George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 27 November 1776

To John Hancock

New Ark Novr the 27th 1776


I do my self the Honor to acknowledge the receipt of your favors of the 21st & 24th with their Several Inclosures. The execution of the Resolves has been & will be attended to, as far as in my power. I have wrote to Genl Schuyler to send down as early as possible, the Troops in the northern department from this and the State of Pensylvania.1 The proposition for exchanging Mr Franklin for Genl Thompson, I shall submit to Genl Howe as soon circumstances will allow me.2

I have nothing in particular to advise you of respecting the Enemy, more than that they are advancing this way. Part of ’em have passed the Posaick, and I suppose the main body that they have on this side the north River would have done the same before now, as they are coming on, had their progress not been retarded by the Weather, which has been rainy for several days past.3 I have Scouts & Detachments constantly out to harrass them and watch their motions and to gain, if possible, intelligence of their designs.

Colo. Miles who has been permitted to go to Philadelphia for a few days by Genl Howe, will deliver you this, and inform you of the distresses of our Prisoners and the necessity of effecting their exchange as far as we have Prisoners to give in return.4

By a Letter from the Board of War on the subject of an Exchange, they mention that Several of the Prisoners in our hands, have inlisted.5 It is a measure I think that cannot be justified, though the Precedent is furnished on the side of the Enemy, nor do I consider it good in point of policy.6 But as It has been done, I shall leave it with Congress to order them to be returned or not as they shall judge fit.7 I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 30 Nov. and referred it to the Board 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 , 6:993).

1Robert Hanson Harrison wrote Schuyler on 26 Nov. at GW’s command, enclosing a copy of Congress’s resolution of 23 Nov. regarding the transfer of these troops. “You will please to order ’em,” Harrison instructs Schuyler, “to fall in on the Communication leading from New York to Philadelphia, at Brunswick or between that & Prince town & to direct their March by a back & secure Route, that It may not be liable to be intercepted by the Enemy. I have mentioned Brunswick supposing & hoping that we shall be able to make a stand there; However His Excellency begs You will direct the Commanding Officers of those Troops to send him frequent Expresses to advise of their Approaches & by which Means their Destination may be explicitly pointed out; At present it is Conjectural, It must depend on Circumstances.

“I have not Time to add much therefore shall only inform You, that the Enemy are in Possession of Heckensec & are now pushing this Way. from Report they are this Side the Posaic. Their Number is not asscertained but is supposed considerable. they were Marching in four Heavy Columns Yesterday Eveng.” In a postscript to this letter, Harrison writes: “The Officers must enquire the Situation of our Army & that of the Enemy from Time to Time & regulate their Movements accordingly & in such a Manner as not to run the Most [distant] shadow of risk, of falling in with the letter” (LB, NN: Schuyler Papers; see also the draft and Varick transcript in DLC:GW). For Congress’s resolution of 23 Nov. on this subject, see Hancock to GW, 24 Nov., n.3.

Schuyler replied to Harrison on 3 Dec.: “I had already anticipated the Resolution of Congress and his Excellency’s Request with Regard to the Pennsylvania & Jersey Troops—Besides these part of seven other Regiments are on the way to join the General, the last embarked Yesterday at Albany with General Gates, whom I had desired to open all my public Letters and he writes me that he will carefully comply with the Directions contained in Your’s” (NN: Schuyler Papers).

3British officer Archibald Robertson says in his diary entry for 26 Nov.: “Lord Cornwallis moved on by New Bridge to Pissaic River, cross’d it and staid at Aquakenunk. The 4th Brigade marched to Hackensack. One Battalion of 2d Brigade march’d near New Bridge to keep up the Communication.” This morning, Robertson writes, “the 4th Brigade moved to Aquakenunk and took up the Quarters of the 1 and 2d Light Infantry and 16th Light Dragoons who marched this day to 2d River” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 113–14; see also Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 19–21, and Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 72–73).

4GW enclosed with this letter an unidentified “list of prisoners taken by the enemy during the campaign of 1776” (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 , 6:993). After reading this letter on 30 Nov. and referring it to the Board of War, Congress directed the Board of War “to confer with Colonel Miles, who is come from new York on his parole, to expedite the exchange of prisoners” (ibid.).

6The phrase following the word “justified” does not appear in the draft or the Varick transcript.

7The draft reads: “to order their return or not as they shall judge proper.”

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