Friday, September 7, 2012

Not Dressed Like Soldiers

After the defeat and capture of Hessians at Trenton (25 December 1776) and British soldiers at Princeton (3 January 1777), American forces found general orders issued by British commander General Sir William Howe during the British occupation of New Jersey:

Head-Quarters, Trenton, Dec. 12, 1776
Small straggling parties, not dressed like soldiers and without officers, not being admissible in war, who presume to…fire upon soldiers or peaceable inhabitants of the country, will be immediately hanged without trial, as assassins.

Americans were outraged.  One Princeton resident wrote, “Genl. How Knows very well by the Numbers of Prisoners that he has taken that but few (if any) of the Millitia are cloathed like soldiers.” 

For Ann Coulter’s mention of “non-uniformed enemy combatants…who could have been shot on sight under the laws of war,” please consult her column dated May 6, 2009. 

William S. Stryker, Documents Relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey: Volume 1: Extracts from American Newspapers: Vol. 1: 1776-1777 (Trenton: The John L. Murphy Publishing Co., Printers, 1901), page 362; [Robert Lawrence] A Brief Narrative of the Ravages of theBritish and Hessians at Princeton in 1776-77, edited by Varnum Lansing Collins (Princeton: Princeton University Library, 1906), page 23; for Historian Samuel Smith's identification of Princeton lawyer Robert Lawrence as the author of the anonymous Brief Narrative, please read David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), page 531note53. 
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