George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Nicholas Cooke, 19 October 1776

From Nicholas Cooke

Providence, October 19. 1776

Sir,

Your Letter, requesting an Account of the Prisoners in this State, I have duly received;1 and ordered the Sheriffs of the several Counties to make Return to me of the Number of Prisoners in their respective Counties, and of their different Stations, which Return has not been yet made. I also wrote immediately to Governor Trumbull of Connecticut, to know where their Prisoners were to assemble, that they might both go together, but have had no Answer,2 but shall endeavour to forward them when I shall receive Information from him—Since which I have received a Letter from the Captain of the Syren Frigate, off Block-Island, that he had a Number of Prisoners on Board, taken in Merchant Ships, whom he has Orders from Lord Howe to exchange for others of equal Stations.3

I inform Your Excellency that a Prize Ship is brought in here, having a Quantity of Blankets, some coarse woollen Goods, Linens and Shoes, which the Owners of the armed Vessel who took her, are desirous may be purchased for the Use of the Army; and in Order that those Goods may not be scattered, they propose that they be all put up in One Lot together; and that no Stranger be allowed to bid them off, unless he shall produce Orders from You or the Congress that he is making Purchase of them for the Army—I should be glad, if Your Excellency should think proper, that You would appoint Somebody immediately to purchase the same. If You should make any Appointment for that Purpose here, I would just inform that Messrs Clark and Nightingale Mr John Brown and myself are all interested in the Privateer, and therefore not so suitable for such Appointment as others. Mr Daniel Tillinghast here is the Continental Agent, and I believe a good Man.4 I am Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servant.

L, DLC:GW.

2See Cooke to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 10 Oct., in “R.I. Revolutionary Correspondence,” description begins “Revolutionary Correspondence from 1775 to 1782, Comprising Letters Written by Governors Nicholas Cooke, William Greene, John Collins, Jonathan Trumbull, Generals Washington . . . and others.” Collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society 6 (1867): 105–300, plus an unnumbered “Appendix” of four pages. description ends 174–75.

3Capt. Tobias Furneaux of H.M.S. Syren wrote Cooke about this matter on 11 Oct. (see Clark and Morgan, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 6:1216).

4The British ship Thomas, commanded by Capt. Thomas Bell, was sailing from London to Quebec when it was captured on 21 Sept. by the Rhode Island privateer Hawke commanded by Capt. Arthur Crawford (see libel against the prize ship Thomas, 9 Oct. 1776, in Clark and Morgan, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 6:1175). On 23 Oct. Congress requested Cooke immediately to purchase all the blankets and coarse cloth “at continental expence, for the use of the army under General Washington’s command” and ordered that the blankets be sent to GW and the cloth made into clothing for the soldiers at the direction of Q.M. Gen. Thomas Mifflin (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 6:897). Delegate Robert Treat Paine of Massachusetts sent a copy of that resolution to Cooke, who on 25 Nov. wrote Paine, informing him that Mifflin, in consequence of Cooke’s letter to GW of this date, had appointed a gentleman in Providence to purchase goods from the captured ship and that person had “accordingly bought the Blankets being near Three Thousand, Three large Hogsheads of stout Shoes being the whole of that Article, and Three or Four Hogsheads of Camp-Kettles, and is now in Treaty for a large Quantity of coarse Cloths—Linens and Stockings for the same Purpose” (Clark and Morgan, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 7:275).

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