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Pennsylvania Line Revolt

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

January 16.—The following is an authentic account of the disorders that have lately taken place among the soldiers of the Pennsylvania line, which are now happily settled:—A discontent arose among them on the first of this month about the period of their enlistments, which many of them contended were expired. Some invidious comparisons were also made between the large bounty given to enlist those whose time was confessedly out, and the condition of those who were engaged during the war. Endeavors were used by the officers to quiet them, but without success. One officer was unfortunately killed, and a great part of the soldiers marched off from their encampment towards the Delaware. They were under the conduct of their sergeants; but General Wayne, with some other officers, determined to follow and keep with them, at all events, though the general could not prevail upon them to stop till they came to Princeton. They marched through the country with great regularity and good conduct, and perhaps less damage than is common on the passing of troops. While they continued at Princeton, a sergeant of the British army with one Ogden, an inhabitant of New Jersey, for a guide, came to them, and made proposals from General Clinton. These they rejected with so much honor and indignation,’ that they seized the messengers and delivered them to General Wayne, who put them under guard. Soon after this a Committee of the Council of Pennsylvania together with a Committee of Congress met the soldiery. Their grievances were redressed, particularly by giving an interpretation favorable to the soldier of the enlistments which were for three years, or during the war; declaring them to expire at the end of the three years. They marched from Princeton on Tuesday the ninth. On Wednesday the tenth, the two spies were tried, and executed next day at the cross roads near the upper ferry. Commissioners were appointed to hear and settle the claims of the soldiers, who are now going through them with all possible despatch; and on Monday the Committee of Congress returned to Philadelphia.

Upon the whole, this affair, which at first appeared so alarming, has only served to give a new proof of the inflexible honor of .the soldiery, and their inviolable attachment to American liberty; and will teach General Clinton, that though he could bribe such a mean toad-eater as Arnold, it is not in his power to bribe an American soldier.1


1 New Jersey Gazette, January 17. The success of the Pennsylvania revolters encouraged about one hundred and sixty of the Jersey brigade to seek redress in a similar way on the 20th of the same month. Their number was not alarming. The American General, Robert Howe, was sent off with a large detachment from the main army, with orders to compel the mutineers to unconditional submission, and to listen to no terms while they were in a state of resistance, and on their reduction instantly to execute a few of the most active and incendiary leaders; for General Washington preferred any extremity to a compromise. When he arrived instant submission was required, and the two ringleaders were directly taken, tried, and executed. The British wished to benefit by this revolt, and forwarded proposals by one Woodroff but he instantly delivered them to the American officers. Thus were the high hopes which Clinton had entertained from the revolt of the Pennsylvania line, completely baffled—Gordon, iv. 22.