time, but he believes it was before he discovered the door to be broke open.

The Prisoner James Cairns, being put upon his defence, declared that about a fortnight ago, Lt. Lane was on the advanced Line Guard, and he also; that at the time of the guard being relieved, he was posted as sentry at Brown's Chimneys, and therefore the guard marched off without him, and Lt. lane got home before him; that when he got to the house, he saw Mr. Lane with a piece of thickset in his hand, which he said he had found on the Stairs, and bid him to put it down; that in the evening of the same day Lt. Lane upon going out, having bid him to light a fire, he went up into the Garret to look for wood; and in an empty room he found a bag Containing Sundry goods, (he remembers particularly the flowered flannel) which he took down, and put into the Closet in the Room where he used to lay, and upon Lt. Lane's coming home he told him of his having found those things, and he came into the room and looked at them; that Mr. Lane told him, that upon finding the piece of thickset he had mentioned it to Mr. Campbell, who said that it did not belong to him, but to some rebel who had gone into the Country, and therefore he bid him (the prisoner)lay by the things that he found, and if anybody came to claim them, they might have them; that he heard Lt. Lane say, that he recollected having seen a man going up stairs, but upon his coming out, and asking him what he wanted, he said that he had mistaken the house, and that Mr. Lane said, it was very likely that that man had taken the goods; and could not carry them off; that at the time he took the bag out of the room, the one he was afterwards called into by Mr. Campbell was shut, but whether it was locked he cannot tell.
That with respect to the Surtout, Lt. Lane had bought a piece of Bath Coating to make him a Cloak, but upon his being ordered to England, he have him a part of it to make a Surtout; and the Broglio which was found in the pocket, he took out of an open drawer in his Masters room, which he took imagining it belonged to him, but left other things, which were there, such a bullet mould, a Cartouch box, and some men's gloves; that when he went down to his Master who was at Captain Huddleston's, he told him of the door having been broke open, and he answered that he had told Mr. Campbell to keep his door shut, and it was no business of his. That his reason for tying the door of the Case, for the press-bed, was it's opening directly against the room door; and with respect to the Rollers found under the bed, they might be there amongst other rubbish, but he did not observe them.

The Prisoner having said in his defence, that Mr. Lane told him of his having informed Mr. Campbell of his finding the piece of thickset, Mr. Campbell was once again examined, whether Mr. Lane had given him any such information, he deposed that he never had.
Q. Did Mr. Lane ever at any time tell him, that either he or his Servant had found goods in the house?
A. No. he never did.
Q. At the time the prisoner came to ask for his Great-Coat, was there any trunk, knapsack, or other Conveyance belonging to him, fit to carry away goods in?
A. There was a trunk in Mr. Lane's room, which he looked upon to be the prisoner's, but Mr. Chandler said he
supposed it to be Mr. Cunningham's, and it Contain'd he thinks, some things belonging to the Prisoner.
Q. Were there any of the goods produced in Court in it?
A. No, there were not.
Q. How large was the trunk?
A. About two foot long.
Q. Does he know of any goods of any value, laying in the Garret, or any where about the house?
A. No, he does not.

Mr. Rufus Chandler being called upon by the Prisoner, and being questioned relative to the trunk, deposed that there was nothing in it, but some dust; and he saw the trunk in Mr. Lane's apartment, a month before they discovered the Room, where Mr. Cunningham's goods were deposited, to have been broke open, and was told by the prisoner, that he had taken it from the Garret.
Q. from the Court. Was there any trunk, knapsack, or other Conveyance belonging to the Prisoner, fit for Carrying goods away?
A. None, that he saw.
Q. Was there any of the Prisoners wearing Apparel among the goods that he found in his Chambers?
A. No.

The Court Adjourned 'till Tuesday Morning at 10 oClock.

Tuesday December 26th 1775.

The Court being met pursuant to Adjournment.

The Prisoner James Cairns Called upon Capt. Henry Elves of the 22d Regt. of Foot, to give Evidence with regard to his general Character, and he being duly sworn, deposed that he Inlisted him about three years ago, and upon his joining the Regiment was appointed to the same Company with the Deponent, and continued so 'till about five Months ago; that during his knowledge of him, he never heard any Complaints against him, nor had reason to suspect him of dishonesty.

Lieut. Archibald Rutherford of the 22d Regt. of Foot, being also called upon by the Prisoner, to give Evidence with respect to his General Character was duly sworn, and deposed that he was in the same Company with him, from the time he came into the Regt. till very lately, that he always bore a good Character and he never heard his honesty called in question, except on the present Occasion.

The Court upon due Consideration of the matter before them, is of Opinion that the Prisoner James Cairns, is Guilty of the Crime laid to his Charge, and doth therefore by Virtue of the Power and Authority to them given by the 2d Article of War of the 20th Section, adjudge him the said James Cairns to receive four hundred lashes on his bare back, with a Cat of Nine tails, at such place and time at the Commander in Chief shall be pleased to direct.

William Gaull

Step P. Adye
Deputy Judge Advocate

Approved. W. Howe

James Cairns joined the regiment in April of 1773, and served in Rawlins Hillman's company. In 1778, he was court martialed for robbery and desertion, was found guilty, and was executed by hanging on June 17, 1778.

Patrick Lenahan was a tailor from Ireland who joined the Regiment in March of 1775, shortly before the regiment departed for America. He served in Alexander McDonald's company until the end of 1777, when he joined the Light Infantry. He died in September of 1778.

John Watkins was a tailor born in 1740 in Devenock, County Brecknock. He served in Edward
Handfield's company, and was discharged after war and received a pension through Chelsea Hospital,
having served 21 years in the army.