George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General James Mitchell Varnum, 7 July 1778

From Brigadier General James Mitchell Varnum

Peekskill [N.Y.] 7th, July 1778.


I arrived here Yesterday morning on my Way from Rhode Island. I found Mrs Varnum in a distressed Situation, having been robbed of every Article Cloathing, except a morning undress which she had on. I am detained here by a severe Inflamation in the Face, occasioned by a Cold after drawing a troublesome Tooth. I hope to join my Brigade soon, but fear I shall be laid by for several Days. Genl Sullivan is in Command of but few Troops, and the Enemy there have been reinforced by a part of Browns Corps from New York.1 There are universal Complaints against the Commissary of Prisoners in that Department, “Mr Mershroe,” Tis said he demands Money for procuring Exchanges, and effects them out of Turn; That he carries on an illicit Commerce with the Enemy, & makes his Residence principally in Newport with the worst of Tories.2 I am, with great Respect, your Excellency’s most obdt, & very humble Servant,

J.M. Varnum.


1Brig. Gen. Montfort Browne’s provincial regiment (The Prince of Wales American Volunteers), numbering about four hundred men, had joined the British forces at Rhode Island on 11 and 12 June (see Mackenzie Diary description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 1:299–300).

2Persistent reports that “indulgence of paroles hath been granted to the prisoners of the convention of Saratoga, in consideration on money paid and received for the same,” led Congress on 27 Oct. 1778 to appoint a special committee to investigate ( 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 , 12:1065; see also Henry Laurens to William Heath, 10 Oct., and to the Massachusetts Council, 29 Oct., 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 , 11:45, 146). Deputy Commissary of Prisoners Joshua Mersereau, however, retained his post.

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