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General Court Martial of Captain Peter Robertson

At a General Court Martial held by Virtue of a Warrant from His Excellency Archibald CAMPBELL Esqr. Governor and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Island of Jamaica &c. Kingston Tuesday 18th Feby. 1783.

Brigadier General COATES, President
Lieut. Col. HUNTER  60th M     Major RICHARDSON  3rd
Major BRERETON  64th E     Capt. BATUT  14th
Capt. BERNIERE  79th M     Capt. STRONG  64th
Capt. BRERETON  30th B     Capt. RUTHERFORD  60th
Capt. BELL  19th E     Capt. RAMSEY  30th
Capt. CAMPBELL  84th R     Capt. FRAZIER  71st
Capt. ASHE  63rd S     Capt. HONEYWOOD  3rd
Capt. BROWN of 14th Regimt. Depy. Judge Advocate

The Court being met and duly Sworn the Depy. Judge Advocate being also Sworn.

Captain Peter ROBERTSON of the Loyal American Rangers, came Prisoner before the Court—and the following Charge was exhibited against him.

Charge.     For Un–Officerlike behaviour in a difference, between him and Captain HOLMS of the same Regiment, on or about the 16th Septr. last. An[d] for Un–Officerlike behaviour to Lieut. KANE of the same Regiment, on or about the 17th Septr. last.

        Q. Guilty or Not Guilty?

        A. Not Guilty.

Evidence.     Lieut. James GORDON of the Loyal American Rangers being duly Sworn deposes,—

That in the night of the 16th or 17th Septr. last, he was awaked out of Sleep by a noise in the Hall of the Barracks at Castile Fort, when he went into the Hall he saw Captain ROBERTSON standing, with his nose bleeding,

who on perceiving him, came up, and in a whining tone, said my dear GORDON, you see, how that Rascal HOLMS has used me—a damn’d Scoundrel, a damn’d Bougre, upon which he (the Evidence) insisted that both the Gentlemen should go to their Rooms, which they complied with.

On going into Captain HOLMS’s Room, Captain HOLMS showed him the Lock and part of the door broke, his Mattrass very wet and smelling strong of Rum, as well as a Pistol which was broke, which he said Captain ROBERTSON had broke over his head, forced open his door, and had thrown a quantity of Grog over him.

Captain HOLMS desired him to feel his Head which appeared to have received a violent blow, some time after—both Captain ROBERTSON and Captain HOLMS came into the Hall, and had some Red Wine, apparently with a view of settling all differences,

however Captain ROBERTSON with a design but whether an intention of Insulting, threw a glass of Wine in the face of Lieut. KANE, who was then Commanding Officer both Captain ROBERTSON & HOLMES being at that time under an Arrest.

        Q.by the Court—  At what hour of the night did this happen?

        A. To the best of my knowledge it was between the hours of Ten and Eleven at Night.

Evidence.     Lieut. Patrick KANE of the Loyal American Rangers, being duly Sworn, deposes—

that some time in the month of September last, but he cannot exactly recollect the day—Captain HOLMS and Captain ROBERTSON, had a quarrel at Castle Fort, occasioned by Captain ROBERTSON’s, throwing some Water upon Captain HOLMS, who got up and they boxed one another for some time,

upon which he (the Evidence) seperated them by carrying Capt. HOLMS into his Apartment, which Captain ROBERTSON some time after broke into, throw some Wine upon him, and Water upon Captain HOLMS, who instantly jumped up, and they had another boxing bout, for which he ordered them both under an Arrest,

but the next morning having agreed to make up the difference and Captain ROBERTSON asking pardon of Captain HOLMS, he (the Evidence) liberated them both.

He further deposes, that the day after the quarrel between Captain ROBERTSON & Captain HOLMS he (the Evidence) was ordered by Captain ROBERTSON to go and dig a Grave, in order to bury a Private man of the Regiment who died that morning, that he remonstrating how indecent it would be for an Officer, (as there were Pioneers allotted to the Corps) to do that business.

Captain ROBERTSON insisted upon it saying he was Commanding Officer, and upon this (the Evidence’s) refusal, ordered him under an Arrest.

On saying to the late Capt. HOLMS that such treatment was very hard, Captain ROBERTSON stamped with his Foot upon the Ground, saying aloud hold your Tongue you damn’d Irish Son of a Bitch, or I will Gag you.

        Q.by the Court—  Why where not the Black Pioneers of the Regiment, ordered to dig a Grave?

        A. There were none.

        Q.by the Court—  Did the Prisoner, draw Pay & Provisions for the Black Pioneers?

        A. I always understood that he did.

Evidence.Lieut. John CONNELL of the Loyal American Rangers, being duly Sworn deposes—

that on the night of the 16th Sepr. last, Captain ROBERTSON threw some Water three different times upon Captain HOLMS, and the fourth time a tumbler of Red Wine, while he was laying upon his Bed, at the same time calling him a Rascal, Scoundrel, Bougre, and Foutre,

Captain HOLMS got up and shut the door, which the Prisoner soon after forced open, when Captain HOLMS took down a brace of Pistols, Offered one of them to Captain ROBERTSON saying this is the best method of settling all differences,

that Captain ROBERTSON snatched one of the Pistols, broke it over the head of Captain HOLMS, then threw it out of doors, upon this Captain HOLMS struck him and they boxed for some time, he (the Evidence) seeing such behaviour, went into the Hall to Lieut. KANE, the next Senior Officer, and reported it, who ordered them both under an Arrest.

