George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Four British Prisoners of War, 5 May 1776

From Four British Prisoners of War

Providence, 5 May 1776. Ask GW to consider their “unhappy situation. . . . at present we are confin’d in a criminals Goal, which smells intollerably, no manner of Bed to lay on, or even allowd so much as a Blanket to cover us. . . . we understand this treatment is occasion’d by a Mr Stanhope, having forfeited his parole.”1

LS, DLC:GW. Although this letter is docketed in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing “Ansd 13,” the reply has not been identified.

The letter is signed by Christopher M. Clutterbuck, John Wallace, William Marsh, and Henry Stevenson, all of whom were officers in the Royal Navy. Stevenson was captured on 8 Jan. 1776 with two seamen in a jolly boat at Brenton’s Point, Rhode Island. Lt. John Wallace, a nephew of Capt. James Wallace, commanded the schooner Hawke, which was taken by Commodore Hopkins’s fleet near Block Island on 4 April 1776. Stevenson and Wallace were paroled in September 1776, but in December they and Clutterbuck were sent to Worcester, Mass., where they were again confined in a jail until apparently exchanged in the spring of 1777. William Marsh, who had been a midshipman aboard the warship Tamar, was exchanged in February 1777.

1Henry Edwin Stanhope, a navy lieutenant who wrote to GW on 25 Dec. 1775 and 16 Jan. 1776 soliciting his exchange and on 18 Feb. 1776 seeking permission to go to Providence, broke his parole at Northampton, Mass., on 27 April and attempted to escape. He and a companion were apprehended at Middletown, Conn., by 6 May (Connecticut Courant, and Hartford Weekly Intelligencer, 29 April, 6 May 1776). Stanhope made a successful escape in November 1776 and rejoined the Royal Navy.

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