From Joseph Barrell
Boston 3d July 1779
I have at last the pleasure to forward to your Excellency the Certificate for the prisoners taken by the Vengeance, it is under cover of the Honble Mr Adams, as the Captain having a desire to release a friend1 of his, insisted on its being forwarded to him, but the owners having none in captivity of their particular friends, have given me power to make use of the remaining prisoners as I please—I am happy in sending it by my Brother Colo. Sam: Webb, whose exchange with your approbation, I depend will be effected at all events,2 and the surplussage (as Colo. Webb informs me there is some Officers he wishes to shew a preference in exchanging) it will be intirely agreeable to me, that he and his friends, may reap the whole advantage, being fully assured that he will name none but what will be heartily approved of by Your Excellency. I am with the greatest Respect Your Excellency’s Most humble Servt
Copy (in Tench Tilghman’s writing), PPPrHi: Beatty Family Papers. For Col. Samuel Blachley Webb’s conveyance to GW of Barrell’s letter and the enclosed certificate, see his letters to Jeremiah Wadsworth of 9 July and to Barrell of 10 Aug. in Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends 2:177–78, 192–94; see also n.2 below.
1. An asterisk before this word directs attention to a name written in the left margin and marked with an asterisk: “Colo. William Coates of Philada.” For William Coats, taken captive on 4 Feb. 1778 while lieutenant of Philadelphia County, see John Hancock to GW, 19 Sept. 1775, n.1, and Coats to the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, 6 May 1779, in Pa. Archives, description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends 1st ser., 7:377; see also Samuel Webb to Barrell, 6 Oct. 1779, in Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends 2:206–7. Efforts to exchange Coats succeeded, and he returned to his duties as lieutenant of Philadelphia County in October 1779 (see James Lovell to John Avery, 17 May, in 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 12:478–79, and Lovell to Joseph Reed, 16 July, in 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 13:236–37).
2. Capt. Wingate Newman of the privateer Vengeance had seized a packet on 21 Sept. 1778 and captured several British officers, whom he delivered to the British consul at Corunna, Spain, on the promise of an equal exchange written on a certificate. Barrell, an owner of the Vengeance, forwarded this certificate, which has not been identified, to secure Samuel Webb’s prompt exchange (see Barrell to GW, 10 Jan. 1779; Joseph Webb, Jr., to GW, 18 Jan., and n.1 to that document; and GW to Joseph Webb, 27 Jan., and n.2 to that document). Delay occurred, however, because the certificate lacked authority, as John Beatty, commissary general of prisoners, explained to Samuel Webb in a letter written at West Point on 9 Aug.: “The certificate given Capt Newman is perfectly private, nor is he amenable even to the State for his Conduct in the disposal of those Prisoners. In this light so far from having it in my power to negociate Exchanges for them, I have not even a negative in the case” (Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends 2:190–91; see also Samuel Webb to Joshua Loring, 27 July, and Loring to Samuel Webb, 31 July, in Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends 2:184–85, 188–89).
GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison tried to explain the complexities of Webb’s case in a letter of 25 Aug. to that officer: “I have received your two favors and also have seen your letter to Genl Greene—and am exceedingly sorry such difficulties have occurred to prevent your exchange. You will have heard from Mr Beatty the Commissary—and I am persuaded there was nothing settled between him and Mr Loring with respect to the British Officers, released at Corunna. Besides what he has told me, I have seen Mr Loring’s list of the Officers who appear to have been the subjects of their conference—and none of those Gentlemen are mentioned in it that I recollect. Mr Loring must have been mistaken in his representation. I have mentioned the Affair to His Excellency and the substance of your Letters. The result is—that it is impossible for him in general cases to take up any business respecting prisoners, but upon a general scale & system; However, as the prisoners taken by Captn Newman were not originally subject to the direction of the Continent, as he was not in their employ—and their owners have consented that you & Colo. Coates—might be exchanged for them—the General does not think that our Officers can object to the measures and will second your views; but as the owners themselves have not particularly designated any other persons and seem to have left it to him from the Letters you delivered to make exchanges for the residue—If he interferes at all in the business—the residue must be applied to release our Officers according to their ranks & the priority of their captivity. And let me add my friend that this ought to be the case—It is not a liberal or a just policy that makes any distinction about prisoners of War engaged in the same contest—There should be no distrust of this or that State; but every man taken from the Enemy—no mater by whom—ought to be applied to the release of the first Officer of his rank—prisoner with them. My advice to you is to come to this place and without delay—It is very probable there may be a meeting between the Two Commissioners, when your exchange by your personal attendance may be more easily effected. … P.S—Bring with you All the Original papers from the British Consul at Corunna” (DLC:GW; see also GW to Beatty, 4 Sept., DLC:GW). Webb’s exchange did not take place until December 1780.