George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 24 August 1780

Head Qtr [          ] Miles from Fort Lee Augt 24 1780


I am now to acknowledge the Honor of Your Excellency’s dispatches of the 9th, which I received four or five days ago, and which I have been prevented answering before, by a variety of pressing business.

With respect to the exchange of Officers—I beg leave to refer Congress to the Inclosures No. and 6 which comprehend the correspondence which has passed of late, between Us & the Enemy on the subject, and by which they will perceive the footing on which the business stands, and that I have been doing already, all in my power to accomplish their wishes on this head. I expect General Lincoln will be in Camp the 10th of next Month, from a Letter I received from him yesterday, with a view of meeting General Phillips on the 12th at Elizabeth Town, agreeable to their mutual desires and a proposition which has passed between them for the purpose, when I will direct Mr Skinner, the Deputy Commissary, to attend and endeavour to effectuate an Exchange on the principles, and to the extent Congress have mentioned in their Act of the 7th—I shall include the case of Genl Burgoyne in my Instructions to him, presuming it will be agreable to Congress, if I do not receive a Letter from them, expressive of their sense to the contrary. His exchange, I think, under all circumstances, for our Colonels, who cannot be released on the principle of equal rank, would be a very fortunate event, but it is one I do not expect, from the little estimation in which they seem to hold Him. If an exchange is gone into, I would observe, the Rule of seniority will be departed from, in the instance of Colo. Webb & Lt Colo. Ramsay. The prisoners taken in the Eagle packet were captured by a private Vessel, whose Owners have expressed a desire & insisted that the former should have the benefit of them, so far as it should be necessary for his own exchange, and the state of Maryland has claimed the release of the Latter for Lt Colo. Connolly, who was taken by them, as Other States had done in like circumstances. The exceptions in favor of these Two Gentlemen, are founded on these reasons. In every other instance of exchanges, where similar causes have not existed and been insisted on by the States—the business so far as it has been directed by me, has uniformly been conducted on the principles of equality of rank and priority of capture. I am exceedingly happy that measures are taking for the support and accommodation of our prisoners and I hope their situation in future will be more comfortable than it has hitherto been.

As to the part of the Act of the 7th which respects the establishing a Resident Commissary of prisoners at New York—I beg leave to inform Congress, that I am in some doubt, whether they wish to have both an Agent and a Commissary to reside there. If they only mean to have an Agent, the Inclosures No. & 11 which I have also the honor to transmit, will shew the Steps I have taken to get One appointed, in pursuance of their direction. Should it be their intention to have a Commissary likewise, they will be pleased to inform me, and on what footing I am to make the proposition. It is probable nothing but a like indulgence to the Enemy will induce them to consent to the measure.

It gives me pain to inform Congress, that we are again in a most disagreeable situation with respect to provision of the meat kind—and we have not from any thing I can find, any good prospect of being either intirely relieved, or of being tolerably well supplied within a reasonable time. A great part of the Troops on the 21st and 22d were without any supply of this Article, and the whole on one of those days; and since, those that have been received, have had but the most scanty pittance and chiefly such as has been exacted from the exhausted Stores of the Inhabitants. The circumstances we were in determined me, to proceed with the Army to this place yesterday, with a view of attempting some relief from a forage—and we have now parties detached into the Country below, into Bergen & Barbadoes necks, to collect any provision that may be there. I don’t expect but little succour from the measure, as these places from their contiguity to the Enemy, will probably be found much drained—any thing however will be acceptable, and will contribute to silence the Complaints of the Troops. I have written to Governor Trumbull on our situation, and entreated him to use all his influence to assist Us. The state of flour is such, as to afford us a daily supply, but even our prospects of this Article are by no means such as to make it certain that this will be the case long, especially if we are obliged to continue issuing an increased quantity on account of the failure of meat. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect & esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obed. Servant

Go: Washington

DNA: Item 152, Letters from George Washington, PCC—Papers of the Continental Congress.


New York 21st June 1780


I have received the commands of his Majestys Commander in Chief, His Excellency General Sir Henry Clinton to propose to you an exchange of all British and German Prisoners of War now in your hands according to the certified lists settled between me and Mr Beatty at Amboy: against an equal number, Rank for Rank, of the American Prisoners of War on Long Island, including such as may be at home upon their Paroles; and Violation of Parole in the due order of their capture. I have to propose also that such officers of the Troops of Convention as are now actually on their Paroles in New York may be exchanged Rank for Rank against an equal number of your Long Island Prisoners of War, excepting only Major General Philips and Major General Riedesel and such Officers of their families as they may chuse to be with them.

