George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 25 April 1778

From Major General Horatio Gates

War Office [York, Pa.] April 25th 1778


The former Board, addressed your Excellency on the Subject of General Thompson’s Exchange for a Brigadier General Hamilton captured at Saratoga & now at Cambridge. You were pleased to undertake the Negotiation of the Matter & for that Purpose transmitted a Copy of the Board’s Letter to General Heath. General St Clair has conversed with Brigadier Hamilton who is very desirous of being exchanged.1 I am therefore to request your Excellency will be pleased to inform the Board what Progress has been made in the Matter & if you can put the Business in a proper Train we are conscious you will take every Step to procure the Exchange of so valuable an Officer as General Thompson who thinks himself rather hardly used by being overlooked on a former Occasion.2 There are three Brigadiers at Cambridge, Hamilton, Specht & Goll.3 Your Excellency will no Doubt think it best to propose the Exchange for either of these Gentlemen; & if General Heath can procure the Exchange of any other Officers for Officers under the Convention it will be very eligible for him to do it as your Excellency must be convinced for a Variety of Reasons.4 with Great Respect, I have the Honor to be Sir Your Excellencys most obedient Humble Servant

Horatio Gates president

LS in Richard Peters’s writing, DLC:GW. The letter is docketed in part, “Ansd 1st May.”

1Gates is referring to a letter from the Board of War to GW of 14 Dec. 1777, which has not been found. For discussion of the proposed exchange of Brig. Gen. William Thompson for British lieutenant colonel James Inglis Hamilton, who ranked as a brigadier general in America, see GW to William Heath, 20 Dec. 1777, and note 4, and to the Board of War, 22 Dec. 1777, and note 3.

2On 23 Nov. 1776 Congress passed a resolution proposing that Thompson be exchanged for New Jersey’s royal governor, William Franklin, but Congress suspended that proposal on 3 Dec. 1776 (see John Hancock to GW, 24 Nov. and 4 Dec. 1776, GW to Hancock, 6 Dec. 1776, and to Thompson, 11 Dec. 1776).

3In October 1776 Col. Johann Friedrich Specht (1715–1787), a career soldier from Brunswick, was given the local rank of brigadier general and put in command of the 1st Brigade of German troops under British general Guy Carleton. Col. and Brig. Gen. Wilhelm Rudolph von Gall (1734–1799) of Hesse-Hanau was placed in charge of the 2d Brigade of Carleton’s German troops at the same time. Both men surrendered with Gen. John Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga. The exchange of these officers, and of Hamilton, was complicated by questions about their appropriate rank, and they were not exchanged at this time. The two German officers returned to Europe in January 1781.

4GW wrote Maj. Gen. William Heath on 5 May about exchange of the officers of Burgoyne’s army.

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