George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Jay, 5 September 1779

To John Jay

Head Quarters West Point Septr 5th 1779


Your Excellency’s several letters of the 26th 29th & 30th have been duly received.

The Commissary of Prisoners being absent from Camp, on business respecting his department; I cannot give Congress the satisfaction I wish on the subject of Major General Phillips’s Letter.1 As soon as he returns the matter shall be taken up; however, I am inclined to doubt whether there is any ground for complaint on the part of Genl Phillips and think it highly probable that the Prisoners he mentions to have been sent from Canada—have been duly accounted for—tho not in the way, which might have been most agreeable to him. With respect to Lt Col. Bellinger—he is among the Officers—summoned by the British Commissary to return to New York—Capt. Martin it is likely, is under the same circumstances.2 I have been always willing to exchange Major Harnage & Capt. Hawker absolutely, and the matter has remained intirely with Sir Harry Clinton. They are now among others—the subjects of Parole exchanges—and when these are settled they will be allowed to go to Rhode Island or New York, and if they are not exchanged to Virginia by Water, in the manner requested—if they wish it.3

The fresh mark of the approbation of Congress of my conduct, contained in their resolve of the 27th Ulto, is a new source of satisfaction to myself—and has a new claim to my gratitude and thanks.4

I hope the account of the Enemys reinforcement, mentioned in the Extract your Excellency has been pleased to transmit me from Mr Lee’s Letter of the 26th of April, will be found to exceed its real number.5 No advices that I have received of late, place the Troops which arrived with Admiral Arburthnot at more than one half of it—and some make the amount less.6

I inclose your Excellency an Extract of a letter from Genl Sullivan of the 20th Ulto—which contains the last intelligence I have received from him.7 I have the honor to be With the highest respect & esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obet servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 13 Sept. (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 15:1049).

1GW is referring to Maj. Gen. William Phillips’s letter to Jay of 8 Aug. (see Jay to GW, 26 Aug., n.1.).

2See GW to John Beatty, 25 June and 12 July, and Board of General Officers to GW, 28 June; see also GW’s second circular letter of 26 August.

John Martin (born c.1748), a captain of the New York militia from Schenectady, N.Y., had been captured near Fort Stanwix, N.Y., in August 1777 (see the undated “Return of American prisoners of war released upon parole by General Haldimand” in DLC:GW, misfiled with the 1783 documents; see also Jay to GW, 26 Aug., n.1).

3For GW’s earlier action on Maj. Henry Harnage’s appeal for his and Capt. Erle Hawker’s exchange and the subsequent efforts to accommodate his request, see Harnage to GW, 27 March, n.4; see also Honour Harnage to GW, 25 Aug. and GW to Honour Harnage, 13 September.

4See Jay to GW, 29 Aug., and n.1 to that document.

5See Jay to GW, 30 Aug., and n.1 to that document. GW is referring to the 3,800 British army reinforcements that had arrived at New York on 25 Aug. with the naval squadron of Vice Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot (see GW to Jay, 24–27 Aug., and n.8 to that document); for GW’s defensive preparations, see GW to Jay, 11 Aug., n.5.

6By the middle of the month, GW concluded from his intelligence reports that the reinforcements numbered between 3,000 and 4,000 troops (see GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 3 Sept.; GW to Jay, 7 Sept., both letters; GW to Lafayette, 12 Sept.; and GW to d’Estaing, 13 Sept.).

7This particular extract has not been found, but, for the portions of this letter that have been found, see Sullivan to GW, 20 August.

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