(1838-1852). 12mo. 28 pp. Bound with 85 other General Orders, all reports printing the results of important courts-martial conducted within the United States Army between 1838 and 1852. Each report ranges in size from one to 28 pages. Contemporary half-leather and marbled boards (rubbed), rebacked to style. The Judge Advocate's own copies of American Army court martial records.
This sammelband was John Fitzgerald Lee's copy, with his bookplate on the front pastedown, his penciled binding instructions on a flyleaf, interleaved, and with pencil notes identifying additional trial reports Lee wanted to include in the volume. Lee (1813-1884) graduated from West Point in 1834, served in the Seminole War, and filled the post of Judge Advocate for the U.S. Army, 1849-1862. 35 of the reports in the sammelband are signed: 14 by Roger Jones, Adjutant General of the Army from 1825 to 1852; 6 by Samuel Cooper, Adjutant General of the Army from 1852 to 1861; 14 by Lorenzo Thomas, as Assistant Adjutant General (later Adjutant General of the Army from 1861 to 1869); and one by William G. Freeman, Assistant Adjutant General of the Army, 1841-1849 and 1853-1856. Roger Jones' name stamp appears on 44 of the reports, 7 reports have neither a signature nor a stamp. Item #61991
The original office of the Judge Advocate of the Army was abolished in 1802 and the entire Judge Advocate General's Corps was eliminated in 1821. After that time, line officers were detailed to serve as trial attorneys for courts-martial. According to a brief history of the Corps: "[t]he Army did not have a full-time statutory judge advocate again until 1849." [see: "The Army Lawyer: A History of the Judge Advocate General's Corps, 1775-1975," p.35.] The men who signed the reports included here all had distinguished military careers: Roger ap Catesby Jones (1789-1852) was the longest serving Adjutant General of the U.S. Army, and a veteran of the War of 1812; Samuel Cooper (1798-1876) served in both the Seminole and the Mexican-American Wars, and was the senior officer of the Confederate Army throughout the Civil War; Lorenzo Thomas (1804-1875) was Gen. Winfield Scott's chief of staff, and served in both the Seminole and Mexican-American Wars; William G. Freeman (1815-1866) likewise served in both the Seminole and Mexican-American Wars.
Although Lee, a cousin of Robert E. Lee, was a graduate of West Point and an artillery officer, he had long hoped to become a lawyer and was frequently detailed to serve as a trial attorney at posts throughout the country. When the service decided to re-establish the position of Judge Advocate of the Army in 1849, Lee was the obvious choice. He served in the position until 1862 when the position was once more abolished. During the Civil War Lee came into conflict with both Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and Gen. Henry Halleck over the use of military commissions to try civilians accused of crimes. He objected to the abrogation of due process and of trial by jury, and it got him fired. [see "The Lincoln Code," by John Fabian Witt (Simon & Schuster: 2012, p.264).]
This volume was Lee's personal reference collection, and he participated in many of the trials including the famous 1848 mutiny court martial of John C. Fremont (for declaring himself the Governor of California, among other misdeeds) where Lee served as the prosecuting attorney. Other trials represented here include the court martial of Captain Seth Thornton after his unit of dragoons was captured by the Mexican Army, an event that sparked the Mexican-American War.
The trials involved all of the major Army regiments and departments and were held throughout North America including Florida (during the Seminole War), Texas (before statehood), the Western territories, California, and Mexico. In addition to dismissals from service, the guilty received suspensions of pay and rank, and terms of confinement; more severe sentences (death by hanging and firing squad, branding, lashes with a cat-o-nine tails, etc.) were imposed upon enlisted soldiers for desertion, attempted murder, and murder. Many of the officers who were tried in these courts martial went on to fame or notoriety including: Braxton Bragg, Don Carlos Buell, Ambrose Burnside, James Carleton, Rene DeRussy, William Harney, Nathaniel Lyon, Samuel Ringgold, Gideon Pillow, James Ripley, and Fayette Robinson.
Just before his appointment as the Judge Advocate, Lee served as an ordnance officer at the St. Louis Arsenal. His son, John Fitzgerald Lee, Jr. practiced law in the city after graduating from the University of Virginia and served as president of the St. Louis Bar Association, president of the David Rankin School of Mechanical Trades, director of the St. Louis Public Library, and a member of the Washington University Board of Directors. In his later years, the senior Lee joined his son in St. Louis where he died in 1884 and was buried in Calvary Cemetery.
This collection of important court martial records collected by the military's principal 19th century legal officer provides an exceptional window into the mechanics of military law in antebellum America.