General Court Martial of William Ellis
At a General Court Martial held at New York in the Province of New York on Friday March 5th and continued by Adjournment to [blank] 1779, by Virtue of a Warrant from His Excellency Sir Henry CLINTON 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.
The President, Members and Assistant Deputy Judge Advocate being duly Sworn, The Court Adjourned till Saturday the 6th March 1779.
The Court met pursuant to Adjournment.
William ELLIS Private Soldier in Lord Cathcart’s Legion, was brought Prisoner before the Court, and accused of cutting off John DALLY’s Hand.
John DALLY being duly Sworn, Deposed that last Sunday Fortnight in the Evening, he was called out of his Aunt’s House and was taken Prisoner by Mr. CUNNINGHAM of the Legion, to whom he produced a discharge; and Mr. CUNNINGHAM threw a Paper upon the Ground;
that as he (the Prosecutor) was Stooping down for it, he received a blow upon the Head with a Sword, which was the reason he ran away.
That two Soldiers then pursued him, and when he got into a Mr. MAXWELL’s Room, his hand was cut off by one of them but by which of the two he cannot be certain.
That afterwards he was very ill treated, not even being allowed to look at his Hand, they threatning to ill use him.
The Prosecutor (John DALLY) further said he could not swear to the identity of the Prisoner.
Robert MAXWELL, Merchant in New York, being duly Sworn, deposed that he could not Swear to the Identity of the Prisoner, but that on a Sunday about three Weeks ago in the Evening, the Prosecutor came to his house, and he let him in, and found that he had been cut upon the Head:
that soon afterwards two of the Legion knocked at the Door, and with many threatening Speeches demanded entrance:
that he refused them, adding he was sure they could want nothing at his House.
That they answered they wanted John DALLY, and if he did not open the Door, they would cut him and every person in the house to pieces;
that he then let him in, that as soon as they got in, one made a blow at John Dally with a Sword, and afterwards the other said, Damn him, let me have a blow at him too.
That they dragged him out of the House, & he (the Evidence) found a Hand laying upon the Carpet.
Mr. George GORDON Commissary of the Northern Army, being duly Sworn, deposed that about last Sunday fortnight he was Spending the Evening at Mr. MAXWELL’s House, and a poor man by name DALLY, came into the House, with his Head bleeding much, and fell upon his Knees and begged protection from Mr. MAXWELL.
That soon afterwards two of the Legion came to the House and demanded entrance: ( and that to the best of his knowledge the prisoner William ELLIS was one of them.)
That Mr. MAXWELL refused them, Saying he was sure they could want no body in his house;
that they then threatned, (if he did not open the Door) to cut him & every one in the place to pieces;—
that Mr. MAXWELL then opened the Door, and they came in: one of them made a cut at John DALLY; and the other also, Saying, Damn me let me have a Stroke at him too:
that they then dragged the prosecutor from the House, & he (the Evidence) saw a hand laying in the Corner of the Room, in which he stood, when he received the Blows.
Q. (by the Court)— Did John DALLY appear to have any arms about him, when he came into Mr. Maxwell’s House?
The Prisoner William ELLIS being put upon his Defence, says that last Sunday fortnight in the Evening he was at the Rendezvouse of the Recruiting Party of the Regiment, when Mr. CUNNINGHAM came with some other person, and desired him to go with them to apprehend John DALLY,
that accordingly he went with them to his House near the Fresh Water;
that Mr. CUNNINGHAM knocked at the Door;
his father came and asked them what they wanted,— Mr. CUNNINGHAM answered, his Son John DALLY:
his Father then called him, and Mr. CUNNINGHAM told him he was his Prisoner, and gave him over to his (the Prisoner’s) Charge and another young man of the Party:
that soon afterwards John DALLY shewed a Discharge to Mr. CUNNINGHAM, and Mr. CUNNINGHAM threw it away saying it was good for nothing;
that the Serjeant went to pick it up, and the Prosecutor Struck him.
That as he was holding the Serjeant down upon the Ground, he gave him a blow with the flat of his Sword, and got up & ran off.
That he followed him to a House where he was told by two of Lord RAWDON’s Men (who had Bayonets drawn) he was gone in.
That upon his attempting to go out into the House where John DALLY was, they caught his arm in the Door, upon which he said he would use Violence, if they did not immediately let him in.
