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General Court Martial of Cornelius Heary

[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.]

March the 5th

The Court having met according to adjournment Proceeded to the trial of Cornelius HEARY Private Soldier in the Infantry of the British Legion Confined for Desertion & for endeavouring to persuade Richard JACKS a private Dragoon in the same Corps to Desert with him.

The Charge being read to the prisoner and put on his trial he pleaded not Guilty.


William TAYLOR Adjutant of the British Legion being duly sworn saith that the Prisoner Cornelius HEARY hath been a Soldier in that Corps since the month of May last and hath received pay and Cloathing, & further the Evidence saith not.


David BUCHANAN Sergeant in the British Legion being duly sworn saith that he knows the Prisoner Cornelius HEARY to be a Soldier in Captn. EDWARDS’s Company of the British Legion and that he hath received Rations, Cloathing & Necessarys and has done duty as a Soldier,

this Evidence further swears that the Prisoner was sent from Sagg to Southampton with the Quarter Master for Provisions on the Twenty Seventh day of January last and did not return till he was brought in by a party on the Seventh day of February following and further this Evidence saith not.


John REILEY Corporal in the Dragoons of the British Legion being duly sworn saith that he was ordered with a party on the Seventh day of February last to proceed to a house about three miles from Sagg,

that he was ordered by Major COCHRAN to surround the house with his party, that he went in, to search for the Prisoner but could not find him,

as he was coming out he found an Indian woman at the Door, he told her if she did [not] discover where the Prisoner was Concealed he would cut her head off,

She was frightned and pointing to a hole in the Ground (where the people generally keep their Roots in the Winter time) this Evidence went to the place which he found was covered with Boards and taking them up, he discovered the Prisoner and Seized him; further saith not.


Richard JACKS a Private Dragoon in the British Legion being duly sworn saith that on the Evening of the thirty first day of January last John HALL a private Dragoon in the same Corps met him in the Street near Major COCHRAN’s Lodgings,

that HALL told him that Cornelius HEARY who had Deserted sometime before was then concealed in his Captain’s Barn and if he would go with him there, he would treat him with a Bottle of Wine,

he says he seemingly agreed to enter into their plan that he went with him in order afterwards to make a Discovery,

that when they came to the Barn, HALL call’d to the Prisoner to open the Door which he did, this Evidence with HALL went in and Drank some Wine with the Prisoner; who told them he had been Concealed in a House at some distance

that he had made a discovery of three Whale Boats on the Beach between Sagg and Southampton that could carry them across the Sound,

that the Prisoner asked them to meet at the house before mentioned which HALL knew,

that the Evidence immediately on leaving the Barn went to Major COCHRANE to give information of HALL’s intention and of Cornelius HEARY’s being in the Barn,

HALL was immediately Confined, but when this Evidence with others returned to search for the Prisoner he could not be found in the Barn.

The Prisoner having no questions to ask and the Evidence against him being closed, the Prisoner begged the Court for time till tomorrow at Eleven O’Clock in the forenoon to make his Defence which being g[r]anted…

March 6th

The Court having met according to Adjournment & Cornelius HEARY being called on declared himself ready to proceed to his Defence.


Cornelius HEARY on his Defence says that being sent on Duty to Southampton with the Quarter Master of the British Legion he got so drunk he could not walk back to Sagg and staid behind the Party; that the next day he was afraid to return for fear of punishment.

That he went to a house at some distance from his Quarters where he remained till towards Evening, when he went to the Barn belonging to his Quarters at Sagg with an intention to deliver himself up to Major COCHRANE.

That some time after he got into the Barn a man came in, he spoke to him and told him he intended to go to Major COCHRANE and asked if he was at home, the man told him that the Major was gone to Sagg harbour he waited all that day in the Barn, and seeing one HALL a Soldier in the same Corps passing by, he called to him,

when he came in he told him likewise his intention of giving himself up to Major COCHRANE, that he had no intention to desert but was afraid of punishment,

he further owns that HALL with Richard JACKS, came to the Barn that Evening and that they drank some Wine together,

that soon after they left him, he discovered Adjutant TAYLOR with a party coming towards the Barn,

that as they were Surrounding it he got out into the Fields for fear of being taken as he wanted to deliver himself up but denies his having any intention to desert,

says he has always been a faithful Subject, and on account of his Loyalty had been Imprisoned and otherwise ill used by the rebels, that he has a Wife and Children in New York and utterly denies his having endeavoured to persuade any Soldier to desert to the Enemy.

The Prisoner having prayed that the Court would call upon William SISSON to give Evidence concerning the Conversation he had with him while in the Barn, and William SISSON being reported to the Court sick in his Quarters at Sagg.

Ordered that if upon Examination William SISSON Soldier in the British Legion be not able to appear tomorrow in Court, that the Deputy Judge Advocate be directed in the presence of Captain MURESON & Captn. EDWARDS two members of this Court to take the Affidavit of the said William SISSON concerning the aforesaid Conversation and report accordingly tomorrow forenoon at Eleven O’Clock to the Court and that they be directed at the desire of the Prisoner to ask the Evidence, as from the Prisoner the two following questions.

        Questn.— Did I not mention to you, that I intended to deliver myself up to Major COCHRANE?

        Answer [blank]

        Questn.— Did I not repeatedly while in the Barn tell you that it was always my intention to deliver myself up?

The further hearing of the defence by request of the Prisoner being put of[f] till tomorrow at Eleven O’Clock.

March 8th

The Court having met according to Adjournment proceeded to hear the Evidence of William SISSON, Soldier in the British Legion in the Case of Cornelius HEARY tried for Desertion; The Prisoner being present.

The Deputy Judge Advocate reported that William SISSON not being able to appear at the Court he had taken his deposition before Captn. MURISON and Captn. EDWARDS this morning at Sagg according to the order of Yesterday, which being ordered to be read is as follows vizt.


William SISSON Soldier in the British Legion being Sworn saith that about four Weeks ago as he went to the Barn to look after his master’s Horse, he saw something stirring in the Straw, and asked if any one was there,

not receiving any answer he took up the Straw and discovered the Prisoner Cornelius HEAREY

he asked him what he was doing there, he answered he was waiting till dark that he might go to Major COCHRANE’s to deliver himself up.

That in the Evening the Evidence went again into the Barn on the same business and found two Dragoons of the Legion with the Prisoner,

they were drinking wine together and the Prisoner told this Evidence that he was going to do what he told him in the forenoon and being asked as from the Prisoner the two following questions vizt.

        1st Questn.— Did I not tell you that I would give my self up to Major COCHRANE?

        A. Yes.

        2nd Questn.— Did I not repeatedly while in the Barn tell you I wou’d give myself up?

        A. Yes.

The Prisoner having closed his Defence Recommends himself to the Court, and begs that they would consider that he is but a Young Soldier and little acquainted with the military Law.

The Court proceeds to give Sentence.


The Court having duly considered the Evidence for & against the Prisoner & his Defence, find him Guilty of Desertion, which they consider as a breach of the first Article of the 6th Section of the Articles of War, & Sentence the Prisoner Cornelious HEARY to receive One thousand Lashes in the Usual manner.

Saml. BIRCH Lt. Col.

       H. CLINTON

Kenneth McCULLOCH Depy. Judge Advocate

Great Britain, Public Record Office, War Office, Class 71, Volume 88, Pages 334-336, 339-341 & 344-346.

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