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(AMERICAN REVOLUTION--1777.) [George Washington.] His order pardoning a group of deserters during the Philadelphia Campaign. 2 manuscript pages, 8 1/4 x 7 3/4 inches, unsigned and in an unidentified secretarial hand; folds, slightly cropped on left edge, minor wear. "X Roads" [Cross Roads, PA], 19 August 1777
Offered here is a manuscript transcript of Washington's order, likely copied out by a clerk at the regimental level for insertion into the regimental orderly book. The handwriting has not been identified. This order was issued from General Washington's headquarters as he prepared to defend Philadelphia. It gives the daily countersign passwords; names the five officers of the day including Major General Nathanael Greene and Brigadier General Charles Scott; and reports the court martial results for three groups of soldiers charged with desertion.
One soldier charged with desertion and theft of a horse was "found guilty and sentenc'd to be led round the reg't he belongs to on horse back, with his face towards the horses tail, and his coat turn'd wrong side outwards, and that he be then disch'd the army. The Commander in Chief approves the sentence." A group of 15 enlisted men was "found guilty of desertion and are judged worthy of death. The Court esteem the prisoners . . . objects of compassion, and as such recommend them to the Commander in Chief. The Gen'l is pleased to grant them his pardon . . . a signal act of mercy in the Commander in Chief, & demands every grateful return of fidelity, submission, obedience and active duty, in any future military service which he shall assign them."
A very similar copy of these orders survives in Washington's papers at the Library of Congress, as part of the "Varick transcript" made by clerks circa 1781 to 1783, and is transcribed on the National Archives Founders Online site. That copy contains an additional several lines at the end. It does not, however, include the officers of the day listed here. It also differs in numerous small details. The Varick copy lists the countersigns as Princeton and Pluckemin; this copy adds "Plymouth" to the list. Numerous spellings are different here: Willcoks for Willcox, Deasey for Dorse, Kilpatric for Kilpatrick, Burn for Brown, Griner for Grimer, and Whalney for Walma.
The "Cross Roads" was Washington's headquarters for 13 days in August 1777; it is now preserved as the Moland House museum in Warminster, PA.