George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Horatio Gates, 3 November 1778

To Major General Horatio Gates

Head Qrs [Fredericksburg, N.Y.] Nov. 3d 1778


In my Letter of the 29th Ulto, I transmi<tted> you a Copy of a Resolution of Congress, directing the removal of the Convention Troops; a copy similar to which had been forwarded before to General Heath.1 By a Letter from him of the 28th, he asks whether it may not be best for their Heavy baggage to be sent by Water. It appea<rs> to me that it will, and it may be waterborne, as far as the falls of James river. If the Troops have flag Vessels of their own at Bosto<n,> or the Officers choose to provide ’em themselves, the baggage, except such as they may judge necessary to take with them, had better go in them; If otherwise, you will be pleased to direct proper ones to be provided for the occasion. In either case, it will be right for General Philips or Generals Riedsel and Hamilton, as well as yourself to sign & counters<ign> as circumstances may require, the passports which it will be necessary to furnish. I should also suppose it adviseable for One or more of their Quarter Masters to go with the Vessels. I have also written to General Heath upon the subject, in case this should find you still at Hartford.2

I am this minute favoured with your Letter of the 28th and regret the captivity of so good an Officer as Captain Goodall;3 but I cannot direct the Commissary to give him the preference, that you request. There are many other Officers of merit prisoners, who have experienced a much longer confinement. Were I to postpone their releasement—I should subject myself, at least, to their complaints—and to a charge of partiality. It has been a rule with me, which has never been deviated from by my order or consent in a single instanc<e,> to have prisoners exchanged, both Officers and privates, according to the priority of their captu<re,> as far as the circumstances of rank and number would apply; and this appears to me, to be founded in principles of equal justice—and the only one—that will or can give general satisfaction. I am sir Yr Most Obedt servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, NHi: Gates Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The text in angle brackets is illegible on the LS and has been supplied from the draft.

3Gates’s letter to GW of 28 Oct., written at Hartford, Conn., reads: “The particular merit, & Service, of Capt. Goodall, impells me to request the favour Your Excellency will order the Commissary of Prisoners to give him the preference in any Exchange to be made for Officers of his Rank. I inclose to Your Excellency, Colonel Putnam’s Letter to me, earnestly pressing the release of Capt. Goodall. To his application I again beg leave to add mine, being convinced, Your Excellency will think so deserving an Officer, is entitled to a distinguish’d Mark of Your favour” (DLC:GW).

Gates enclosed the following letter he had received from Col. Rufus Putnam, dated 26 Oct. at New Milford, Conn.: “It is some time since Capt. Goodale of my Regt was made a Prisoner by the Enemy near Kingsbridge, the Esensial services he has already Rendered his Country intitles him to as early an Exchange perhaps as any Officer in Captivity, altho they may have been longer there, at least as early as possible Consistant with the rules (if any there be) fixed for exchange of prisoners.

“And as Capt. Goodale has signaliz’d himself so much when under your command in the Campaign of 1777, I believe you will Readily engage your Influence in his favour, the engageing of which is the Design of my present Application.

“On this Occasion I think it but Just to mention some of the particular services before hinted.

“ ’Twas Capt. Goodale that went from Van Schaicks Island with Six men to Saratoga, and brought in five prisoners which he took within the Enemyes picquit, and within 100 Rods of the Indian Incampment.

“It was he that with 20 Men brought seven prisoners from the same place, it was he that the Adjutant General Detatched with 70 men, and took about 40 Prisoners in the Quaker Neighbourhood, that on the 8th of October from the height where Genl Lincoln was wounded made a push on the flat and took 5 Prisoners in the face of the Enemy on the Open plain.

“It was he that (when Genl Nixons Brigade Cross’d the Creek at Saratoga on the 11th of October) with 40 men took Lieut. Nailer with a guard of 35 British soldiers without fireing a gun which he Effected by a singular command, Boldness & Address.

“The British guard were all Paraded, the Officer gave the word, make Ready, they all Cocked their pieces, in this situation Capt. Goodale had the command to prevent his own men from fireing to give the Alarm to the Enemy who Could not see him on account of the Fogg, and such boldness of Address as to Deter the British Officer out of his fire, and the whole to ground their Arms.

“In my Opinion there is no better Partisan of his Rank in the American service—but I will not take more time in giving a Detail of his many good services, and will only add I wish him exchanged that he may call those to Account who were Negligent of their Duty when he was made a prisoner, and do therefore Request that you will use your Influence by writeing to his Excellency, to procure as early an exchange as possible, if there is no other way I could wish that one of Burgoine’s Captains might be sent in for him as I am sure the service would be promoted by it” (DLC:GW).

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