George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lord Cornwallis, 8 January 1777

To Lord Cornwallis

Morris Town 8th Jany 1777

My Lord

Your Lordship’s Favor of yesterday was delivered to me by the Officer who met your Flag of Truce.1

You may be assured that no Molestation will be offered to the Convoy of Money and Stores which General D’Heister means to send to the Hessians taken at Trenton, or to the Surgeon and Medicines for the wounded at Princetown, by any part of the regular Army under my command. But I cannot answer for the Militia, who are resorting to Arms in most parts of this State, and exceedingly exasperated at the Treatment they have met with from both British and Hessian Troops.2

I therefore thought it most advisable to direct Capt. Barry, the Bearer of this, to give a safe Conduct to the Hessian Baggage as far as Philadelphia, and the Surgeon and Medicines to princetown.3

I have no objection to the Hessian Serjeant and twelve Men’s attending their Baggage till it is delivered to their Countrymen, but cannot consent to their carrying their Arms, as I think none but bad consequences can ensue from such a Measure. I am with due Respect my Lord Your Lordships most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, owned (1976) by Sir Ewan Macpherson-Grant, Ballen Dalloch, Scotland; DfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Cornwallis’s letter to GW of 7 Jan. has not been found.

2The Hessian soldiers captured at the Battle of Trenton on 26 Dec. 1776 were sent under guard first to Newtown and then to Philadelphia where they began arriving on 30 Dec. (see Duane, Marshall’s Diary description begins William Duane, ed. Extracts from the Diary of Christopher Marshall, Kept in Philadelphia and Lancaster, during the American Revolution, 1774–1781. 1877. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 109–10, and the Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], 4, 7 Jan. 1777). According to one account of the prisoners’ treatment, the victorious American soldiers “behaved exceeding well with Respect to plundering, considering they were animated by Revenge for past Insults, exasperated by the Injuries done their Mess-Mates taken at Fort Washington . . . The General [GW] gave the Hessians all their Baggage and they have since gone to the Western Counties of Pennsylvania, with their Pack’s unsearched they were amazed at the Generosity of the General, so opposite to their own Conduct, and called him a very good Rebel” (Freeman’s Journal [Portsmouth, N.H.], 21 Jan. 1777).

3In the draft this paragraph initially read: “I therefore think it most adviseable to send an Officer to meet your Flag any time tomorrow at Kingstown, who will give the Hessian Baggage a safe Conduct to Philadelphia and the Surgeon and Medicines to princetown.” Captain Barry probably is Capt. Thomas Berry of the 8th Virginia Regiment, a regiment raised mostly from German-Americans of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia which began making its way northward from South Carolina in August 1776.

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