In January, 1781 a number of Pennsylvania regiments of the Continental Line mutinied out of protest that they had had to endure another devastatingly cold winter without adequate food rations and shelter. They had not been paid for months. The biggest point of contention, though, was that they felt, after spending five years in service, their original three-year periods of enlistment were up. They believed that they were not obligated to serve for the duration of the war, which in January of 1781, showed no sign of ending.
The mutiny began in the ranks of the New Eleventh Pennsylvania Regiment and spread to the First, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Tenth Pennsylvania Regiments, Members of the Second, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Pennsylvania Regiments did not initially want to join the mutiny. They were threatened by the mutineers first at bayonet point, and then cannon from the Fourth Continental Artillery Regiment was fired over the heads of the non-participants, and they quickly fell in line with the mutineers.
Thusly it was that nearly half of the entire 2,500 Pennsylvania Line fell out in full gear on the morning of New Years Day, 1781 and prepared to leave their camp at Morristown, New Jersey. They intended to march to Philadelphia and demand arrears of the Continental Congress, then in session. General Anthony Wayne attempted to dissuade them, but to no avail.
One casualty occurred when some of the captains attempted to stop the mutiny. Adam Bettin was the captain of the 4th Company of the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment. According to witnesses, Captain Bettin met his death almost by accident. When the cannon from the Fourth Continental Artillery was commandeered by the mutineers, a detachment of the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment, commanded by Captain Thomas Campbell, charged against the mutineers in an attempt to retake the cannon. They failed, and in the confusion of the moment, a mutineer attacked Lieutenant Colonel William Butler who was nearby. Butler fled between some huts, and his attacker followed. The attacking mutineer changed direction and headed around the huts in an attempt to cut Butler off. As he came around a corner, he ran smack into Captain Bettin. Bettin raised his spontoon in defense and the mutineer raised his gun, shooting Captain Bettin and inflicting a mortal wound.
The mutineers traveled to Princeton, where they set up a temporary camp.
British General Henry Clinton saw an opportunity in the mutiny and attempted to persuade the mutineers to take up sides with the British. He sent John Mason and a guide by the name of James Ogden as ambassadors to the mutineers to convince them to take up sides with the British, but they rejected the offers. Their argument was not against the Patriot Cause; rather, it was simply that they wanted redress for their grievances. The men of the Pennsylvania Line believed that if they could present those grievances to the delegates assembled in Congress, they might be persuaded to remedy the situation. Mason and Ogden were taken into custody.
Joseph Reed, appointed by Congress to meet with the mutineers, arrived at Princeton on 07 January. He was successful and persuaded the soldiers with assurances that the Congress would attempt to address their complaints.
On 24 January, 1781 the committee that had been appointed to review the disturbance in the Pennsylvania Line delivered its report to the delegates assembled in Congress.
"On their arrival at Trenton on Saturday Evening the 6th Inフant, they met and converテd fully with Mr. Preナdent Reed from the Executive Council of the State of Pennペlvania, who had that Day been at Maidenhead near Princeton and began a Treaty with the insurgents through General Wayne. The Committee of Congreピ and of the Council agreed upon the meaブres to be purブed by them in conjunction and in particular, that not only every thing juフly due to the Soldiers of the Pennペlvania line ドould be granted, but that a conフruction favorable to them ドould by put upon the form of enliフment, for three years or during the war; viz: that it ドould terminate in three years unleピ the バldier had voluntarily reinliフed but that they would not on any account diツharge thoテ who had freely inliフed for the war. They alバ agreed that as Genl Wayne had offered them on the 2d Inフant a general amneフy it ドould be confirmed whatever reaバn there was in two or three inフances to have made exceptions."
The Committee from Congress met with General Wayne, President Reed and representatives for the mutineers over the course of the next four days. They finally arrived at agreeable terms on the 10th of January.
On the 11th of January, the men of the Pennsylvania Line, their mutiny at an end, handed over the two British ambassadors, Mason and Ogden, to General Wayne, who had them hung as spies.