George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Francis Hopkinson, 16 March 1778

From Francis Hopkinson

Continental Navy Board Borden Town [N.J.]
16th March 1778


I take the Liberty of forwarding the enclosed Papers by Express; earnestly requesting your Excellency would be so good as to take the most immediate & effectual Steps for the Enlargement of Captain Robinson & Captain Got.1 You will see by the Letters, numbered according to their Dates, the Train of Authority under which a Flag was sent in to the City with Supplies for our People Prisoners there. Captain Robinson, one of our most valuable Officers was applied to as a proper Person to conduct this Flag, on his consenting to the Change, his Wife requested Leave to accompany him, in Hopes of seeing her Mother in the City.2 General Howe with his usual Justice has violated the Sanction of the Flag, seized the Persons of Captains Robinson & Got, & detains them Prisoners under Pretence of their being Spies. I am satisfied this is altogether a feigned Suspicion & am very sure there is not the least Grounds for it. I have the utmost Confidence that your Excellency will take some spirited Measures for the speedy Release of Captains Robinson & Got, as every Day’s Delay of this Business will be a Day of Misery to these unfortunate Gentleman.

Capt. Robinson was Commander of the Continental Brig Andrew Dorea & Captain Got, Commander of one of the State armed Boats.

A Line by the Return of this Messenger will be very grateful to Your Excellency’s most obedient humble servant

Fras Hopkinson

ALS, DLC:GW. The cover is docketed in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, “vid. Genl How’s Letter 19th Mar. & Answer 22d.”

1Four enclosures, numbered 2 through 5, are in DLC:GW; additional enclosures, if any, have not been identified. Enclosure 2 is a copy of a letter of 6 Mar. from Emanuel Eyre of the Pennsylvania Navy Board to British commissary of prisoners Henry Hugh Fergusson, requesting “a passport for the Shallop Called the Polley Capt. Isajah Robison manned with three men To Proceed for the above purpose to pine Street Wharff where She will arive wind and wether Permiting about the Eighteenth Instant” to deliver fifty barrels of pork and two tons of hay requested by the commissary of prisoners Thomas Bradford. Enclosure 3 is a “Copy as near as can be recolected of Mr Fergusons Answer,” dated 7 Mar., giving permission for Robinson “to Proceed to the first Kings Ship laying above or Opposite the City where he wou’d receive further Orders respecting the Unlading Said Shallop.” Enclosure 4 is a copy of Eyre’s letter of 13 Mar. to Thomas Franklin, Jr., the agent for American prisoners at Philadelphia, informing him that Robinson would deliver the pork and hay and asking Franklin “to give a Receipt for the Same.” Enclosure 5 is a letter from Robinson to Hopkinson of 15 Mar., written from the “Ship Vigilant off Philada,” reporting his captivity and requesting assistance: “General Howe has thought proper to Detain myself, & Capt. Nathanl Galt, whom I permitted to Come down with me in the Sloop, as he was anxious to obtain a sight of some, or other of his Family; Under pretext of our Coming, or being sent down, as Spies, I shall be obliged to You to send off an imediate Express to General Washington, that he may take the proper Steps for our Speedy release, You can describe to him the Circumstances of the affair. my Motives were no other than to Serve the Comissary of prisoners, and to Indulge Mrs Robinson with a Chance of Seeing her Mother, and other relations here. the officer, who met me, from the Advanced Ship, was polite enough to Indulge her to go ashore, which it Seems was Contrary to what was right, when I was Aprized of its being the Generals Orders to her to repair on board, I with the greatest readiness, & Cheerfulness Informed the officer where she was to be found, and she on requisition Came shortly without hesitation, they seem to Cavil at my being Mentioned in the Letter from Mr Emanuel Eyre’s, as Master of the Sloop: It may be Wrong, or otherwise for Ought I Know I place the greatest Confidence in your Friendship to get the matter Stated in a proper light, as you are, I’m Confident ascertained of my having no sinister Design, or Intention disagreeable to any Body whatever.” In a postscript Robinson added, “I’m under some aprehension they may Confine me in the Provo: as it seems I am to go from this ship, If so I shall be in a pretty situation ⟨illegible⟩.” Nathaniel Galt (d. c.1795) became captain of the armed boat Argus in April 1777 and continued in that post until his capture. Exchanged between November 1779 and March 1780, Galt was discharged from naval service upon his release (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 14:215; Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 12:266, 340). He later served as a clerk and manager for the Society for the Relief of Poor Distressed Masters of Ships, Their Widows, and Children at Philadelphia, 1781–95. Capt. Isaiah Robinson remained a prisoner at the end of May but had been exchanged or released by the summer of 1779. He was apparently lost at sea before September 1781 while commanding a privateer.

2Esther Lewis (d. c.1810) married an Isaiah Robinson, probably the captain, in Philadelphia on 12 Jan. 1777. Her mother was Rachel Breintnall Lewis (b. c.1728), widow of Jonathan Lewis.

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