Everything I think I know about courts-martial I learned from the movies (The Caine Mutiny and Breaker Morant, or Paths of Glory) but thankfully I can realize that knowledge is probably not so applicable to Bridget and her context.
Thanks to Yale, it’s easy enough to find the Rules and Orders for the Continental Army, as set down by the Continental Congress in 1775. I don’t have to know this, the guys know it, but it’s helpful for me to understand what’s happening. I also figure Bridget would have known how the system worked (or should have) since she was part of it, and would have observed life around her. In the same way that I understand the organizational politics and policies of my workplace, she and the soldiers would have understood the rules and regulations under which they lived and worked.
In the first case, remember the shirt-selling soldiers? Here’s the regulation they were breaking:
“Art. XV. Whatsoever non-commissioned officer or soldier, shall be convicted, at a regimental court-martial, of having sold, or designedly, or through neglect, wasted the ammunition, arms, or provisions, or other military stores, delivered out to him, to be employed in the service of this Continent, shall, if an officer, be reduced to a private centinel; and if a private soldier, shall suffer such punishment as shall be ordered by a regimental court-martial.”
There you have it: they sold provisions or “other military stores” delivered to them to be employed in the service of the Continent, and suffered such punishments as were ordered.
And Bridget? Well, for one thing, she should have known she was subject to the articles, rules, and regulations. She was one of those “all persons whatsoever.”
“Art. XXXII. All suttlers and retailers to a camp, and all persons whatsoever, serving with the continental army in the field, though not inlisted soldiers, are to be subject to the articles, rules, and regulations of the continental army.”
Technically, I cannot find anything stating outright that one could not buy issued goods from the soldiers to whom it had been issued, but since selling it was wrong, receiving was wrong, too.
We know from the final punishment that Bridget probably breaks yet another article:
“Art. XL. No person whatsoever shall use menacing words, signs, or gestures in the presence of a court-martial then sitting, or shall cause any disorder or riot, so as to disturb their proceeding, on the penalty of being punished at the discretion of the said court-martial.”
I think the “the Insolence to the officers of [the 10th Massachusetts] Regiment” may have taken place at the court-martial, given the swiftness of her punishment.