George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 11 May 1778

To Henry Laurens

Valley Forge May 11th 1778


I take the liberty to transmit to Congress a copy of a Letter from General Howe, which I received at three O’Clock this afternoon.1 The contents are exceedingly interesting to the unhappy prisoners in his hands. I thought it my duty to forward ’em immediately, and I must request that Congress will be pleased to inform me, as soon as possible, what line of conduct I am to pursue upon this occasion. The inclosed extract of a Letter from Genl Smallwood will shew the painful alternative to which the prisoners in Philadelphia will be reduced, unless they are relieved, and this is confirmed by intelligence thro’ several other channels to myself.2 I shall wait directions in the matter, and govern myself by them in my answer to General Howe. I have the Honor to be, with great respect, Sir Your most obedt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. As to an equivalent in men for Officers; that proposed by his Commissioners was too high. A much more moderate one was nearly agreed to between them and the Gentlemen deputed by me, when they were in Treaty. This mode of relief, at this instant, may not be so necessary to adopt. There are probably Officers in General Burgoyne’s army who are desirous of being exchanged, and if not, an equivalent may be fixed on, as circumstances may point out.

LS, in John Walker’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy (incomplete), ScHi: Henry Laurens Papers; Varick transcript, DLC: GW. GW signed the cover of the LS. Congress read this letter on 13 May and referred it to a committee consisting of William Duer, Richard Henry Lee, and Charles Carroll (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 11:492).

2The enclosed extract was from Brig. Gen. William Smallwood’s letter to GW of 5 May.

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