That on his entering the House he received a Blow from John DALLY, but he does not know whether he had arms or not, at the time.
That he led him out by the right hand, as far as the Provost, where he met Mr. CUNNINGHAM and his Father.
That he was Singing all along the Road, untill he met his Father, when he told him he had lost his hand.
But the Prisoner absolutely denies having cut it off, or knowing it was off untill he met his father.
The Prisoner farther to prove his Innocence calls upon Mr. CUNNINGHAM, who being duly Sworn, deposed that at the Rendezvouse of the Regiment, he (having received Intelligence of John DALLY) saw the Prisoner ELLIS, and desired him to go with him, in order to apprehend him.
That accordingly he went to the House of John DALLY’s Father, accompanied by the Prisoner, Serjeant PAULMITTEER, & John SUTHERLAND of the regiment.
That he knocked at the Door and asked for John DALLY, when his Father went and brought him, that when he came, he told him he was his Prisoner.
That the father then produced a Discharge, which he said was not a proper one as it was not Signed by the Inspector General.
That the paper which covered the Discharge he threw away, & the Serjeant he Supposed thought it was the Discharge and Stooped down to pick it up, when he was Struck or pushed by John DALLY:
that the Prisoner ELLIS gave him a blow, either with the edge or flat of his Sword, he cannot determine; upon which John DALLY ran off;
that he saw no more of them till about a Quarter of an hour afterwards, when the Party returned with John DALLY, whose hand was off.
Q. (by the Court)— Do you not think it possible from both attempting at the same time to take up the Paper, it might have been the occasion of the Serjeant’s being thrown down?
Q. (by the Court)— Do you not imagine the reason of John DALLY’s running away, was from the Blow he received from the Sword?
Q. (by the Court)— How long after the affair happened was it that the Prisoner was confined?
Q. (by the Court)— Why was not Serjeant PAULMITTEER and SUTHERLAND, who then seemed equally concerned with the Prisoner, confined as well as Ellis?
Q. (by the Court)— Did you perceive any marks of Blood upon either of the Swords?
Serjeant PAULMITTER being called upon by the Prisoner & being duly sworn deposed that he overtook ELLIS at the House after John DALLY had ran away, where he the said John DALLY was, and that they would not open the Door.
That he told them there was a Prisoner in the House, and desired them to open the Door as he must have him.
That the Door was then opened, and he saw John DALLY come out of a Closet.
That he told him he was a prisoner and must go with them.
That John DALLY did not seem willing to go till he gave him two or three strokes upon the back with the flat of his Sword.
That he (John DALLY) did not say he had lost his hand till he got some distance from the House.
Q. (by the Court)— Did you hear the Prisoner say any thing when he was in the room?
Q. (by the Court)— Did you see the Prisoner Strike DALLY with his Sword in the Room?
Q. (by the Court)— Did he Strike before or after you had Struck him?
Q. (by the Court)— Did the Prisoner Strike DALLY with force to appearance?
Q. (by the Court)— Did any other man enter the room in order to take DALLY, but the prisoner and yourself?
Q. (by the Court)— Was DALLY armed when you went into the Room?
Q. (by the Court)— Did he (DALLY) make any resistance?
The Prisoner calls upon Captain STEWART, of the Legion for a Character who being duly Sworn, deposed that the Prisoner, as a man of good Character, was pitched upon by Col. TARLETON to attend him at New York upon the Recruiting Service.
That Since he has known him he has always behaved himself as a good Soldier, and that he never thought him capable of doing that is charged against him.
The Court Adjourned till eleven o’Clock on Monday morning.
Monday the 8th March 1779.
The Court being met pursuant to Adjournment, and Stephen Payne ADYE Esqr. Deputy Judge Advocate being duly Sworn,
The Court upon consideration of the Evidence for and against the Prisoner William ELLIS, together with what he had to offer in his Defence, is of Opinion that he is Guilty of the Crime laid to his Charge;
the Court doth therefore, by Virtue of the Power and Authority, in them vested by the 3rd Article of War of the 20th Section, adjudge him the Said William ELLIS, to receive one thousand Lashes on his bare back with the Cats of nine tails, and to be kept in Irons, untill he shall have received the said Punishment.
Alured CLARKE Lt. Col.
Step. P. ADYE
Great Britain, Public Record Office, War Office, Class 71, Volume 88, Pages 354-361.
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