George Washington Papers

To George Washington from General William Howe, 3 April 1778

From General William Howe

Philadelphia 3d April 1778.


I am concerned to find your Commissioners entertained an idea that German Town was to be a place of constant residence during their negociation,1 which was by no means my design, as it could not fail to give rise to disputes and jealousies by the occasional intervention of patrols so near to this City, an inconvenience only to be avoided by the Commissioners on both sides retiring after their meetings within or near to their own lines, as was the case when Lieutenant Colonels Harrison and Walcot were engaged on a similar business in Jersey2—If I had conceived it would have been otherwise understood I should have been more explicit in accepting your proposal of German Town being the place of treaty.3

As it is considered expedient that the Commissioners should remain together for the dispatch of business, I have no objection to your naming any place where the inconveniences I have mentioned cannot arise to either party, such as Burlington, Bristol, Chester, or any other Town. The place of meeting to be changed at any time as may be requisite by the consent of the Commissioners.

To remove any distrust that may arise by my detaining of General Lee, which I still think I should be justified in doing, until Lieut. Colo. Campbell and the Hessian Field Officers who have been so long in confinement were first restored, I have ordered that he be at liberty to pass my lines to morrow morning, under a parole similar to the one given to Major General Prescott, and to take any route he may think proper4—I trust, Sir, therefore to your ordering the gentlemen aforementioned to be sent in here without delay, and Officers of equal Rank, who have been longest on my list of prisoners, will be immediately announced at liberty, or sent out on the earliest intimation of their approach—Orders are already given respecting the release of Lieut. Colo. Ethan Allen. I am with due respect Sir Your most obedient Servant

W. Howe

copy, DLC:GW; two copies, P.R.O., 30/55, Carleton Papers; copy, P.R.O., Colonial Office, Secretary of State’s Correspondence with Commander-in-Chief, North America. The three P.R.O. copies are all dated 2 April. Robert Hanson Harrison docketed the DLC copy, “Genl Howe 3 April 1778 ansd. 4.”

2Howe is referring to the series of meetings about prisoner exchanges between GW’s aide Robert Hanson Harrison and Lt. Col. William Walcott of the 5th British Regiment of Foot that took place from February through April 1777.

3GW had suggested Germantown as a site for the negotiations in his letter to Howe of 10 Feb., and Howe had agreed in his response of 14 February.

4On this date, GW’s aide Alexander Hamilton wrote Q.M. Gen. Nathanael Greene, “We have to request, you will order a couple of very good teams to be got ready to proceed to the enemy’s lines for General Lee’s baggage. He is to come out on parole, on Sunday morning. You will judge when they ought to set out from here—suppose tomorrow noon, so as to get in the neighbourhood of Vandeering’s Mill by tomorrow night. When they are ready to set out tomorrow let them report to Head Quarters and passports will be given” (Syrett, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 1:451–52); Another aide, Richard Kidder Meade, wrote Greene on 4 April: “Colo. Hamilton wrote to you yesterday respecting two Waggons, for the purpose of bringing Genl Lees Baggage, from the middle ferry. I have now to request that you will order one of the Drivers here, to receive his directions, you will be pleased to use expedition, as they must go part of the way this day” (PHi: Dreer Collection). Another order regarding the transportation of Maj. Gen. Charles Lee’s baggage was communicated by Meade to Greene on 6 April: “I am commanded by his Excellency to desire that you will furnish Genl Lee With a Good Waggon & Team to transport his Baggage up the Country. you will also be pleasd to furnish two of the best Horses you have. both Waggon & Horses to be sent here early tomorrow morning” (PHi: Gratz Collection).

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