George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Beatty, 12 July 1779

To John Beatty

Hd Qrs [New Windsor] July 12th 1779


A copy of the proceedings of a Board of General officers on the subject of paroled prisoners accompanies this—You will find they have determined the following persons to be breakers of parole.1

Col. John Hannum

Lt Robert Cammell

Col. Swoop

Lt Col. Fredrick Bellenger

Lt Col. Nicholas Luz

Lt William Colhoon

Lt Henry Jaans

Lt Peter Wiser

Lt Samuel Wilcox

Ensign John Spoor

Lt William Brentnal

The two first made their escape from the enemy—the nine last were permitted to come out on parole and have not obeyed the summons to return, nor have given any satisfactory reasons for their delay.

You are to inform the enemy that we consider these persons with such others who are clearly military prisoners & breakers of parole—whose cases were not submitted to the Board—as violators of their parole and are willing to account for such of them as we cannot oblige immediately to return on the following terms.

By an exchange in the common order of capture, in the same manner as if they had not violated their paroles; and in the mean time by releasing an equal number of their officers of equal rank to be held on parole ’till the time of exchange comes about on the forementioned principles.2

You will immediately publish a summons in positive but general terms to all those who have either deserted their paroles in the first instance, or delayed complying with the summons to return without assigning sufficient reasons for the delay enjoyning them instantly to return, and informing them that in case of refusal effectual measures will be taken to inforce a compliance and if they are not to be found, their names will be published in all the papers as men who are insensible to the obligations of honor or the sufferings of their associates in captivity which their misconduct tends to increase.3

Such as may be within your reach, you will oblige at once to return.

The following Gentlemen on parole are reported as not having complied with their summons, but as having assigned satisfactory reasons for their delay. These you will explain to the British commissary. Till their situation will permit their return, you will indulge a like number of their officers to go within their lines on parole—Major William Ellis Captain John Spotswood Solomon Bush D.A.G. of Militia & Daniel Kanady Adjutant.

You will make the necessary inquiry without delay into the case of Mr Bowne to ascertain whether he was an officer or not—You will endeavour also to gain information respecting Mr Brown surgeon, and respecting Mr Hitchcock—that we may know what to determine in their cases.

Endeavour to find out indirectly what are the ideas of the enemy in the case of Lt Forrest.

You will make a representation of the cases of John McClure, James Fletcher, Jonathan Rogers and Holderby Lankford to the Marine Committee and obtain their instructions—It having been determined that Col. Thomas’s escape was unjustifiable it remains to be ascertayned whether he is to be considered as a military prisoner. I shall make inquiry on the subject and I wish you to do the same.4

You will inform the enemy that there may be several other persons who have violated their paroles; that were either not officers at all, or did not belong to the army or to the militia in actual service; who are therefore considered by us as mere citizens and not to be accounted for in military exchanges.

As to such others who were officers of the army or of the militia in actual service at the time of capture who are alleged by the enemy to have broken their paroles, and are judged by us to have made their escape in a justifiable manner, you will inform the British Commissary of their names, the light in which we consider them, and the reasons for which we do it; at the same time assuring them that we are ready to hear and consider any facts they may have to produce in support of a different interpretation.

Inclosed you will receive a list of Militia Prisoners taken at Crompond 24th of June 17795—You will endeavour to get the privates of these exchanged for an equal number of those privates which the enemy are in arrears to us and have not yet accounted for.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The dateline is in the writing of GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Kidder Meade.

The completion of preparations for Beatty to negotiate prisoner exchanges allowed GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison to write Col. Samuel Blachley Webb from New Windsor on 14 July: “Agreable to your request when we parted, I inform You, that Congress on the 3d Ulto Resolved ‘That the Commander in Chief be authorised to make such and so many parole Exchanges as he shall from time to time judge beneficial or expedient.’

“This Resolution you will see does not point out any particular persons to be exchanged—and of course the General is obliged to take up the business upon a general plan. He has directed the Commissary to go as extensively into the relief of our Officers as he can—and if the Enemy are not highly unreasonable and will go as largely into the business as Mr Beatty is authorised to do—The greater part or at least a great proportion of our Friends will be released. Mr Beatty is gone to meet Mr Loring upon the occasion, which has been put off thro necessity, as there were several points to be inquired into and fixed respecting prisoners, charged by the Enemy as Officers and Violators of parole—before an interview could take place, which could not be adjusted till a few days ago. I shall be very happy, My friend, if you should be restored to Your acquaintances even upon this footing. A final exchange would be still better; but we must take things in this world as we find ’em. I did not think it worth while to write you before matters were in train. If your release is effected—You shall know it by the first opportunity—I must be done” (DLC:GW; see also Board of War to GW, 12 June, and n.1 to that document; GW to Benjamin Tallmadge, 25 July, and n.1 to that document; and 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 14:679).

1For the original of this enclosure, see Board of General Officers to GW, 28 June.

2At this place on the draft manuscript, Hamilton wrote and then struck out a paragraph that reads: “I shall immediately write to His Excellency, The President of the State, respecting Col. Hannum &c. requesting his aid in obliging him to return to captivity.”

3In response to GW’s directive, Beatty prepared a notice with this date which, as printed in the Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia) for 22 July, reads: “In obedience to HIS EXCELLENCY, The COMMANDER IN CHIEF’S ORDERS, this day issued me, I Do HEREBY, in the most explicit and positive terms, enjoin and require all persons whatsoever, under the denomination of PRISONERS OF WAR (who have either directly violated their paroles, by absenting themselves from within the enemy’s lines, or who have neglected to return to their captivity, agreable to the tenor of their paroles, and my former summons having rendered no sufficient reason for such delay) to repair instantly to the city of New-York, and there deliver themselves up to the Commissary General of prisoners for the British army. And I am further directed to inform them, that at the expiration of Forty Days, from the date hereof, (in case of refusal) the most effectual measures will be taken to enforce a compliance therewith, and if they are not to be found, their names and places of abode will be published in all the Papers, as men who are insensible of the obligations of honor, or the sufferings of their ASSOC[I]ATES in Captivity, which their misconduct tends greatly to encrease. …

“The Printers in the different States, are requested to give the above an early publication.”

4For Beatty’s inquiries concerning Col. Thomas Thomas, see his letter to George Clinton, 25 Aug., and Clinton’s reply, 27 Aug., in Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers, description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends 5:211–13.

5The enclosed list of militia prisoners has not been identified. For their capture at Crompond, N.Y., see William Heath to GW, 25 June (first letter), n.2.

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