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Traitor Benedict Arnold may have been the most famous deserter of the American Revolutionary War. But he was by no means the only one. While the remnants of Washington's Middle Army with its supply wagons pan-icking south over the bumpy roads of East and West Jersey in 1776, the British gloated that from 300 to 400 deserters a day came in to...
Traitor Benedict Arnold may have been the most famous deserter of the American Revolutionary War. But he was by no means the only one. While the remnants of Washington's Middle Army with its supply wagons pan-icking south over the bumpy roads of East and West Jersey in 1776, the British gloated that from 300 to 400 deserters a day came in to re-affirm allegiance to the king. They later boasted that in the first five months of 1777, 3,000 came to them from units in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Historian George Bancroft (1800-1891) stated that 2,703 Jerseymen, 851 Rhode Islanders and 1,282 from in and around New York City signed amnesty pledges and reaffirmed allegiance. Some 80 passed through British lines in a sin-gle day with muskets over their heads. One of a number of congressional turncoats, Maryland congressman Joseph Galloway, former friend of Benjamin Franklin, who reported all he knew to Lieutenant General Howe, claimed that 1,134 American soldiers deserted at Morristown the second winter with their valuable muskets to join the British Army. Galloway became the much hated Superintendent of British police in Philadelphia. Desertions increased so that in 1779 Washington wrote that very soon he would have to detach half his soldiers to bring back the other half. By the spring of 1781 up to 200 officers were quitting the American army every month, some just to stay alive, others to take care of their families and keep them from freezing or starving to death. The morning report return for Colonel Williams's Maryland brigade on 1 August 1781 showed 375 present for duty, 173 absent ill and 268 deserters. Of seven New York regiments of the Line, 135 of 900 officers deserted and add to that three times as many privates.
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