The Prosecution on the part of the Crown being closed, the Prisoner requested leave untill Eleven o’Clock Tomorrow to prepare his Defence, the Court granted the Indulgence and adjourned till the same Hour.

Wednesday 19th February.

The Court met pursuant to Adjournment, when Captain ROBERTSON having signified his being prevented by Sickness, from entering upon his Defence, and praying a longer time, The Court indulged him untill Tomorrow morning at Eight o’Clock, and adjourned ‘till the same Hour.

Thursday 20th February.

The Court met pursuant to Adjournment. When Captain ROBERTSON entered upon his Defence.


Mr. President & Gentlemen Members of this Court Martial.

I feel a sensible pleasure in having my Character and Conduct under the consideration of Gentlemen of such respectable Characters as I see before me, of whose Honor and Abilities I have the highest sense, and I hope notwithstanding the Charges exhibited against me of Unofficerlike behaviour, that from the Evidence already before you and the further Evidence I shall adduce you will be induced to acquit me of an Offence so injurious to the Service.

As to the first Charge exhibited against me of Unofficerlike behaviour to Captain HOLMS—Drunkenness is a practice so well known to all those who are acquainted with me I am not addicted to.

That I am ashamed to own that I was insensible drawn into a state of Intoxication, by Captain HOLMS & Lieut. KANE at Castille Fort on the Evening of the 15th September last, when as I have been since inform’d a Quarrel ensued between Captain HOLMS and myself, which arose to such a length as must be truly disagreeable to a Sober man.

Lieut. KANE put us both in Arrest, and in the morning informed me I had used improper Language to Captain HOLMS which obliged him to do it.

I did not think it unbecoming my Character to confess myself sorry for any Improprieties I might have Committed, and therefore made an Apology to Captain HOLMS with which he was satisfied. But this I did in such Terms as became me, and he was intitled to, and not in abject or disagreeable ones.

There was no duty to be performed at Castille at that time, as all the Effectives had embarked as marines, the few who were left were in Hospital, and as a proof of this the 79th Regiment furnished the Fort with a Provision Guard.

As to the Second Charge, there were no Person present at the matter between Lieut. KANE and myself but Captain HOLMS, whom, I was obliged to put under Arrest a short time thereafter for improper behaviour, and wrote Colonel ODELL acquainting him with it. I shall therefore beg leave to lay this Letter in Answer before you.

Captain HOLMS is since Dead, and Lieut. KANE is (I conceive) the only Evidence brought against me as to this Charge. I shall make no observations with respect to his Evidence as I trust you will fully weigh it and shall rely entirely upon your determination.

I shall beg leave to call upon a few Evidences to support the general Character which I have had in the Regiment.

Serjeant PRICHARD of the Loyal American Rangers being Sworn.

        Q.by the Court—  Do you know any thing of a Quarrel between Captain ROBERTSON and Captain HOLMS?

        A. Some time in the month of September last at Castle Fort Captain ROBERTSON’s Boy came to him saying his master wanted him, but when he came to the Officers Barrack he saw Captain ROBERTSON and Captain HOLMS have hold of one another. That Captain HOLMS struck Captain ROBERTSON twice before he could separate them, which he at last effected by carrying Captain ROBERTSON who was much in Liquor into his own Room, where he shortly after fell asleep.

        Q.by Capt. ROBERTSON— Where there any men of the Loyal Americans fit for duty at that time?

        A. Yes there were two Privates and a Serjeant fit for duty.

        Q. Were you in the Barracks with them when my Boy called you, and did you, or any of them hear any disturbance in the Officers Barracks that night?

        A. I was in the Barracks and heard no disturbance untill the Boy called me.

        Q.by Capt. ROBERTSON— Whether you recollect my putting Lieut. KANE under an Arrest the morning a man of the Light Company died a day or two before I left Castle Fort.

        A. I do recollect it.

        Q. Whether there was not two Pioneers belonging to my Company at that time at Castle Fort, and whether the third did not run away a few days before.

        A. There was two Black Pioneers at the Fort the morning the man belonging the Light Company died—the third had run off a few days before.

        Q.by the Court—  You have said there were two Pioneers present that morning at the Fort, were they employed for the sole purpose of the Regiment; or for Captain ROBERTSON’s own use?

        A. They were employed for the sole use of the Regiment—one little Boy waited upon Captain ROBERTSON, but acted as Pioneer when called upon.

The Court having considered the Evidence in support of the Charge against the Prisoner, with the Arguments urged by him for his Exculpation, Is of Opinion that he is Guilty of the whole of the Charge alledged against him, being a Breach of the 23d Article of the 15th Section of the Articles of War, In obedience to which it does Sentence him to be discharged from His Majesty’s Service.

                                       Jas. COATES President.

Willm. BROWN
   Depy. Jud. Advocate

                          Archd. CAMPBELL

Great Britain, Public Record Office, War Office, Class 71, Volume 97, pages 1–8.

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