A Brief History
On June 28, 1776, an incident that may have escaped your elementary school education occurred when one of General George Washington’s elite bodyguards was hanged for “mutiny, sedition, and treachery.”
Irish born Thomas Hickey, of unknown age, had immigrated to North America and served in the British Army during the French and Indian War, as an attendant to Major General William Johnson. When the Americans declared Independence in 1776, Hickey joined the revolution as a private in the Continental Army, serving in George Washington’s personal bodyguard corps called the “Life Guard.”
Hickey found himself in trouble for passing counterfeit money, and while in jail made the mistake of telling another prisoner that he was part of a conspiracy to murder Washington. The other prisoner spilled the beans and Hickey was tried and convicted of mutiny and sedition and promptly hanged, becoming the first person executed by the Continental Army for treason.
Moral of the story: Do not trust fellow prisoners!
Extra: Washington’s statement to his troops:
“The unhappy fate of Thomas Hickey, executed this day for mutiny, sedition, and treachery, the General hopes will be a warning to every soldier in the Army to avoid those crimes, and all others, so disgraceful to the character of a soldier, and pernicious to his country, whose pay he receives and bread he eats. And in order to avoid those crimes, the most certain method is to keep out of the temptation of them, and particularly to avoid lewd women, who, by the dying confession of this poor criminal, first led him into practices which ended in an untimely and ignominious death.”
Question for students (and subscribers): Were you aware of this plot against George Washington? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Elbridge Streeter Books. In Blue And White: The Adventures And Misadventures Of Humphrey Vandyne, Trooper In Washington’s Life-guard. Palala Press, 2015.
Meltzer, Brad and Josh Mensch. The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington. Flatiron Books, 2018.
The featured image in this article, an illustration of the banner of the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, illustrated by Benson Lossing, 1852, is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.
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