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The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies

General Court Martial of John Lawrence
Part 1 of 3

Tuesday the 22d Feby. 1780.

The Court being met pursuant to Adjournment.

Capt. FARQUHAR of the 20th Regiment being ordered to the Southward; Capt. Patk. TYTLER of the 80th Regt. was Sworn in his room— and the members and President took their Seats as follows.

Major John SMALL of His Majesty’s 84th Regt. of Foot President.
Major James COUSSEAU 37th M     Major David FERGUSON 43d Regt.
Capt. Thomas BRADY R. Artillery E     Capt. Patrick TYTLER 80th Regt.
Capt. Stephen COOK 37th M     Capt. Alexr. McDONALD 76th Regt.
Capt. David ANSTRUTHER 42nd B     Capt. Willm. RICHARDSON 43d Regt.
Lt. John ROBERTSON 42nd E     Lt. Norman McLEOD 42d Regt
1st Lt. Francis LAYE R. Artillery R     2d Lt. Charles FRAZER 23d Regt.
Ensn. Mattw. WOODD, of His Majesty’s 64th Regt. of Foot D: Judge Advocate

The President, Members, and Judge Advocate being duly Sworn.

Tuesday the 22d Feby. 1780.

The Court met pursuant to Adjournment.

Ensign John LAWRENCE of the 1st Battalion of New Jersey Volunteers, came Prisoner before the Court accused of the Murder of Ensign John MOFFATT of the Queens Rangers, on, or about the 14th day of Jany. 1780.

Ensign John THOMPSON of the 1st Battalion of New Jersey Volunteers being duly sworn deposed that about about [sic] the 13th Jany. 1780, the Prisoner went to him (the Witness) and desired him to go with him, as he had appointed to meet Ensign MOFFATT;

that they accordingly went to the place of appointment, and waited there for near two hours, and upon Ensign MOFFATT not coming they went away;

that between 8 and 9 o’Clock the same Evening (to the best of his recollection) the Prisoner received a message from Ens. MOFFATT, desiring him to meet him that Evening, and the Witness advised him not to go that night as probably the affair might be accomodated, upon which the Prisoner (Ensn. LAWRENCE) sent him word that he would not meet him that Evening, but would, the next morning;

that they accordingly met, and went to the side of a hill, and they each, (Ensn. MOFFATT and the Prisoner) fired a Pistol, and Ensn. MOFFATT immediately fell, and said that he was killed, upon which the Witness went up to him, and found that he was mortally wounded & that he (Ensn. MOFFATT) had received a Wound from a Ball, which went through the lower part of his Belly.

        Q:(by the Court)—  Was the Body of Ensign MOFFATT examined by any surgeon after he fell?

        A: Not that he knows of.

        Q: Did he (the Witness) see the body examined?

        A: He examined it himself, and saw where the Ball went in, and where it went out.

        Q: Did he (the Witness) see the Pistols loaded, and in what manner?

        A: He saw both the Pistols loaded with one Ball each.

        Q: Was the ground marked out?

        A: Yes, near Six Yards distance.

        Q: Did he (the Witness) know the cause of their dispute?

        A: No.

        Q: Did Ensign MOFFATT and the Prisoner both fire at the same time?

        A: Exactly at the same time.

        Q: Was there any efforts made, to accommodate their dispute previous to their going to the ground where the Duel was fought?

        A: On going towards the ground, the Witness mentioned to Lt. PENDRED of the Queens Rangers that he thought it was a pity that the dispute could not be settled without a Duel, and Lt. PENDRED answered that Ensn. MOFFATT thought himself injured, and that he would not make it up, unless the Prisoner (Ensn. LAWRENCE) would make him some acknowledgement, upon which he (the Witness) told Lt. PENDRED that he had previously advised the Prisoner to make an acknowledgement if he was in the wrong, and the Prisoner answered that he thought himself the injured person, and that he would make no apology.

        Q: Was there any conversation passed between Ensn. MOFFATT and the Prisoner previous to their getting to the place of appointment?

        A: There was some conversation passed, but not relative to the dispute, and they seemed friendly.

        Q: Was their [sic] any thing said to the Parties after they got to the place of appointment, or on the way to it concerning the accomodation?

        A: No, not that he knows of.

        Q:(by the Prisr.)— Was he (the Prisr.) Wounded at the same time that Ensign MOFFATT fell?

        A: Yes, he was wounded in the right side of his body.

Lieut. John PENDRED, of the Queens Rangers being duly Sworn deposed that on the Evening of the 13th Jany. last Ensn. MOFFATT desired him (the Witness) to carry a note to the Prisr. (Ensn. LAWRENCE) which he did;

and carried back Ensn. MOFFATT back an answer, which was that he would meet him at 9 o’Clock the next morning with Pistols at the Widow PRYANs, at the same time he (the Witness) endeavoured every thing in his power to Settle the Dispute amicably;

that they met at the hour and place appointed and the ground was marked, and the Pistols were loaded in his (the Witness) presence, with one Ball each;

that Ensign MOFFATT and the Prisoner stood to their ground, and they both fired at the same time and Ensign MOFFATT immediately fell, and he (the Witness) went up to him, and Ensn. MOFFATT said “My dear fellow I am killed” and immediately expired—;

that he (the Witness) examined the body, and found that he was wounded in the lower part of his Belly, and that the Ball had entered on one side, & gone out the other.

        Q:(by the Court)— Was the body examined by any Surgeon?

        A: No.

        Q: What was the reason why the Body was not examined by a Surgeon?

        A: Because the Rebels were on the Island the next day.

        Q: What was the reason the Body was not examined by a Surgeon immediately after the Duel?

        A: Because there was no Surgeon present at the time.

        Q: How long was it from the time Ensn. MOFFATT was killed to the time that he was burried?

        A: Two days.

        Q: Were the Rebels all that time on Staten Island?

        A: They were there one Evening, and went away the next morning.

        Q: Where was the Body interr’d?

        A: At Richmond Church.

        Q: Where was the Body carried to after the Duel?

        A: He (the Witness) and Ensign THOMPSON carried the Body in a Sleigh to the Rose and Crown Tavern & left it there, and they afterwards sent a Serjeant and one man to bring the Body to WILSONs Tavern at Richmond where it remained till it was buried.

        Q: Were the Pistols equal in length & Size?

        A: Ensign MOFFATT’s seemed to him (the Witness) to be the longest.

        Q: Was there any proposal for interchanging Pistols?

        A: The Prisoner (Ensn. LAURENCE) ask’d Ensign MOFFATT, if he chused one of his Pistols, and he answered no, that he would keep his own.

        Q: What was the reason that they would not Settle the dispute at the time he (the Witness) endeavoured to do it?

        A: Because Ensn. MOFFATT told him (the Witness) that he would not make it up unless the Prisoner (Ensn. LAURENCE) would make him an apology for the Treatment he had received from him.

        Q: Does he (the Witness) recollect any conversation, between Ensn. THOMPSON, and himself previous to their going to the place of appointment?

        A: He (the Witness) told Ensn. THOMPSON that he was very sorry that it should go such lengths, as he had endeavoured every thing in his power to Settle the affair, & Ensn. THOMPSON told him (the Witness) that he had likewise used every thing in his power to make up the dispute.

The Court adjourned ‘till Wednesday morning 11 o’Clock.

Click here for ---> Lawrence Court Martial, Part 2

                               Lawrence Court Martial, Part 3

Great Britain, Public Record Office, War Office, Class 71, Volume 91, Pages 201–213.

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