George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Pennsylvania Council of Safety, 15 January 1777

From the Pennsylvania Council of Safety

In Council of Safety Philad. Janu. 15 1777


It is of the Utmost Importance to inform your Excelly that the treatment our Prisoners meet with at New York is Cruelty in the Extreme; 11,000 of them,1 we are told by Persons of Veracity, have Died there for the Want of Fuel and Provisions—whilst their Soldiers who have fell into our hands have been treated with the utmost Care & lenity, and when they have been Exchangd have been instantly fit to Joyn their respective Regiments to oppose us—but the few of ours that outlive the Cruelties they meet with from the Enemy are a long time before they can be recruited fit for Service.

Considering the Situation of those poor Insulted Soldiers we are induced by Motives of Humanity, as well as that we esteem it our Duty to Inform your Excelly of these Circumstances, & beg leave to Recommend it to your Excellency to appoint a Discreet person who will not be afraid to exert his Humanity & who may have influence enough to see Justice done to those Men—to provide them with Provisions & such other Necessarys as they may have occasion of—if your Excellency Should be of the same opinion we beg leave to recommend the bearer hereof Mr Lewis Pintard for that Business who we have not the least doubt will do every thing that may be required to releive their distresses—and in this he will be Assisted by his Brother Captain Pintard who is now in New York—and who Sold out of the Army rather than Sheath his sword in the Bowels of his Country Men.2

The Council apprehend that the Scarcity of Provisn at N. York, Together with the bad Credit the Continental Currency is in there, may make it difficult to furnish our People with provisions &c., to remedy any inconveniency that may Arrise on those Accounts, a Vessel with a Flag could be sent from Jersey, or from hence when the Season will admit, with the Necessary Supplys. I have the Honor &c. &c.

Df, PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–90.

1The draft initially read “Many hundreds.”

2Pintard wrote the Pennsylvania council of safety from Basking Ridge, N.J., on 21 Jan.: “I got here Sunday Evening [19 Jan.] & yesterday waited on General Washington with Your letter & that of Mr. Morris’s. I was very Politely received by His Excellency & favour’d with a letter to General How on the Subject with which I purpose to go in tomorrow; as soon as in my power will Advise you the Issue thereof” (PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania Revolutionary Governments, 1775–90). Lewis Pintard (1732–1818), a wealthy New York City merchant of Huguenot background, began serving as resident commissary of prisoners in New York after British general William Howe agreed to GW’s recommendation of him later this month (see GW to Howe, 20 Jan., and Howe to GW, 29 January). Pintard was a brother-in-law of Elias Boudinot (1740–1821), GW’s choice for commissary general of prisoners. For a time Boudinot also acted as manager of GW’s secret intelligence service, and in the spring of 1779 GW sought Boudinot’s aid in recruiting Pintard for the intelligence service in New York (see GW to Elias Boudinot, 3 May 1779, in DLC:GW). In late 1782 Pintard became the commissioner for settling New Jersey’s accounts with the Continental Congress, and after the Revolutionary War he became the major importer of Madeira wines into the country. Pintard unsuccessfully sought an appointment from GW as naval officer for the port of New York in July 1789 (see Pintard to GW, 10 July 1789). “Captain Pintard” was John Pintard (1759–1844), the orphan son of Lewis Pintard’s brother of the same name. In early 1776 John Pintard left the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) as a member of one of the college’s milita companies to fight the British in New York, but he returned after six weeks, thanks in part to the entreaties of his uncle Lewis, with whom he had lived since infancy. The younger Pintard assisted his uncle for three years, and after the war he entered into the mercantile business for himself in New York. Pintard was instrumental in founding several of the city’s civic and philanthropic associations, including the New-York Historical Society.

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