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General Court Martial of Job Williams
Part 3 of 3

[Continuation of a General Court Martial held at New York in the Province of New York on Thursday May the 15th, and continued by Adjournments to May the 22nd 1777]

Saturday May the 17th 1777.

The Court being met pursuant to Adjournment.

Major John GRYMES of the Queen’s American Rangers, was duly sworn and examined.

        Q. (by desire of the Prisoner)— Did he ever hear Lieutenant TAYLOR complain of a disorder in his head, previous to the affray between Captain WILLIAMS and him?

        A. He not only heard him complain, but he knows that he had leave to go to New York on Account of this disorder, which was called the Gout in the head, about ten days before the affray happened.

        Q. Did he ever hear him complain of this disorder before he had leave to come to New York, on account of it?

        A. Yes, frequently for some months before.

        Q. Was he in company with Lieutenant TAYLOR during his last illness?

        A. He was.

        Q. What conversation had he with him concerning the quarrel between Captain WILLIAMS and him?

        A. Lieutenant TAYLOR did not relate the particulars of the quarrel, but said that blows had passed; that Captain WILLIAMS was exceedingly intoxicated, and he (Lieutenant TAYLOR) lamented the extraordinary effects that liquor had on his friend Captain WILLIAMS as he called him, but that they had made up the matter, and each party was sorry for what had passed;

             that should any accident happen, which was then apprehended, Captain WILLIAMS could by no means be charged with any intention of killing him;

             and that there always had subsisted a great friendship between them; that he still regarded Captain WILLIAMS as much as ever, and he believed Captain WILLIAMS to have the same regard for him;

             the Witness observed that this conversation passed before the operation of trepanning was performed, and before any signs of delirium appeared.

Captain Richard ARMSTRONG of the Queen’s American Rangers, being duly sworn was examined.

        Q. by desire of the Prisoner— Did he ever hear Lieutenant TAYLOR say that he had received blows on the head from others, besides Captain WILLIAMS, after the quarrel between them?

        A. He heard him say that he and some Gentlemen had got into a riot with some Sailors, and that he received a blow on the head from one of them.

        Q. Did he see Lieutenant TAYLOR during his illness?

        A. He called upon Lieutenant TAYLOR and Lieutenant TAYLOR also called upon him.

Lieutenant Beesley JOEL of the Queen’s American Rangers, being duly sworn was examined.

        Q. (by desire of the Prisoner)— Did he see Lieutenant TAYLOR on the evening that the quarrel happened between Captain WILLIAMS and him at BRANDON’s?

        A. Yes.

        Q. What conversation pass’d between them?

        A. Lieutenant TAYLOR came to the Witness’s lodgings between 11 and 12 o’Clock that night, and upon his going down to him, he appeared extremely pale, and seemingly a little in Liquor; that Lieutenant TAYLOR desired to know what Company was above stairs, and being told he desired to know whether he might not go up amongst them, but the Witness thinking that he was not quite sober, told him that it was a private party, and therefore it would not be convenient;

             Lieutenant TAYLOR then said that he had something of consequence to tell him and that he would call on him the next morning to this the Witness reply’d that as he might probably not be at home in the morning, he might as well tell him then;

             that after some hesitation Lieutenant TAYLOR told him that Captain WILLIAMS and he had had some quarrel; that Captain WILLIAMS was very drunk and had given him the Lye, and that he (Lieutenant TAYLOR) had knocked Captain WILLIAMS down several times;

             the Witness asked him with surprize, if Captain WILLIAMS had made no resistance, or returned the blows, and Lieutenant TAYLOR answered in the negative, but that he had told Captain WILLIAMS on leaving him that he would give him any satisfaction he desired, and that he was to meet him at 10 o’Clock in the morning;

             that he then desired the Witness to go to Captain WILLIAMS’s in the morning, and wait there till he (Lieutenant TAYLOR) came there;

             and the witness accordingly went to Captain WILLIAMS’s and waited till 12 o’Clock, but Mr. TAYLOR did not come there;

             that some days after he met Mr. TAYLOR at the quarters of the Regiment and asked him how the affair had ended, and he reply’d that they had mutually ask’d pardon; Captain WILLIAMS for striking him, and he for giving Captain WILLIAMS the lye;

             the Witness then seemed surprised at this account of the matter, and asked Lieutenant TAYLOR, if he recollected that he had told him on the Evening that the affair happened, that he had knocked down Captain WILLIAMS, and that Captain WILLIAMS had given him the lye;

             to this Lieutenant TAYLOR reply’d, Did I! if I did I was so confused that I did not know what I said;

             that Lieutenant TAYLOR soon after went to town, and they heard of his being taken ill, and upon the Witness’s going to town he went to see him and Lieutenant TAYLOR then told him that he had received a violent blow from a Sailor, and the Witness asked him the particulars;

             he answered that he got the blow in endeavouring to protect a woman, and that the blow had knocked him down;

             that a day or two before Lieutenant TAYLOR died, he again called to see him, and the people of the house said he was at times delirious, but whether he was so at that time the Witness cannot tell;

             but he was calling out upon Captain WILLIAMS, and said, Oh! JOEL I am dying, and I hope that Captain WILLIAMS will suffer for it;

             the Witness then asked him why he called upon Captain WILLIAMS, and whether it was not the Sailor that had given him the blow, and he answered no, no Sailor ever struck me.

