George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Macpherson and Captain David Ross, 14 September 1779

From Lieutenant Colonel Duncan
Macpherson and Captain David Ross

Cambridge [Mass.] 14th Septr 1779


Having been so unfortunate as to be taken Prisoners on our passage in the Sandwich packet to Europe by the Continental Frigate Dean Commanded by Captain Nicolson,1 whose polite treatment to us has rendered our situation as agreable as circumstances could admit, Yet, as our anxiety to join our Regiment in the East Indies must naturally be very great, and that our private Affairs in Scotland must suffer considerably (not having been in that Country for these Six years past) by being detained long here, we beg your Excellency would be pleased to give directions to the Commissary General of Prisoners, to negociae an Exchange for us here, or permit us to go to New York by the way of Rhode Island on Parole, in order to effect one there, as we make no doubt Sr Henry Clinton will give such Officers as Your Excellency shall think proper (of equal Rank) in our room.

As we are convinced you have no other idea than making our Captivity as little dissagreable as possible we beg to have Your Excellency’s answer when convenient. We have the honor to be with respect Sir Your Excellency’s most obedient and very humble Servants

Duncan Macpherson
Lieut. Col: 73d Regt
David Ross
Capt. 73d Regt

LS, DLC:GW. The letter is docketed “answd by letter to Genl Gates on the subject”; see GW to Horatio Gates, 29 Sept.; see also GW to Gates, 2 October. Gates forwarded a similar request from Macpherson and Ross with his letter to GW of 24 September.

Duncan Macpherson (1750–1817), of Cluny, Scotland, who had held the army rank of captain since October 1761, was appointed a captain in the 63d Regiment of Foot in September 1771. He became a major in the 71st Regiment of Foot in November 1775 and subsequently was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 73d Regiment of Foot, which was raised in the summer of 1777 and served in India and Gibraltar. However, Macpherson was captured before he could join this regiment. After his exchange, which did not occur until early 1781, Macpherson rejoined the 71st Regiment of Foot. He served with that regiment later in the year during the siege of Yorktown, Virginia.

David Ross had been commissioned a lieutenant in the 71st Regiment of Foot in January 1776 before becoming a captain in the 73d Regiment upon its formation.

1Samuel Nicholson (1743–1811), a native of Maryland, was commissioned a captain in the Continental navy during a visit to the American commissioners in Paris in December 1776. He spent the next several months cruising in northern European waters as commander of the cutter Dolphin, which he had armed and fitted at his own expense. Nicholson returned to America in May 1778 as commander of the newly constructed Continental frigate Deane, and, in the spring and summer of 1779, he cruised off the North American coast, capturing numerous British vessels. The Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia) reported on 18 Sept. 1779 that on 12 Aug. the Deane had captured “the Sandwich Packet, from New York to Falmouth, of sixteen guns and sixty men.” Nicholson continued his naval activities until 1782; in June 1794, he returned to the U.S. Navy, supervising construction of the frigate Constitution, and then taking command of the vessel in 1798. Nicholson later became superintendent of the navy yard at Charlestown, Massachusetts.

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