George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joshua Mersereau, 31 August 1778

From Joshua Mersereau

Boston August 31—1778


I have Just recpd a letter from Col. Boudinot, informing me that great offence has been given, for my sending so many of the Convention officers on Parole to the enemy—and taking considerable sums of money from them for that favour.1

The latter I do deny—the former I had Authority for, or at least, Such as would Justify my Conduct, hoping To release our officers.

so soon as the Prisnors Taken by The Count De Estang, are secur’d and Provided for—and the Officers Prisnors of war, With The remaind⟨er⟩ of the 71 Rt in this State are Sent away—I propose Wating on your Excelency to remov⟨e⟩ any Doubts, or Charge tha[t]s been brought against me—if I have Err’d it’s for Want of Judgment, I have not let one man go in Without Genl Heaths approbation. I always made it a rule to consult him first—as to the mony beg the favour, of knowing the names of the Complainants, as I am confident that there is not an officer of the Convention, can say that they have given me one Single Farthing—Capt. Vigars Made me a presant of 2 pare of Pistols, tho I never Got but 3 of them one being lost.2

four weeks ago part of the 71 Rt 129 men & 84 Women and Children I sent to Providence, on their Way to new Port, agreeable to Col. Boudinots orders—they were order’d back by Genl Sulivan, and not permitted to go—I apply’d to Genl Heath for permittion to Send them by New London, New Haven or some other Rout to New York—Who refer’d me to Your Excelency for Directions, Which I shall Chearfully execute.3

I am hiring a Prisson Ship here, for the reception of the Count De Estangs Prisnors and about 40 taken by Capt. Skimer Who Was kill’d in the engagement4—5 prises ariv’d this Day—a fleet is Said to be off here some say it’s an English fleet others that it’s a French Fleet, others that they are prises5—the German officers beg the favour of staying here till the privates go in also—if they are not Exchang’d Soon; there must be Chimneys built in the barn, Where the Germains and 53 Rt are kept; as it Will be too Cold Without fire in Winter, and bad building Chimneys then beg the favour of your Excelency’s or Col. Baty’ Direction in this case, as there is no room in the Barracks for those men, I hav⟨e⟩ been oblidg’d to make many Shifts, for Want of instrutions, it having been So Difficult to get them; in this, out of the Way place—many letters have miscarrie’d others 6 & 8 wee⟨ks⟩ before I recpd them. I have the Honor To be your Excelency’s most Obedt Hum: Servt

Joshua Mersereau

P.s. please to Direct to the Care of Genl Heath.

ALS, NN: Emmet Collection.

1Elias Boudinot’s letter to Mersereau of 27 Aug. has not been identified. For more on the complaint, see Mersereau’s reply to Boudinot of 2 Sept. (NjP: Stimson-Boudinot Collection).

2Nicholas Aylward Vigors (1755–1828) was commissioned an ensign in the British 29th Regiment in December 1769 and promoted to lieutenant in January 1772 and to captain in February 1776.

3Mersereau announced in a letter to Maj. Gen. William Heath of 27 July that he was starting to send the 71st Regiment prisoners and that, in accordance with Heath’s suggestion, he had written to inform Maj. Gen. John Sullivan. Mersereau’s letter to Heath of 5 Aug. indicates that Sullivan had disapproved the movement, and Heath’s letter to Mersereau of 12 Aug. suggested that Mersereau consult Elias Boudinot about what to do with the prisoners (all MHi: Heath Papers). Mersereau’s request to send the prisoners to New York and Heath’s reply have not been identified. For a summary, see also Mersereau to Boudinot, 31 Aug. (NjP: Stimson-Boudinot Collection). GW referred this inquiry to Commissary of Prisoners John Beatty in a letter of 26 September.

4The Continental Journal, and Weekly Advertiser (Boston) of 3 Sept. reported the arrival on 31 Aug. of “the Continental Brigantine of war, General Gates, whose late commander Capt. John Skimmer of this town fell on the 3d of August, in an action with a Brigantine of 12 guns from St. John’s, bound to Dominica.”

5Mersereau was referring to a report that on 30 Aug. “almost 20 Sail of Ships, many of them large, were seen off Plymouth Harbour, standing to the Northward” (Boston Gazette, and Country Journal, 31 Aug.).

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