George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Continental Congress Executive Committee, 7 January 1777

From the Continental Congress Executive Committee

Philada Jany 7th 177[7]


I was this day honoured with your favour of the 5th Inst. which arrived in time to forward the enclosures by Post1—We waited with Impatience to learn the consequence of your late movements and have been highly gratifyed, at the same time we see plainly some Important event is still to happen, the Enemy must mean to evacuate the Jerseys or to give you Battle the latter may be ruinous in its consequences to either party & therefore its probable will only be sought for by those that have the superiority this we fondly hope will fall to your lot If joined by Genl Heath, & Genl McDougal & the Jersey Militia as we are taught to Expect will be the case, Shou’d they loose a Battle or evacuate Jersey, surely they cannot afterwards make out a decent paragraph for Gaines infamous paper after being Out General’d & obliged to abandon the Country they thought themselves Securely possessed of.2 Your Excellency will find enclosed a paper herein, drawn up by a Capt. Gamble lately a prisoner onboard the Fleet in New York he declares that the Treatment of both Sea & Land Prisoners in that place is Shocking to Humanity this man deserves Credit & his Account of their Ill usage is confirmed by all the Prisoners that come from thence, as to the information he gives at the bottom of his paper he says he will forfeit his life if every tittle of it is not as near to the Truth as possible for an inquisitive man in his Situation to come at. We think this wou’d be a good time to remonstrate to Genl Howe & Lord Howe against the base usage our people meet with and to Threaten immediate retaliation on the British prisoners in our possession if they did not alter their Conduct,3 it is probable Genl Howe may say it is Contrary to orders & not with his knowledge if our people Suffer, but this is not sufficient, Our poor Soldiers & Sailors are perishing for want of Foods, fresh air & cleanliness, whilst those of theirs in our possession are feasting on the fat of this land, they have Said we Treat them well through fear, It is time to Convince them we are not afraid, altho we are actuated by principles of Humanity, but those principles now Dictate the necessity of Severe usage to British Officers in particular that they may hereafter make it a point for their own sakes to see proper care taken of those that fall within their power—Depend on it good Sir We do not write in this Stile to gratify any feelings of our own, they are all repugnant to what we propose. Lieutt Josiah has just called on us & Confirms the acct of Ill usage &c. he says he was exchanged for Lieutt Ball & that no person has been given up for Lieutt Boger now in New York,4 there is a Capt. Burke that was formerly Capt. Manlys Lieutt in his Successfull Cruize’s. Burke Succeeded to the Command of Manlys Vessell, was taken by the Liverpool Frigate to which Mr Boger belongs & Cap. Bellew sent Burke to N. York for the express purpose of having him exchanged for Boger, & as he is said to be a very good Officer, has been Ill used and suffered a good deal, we dare say your Excellency will demand his release by the first Flag.5 We have the honor to be Sir Your Excellencys Obedt Servts

Robt Morris

Geo. Clymer

Geo. Walton

LS, in Robert Morris’s writing, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 133. Morris inadvertently wrote 1776 instead of 1777 in the dateline of the LS. The letter-book copy is dated correctly.

1GW’s letter of 5 Jan. 1777 was delivered to the executive committee by Capt. George Harvey of the 3d Regiment of Philadelphia Associators (see the Executive Committee to Hancock, 7 Jan. in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 6:45).

2Hugh Gaine (1726–1807) of New York published the New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury, a Loyalist newspaper.

3Capt. William Gamble of the Pennsylvania navy commanded the fire sloop Aetna on the Delaware River from March to October 1776 and had just taken command of the armed sloop Colonel Parry when it was captured by H.M.S. Orpheus on 7 Nov. 1776 in the Delaware Bay near Cape Henlopen while en route from Philadelphia to Charleston with a cargo of “rum, porter, flour and bread” (Journal of Bartholomew James, 3 Oct.—28 Nov. 1776, 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 , 7:317–18; see also Journal of H.M.S. Orpheus, Capt. Charles Hudson, 7 Nov. 1776, ibid., 80). GW sent Gamble’s statement, which has not been identified, to Lord Howe on 13 January.

4George Ball, 3d lieutenant of the British frigate Roebuck, was taken captive on 27 Mar. 1776 when the pilot boat he was commanding was seized by an armed sloop that the Roebuck was chasing in the Delaware Bay (see Andrew Snape Hamond to Henry Bellew, 8 April 1776, ibid., 4:728–30). Ball was sent to Dover, Del., in early April, and he was exchanged for Lt. James Josiah of Philadelphia after Christmas Day (see Hancock to GW, 8 Aug. 1776, n.1). Richard Boger, who was appointed 2d lieutenant of the British warship Liverpool in the spring of 1776, was commanding the six-gun sloop Edward in early April when it lost an engagement with the Continental brigantine Lexington in sight of the capes of Virginia (see Molyneux Shuldham to Philip Stephens, 23 Mar. 1776, and Francis Johnston to Anthony Wayne, 10 April 1776, 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 , 4:472–73, 754–55). Boger and most of the Edward’s crew were taken by way of New Jersey to Philadelphia, where on 17 April Boger gave his parole to the Pennsylvania committee of safety and was ordered to Germantown (see John Bradford to GW, 9 Nov. 1776, in DLC:GW, and Pennsylvania committee of safety minutes, 17 April 1776, in Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 10:545–47). Boger apparently gave a new parole to Congress on 25 Sept. after he complained to Robert Morris (see Boger to Morris, 23 Sept. 1776, 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 , 6:967–68, and 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 , 5:822). An undated draft of Boger’s first parole is in PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–90.

5For the capture of Capt. William Burke and the armed schooner Warren by the British warship Liverpool off Cape Ann on 26 Aug. 1776, see Artemas Ward to GW, 29 July 1776, n.2. Henry Bellew was captain of the Liverpool.

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