George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Samuel Miles, 25 November 1776

To Colonel Samuel Miles

Head Quarters [Newark] 25th Novemr 1776


I lately had the pleasure of a Letter from you, but I am unable to answer it as particularly as I could wish, for want of the Letter itself, having sent it forward among other Papers.1

From the best of my Recollection, you mention, that you had Reason to beleive that an Exchange might be procured of John Foxcroft Esqr. for yourself and of Mr Dashwood for Colo. Piper, and another Gentleman, whose Name I do not remember, for Lieut. De Courcy. If you can obtain Genl Howes Assent to these several Exchanges, I shall on my Part most readily comply, but as the Gentlemen, you have mentioned, are not in the Military Line, the Proposal cannot with propriety go from me, as, by the Terms of our Cartel, Officers of equal Rank are only to be proposed for each other. But Genl Howe has dispensed with this Rule in one Instance by giving up Brigadier Genl Lord Stirling for Governor Brown, tho not belonging to the Army, and if he pleases again to accept of Gentlemen in the Civil Department for those in the Military, I, as I said before, shall have no Objection.2

I have in a Letter to Colo. Atlee, taken Notice of a joint Letter from yourself and him respecting the miserable State of our prisoners in New York for want of Cloathes and Necessaries. I have wrote to Congress on the Subject, recommending it to them, to procure a proper Credit in New York for their Supply, but I have not yet recd an Answer from them.3

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Miles wrote GW on 10 Nov. from New York asking GW to approve and help effect exchanges of himself for John Foxcroft, Lt. Col. James Piper for Francis Dashwood, Capt. Thomas Herbert for James Forrest, and lieutenants John Davis and Edward De Coursey for James Shanks and Thomas Byrne. “I flatter myself,” Miles says, “that it will be agreeable to you Sir, to release any of your Officers upon equitable terms, and that you will take the earliest oppertunity of doing it” (DLC:GW; see also Nathanael Greene to GW, 11–12 Nov., n.2).

Lt. Col. James Piper, who had commanded one of the two battalions in Colonel Miles’s Pennsylvania rifle regiment, died of a fever on 30 Jan. 1777 while still a prisoner in New York (see Sabine, Fitch’s New-York Diary description begins W. H. W. Sabine, ed. The New-York Diary of Lieutenant Jabez Fitch of the 17th (Connecticut) Regiment from August 22, 1776 to December 15, 1777. New York, 1954. description ends , 108). Thomas Herbert, brother of GW’s acquaintance William Herbert and a captain in Col. Samuel John Atlee’s Pennsylvania musketry battalion, apparently was exchanged during this month. John Davis of Chester County, Pa., a relation of Colonel Miles, was appointed a lieutenant in Atlee’s battalion on 19 Mar. 1776, and on 6 April he became a lieutenant in Miles’s regiment. Davis’s appointment as a captain in the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment on 27 Nov. 1776 by the Pennsylvania council of safety indicates that he also probably was exchanged during this month (see Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:199). Davis served in the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment until January 1781 when he transferred to the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment. He left the army on 1 Jan. 1783. Edward De Coursey (c.1759–1827) of Queen Annes County, Md., on 2 Jan. 1776 was appointed a third lieutenant in Capt. Edward Veazey’s independent company, which subsequently became part of Col. William Smallwood’s Maryland regiment. De Coursey was exchanged on 27 Sept. 1777, and he served as a member of the Maryland general assembly from 1781 to 1784.

John Foxcroft (d. 1790) had served as one of the joint deputy postmasters general for North America since October 1761, and although he was a good friend of his former colleague in that office, Benjamin Franklin, Foxcroft remained loyal to the Crown. By 2 Oct. 1776 Foxcroft and the secretary to the post office, Francis Dashwood, were prisoners on parole in Philadelphia, and on 15 Oct. Congress gave Foxcroft leave to return on parole to his home near Turtle Bay, about three miles north of New York City, “to remove his family from the horrors of war” (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 , 5:841, 6:875–76). He and Dashwood apparently were exchanged by 20 Feb. 1777 when Dashwood arrived at New York City, and both men probably remained there throughout the war (see Tatum, Serle’s Journal description begins Edward H. Tatum, Jr., ed. The American Journal of Ambrose Serle: Secretary to Lord Howe, 1776–1778. San Marino, Calif., 1940. description ends , 143, 147, 175, 191, 202, 237). After the war Foxcroft became an agent for British packet ships in New York City.

James Forrest and his nephews, James Shanks and Thomas Byrne, were taken prisoner in early September when the Continental navy sloop Sachem captured Forrest’s brig Three Friends while it was carrying supplies from Antigua to the British army (see Minutes of the Pennsylvania Council of Safety and Josiah Bartlett to John Langdon, both 9 Sept., in 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 , 6:766, and note 2).

2On 6 Dec. GW sent General Howe a copy of Congress’s resolution of 7 Nov. directing that Miles’s undated letter to William Wister concerning the exchange of Foxcroft and Dashwood be sent to GW and that GW “be desired to do therein, what he shall think proper.” That copy of the resolution is followed by a sentence reading: “If the above Exchange should prove agreeable to His Excellency General Howe, it will be so to his, Most obedt Servant Signed G. Washington” (copy, P.R.O., 30/55, Carleton Papers; see also 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 , 6:933, and Hancock to GW, 9–c.12 Nov., and note 3). Miles was exchanged in April 1778. For Montfort Browne’s recent exchange for Stirling, see Howe to GW, 21 Sept., 4 Oct., and GW to Howe, 23 Sept., 6 October.

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