Head Quarters New Windsor April 16-19th 1781
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency’s letters of the 4th and 5th instant, with the papers inclosed. The last did not arrive ’till the 14th. Previous to the receipt of it, I had directed the Commissary of Prisoners to renew a proposal some time since made the enemy for exchanging General Burgoigne, and a ballance of private prisoners due to us, against the residue of our officers on Long Island, and as many of the Southern officers as would make up the difference. My motives for this proposal were these—General Burgoigne is said to be in an ill state of health; his death would deprive us in exchanges of the value of 1040 private men, or officers equivalent, according to the tariff which has been settled. I thought it adviseable not to risk so considerable a loss, when his exchange would give relief to a number of our officers in captivity, and disembarrass the public of the inconvenience of maintaining them there.
The moment I received your letter, I wrote to Mr Skinner countermanding his instructions. I believe the countermand will arrive before he has done any thing in the matter, but, if it does not I am persuaded, the enemy will again reject the proposal. As soon as I hear from him, if things are situated as I expect, I will immediately execute the order for the recall of General Burgoigne. To the best of my recollection all the other officers in Europe on parole have been exchanged.
I have received advices through different channels, corresponding with that transmitted Congress by Mr Foreman. They strongly assert that a further detachment is going from New York and that it is to be commanded by General Clinton; but they are not equally positive as to the destination being for the Delaware. In the present state of Southern affairs ’tis perhaps more probable, that Clinton is going with a reinforcement to take the command there. I have the honor to be With great respect & esteem Yr Excellency’s Most Obedt & hume sert
P.S. April 19th I am this day honored with Yr Excellency’s letter of the 14th.
DNA: Item 152, Letters from George Washington, PCC—Papers of the Continental Congress.