George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 7 October 1780

Paramus October the 7th 1780


I had the honor on the 1st Inst to receive Your Excellency’s dispatches of the 24th Ulto addressed to Major General Greene and since, your very obliging Letter of the 29th for which I beg leave to return you my acknowledgements. I have written to Sir Henry Clinton in consequence of the former and requested him to make the desired communications. When these are received they shall be transmitted.

I have the honor to inclose Congress a Copy of the proceedings of a Board of General Officers (No. 1) in the case of Major André, Adjutant General to the British Army. This Officer was executed in pursuance of the opinion of the Board, On Monday the 2d inst. at 12 oClock, at our late Camp at Tappan. He acted with great candor, from the time he avowed himself after his capture, until he was executed. Congress will perceive by a Copy of a letter I received from him of the 1st Inst that it was his desire to be shot, but the practice & usage of War, circumstanced as he was, were against the indulgence. At the bottom of the 6th page of the proceedings, an explanatory note is added, to prevent any suspicions being entertained injurious to Colonel Sheldon, who otherwise, from the Letter addressed to him, might be supposed to have been privy to the measures between General Arnold & Major André. If it should be the pleasure of Congress to publish the case, and which I would take the liberty to suggest may not be improper; it will be necessary for the explanatory note to be annexed.

Besides the proceedings, I transmit in the Inclosure No. 2, Copies of Sundry Letters respecting the matter, which are all that passed on the subject, not included in the proceedings. I would not suffer Mr Elliot & Mr Smith to land, who came up to Dobbs’s ferry agreeable to Sir Henry Clinton’s Letter of the 30th September. Genl Robertson was permitted to come on shore, was met by Major Genl Greene, and mentioned substantially what is contained in his letter of the 2d Instant. It might not perhaps be improper to publish the Letter or part of them in the Inclosure, as an appendix to the proceedings of the Board of General Officers.

I had the honor to mention in my Letter of the 24th of August, that an interview was in contemplation between General Lincoln & General Phillips, to take place at Elizabeth Town, and that I should direct Mr Skinner, the Commissary, to attend and endeavour to affectuate an exchange of prisoners on the principle & to the extent mentioned by Congress in their Act of the 7th. The Inclosure No. 3 contains my Instructions to Mr Skinner No. 4 & 5 his areport & Major General Lincoln’s of the result of the meeting, which happened on the 20th Ulto at the place appointed, and to which I beg leave to refer Congress. As it is now become certain that we cannot operate against N. York this Campaign, and it was the expectation of this event’s happening that prevented the release of our private Prisoners, it appears to me that the exchange of those in that place should be immediately attempted especially as the liberation of a great many of our Officers is made to depend upon it and is otherwise wholly rejected. From these considerations I have ventured to close with the terms of Mr Loring’s Letter to Mr Skinner of the 22d of Septr respecting the exchange of our Officers & privates at N. York & Long Island and have written to Sir Henry Clinton accordingly. I hope Congress will approve the measure. As to the exchange proposed between the Convention & the southern prisoners, Congress will be pleased to decide on it themselves. They have the fullest knowledge of the present and of what will be the future situation of our Affairs, and can best judge of the conduct which the public good & humanity require to be pursued in the matter. For a variety of reasons I am, and profess myself wholly incompetent to determine in the case.

I have now the pleasure to communicate the names of the three persons who captured Major André, and who refused to release him notwithstanding the most earnest importunities and Assurances of a liberal reward on his part. Their conduct merits our warmest esteem and I beg leave to add, that I think the public will do well to make them a handsome gratuity. They have prevented in all probability our suffering one of the severest strokes that could have been meditated against us. Their names are John Paulding, David Williams and Isaac Van Wert.

For the present I have detached the Jersey, New York & New Hampshire Brigades with Stark’s to the Highland posts. They marched this morning from Orange Town and will relieve the Pennsylvania line, which was thrown in at the moment General Arnold went to the Enemy. Major Genl Greene has marched with these four Brigades and will command at West-point and its dependencies till a further disposition. The Main Body of the Army, the forage about Orange Town and the lower Country being exhausted, also moved this morning and is now arrived here. We have had a cold, wet and tedious March on account of the feeble State of our Cattle, and have not a drop of rum to give the Troops. My intention is to proceed with them to the Country in the Neighbourhood of Passaick falls. I have the honor to be with the most perfect respect Your Excellencys Most Obdt Servant

Go. Washington

P.S. I have added a note at the foot of Sir Henry Clinton’s Letter of the 30th of Sepbr and one at the foot of Major André’s Letter to me of the 1st of October, which are in the Inclosure No. 2, which, if the Letters are published, I request may be published also.

Papers alluded to above

Inclosure No. 2 contained

A Copy of a Letter from Major André, Adj. Genl to the B. Army to Sir H Clinton K.B. of 29th Sepr 1780.

A Copy of a Letter from His Excellency Genl Washington to Sir H Clinton Sepr 30th 1780.

A Copy of a Letter from Lt Genl Robertson to General Washington 29 Sepr 1780.

+ A Copy of a Letter from his Excy Sir H Clinton to His Excellency Genl Washington 30th Septr 1780.

A Copy of a Letter from General Arnold for General Washington. Oct. 1 1780.

A Copy of a Letter of 2d Octr 1780 from Lt Genl Robertson to Genl Washington, inclosing one from Benedict Arnold of the 1st of Octr.

A Copy of a Letter from Benedict Arnold to Genl Washington of the 1st of Octobr transmitted by Genl Robertson his Letter of the 2d of Oct.

++ A Copy of a Letter from Major André to his Excelly Genl Washington of the 1st of October 1780.

Inclosures No. 3. 4. and 5 contained.

A Copy of General Washington’s Letter of Instructions to Abraham Skinner 17 Sepr 1780.

A Copy of letter from him to G. Washington 24th of Septr.

A Copy of a Letter from Major Genl Lincoln to His Excellency Genl Washington 25 Sepr 1780.

+ To the Copy of the Letter from Sir H. Clinton to Genl Washington of the 30th of Septr 1780 the following note was added.

Lt Genl Robertson, Mr Elliot & Mr Smith came up in a flag Vessel to Dobbs’s ferry, agreeable to the above Letter. The Two last were not suffered to land. Genl Robertson was permitted to come on shore & was met by Major Genl Greene, who verbally reported that Genl Robertson mentioned to him in substance, what is contained in a Letter from him of the 2d of October to General Washington.

++ To the Copy of the letter from Major André of the 1st of Octr to Genl Washington—the following note was added.

The time which elapsed between the Capture of Major André, which was on the morning of the 23d of Septr and his execution which did not take place till 12 O’Clock on the 2d of October, the mode of trying him, His letter to His Excellency Sir Hy Clinton, K.B. on the 29th of Septr in which he said, "I receive the greatest attention from his Excelly General Washington and from every person under whose charge I happen to be placed"—not to mention many other acknowledgements which he made of the good treatment he received—must evince that the proceedings against him were not guided by passion or resentment. The practice & usage of War were against his request and made the indulgence he solicited, circumstanced as he was, inadmissible.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

Index Entries