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The language of the law. Part Latin, part Anglo-Saxon, all confusing.

The Legal Genealogist is often simply unable to resist a challenge.

Like the one tossed out last Thursday, after I wrote about brevet commissions in the military.1

“Here’s a challenge for you,” wrote my friend Gordon Remington. And he sent along a excerpt from a book about military bounty lands in New York, published in 1825, that included a fairly long list of deranged officers.2

Deranged officer list

No, we do not have record evidence of a whole bunch of early New York veterans suffering from PTSD.

What we have here is another of those terms for which we need to quote Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”3

Here we need to look at the word in context.

In 1781, the New York Legislature passed a law to raise two regiments to defend the State’s frontier. The troops were to be provided for — paid, armed, etc. — by the federal government, and serve for three years unless discharged earlier. And each man who served was guaranteed bounty land.4

Two years later, the Legislature passed a resolution extending that land bounty to “all officers deranged by any acts of Congress subsequent to the 16th day of September 1776…”5

So… we now know that this derangement was by act of Congress. And — while many things Congress does and has done over the years can drive any of us off the deep end — “… that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Cue in the law. Head over to the laws passed by the United States Congress after the Constitution was adopted and among the earliest laws you’ll find is one entitled “An Act fixing the military peace establishment of the United States.” And, after fixing the size of what was to be the peacetime Army, in section 9, it provides:

That the President of the United States cause to be arranged, the officers, non-commissioned officers, musicians and privates of the several corps of troops now in the service of the United States, in such a manner as to form and complete, out of the same, the corps aforesaid ; and cause the supernumerary officers, non-commissioned officers, musicians and privates to be discharged from the service of the United States from and after the first day of April next, or as soon thereafter as circumstances may permit.6

Starting to see the light?

It goes on, in section 25, to grant one to three months’ pay, based on length of service, “to each commissioned officer, who shall be deranged by virtue of this act…”7 The same language appears in the act of 3 March 1815.8

Got it now?

Those officers continued in service were “arranged” into various active corps by the President. All others were “supernumerary” and “to be discharged” or — yep, it really is that simple — “deranged,” as the opposite of “arranged.”

You’re welcome.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Those deranged New Yorkers,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 24 June 2019).


  1. See Judy G. Russell, “A matter of rank,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 20 June 2019 ( : accessed 24 June 2019).
  2. The Balloting Book … Relating to Military Bounty Lands in … New York (Albany: Packard & Van Benthuysen, 1825), 91-92.
  3. No, I ‘m not going to give you a cite for this. Because you know it comes from the film Princess Bride and because I know you want to watch it again. Go on. Do it. There are lots of copies of the clip on YouTube like this one
  4. Grace M. Pierce, “The Military Tract of New York State”, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 40 (January 1909): 15-22, at 17.
  5. Ibid., at 18.
  6. §9, “An Act fixing the military peace establishment of the United States,” 2 Stat. 132, 134 (16 Mar 1802).
  7. Ibid., §25, at 137.
  8. §6, “An Act fixing the military peace establishment of the United States,” 3 Stat. 224, 225 (3 Mar 1815).
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