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General Court Martial of Thomas Connoly

[Extract of the General Court Martial whereof Lieutenant Colonel Samuel BIRCH of the 17th Light Dragoons was President, held at Southampton, Long Island between 2 March — 15 March 1779.]

& Crime

Thomas CONNOLY private Dragoon in the British Legion Confined for Highway Robbery, being called into Court and the Charge read to him pleads not Guilty.


Daniel SANFORD Inhabitant being duly sworn saith that on Tuesday the Second day of this present month, about a mile to the East of Southampton the Prisoner overtook him on the Highway on Horseback with Pistols before him and Stoped this Evidence asking him if he had got any money, he ordered him to deliver up what he had, and asked if he had no Guineas.

On the Evidence answering he had not the Prisoner claped a pistol to his breast saying Damn you deliver your purse or you are a dead man,

he was then afraid and gave the Prisoner his purse containing two York Shillings in Silver and and fourteen Coppers (for halfpence) which purse being produced in Court the Evidence Swears it to be the identical purse of which the Prisoner robbed him,

after he took his purse the Prisoner seemed very angry and Damning him said where is your watch and after Striking him several times with his naked sword and having caused him to turn out his Pockets, the Prisoner finding neither Watch nor Guineas Struck him again several times, and pointing to a house nigh he asked the Evidence if there was any money in that house

the Evidence in hopes to get rid of him said there was and turning toward the house the Evidence saw the man of the House at work at the Barn

shewing the Prisoner the man of the House he went with the Prisoner towards the Barn and while he was engaged with this Countryman the Evidence got off and further saith not..

Evidence of

John GRIMES Waggoner being duly Sworn saith that on Tuesday last at ten O’Clock in the forenoon about a mile Eastward of Southampton the Prisoner being on Horseback, called at the door of the house of Benjamin FOSTER and this Evidence who lodges there went out,

the Prisoner asked him what time of the day it was, and pulling out his Watch the Prisoner desired to see it, the Evidence handed it to him,

when he got the Watch in his hand he told the Evidence he was a rebel, he said he was not and observing the Prisoner was going off with his watch he laid hold of his Horse’s Bridle to stop him, but the Prisoner presenting a Cocked Pistol at him he Swore if he did not let go he would blow his brains out,

the Evidence being afraid let go, and the prisoner rode off with his watch.

A Watch being found on the Prisoner being produced in Court the Evidence Swears the same to be the Identical Watch of which the Prisoner Robbed him on Tuesday last as aforesaid and further saith not &c.

Evidence of

William TAYLOR Adjutant of the British Legion being duly sworn saith that on Tuesday morning the second Instant he met the Prisoner on the Highway about a mile and half East of Southampton, & seeing his sword not properly returned he ordered him to return it, in doing which he observed he was in liquor,

he had not rode a mile before he met a man who told him that a Dragoon of the British Legion had a little before robbed a Country Man of his purse and a Waggoner of his watch,

that he took the mans horse and pursued the Prisoner and seeing a Serjeant’s party coming on the road he called out to the Serjeant to Stop the Prisoner which he did,

the Evidence came up to him & laying hold of the Prisoners searched him and found a Watch and a purse upon him, both which being produced in Court, the Evidence swears to be the Identical purse and Watch found on the prisoner as aforesaid and further saith not.

Evidence Closed

The Evidence against the Prisoner being then Closed and the prisoner having no question to ask, the Court proceeded to hear the prisoner’s Defence.


The Prisoner being on his defence says that he was sent from Sagg to Southampton on Tuesday Morning that he drank some liquor in Town, that on returning to Sagg he was so much deprived of his sences by Liquor, that he does not recollect any Circumstances concerning the Charge.

The Prisoner prayed the Court would call on Captn. HOVENDEN and Cornet & Adjutant McNEILLY of the British Legion to give a Character of him.

Character of
the Prisoner

Captn. HOVENDEN & Cornet and Adjutant McNELLY being called into Court were duly Sworn, and they both declared that ever since the Prisoner Thomas CONNOLY has been in the Troop, they never knew him to merit even a reprimand from any of his Officers, and that his behaviour was always becoming an honest man and a Good Soldier.

The Prisoner having nothing further to offer in his Defence the Court proceeded to give Sentence.


The Court having duly considered the Evidence for & against the Prisoner & his Defence find him Guilty of the Highway robbery, which the Court considers as a breach of the 2nd & 3rd Articles of the 20th Section of the Articles of War, & Sentence the Prisoner Thomas CONNOLY to Suffer Death;

that he be taken from the place of his Confinement to the place of Execution & their hung by the Neck till he is Dead, and the Court orders the Watch & purse to be restored to the Owners.

Saml. BIRCH Lt. Col.

       H. CLINTON

Kenneth McCULLOCH Depy. Judge Advocate

Great Britain, Public Record Office, War Office, Class 71, Volume 88, Pages 341-344.

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