George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 17 September 1779

From Major General Horatio Gates

Providence 17th Septr 1779.


Inclosed are Copies of Two Letters which I received Yesterday from some British Officers lately taken & Carried to Boston;1 I have consented to Their remaining at Cambridge, until Your Excellency’s further pleasure concerning them is declared; I could wish Major Gardner might be Exchanged, as I am satisfied he means to go immediately to Europe; and that his Debilitated Constitution will not suffer him to return soon to America.2 The Fleet that came down the Sound to Newport, which I mentioned in my Letter to your Excelly of the 6th Inst., are again sailed from thence, but took no Troops from the Island. I have received no Letter from Your Excellency since that of the 28th of Augt last.3 I am, Sir, Your Most Obedt Hum. Servt


Copy, NHi: Gates Papers.

1The enclosures have not been identified, but they probably were a letter from Lt. Col. Duncan Macpherson, Maj. Valentine Gardner, and Capt. David Ross to Gates, dated 11 Sept. at Boston, and a letter from Gardner to Gates, dated 10 Sept. at “Boston Harbour on board the Sandwich.” The letter to Gates from Macpherson, Gardner, and Ross reads in part: “Having been so unfortunate as to be taken Prisoners on our passage on the Sandwich Packet to Europe, by the Continental Frigate Dean, Commanded by Captain [Samuel] Nicolson … at whose intercession we have procured permission to be quartered in the Town of Cambridge, on our Parole, which order, we request your Excellency will have the goodness to confirm” (Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends ). See also Macpherson and Ross to GW, 14 September. In his letter to Gates, Gardner, complaining of his “distressed situation,” explained that he had been traveling to England with his family on a six-month leave of absence to recover his health. On, as Gardner wrote, “the strength of my former acquaintance with You, and from the many civilities I received from you and Mrs Gates at N. York tho long since,” Gardner appealed to Gates for permission either to go to Europe on parole until exchanged or, alternatively, to go to New York to arrange his own exchange (Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends ).

2James Valentine Gardner (b. 1739) was married to Alida Livingston (1747–1791), daughter of Robert Livingston (1708–1790), the third lord of Livingston Manor. Gardner had been commissioned a captain in the 55th Regiment of Foot in December 1765 and was appointed major of the 16th Regiment of Foot in May 1776. He was given leave to return to Britain in July 1779 but apparently was captured at sea. On 15 Oct., Gates again wrote to GW concerning Gardner, and GW replied on 22 Oct. that he could not permit Gardner to enter New York City while seeking an exchange (DLC:GW). After Gardner was given permission to enter the city in 1779, William Smith, royal chief justice of New York, encountered Gardner in the city: Smith wrote in his diary on 28 Dec. 1779, “I spent Yesterday afternoon in Company with Major Valentine Gardner, Son in Law to Colonel Robert Livingston of the Manor of Livingston, who left Cambridge 16 Days before, and came in the Day before Yesterday by Land thro’ Hartford, and down along the Sea Coast of Connecticut. He is upon Parole till exchanged, but leaks out many Articles of Intelligence, and Mrs. Gardiner, who is not restrained, much more” (Sabine, Smith’s Historical Memoirs description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs . . . of William Smith, Historian of the Province of New York. 2 vols. New York, 1956–58. description ends [1971], 202). GW extended Gardner’s parole repeatedly in January and February 1780 as the officer sought an exchange; see GW to William Phillips and to Gardner, both 2 Jan. 1780; and Robert Hanson Harrison to Gardner, 20 Jan. 1780, all DLC:GW.

3GW also wrote to Gates on 14 September.

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