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General Court Martial of William Cornell, Benjamin Sands Senr., Benjamin Sands Junr., Edwin Sands, Samuel Cornell & Hewlett Cornell
Part 1 of 2

Proceedings of a General Court Martial, held by Order of His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton K: B: General and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, on Thursday the 24th day of December 1778, at Jamaica in Long Island, Province of New York.

Lieut. Colonel John YORKE of His Majesty’s 22nd Regt. President
Major GRAHAM  42d Regt. M     Capt. HATFIELD  43d Regt.
Captn. ELVES  22d E     Captn. BROWNLOW  57th
Captn. MAXWELL  71st M     Captn. RUTHERFORD  42d
Captn. MANLY  33d B     Lieut. RICHARDSON  26th
Lieut. DUNBAR  43d E     Lieut. MILES  17th
Lieut. SOLWYN  33d R     Lieut. DRUMMOND  42d
Lieut. John Wilbar COOK of the 37th Regt. Deputy Judge Advocate

The President, Members & Deputy Judge Advocate being Sworn, & the Court having met according to Order.

No Prisoners appearing, The Court Adjourned to Saturday the 26th Instant at 10 O’Clock in the forenoon.

The badness of the Weather preventing the Evidence & Prisoners arriving on the 26th The Court Adjourned to Monday the 28th Instant, at 10 o’Clock in the forenoon.

The Court having met on the 28th Inst. pursuant to Adjournment, but the Evidence not being come The Court adjourned to Tuesday the 29th Instant at half after Ten O’Clock in the forenoon.

The Court having met on the 29th Instant, pursuant to Adjournment, proceeded to the Trial of William CORNELL, Benjamin SANDS Senr., Benjamin SANDS Junr., Edwin SANDS, Samuel CORNELL & Hewlett CORNELL, Soldiers in the Regiment of Queen’s County Militia, confined by Colonel Hamilton, for Treasonable practices, & keeping correspondence with the Rebels.

The Prisoners Crime being read to them they pleaded not Guilty.

The Court then proceeded to examine the Evidence for the Crown.

Major John KISSAM, Queen’s County Militia, being Sworn, informed the Court, that on the morning of the 17th Instant, being informed that some Whale Boats had come over from Connecticut, & taken two Sloops out of Cow Bay, he went with a Party to search for them, that he discovered the track of one Whale Boat, & the tracks of People about the Neighbours Houses, that he immediately apprehended the Six Prisoners, & that the Prisoner Benjamin SANDS Senior, confessed, that he went to the Water Side with some people, who crossed over to Connecticut about 11 O’Clock on the Night of the 16th Instant, & that the Prisoner Samuel CORNELL likewise told him, that he Saw the Prisoners Edwin SANDS, Benjamin SANDS Junior & Hewlett CORNELL Standing by the Boat in Company with the Rebels, & that the Prisoner Edwin SANDS told him likewise, that he, with the other five Prisoners were at the Boat together, & that the Prisoner Hewlett CORNELL informed him, that he heard there was a Whale Boat come over about one in the morning of the 17th Instant, & that he saw the Prisoners Benjamin SANDS Senr., Edwin SANDS & Samuel CORNELL in Company with the Rebels.

        Question By the Prisoner Benjamin SANDS Senior to the Evidence Major KASSAM— Whether he thought the Prisoner Benjamin SANDS Senr. knew of more than the one Boat, that crossed over on the morning of the 17th Instant?

        Answer— He cannot tell.

        Question By the Prisoner Samuel CORNELL to the Evidence Major KASSAM— If he is certain he told him the Prisoner Benjamin SANDS Junr. was in Company with the Rebels?

        Answer— Yes.

        Question by Captain HATFIELD to the Evidence Major KASSAM— If he did not reprimand the Prisoners for giving Intelligence of the Rebels landing, to the Officers of Militia?

        Answer— He did, & their answer was they were blamable in not doing it, but from their precarious Situation they thought it dangerous, for fear of being carried off themselves.

        Que. By Lieut. RICHARDSON to the Evidence Major KASSAM— If the Militia have not Orders to give the Alarm upon the appearance of any Boats Crossing over?

        Answer— They have.

Colonel HAMILTON being Sworn the Prosecutor against the Prisoners.

        Que. By the President— If he knows whether the Prisoners, took the oaths of Allegiance to His Majesty, & received protections from Government.

        Answer— That they did both, & that the Prisoner Benjamin SANDS Senr. was a Committee Man, but on the arrival of the King’s Troops, took the Oaths and received a Protection.

        Que. By Captn. RUTHERFORD to Colonel HAMILTON— Whether Colonel HAMILTON has not given Orders to the Militia, not to hold any kind of intercourse with the Rebels, & to give intelligence of any Boats coming over, whether in a hostile manner or otherwise.

        Answer— That he has given the most positive Orders to prevent and kind of Intercourse whatever.

Lieut. Edward THORNE Queen’s County Militia, being Sworn, informed the Court, that Ensign Joseph THORNE came to him at day light in the morning of the 17th Instant & informed him that his Brother with two Sloops were taken out of Cow Bay on the preceeding night, by the Rebels, that he immediately went down to Cow Neck, to see if any Boats had landed, but did not find any, but perceived the tracts of several people upon the Beech, & suspecting from their being so near the Prisoners Houses, that they knew of the Rebels landing, he got the Prisoners together and examined them, & upon his asking them seperately, why they did not give him notice of the Rebels Landing, the Prisoner Benjamin SANDS Senr. answered, it was so near their Houses, that they were afraid of being carried off.

        Question By the President to the Evidence Lieut. THORNE— If he knows whether any of the people that came over, are related to any of the Prisoners, or whether he knows they were people well affected to Government?

        Answer— That he was informed, one of them was a Son of the Prisoner Wm. CORNELL, & another was the Brother of the Prisoner Benjamin SANDS Junior, & likewise Aspingwall CORNELL, Nephew of the Prisoner Wm. CORNELL & Cousins to the Prisoners Samuel & Hewlett CORNELL & also a Richardson SANDS, Nephew to the Prisoner Benjn. SANDS Senior, & looks upon those people that he has mentioned (which came over) as Rebels.

        Question By the President to Colonel HAMILTON— whether he knows the Character of any of those people, which he heard had come over?

        Answer— He is convinced they are Rebels, & that some of them Deserted from the Militia.

        Que. By Colonel HAMILTON to Lieut. THORNE— Whether he did not think, that some of the Prisoners informed the Rebels of the two Sloops laying in the Cow Bay?

        Answer— He did suspect the Prisoners of giving intelligence of the two Sloops.

        Question By the President to Lieut. THORNE What was the reason, why he suspected the Prisoners?

        Answer— Because the Rebels landed near the Prisoners Houses, & were connected with them.

Click here for ---> Cornell/Sands Court Martial, Part 2

Great Britain, Public Record Office, War Office, Class 71, Volume 88, Pages 96–103.

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