Captain WILLIAMS then declined calling any more Witnesses, and Summed up his defence as follows:

I appear before this honorable Court Martial, unknown to every member of it, accused of a Crime of a most atrocious nature, that of murdering a Subject and an acquaintance, a situation so peculiarly distressing as to entitle me to the exercise of that candour which is the Characteristic of British Officers.

Before I enter on my defence; I beg leave to mention some circumstances relative to myself.

In the late war in America, I had the honor to serve my Sovereign as a Captain in the Provincial Service, and the satisfaction to receive the approbation of my superiors.

Early in the Contest between Great Britain and the Colonies, I took an active part, in favour of Government, and was persecuted, insulted, and obliged to leave a peaceable retirement in the Country, and join the King’s troops.

When it was determined by the Commander in Chief, to raise men in the Colonies, to assist in suppressing the rebellion, I sollicited a Commission, and was honoured with the Command of a Company in the Queen’s American Rangers.

In that Corps I became acquainted with Lieutenant Peter Augustus TAYLOR, with whom I had lived in the strictest friendship, untill the evening of the 24th of March, when I was invited to the house of Mr. BRANDON, formerly a Captain in the same Corps; an invitation which for various reasons I should have declined, but on a Suggestion of particular business, I accepted.

Mr. TAYLOR by accident as I supposed came to BRANDON’s and was asked to spend the Evening; he answered that he was engaged but would step out, and disengage himself, and if he did not, not to wait for him at Supper; however he returned in less than an hour and supped with BRANDON and me.

Soon after conversation was introduced relative to a Complaint, which BRANDON had informed me was lodged against Captain ARMSTRONG and his Company, for plundering a quantity of Diaper, out of one SKINK’s Vessel.

As I had never heard of the Complaint till that evening from BRANDON, I was inquisitive about the particulars, and on some evasions of Lieutenant TAYLOR in his answers, I facetiously made remarks.

He very unexpectedly and in the grossest terms declared that I told a damned lye, and rising at the same time in a great passion threatened to knock me to damnation.

I had a few Months before broke my leg, and was scarce able to stand without a support.

This ungentlemanlike language I am not ashamed to acknowledge to men of honour roused my indignation and feeble as I was, I could not refrain from an immediate resentment, and however unjustifiable the mode may appear, the provocation will be almost a sufficient apology.

Lieutenant TAYLOR conscious of the indignity and unmerited abuse offered me, was early next morning in his proposals for a reconciliation, to which I agreed, and mutual apologies were exchanged.

That same evening we met at Kingsbridge in the greatest friendship and messed together as usual.

Whether the Death of Lieutenant TAYLOR was occasioned by a blow received from me or his own inattention and neglect or any other cause, are questions which I cannot attempt to solve.

I humbly beg leave to observe that after the dispute (by his own acknowledgement) he received a blow from another person; that he was careless of himself, and totally inattentive to the prescriptions of his Surgeons, and when he was pronounced irrecoverable he absolutely acquitted me.

One more remark I am constrained to make that I am unfortunate in having no other person present at the affray between Lieutenant TAYLOR and myself but BRANDON and even he says that Lieutenant TAYLOR used me with scurrilous language, and that it was a sudden affray, and no malice or intention in me to kill.


My Character hitherto has been unimpeached; the Tongue of envy or slander has never charged me with being revengeful or malicious, and if in this instance I have acted unlike an Officer, I hope the reason assigned will be some excuse.

Every thing which is dear to a man of sensibility rests on your candour and humanity, I wait it with impatience.

The Court having duly considered the evidence for and against the Prisoner Captain Job WILLIAMS, together with what he had to offer in his defence, is of opinion that he is not guilty of the murder of Lieutenant Peter Augustus TAYLOR, and doth therefore acquit him thereof, but the Court is of opinion that he the said Captain Job WILLIAMS is guilty of Manslaughter.

F BIRD Lieut. Colonel
15th Regt., Foot

Step. P: ADYE
   Deputy Judge Advocate

                                   W HOWE

Great Britain, Public Record Office, War Office, Class 71, Volume 83, Pages 309–331.

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