Punishment and Modern Society

Military Punishments,
page 2 of 9

Deaths from exhaustion and mortification from the wounds of the lash were far from infrequent. The story of the inquiry in army circles that led to the disuse of the whip in the British army (as for instance, the Evidence on Military Punishment contains some of the most revolting pages ever put in print.

English army-laws of course ruled the royal troops in the American provinces, and the local train bands, and were continued among the volunteer American soldiers of the Revolution. I have read scores of order-books and seen hundreds of sentences to flogging, both during the French and Indian wars, and in the Revolutionary war. A few instances may be given. Edward Munro, of Lexington, Mass., was a Lieutenant in a company of Rangers in 1758, and in 1762 he was Lieutenant in Saltonstall’s regiment at Crown Point, and he acted as adjutant for four regiments. His order-book still exists. On October 19, 1762, a court-martial found several soldiers guilty of neglect of duty, and he records that they were sentenced to receive punishment in the following manner:

“Robert McKnight to receive 800 lashes on his naked back with cat-o’-nine-tails. John Cobby to receive 600 lashes in the same manner; and Peter McAllister 300 lashes in the same maner. The adjutant will see the sentences put in execution by the Drum of the line at 5 o’clock this evening; the Surgeon to attend the execution.”

As Peter McAlister was very young his lashes were remitted. He was led in disgrace to watch the others as they were whipped, two hundred lashes at a time, at the head of the four regiments, if the surgeon found they could endure it.

These sentences were horribly severe. Thirty-nine lashes were deemed a cruel punishment. Ten was the more freqent number. Dr. Rea, in his diary, kept before “Ticonderogue,” tells of a thousand lashes being given in one case. Another journal tells of fifteen hundred lashes. He also states that he never witnessed a military flogging, as he “found the shreaks and crys satisfactory without the sight.”


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