George Washington Drummed Out Soldier for 'Infamous Crime' of Attempted ‘Sodomy’

Penny Starr | January 3, 2011 | 5:32pm EST
Font Size

George Washington, wearing colonel's uniform of the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War. (Wikipedia Commons)

( – The Democrat-controlled Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed, a few days before Christmas, legislation to repeal the law against homosexuals serving in the military. Back in 1778, at Valley Forge, however, Gen. George Washington approved the dismissal of a soldier for “attempting to commit sodomy,” with “abhorrence and detestation of such infamous crimes,” according to Washington’s papers at the Library of Congress.

Washington (1732-1799) was the leader of the Continental Army in America’s revolutionary war against Britain and served as the first president of the United States and thus as its first “Commander in Chief” of the armed forces and the militia, as stipulated in the Constitution. Valley Forge, in eastern Pennsylvania, was the site for the Continental Army’s military camp during the winter of 1777-78.

On Mar. 10, 1778, at Valley Forge, Gen. George Washington approved the dismissal from service of  Lt. Frederick Gotthold Enslin for “attempting to commit sodomy” with another soldier.

In the first president’s papers at the Library of Congress is a series of orders with the title, “Head Quarters, V. Forge, Saturday, March 14, 1778.” It includes the following entry

“At a General Court Martial whereof Colo. Tupper was President (10th March 1778) Lieutt. [Frederick Gotthold] Enslinof Colo. Malcom's Regiment tried for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier; Secondly, For Perjury in swearing to false Accounts, found guilty of the charges exhibited against him, being breaches of 5th. Article 18th. Section of the Articles of War and do sentence him to be dismiss'd the service with Infamy.

“His Excellency the Commander in Chief [George Washington] approves the sentence and with Abhorrence and Detestation of such Infamous Crimes orders Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning by all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army never to return; The Drummers and Fifers to attend on the Grand Parade at Guard mounting for that Purpose.”

Enslin’s dismissal came less than two weeks after another soldier, Ensign Anthony Maxwell, was acquitted of the charge of “propagating a scandalous report prejudicial to the character of Lieutt. Enslin” on Feb. 27, 1778, according to the transcription of the court martial dated Mar. 3, 1778.

The document reads: “At a Brigade Court Martial whereof Colo. Burr was President (Feby. 27th. 1778,) Ensign Maxwell20 of Colo. Malcom's Regiment tried for propagating a scandalous report prejudicial to the character of Lieutt. Enslin.21 The Court after maturely deliberating upon the Evidence produced could not find that Ensign Maxwell had published any report prejudicial to the Character of Lieutt. Enslin further than the strict line of his duty required and do therefore acquit him of the Charge.”

“His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the aforegoing sentences and orders Ensign Maxwell to be discharged from his Arrest …” the transcription states.

The two following notes are also provide in the document at the Library of Congress:

[Note 20: Ensign Anthony Maxwell, of Malcom's Additional Continental regiment.]

[Lieut. Frederick Gotthold Enslin, of Malcom's Additional Continental regiment.]

President Barack Obama celebrates what he considers major accomplishments as the lame-duck Congress nears an end on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama signed the legislation repealing the federal law (10 USC 654)   behind the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on Dec. 22, 2010.  The Senate (65-31) had passed the repeal legislation on Dec. 18, and the House of Representatives had passed repeal on Dec. 15, 2010.

In introducing the president at the Dec. 22 signing ceremony, Vice President Joe Biden said, “It’s a good day. It’s a real good day.  As some of my colleagues can tell you, this is a long time in coming.  But I am happy it’s here. … Mr. President, by signing this bill, you will be linking military might with an abiding sense of justice.  You’ll be projecting power by promoting fairness, and making the United States military as strong as they can be at a time we need it to be the strongest. Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America, the Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama.”

President Obama said, “You know, I am just overwhelmed. This is a very good day. And I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage, but each and every one of you who have been working so hard on this, members of my staff who worked so hard on this.  I couldn’t be prouder.”

mrc merch