George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Stephens Smith, 24 February 1783

Dobbs ferry 24th feby 1783


I informed your Excellency last night of my return, and forwarded the papers which I hope are received.

The day after my arrival in New York Major Wemyss Deputy Adjutant General being requested by Sir Guy Carleton to attend to a settlement with their Commissary, we proceeded to compare, and examine the accounts, with respect to numbers sent in and received from either side, and found them to agree, but on making those accounts out, I objected to the allowance of the full number of prisoners sent from Quebec, as not being subjects of exchange, a very large proportion of them being inhabitants—I proposed, that as the flag which arrived at this post the 28th of December 1782, was particularly examined, and the circumstances of the capture of each individual known, consequently the number of soldiers, and citizens clearly ascertained; that the same proportion should be allowed to operate through the agregate number, observing that I was only induced to make this proposal upon the principle of its being more strongly marked with Justice than any that occur’d to me at that time; that I was not so attach’d to the plan but that I would freely give it up provided one more eligible, and just could be started; time was requested to consider it—it was finally consented to, and the account was settled agreeable to the inclosed copy No. 1. I then proposed a settlement of the balance acknowledged to be due; by liberating a number of our officers agreeable to Tariff as far as the privates would apply—this was (after consulting with the General) objected to, under the influence of this idea; that the Exchange should be carried on officer for officer, and that a reference to the Tariff was unnecessary untill the officers of the one or the other were liberated, and not till then could they admit of the Tariff’s operating—they mentiond an exchange of officers which I could not enter upon.

General Carleton on Thursday objected to the account, and desired Major Wemyss to obtain the reasons in writing why I did not admit the whole of the prisoners from Canada to be subjects of exchange, I immediately wrote the Letter of which the inclosed No. 2 is a copy—on Friday The Major waited on me, and said that Sir Guy fully agreed with me in opinion with respect to subjects of military capture, but could not pass the account in its present state, as he supposd if they were not soldiers at the time of their capture, they had been, and were subject to be called upon when circumstances required, consequently subjects of Exchange as much as if taken in actual service—I told him that if the whole of the account was insisted upon, and nothing short of it would be admitted, my business was finished, as I could not with propriety open a new one, before the old was compleatly settled, and beg’d him to inform Sir Guy that I should wait on him in the morning—assure him of my retaining a grateful sense of the civilities received, and take my leave, requesting permission to return on sunday—this was complied with—but I was pressed to remain untill the arrival of the Pacquet which is hourly expected, with the happy tidings of a peace, but as the business upon which I went, could not be finished, and every prospect of my being able to compleat it vanishing, I was of opinion it would not be agreeable to your Excellency—therefore declined, assuring them that though Peace upon proper principles would be perfectly agreeable to us still untill it was settled, we conceived it our duty to exert ourselves in preparing for War—with this I took my leave—I must observe to your Excellency that during my stay with the Enemy, I was treated with every respect, and attention that my Uniform, and Rank in the Continental Army could merit on demand.

I have brought with me the paroles of Paulding, and those taken with him at Croton, as also those of a party of Jersey men, taken with te Lieutenant of the County of Bergen, in what he conceived to be the execution of his duty—Agreeably to your Excellency’s permission I sent three flags to Elizabeth town, with upwards of two hundred of invalid and convalescent naval prisoners. Your Excellency’s Approbation is always what I have been and still am anxious to be honored with. I have the Honor to be Your Excellency’s Most Obedient servant

W.S. Smith Lieut. Colo. &c.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.



New York 17 Feby 1783

The Americans in Account of Privates Prisoners of War
1782 No. Men
12 Feby To James Sacket sent out with Major Skinner 1
28 April To Abm Woodruff sent to Eliza. Town 1
3 May To Mr Farrington Price 1
3 June To deliver’d at Dobb’s ferry as per rect
of Capt. Jno. Pray 9
To receiv’d from Quebec & sent to Dobbs
ferry & Boston 136
Balance in favor of the Americans 765
12th Feby By Balance as per settlemt of this date 495
By Officer’s servts sent from Yorktown on
Parole vizt
1 Serjt Major equal to 2
1 Quarr Masr serjt 2
4 Serjeants 8
1 Corporal 1
Privates 365 378
12 Feby By Prisoners recd from Dobb’s ferry
vizt 4 serjts = 8 & 26 privates 34
14th By ditto ditto 6

Error Excepted A.P. Dunant

Depy Commy of Prisoners



New York Thursday 20th feby 1783


The reason why I object to the Exchange of the whole of the prisoners from Quebec is that a proportion of them are inhabitants taken from their houses and domestic employments (some of them never having bore arms since the war) We do not consider this Class of men subjects of Capture unless to answer particular military purposes—This has long been a ruling principle with the American troops and we have had reason to think that the British were actuated by similar sentiments—therefore while we do not consider them as subjects of Capture we cannot with propriety think them subjects of Exchange. I have the honor to be &ca

W.S. Smith Lt Colo. &ca

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