George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thaddeus Burr, 19 April 1776

From Thaddeus Burr

Fairfield [Conn.] 19 April 1776. Requests GW’s directions regarding Benjamin Gale, who, by General Lee’s order, “was taken up as a Tory” and “has been confined to my Goal, till within a Day or two, when I recd the inclosed resolution of N. York Congress: He is now out upon his Parole of honor. You will observe that the resolve of Congress is directed to the Chairman of our Committee, who think they have nothing to do with it, and will not act upon it.”1


Thaddeus Burr (1735–1801), sheriff of Fairfield County, served on several state and local committees concerned with providing troops and supplies for the American cause, and he often acted as moderator of town meetings. In 1777 Burr was appointed to the state council of safety. His house was destroyed when Fairfield burned during a British raid in July 1779. The postscript of this letter conveys personal compliments to GW and Martha Washington from Burr, his wife Eunice Dennie Burr (1730–1805), and John Hancock’s wife Dorothy Quincy Hancock, a friend of the Burr family and a frequent visitor at their house.

1The prisoner was Samuel Gale (1747–1826), a well-educated Englishman who came to America about 1770 as a paymaster in the British army and settled a short time later in Cumberland County in the New Hampshire Grants, where he became clerk of court and deputy land surveyor. Gale was first arrested in 1775 after a violent confrontation with Cumberland County Patriots. Released from custody, he moved to Long Island where he was again arrested in February 1776 and sent to Connecticut on orders of Gen. Charles Lee, who was then Continental commander in New York. The New York provincial congress viewed Gale’s imprisonment without benefit of a civil hearing or trial as “a wanton act of military power, inconsistent with that liberty for which the Colonists are contending,” and in the resolution of 16 Mar. which it sent to the chairman of the Fairfield County committee of safety, the provincial congress requested Gale’s immediate release (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:339–40, 343, 347, 365; see also Samuel Gale to John McKesson, 12 April, and McKesson to the chairman of the Fairfield County committee of safety, c.16 Mar. 1776, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 5:865–67, 991). Although GW apparently took no action in this matter, Gale was eventually freed. In July 1776 Gale joined General Howe’s army at Sandy Hook as a paymaster and served the British forces in that capacity for the remainder of the war. After the war, he returned to Cumberland County where some of his property had been saved from confiscation. Gale moved to Canada after 1787.

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