George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Samuel Blachley Webb, 29 December 1777

From Colonel Samuel Blachley Webb

Wethersfield in Connecticut Decr 29th 1777.

Before this, I suppose your Excellency must have heard of a late decent on Long-Island and the objects General Putnam had in view by ordering on the Troops1 The detachment under my command left Norwalk in four Transports the Evening after the 9th Instant, the weather proved very blustering by which means we parted Compy—on the morning of the 10th at dawn of day we found ourselves within two Miles of a British Ship, every effort was made to clear her, but was forced on shore near Satalkut, the surf runing high fill’d and sunk our Boat directly after we hoisted it out, the Ship came too very near Us and began a heavy fire, in this unhappy situation, no mode of escape left, nor any chance to defend ourselves we were obliged to submit Prisoners to Capt. Harmood of the Falcon Sloop of War,2 from this we were carried to Newport, where thro: the influence of some old acquaintance I obtained a Parole of which the enclosed is a Copy.3 I had with me One Captain, Adjutant, two Sub’s and about 20 Privates of my Regiment together with about 40 of the Militia.4 I should without loss of time waited in Person on your Excellency but am unable to ride.

The particulars relative to the Expedition General Parsons told me he would inform you,5 I have dispatched Mr Gibbs (a volunteer in my Regt) with this letter, by his return I hope to know whether Lt Colonel Campbell can be given in exchange for me. I confess from the Letters which passed between your Excellency and General Howe I have little reason to flatter myself of its takeing place, but knowing at the time they were wrote Colo. Campbell was one of the Officers highest in Rank of any in our possession, and since Major Genll Presscott being Captivated,6 I could not but flatter myself the objections were at an end.7 Should it be otherways I must beg your Excellency to get me from my present unhappy situation as early as possible, the State of my Regiment, my accounts with the Public (which thro: necessity have been neglected) demand my earliest attention, besides which my ardent wish, is, again to be in the Field in my Country’s cause. anxiously waiting your answer I am with the warmest Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedt & Very Humbl. servt

Saml B. Webb

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, anonymous donor. Webb wrote on the cover: “By Volunteer Gibbs.”

2Harry Harmood, who had been a lieutenant in the Royal Navy since 1759, served in 1776 on board H.M.S. Eagle. In February 1777 he was commissioned a commander, and he became a captain two months after his vessel, the sloop Falcon, was burned at Rhode Island in August 1778. Harmood remained in the Royal Navy until the early 1800s, serving in a series of administrative offices.

3The enclosed copy of Webb’s parole, dated 14 Dec. at Newport, R.I., and certified by Lt. Col. Christopher French of the 52d British Regiment, reads: “I Samuel B. Webb Esq. Colonel in the Continental Forces, prisoner of War being permitted by Major Genl [Robert] pigot to depart this place, do promise upon my Parole of Honor to go from hence to Providence in this Province & endeavor to procure the effecting an Exchange between Lieut. Colo. [Archibald] Campbell of his Majesty’s Seventy first Regt of Foot & me in failure of which I do affirm that I will, in the Space of two Months, repair to New York, (unless otherwise Exchang’d) and submit myself to any General of his Majesty’s Forces who may command there” (DLC:GW).

4Among the captured were Capt. Edward Bulkley, adjutant Elisha Hopkins, and lieutenants John Riley and Giles Mumford (see Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends , 1:401; see also Israel Putnam to GW, 13 Jan. 1778, n.4).

6For the capture of British major general Richard Prescott on the night of 9–10 July, see Joseph Spencer to GW, 11 July 1777, and note 1 of that document.

7An ongoing dispute over the terms of a general exchange and the status of prisoners such as Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell and Maj. Gen. Charles Lee occupied much of the correspondence between GW and Gen. William Howe in the spring of 1777. See GW to Howe, 9 April, 10 June, and Howe to GW, 21 April, 22 May 1777.

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