George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Massachusetts General Court, 29 September 1776

To the Massachusetts General Court

Head Quarters Harlem Heights 29th Sepr 1776


Genl Howe having signifyed to me, a desire of making a General Exchange of Prisoners both Officers, and privates, it becomes necessary to have an exact Return of the Numbers in our possession.1

You will therefore be pleased to have all the Continental prisoners of War, (belonging to the Land Service) in the different Towns in your State, collected and brought together to some convenient place, from whence they may be removed hither when a Cartel is fully settled—When they are collected you will please to have made out, and transmit to me, an exact Return of the Names of the Commissioned and Staff Officers, their Ranks and the Corps to which they belong; The Names of the non commissioned and privates need not be mentioned their Numbers will be sufficient.

As it will be more convenient to send them by Water than by land, which may always be safely effected by Means of a Flag; I think you had better order the prisoners to some place contiguous to a port, there to remain till you hear farther from me.

As I apprehend the Number of prisoners in the State of New Hampshire to be too small to make up a Freight for a Vessel, I have directed, if that should be the Case, that they should be sent to your State, that they may come forward with your prisoners.

You will be pleased to forward the enclosed to Lieut. Colo. Campbell of the 71st Regt. I am not certain where he is stationed but think it is at Reading.2 I have the Honor to be Gentn Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. Be pleased also to make a Return of the prisoners belonging to the British Navy with the Names & Ranks of the Officers. Inclosed you have a Letter from Capt. Campbell of the 71st Regt to me: As he seems to acknowledge his Error and promise[s] a more circumspect Behavior in future, I could wish you would consider his Case and if you think proper admit him again to his Parole.3

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, M-Ar: Revolution Letters; LB, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. A note on the LS indicates that on 10 and 11 Oct. the Massachusetts General Court appointed a committee to consider this letter.

The main body of the letter that GW wrote to the New Hampshire General Court on this date consists of an almost identical copy of the text of the first three paragraphs of this letters followed by a paragraph that reads: “But if the Number should be too small to make up a Freight for a Vessel, I think you had better send them to the State of Massachusetts Bay, that they may come forward with the prisoners from thence.” The postscript to the New Hampshire letter includes only the first sentence regarding the naval return (L[S], in Tench Tilghman’s writing, Nh-Ar; LB DLC:GWVarick transcript DLC:GW; the signature has been clipped from the LS).

2In the letter that GW wrote to Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell on this date, he enclosed the list of officers and privates of the 42d and 71st regiments that Howe had sent with his letter to GW of 21 Sept., and after quoting the part of Howe’s letter regarding the incorrectness of that list, GW asks Campbell to “make the proper Additions or Alterations and return the same to me” (LB, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript DLC:GW).

3This letter has not been found. The undated list of the names of captured British officers that Howe enclosed in his letter to GW of 21 Sept. shows two Captain Campbells from the 71st Regiment who were held prisoner by the Americans: John Campbell and Laurence R. Campbell (DLC:GW).

Index Entries