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The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies

General Court Martial of John May

[Extract of the General Court Martial whereof Lieutenant Colonel McPHERSON was President, held at New York between 4 September and 4 October 1780.]

John MAY Private Soldier in the 4th Battn. New Jersey Volunts., was brought Prisoner before the Court, Accused of Robbing John BROWN Inhabitant, of a Silver Watch; & the following Witnesses were Examined in Support of the Accusation Vizt.

John BROWN shoemaker, being duly Sworn deposed, that on the 17th last August, as he was Standing at his own door at half an hour past Eight in the Evening, some people came up to him, and asked what Ship he belonged to; and he Answered that he did not belong to any Ship; that immediately the Prisonr. came up to him (the Witness) & asked him where he belonged to, and he told him he belonged to the Shoemakers Shop; upon which the Prisoner answered that he would do very well for them; that they immediately seized hold of him (the Witness) and dragged him through the first Market, among the Butcher’s Shambols; that one of them put his Hand to his (the Witness) fob, and took away his Watch; and the Prisoner during this time had hold of him by the Collar; that they afterwards dragg’d him into Queen Street, where they ransacked his Pockets, and the Prisoner took a Cravat out of his Pocket; and they afterwards ran away.

        Q. Did the People make use of threats?

        A. They beat him very much.

        Q. Were they Armed?

        A. To the best of his knowledge they all had Cutlasses.

        Q. In what manner was the Prisoner dressed?

        A. He had a Nankeen Jacket on.

        Q. Did the people tell him what business they were about?

        A. They said they were pressing.

        Q. Where was the Prisoner apprehended?

        A. He (the Witness) was informed that they met at a Tavern among the burnt buildings; and upon describing the Prisoner he (the Witness) went there and had him apprehended.

        Q. Did he (the Witness) get his Watch?

        A. No; but when the Prisoner was apprehended, he gave him (the Witness) a Watch, to take care of, out of his own Pocket; which Watch he (the Witness) delivered up to the Mayor.

John FLEITMAN, Inhabitant, being duly Sworn deposed, that on the Evening of the 16th August, He saw the Prisoner heading a Gang that were taking up people, under a pretence of pressing them for his Majesty’s Navy; (he at the same time not having Authority for so doing) that when the Prisoner was taken up and carried before the Police, he (the Witness) Acquainted the Magistrates of what had passed; that he (the Witness) told the Prisoner that he had better turn Kings Evidence, and tell who had taken Mr. BROWNE’s Watch, upon which the Prisoner answered that he was the Person that took it.

Peter DUBOIS Esqr. Magistrate of Police, being duly Sworn deposed, that some time ago when the Prisoner was brought before the Police and Examined, he said that he was in Company with some Sailors upon pretence of Pressing; and that as they were going along the Streets, they pointed to a Man, and said that he wou’d do; & they drag’d him from his House and carried him down the Street; where they took a Watch from him; after which they let him go.

        Q. Did the Prisoner Mention who, or what the Man was, that they took the Watch from?

        A. He thinks that he mentioned that he was a Shoemaker.

The Prisoner being put upon his defence says that he was with the Party; but does not know any thing of the Watch that was taken from the Prosecutor; and begs the Court will Consider his Youth, & throws himself upon their Mercy.

The Court having Consider’d the Evidence for and against the Prisoner John MAY, together with what he had to offer in his Defence; Is of Opinion that the Prisoner (John May) is Guilty of the Crime laid to his Charge, in a breach of the Second Article of the twentieth Section of the Articles of War, and doth therefore Adjudge him to receive Eight hundred Lashes on his bare back with Cats of Nine Tails.

                                       Dun. McPHERSON 42d Regt.
                                       Lt. Col. President

Mattw. WOODD
   D. Judge Advocate

                       H. CLINTON

Great Britain, Public Record Office, War Office, Class 71, Volume 92, Pages 336-339.

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