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[AmRevolution] Punishment of Enlisted Men

In the most recent issue (XXXIV No. 3 Autumn 2004) of The Brigade of the American Revolution's The Brigade Dispatch, John K. Robertson presented Part VI of his Military Justice in Revolutionary War Armies. Among other things, Robertson discusses the Continental Army's maximum limit of 100 lashes, and how the next penalty up the scale (death) was too large a "punishment gap." George Washington and others proposed a limit of 500 lashes, but the limit remained at 100.

In Gavin K. Watt's Rebellion in the Mohawk Valley: The St. Leger Expedition of 1777 (Dundurn Press, 2002, Toronto), there is a good description of the state of affairs in Fort Stanwix previous to the arrival of St. Leger's force. Although the fort had been rebuilt and was strongly manned (to St. Leger's surprise), there were severe problems within the fort with low levels of supplies, inadequate manpower for the tasks required, and difficulties with the behaviour of the enlisted men. Courts martial and flogging were frequent. In a related footnote on page 357, Watt gives some details. On 5 June 1777 one man received 150 lashes, on 12 June two men received 150 lashes each, and on 19 July one man received 200 lashes.

How can these figures be reconciled with the 100-lash limit? Did the limit apply only to the Continental Line (although there were considerable numbers of such within Ft. Stanwix)? Did militia sometimes receive more than 100 lashes? Watt does not specify further details, but they may be available in the proceedings of Gen. Schuyler's court martial of 1778.

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