George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General David Forman, 15 May 1777

To Brigadier General David Forman

Head Quarters Morris Town 15th May 1777


I am favd with yours of the 11th with the proposition for exchanging Capts. Campbell and Harrison for Messs. Richard McKnight and Thomas Little.1 This I can by no means assent to, as it would be establishing a precedent of a dangerous Nature in its consequences. For then, whenever any of their provincial Officers fell into our Hands, they would send out parties and pick up some of the Inhabitants of Reputation in order to procure their Release by exchange. I will however desire Mr Boudinot, our Commissary of prisoners, to represent this Matter to Mr Loring the Commissary of the British, and endeavour to bring about the Exchange in some other Manner.

I have no doubt of your Vigilance & Care, but I would beg you to bear in mind, that one intent, of sending these Flags, is to obtain intelligence, which is clearly the Case, from their always sending people who know the Country well to conduct them. I therefore desire that such persons may never be permitted to come on Shore. I am Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, NjR: Neilson Family Papers. Tilghman addressed the cover: “To Colo: David Forman in Monmouth County.”

1This letter has not been found. Peter Campbell (c.1756–1822) and Charles Harrison (c.1740–c.1803), both of Trenton, were captains in the New Jersey militia who joined Gen. Cortlandt Skinner’s Loyalist corps of New Jersey Volunteers in 1776. Campbell, who had been an aide-de-camp to Gen. Philemon Dickinson in 1775, obtained a warrant in 1776 to raise a company for the New Jersey Volunteers, but he was captured after the Battle of Trenton while trying to reach the British army at Princeton. Imprisoned at Philadelphia, Campbell was moved to Frederick, Md., when the British approached Philadelphia later this year. He escaped a short time later, and in 1778 he purchased a captaincy in the 2d Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers and served with that battalion in the southern theater until 1782. Harrison, a native of Ireland, resigned his commission in the militia on 8 July 1776 apparently because of the Declaration of Independence, and a few months later he became a captain in the 2d Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers. Harrison was imprisoned by the Americans from 1777 to 1778, first in Philadelphia and then in York, Pennsylvania. He reentered British service in 1778. After the war Harrison and Campbell both lived on half pay in New Brunswick, Canada. Richard McKnight of Shrewsbury, N.J., and Thomas Little (1741–1810) were captains in the Monmouth County, N.J., militia. Little was taken prisoner again at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778, and he was held until September 1780.

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