From The Historical Picture Gallery, Or, Scenes and Incidents in American History ...
Stephen Ball made a bad decision. Or perhaps a couple of bad decisions. He decided to sell beef to the British who were occupying Long Island "for British gold [rather than] the almost worthless paper money of Congress." Rather than going straight home "for fear he might be observed" "and his object suspected by some of his friends," he didn't leave until near dark.
Ball was found by foes instead of his friends, who stripped him of his profits and then took Ball "to General Patterson for trial as a spy." Since no officer wanted to hang him, the robbers conducted a kangaroo court and hung him themselves.