Object #: 1901.8
During the American Revolution, two soldiers John La Brun and Christopher Fofsill, of Captain Read’s Troop of Virginia Light Dragoons, were “charged with Desertion and Carrying Harnesses, Arms, and Accoutrements belonging to said Troop.” A court martial was held at Albemarle Barracks on March 24, 1780, and was presided over by Colonel Francis Taylor. This record of the court martial proceedings describes the fleeing soldiers and their capture, based on the testimony of two other troops in Read's Dragoons. The document is also signed by Colonel James Wood and at the bottom “In Council July 14, 1780” Thomas Jefferson states the remission of the above sentence on La Brune and signed his name.
Albemarle Barracks was located just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, where the Convention Army was imprisoned from 1779-1781. Some 4,000 British regulars and German mercenaries (also known as “Hessians”), collectively called the Convention Army, captured at the Battle of Saratoga, in New York, arrived at Albemarle Barracks in January 1779. They were marched from outside New York City to Cambridge, Massachussetts in 1777 before boarding ships for Virginia. It took them nearly three months to get to their new home just west of Charlottesville. One historian describes the living conditions of the Barracks as “primitive huts spread out over several hundred acres” where the prisoners “endured great hardships.” Supplying and guarding the Convention Army drained the resources of local community and militia. As a result, by February 1781, the last of the prisoners had been relocated.
The record states that, based on the evidence, both soldiers were found guilty and sentenced accordingly. The court was of the opinion that La Brun “Ought to suffer Death by being shot” and Fofsill “Ought to receive Corporal Punishment and do sentence him to run the Gauntlet through the troop of the Garrison twice a day for three Days.” Fofsill’s sentence, running the guantlet, “was a form of punishment in which the culprit was made to run stripped to the waist between two rows of men who whipped and beat him as he passed by. These beatings were extremely severe and the victims often died as a result.” To “run the gauntlet” was originally “to run the gantelope.” Gantlope, being the Anglicized form of the Swedish word 'gatlop', or 'gatu-lop', which refers to the gate of soldiers that the victim had to pass through.
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