Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mutineers, Yes, Traitors, NO

Short post tonight - we have been running back and forth with visits to the hospital for a family member who had a minor procedure.


Whenever I learn or am reminded about an historical event that merits mention  I feel the need to bring it to the attention of others. I caught this account watching a documentary the other night and this time I was struck by how much it illustrates true American patriotism.

This event occurred during the mutiny of the troops of the Pennsylvania Line of the Continental Army in our War of Independence. The grievances of the mutineers  both Pennsylvanians and the later-to-mutiny New Jersey line (And earlier mutinies of the Massachusetts and Connecticut troops), are common knowledge:

"During the winter of 1780–1781, the Continental Army was dispersed into smaller components to ease the strain of supply. The Pennsylvania Line, comprising about 2,400 men, was encamped at Jockey Hollow, New Jersey, near Morristown. Conditions for the army were deplorable, as reported in letters by both General George Washington, commander of the entire Continental Army, and General Anthony Wayne, commander of the Pennsylvania Line. In previous years, both Washington and Wayne had cited corruption and a lack of concern on the part of state governments and the Continental Congress in fostering the poor conditions.

Pennsylvania troops had particular cause for discontent, as Pennsylvania was one of the stingiest states in paying its soldiers — many of the Pennsylvania Line had served for three years in exchange for only their initial $20 bounty. Other states' troops were receiving enlistment bounties valued in hundreds of dollars (New Jersey recruits received a $1,000 bounty), and even new Pennsylvania recruits received large bounties while serving soldiers neither received regular pay nor reenlistment money.

By January 1, 1781, the soldiers' dissatisfaction reached a boiling point. Many "three year men" reckoned that their enlistment terms, "for three years or the duration of the war", had ended with the coming of the new year. However, desperate to maintain the army's manpower, the Line's officers reckoned the enlistment terms to mean that soldiers were bound to serve for the duration of the war if it lasted more than three years. The Pennsylvania government would later admit that the widely accepted reckoning used by the soldiers was the correct one
On January 1, 1781, the Pennsylvania Line held a raucous New Year's Day celebration. That evening, soldiers from several regiments armed themselves and prepared to depart the camp without permission. Officers led the remaining orderly regiments to quell the uprising, but after a few warning shots from the mutineers, the rest of the regiments fell into line with them. Captain Adam Bitting, commander of Company D, 4th Pennsylvania Regiment, was fatally shot by a mutineer who was trying to kill a lieutenant colonel. Otherwise, the uprising was relatively bloodless."

What happened when General Clinton sent a representative to encourage the mutineers to defect to the British is not as well known:


"The mutiny also moved Gen. Henry Clinton to lead a force of British and Hessian troops from Staten Island to South Amboy in the hope of luring the Pennsylvanians to the British side. Clinton sent John Mason, a Tory, and James Ogden, a guide, to Princeton to promise the Pennsylvanians they would be paid in gold if they marched to South Amboy and switched sides.

Instead, the mutineers turned Mason and Ogden over to authorities. On Jan. 10, they were convicted of spying, and the following day they were hanged at a crossroads on the way to Trenton."

The commentators on the show noted the extent to which the ill-fed, clothed, equipped and paid soldiers detested the notion of abandoning their country. They may have been willing to disobey orders to demand fair treatment but, as one commentator stated, they would not "turn Arnold" - the treasonous act of the would-be deliverer of West Point was far to recent and repulsive to these men to entertain any such thoughts

We should never confuse the actions of true patriots who desire to be treated with decency with those who seek to harm our nation.

That's all  tonight. We expect the hospital to discharge our patient in the morning.

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