You will no doubt take General Washingtons Commands upon this Matter immediately—And on our Officers being suffered to go to any ready place of embarkation for New York, an equal Number of American Officers shall be sent from Long Island in exchange for them—His Excellency General Sir Henry Clinton has no objection to Leiutenant Colonel Ramsay being opposed to Leiutenant Col. Conolly in an exchange, supposing this Offer of a general One is accepted of.

I have not received any Answer to my Letter of the 6th of May proposing to you an exchange of all the Privates Prisoners of War in our possession in New York—I am directed to repeat that offer, and am ready to deliver these Privates amounting to five hundred for an equal number of the Prisoners of War in Your hands as follows.

Non Commissioned Officers & Privates of the 17th Infantry taken at Stoney Point.

The Soldiers of the Artillery according to the enclosed List.

The Soldiers of the 22nd & 71st Regiments, who have been a long time Prisoners at Fort Frederick, & Winchester, Maryland.

The Remainder to be made up from our Prisoners of War of the longest Capture.

If this meets with General Washingtons Approbation, I shall be ready to carry it into execution immediately at such place, as our respective Commander in Chief shall please to appoint, And I hope that Motives of humanity will urge that no further delay be made to this proposal. Hitherto your Prisoners have (by great Attention & Expence) been kept from sickness, but it will be impossible when the hot weather sets in, for them to continue so, as they have scarce any shirts or Cloathing to keep them clean and healthy. I am Sir With due respect Your Most Obedt Hble Servt

Jos. Loring

Commissy Genl Prisrs

(Copy No. 1.)


New York 19th July 1780


Your Letter of the 12th Inst. in answer to mine of the 21st June is just come to hand; I am very sorry to find so little attention has been paid to a matter of such consequence; and that no reply has been made to my proposal of the 6th May of exchanging all the Privates; which you was pleased in Your Letter of 22nd May to "Allow to be a very humane one and that it should be particularly attended to; that You was equally anxious with us for the preservation of their Lives, and that the moment you was Authorized to make the exchange you would take the earliest opportunity to signify it to me."

Yet two Months and more have elapsed without my receiving any Answer or the least step taken to carry this proposal into execution, even after I repeated this proposal in my public Letter of the 21st June, and gave you also the fullest assurances in my private one of the same date, "That unless the exchange to the full extent, comprehending Privates as well as Officers was acceded to, I was apprehensive it would put a stop to the humane intention, which was intended should extend to the Soldier as well as the Officer."

I own I did not expect so Vague an Answer which reduces me to the necessity of referring you to that Letter, and to assure you once more that until it is fully & explicitly answered, not any Negotiation whatever can be concluded—Nevertheless at Your request I shall be happy to meet you at [Dicker’s] Ferry on Tuesday next at 10 oClock in the Morning to explain any Matters that may not be fully comprehended in our business. I am with due respect Sir Your Most Obedt Hble Servt

Josa Loring C.G. Prsrs

Copy No. 3.


New York 4th Augt 1780


I have reported your letter of July the 25th respecting your proposed exchanges for Lieut. Genl Burgoine and General du portail to his Excellency the Commander in Chief. I have it from his orders to signify to you that since the Commission at Amboy, the exchange of the troops of Convention has not come into consideration other than the Negociation which Major General Lincoln went to Philada to propose for himself to the American Congress, and therefore any exchange of Lieut. Genl Burgoyne or of General Du portail must be deferred for the present; and indeed untill some account is received of Major Genl Lincolns success in his applications.

To prevent any further trouble on the subject of Exchanges I am directed to refer you to my private and public letters of the 21st June last wherein is proposed a general exchange of all the British and German officers prisoners in War in your hands against an equal number Rank for Rank of the American Officers prisoners of War on Long Island &ca &ca and also proposing the exchange of the American privates now in New York for an equal number of British privates according to the list I then inclosed to you. I am with due Respect Sir Your most obt Humb. Servt

Josa Loring

Com. Gen. Prisrs

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