To Major General Israel Putnam
[Valley Forge, 25 January 1778]
I was yesterday favor’d with your Letter of 13th Instant inclosing a return of those taken from Colo. Webbs & Ellis’s1 Regiments.
I begin to be very apprehensive that the Season will entirely pass away, before any thing material will be done for the defence of Hudsons river—You are well acquainted with the great necessity there is for having the Works there finished as soon as possible, & I most earnestly desire that the strictest attention may be paid to every matter which may contribute to finishing & putting them in a respectable State before the spring.
I wish you had not waited for returns of the Militia to furnish me with a state of the troops in that Quarter—& if you do not get them in, before you receive this, you will please let me have an Accurate return of the Continental troops alone, it being absolutely necessary that I should know the strength of your command as soon as possible.
I congratulate you on the success of your two little parties against the Enemy—which I dare say will prevent their making so extensive Excursions for some time at least[.] One circumstance however I cannot avoid taking notice of—that Our Officers who have been but a very short time in the Enemy’s hands reap the advantages of any Captures which happen to be made by us—this must not be practis’d in future, as it is the height of Injustice, & will (if continued) draw upon us the just censure of the Officers who have been for a long time suffering all the Rigors of a Severe Captivity—The proper mode of proceeding is, to deliver them into the Hands of the Commissary of Prisoners, who must be best acquainted with the propriety of complying with the Claims of our Officers in their hands.2
I shall represent your Situation in the Money way to the Paymaster Genl & order such measures to be taken as may relieve you I am Sir Your Most Obedt Sert
Df, in John Fitzgerald’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The letter is docketed 25 Jan., which is also the date on the Varick transcript.
1. This officer’s name appears correctly as “Ely’s” on the Varick transcript.
2. In mentioning prisoner exchanges, GW apparently is not referring to Putnam’s letter of 13 Jan. but to the contents of two other letters that Putnam had forwarded to GW around the same time. The letters, both copies dated 12 Jan. from Harrison’s Purchase, N.Y., are to Putnam from Capt. Eli Leavenworth and Col. Return Jonathan Meigs; both are in DLC:GW. The letter from Meigs reads in part: “The Bearer has charge of six Deserters, five of which came to Hand yesterday, he will deliver your Honour a Number of open Letters, brot out by Capt. Leavenworth, with him came out Lieut. Putnam, in Exchange for Lt Althouse—Lieut. Putnam informs that there are twelve hundred Troops at Jamaica on Long Island, lately arrived from Philadelphia, these Troops are principally Scotch.”
Leavenworth’s letter reads: “Last Night I returnd with the Flag and Lt Putnam in Exchange for Althouse—Lt Putnam assures me our Prisoners are most inhumanly treated by Jos. Loring Commissary of Prisoners, that they suffer much in the Hospitals for want of good Nurses, that we have one Captain, one Lieutt and a Doctor Cornitous [Elias Cornelius] who are confined in a Sugar House, with the common Soldiers, for want of their Commissions, that they are in a poor State of Health, and need some Relief, that he says he has this from Mr Pintar [Lewis Pintard], who is very ill treated by Loring—he further says Col. Allen must perish, if some Relief is not afforded him, as he is in the Provost Guard, confined in Irons—Lt Prichard, for whom I had Letters and Money, died some Days since with the small Pox—The Officers are now on Long Island, a Reinforcement lately from Phila. are there also, about 1200.” On the cover of Leavenworth’s letter the copyist, presumably one of Putnam’s aides, wrote a note to GW: “Genl Putnam had not Time to write, when Major Hughes, came away, but sends the Copy of two Letters he just recd—to shew your Excellency, the thin Situation of the Prisoners at N. York.”