Camp Soldiers Fortune 28th October 1780
I am Honoured with your Excellencys letter of the 21st Current Inclosing the Copy of a Petition from Sundry Canadian Prisoners at Hartford—Some parts of the Petition is True, others are Doubtfull. Whether those Canadians ware actually in Armes, or in the Batteau Service when Taken Prisoners at Discretion by Col. Brown I can not Say; nor is it of any Consequence, as they them Selves own that they ware in Burgoin’s Service—they ware Sent by Col. Brown Prisoners to Boston, at which Place by Genl Gates leave and approbation Major Jones of my Regiment Inlisted a Number of them Near fifty if I remember. the most of which we have now in the field. the others did not Chuse to engage in our Service. they war then Sent to Albany, and from thence to Hartford; Indulged to work in the Country. In the latter part of the year 1778 they ware exchanged as prisoners of War and Sent into New York Some of them engaged in the British Service, the others ware Sent to long Island and ware Imployed in Cuting wood for the Enemies Garrison’s. In the Spring of the year 1779 they ware Sent to Canada on Board a vessell; Retaken in the Gulf of St Laurence by one of the State Ships of the Massachusetts Bay; and Brought into Boston. Messrs Price and McCarty; Two Refugee merchants from Canada Sollicited the Council of the State of Massachusetts Bay, lieve for those Canadians to Return to their own Country which was granted on Conditions that I should Consent or approve of it—as those Canadians have become State prisoners to the massachusetts, the expence in maintaining them was Chargeable to the State only, which for ought I know was an Inducement that led the Council to wish them off their hands—Whether or not I thought it odd that they Should be Sent me in the manner they ware—Consequently I Detained them in Close Confinement; and advised your Excellency therewith and Circumstances attending them. Whereupon your Excellency ordered me to march them Down prisoners with the Regt Which I did and Delivered them over to Genl Howe at Pines Bridge.
These Canadians having been Made prisoners of War and once Exchanged—is a Confirmation of the propriety of Detaining them Now as prisoners untill exchanged; more Especially as the enemy ordered those prisoners into New York in hopes of their [ ] into their Service; as many of them did and Took up armes, and the others assisted in Supplying the Troops with Fuel.
Several of the Canadian Officers of my Regiment are well acquainted with those Petitioners & their Characters Who say they ware actually in armes in Canada against montgomerys Army. and that on all other occasion they have appeared enimical to American Liberty—Those officer ardently wish that those prisoners may not Return to Canada unless exchanged as prisoners of war—In an other Case any Particular [Indulgence] Shown them would be Discouraging to those good Men Serving with me; who ware once in the Same predicament I have the Honr to be Your Excellencys most obedt and most Devoted Humle Servt
DLC: Papers of George Washington.