General Court Martial of Job Williams
[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?
Q. Did he ever hear him complain of this disorder before he had leave to come to New York, on account of it?
Q. Was he in company with Lieutenant TAYLOR during his last illness?
Q. What conversation had he with him concerning the quarrel between Captain WILLIAMS and him?
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?
Q. Did he see Lieutenant TAYLOR during his illness?
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?
Q. What conversation pass’d between them?
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
Step. P: ADYE
Great Britain, Public Record Office, War Office, Class 71, Volume 83, Pages 309–331.
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