George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Webb, Jr., 18 January 1779

From Joseph Webb, Jr.

Wethersfield in Connecticut Jany 18. 1779

May it please Yr Excellency

I Enclose you a Letter from Mr Barrel part owner of the Privateer Vengence informing your Excellency, of haveing the good fortune to capture a Number of British Officers; amongst which is some Colonels,1 I feel myself much Interested & happy on every Acct but more particular & pleaseingly so, as the owners have been polite enough to express their desire that Colo. Webb be exchanged for one of them, altho He may not Expect it from a line of rotation, We suppose the Privateer being private property that they have a right to ask of your Excellency Colo. Webb, without any Officer tho He may have been longer a Prisoner finding fault when He know’s the Circumstances, but that He will be pleas’d & rejoice at His, Colo. Webb, good Fortune, & We hope Your Excellency nor no one will conceive it any infringement on that Just & delicate line of rotation your Excellency has ever established, had I the least Idea of the kind I wou’d not trouble your Excellency—but we realy Conceive it wou’d [be] of amazing public Advantage for Private property to have that privilege allow’d ’em; that if they wou’d Attack without public Expence (but at their own risk & Expence[)] Seize our Enemy, they shou’d be indulged with asking Your Excellency for their particular friend, let that friend be longer or shorter on the List—I have taken much pains to Exchange, or get my Brother out on parole, last May I went to Boston there was introduced to General Philips the then Commanding Officer of the Convention Troop’s—a Colonel Sutherland urged Genl P—— to Give hi⟨m⟩ leave to go in as a prisoner of War, to be Exchanged for Colo. Webb or to remain on parole as long as Colo. Webb shou’d, if it wants consistan⟨cy⟩ they shou’d be Exchanged for each other; after much Chit Chatt on the Subject it was agreed on that Colo. Sutherland shou’d be consid’d as a prisoner of War & be allow’d to go into York on parole for the Express purpose above, Mr Mersereu our Deputy Commissary of Prisoners being present—Colo. Sutherland went in & what is more went directly to England without ever waiting on my Brother, & why my Brother was not allow’d to come out on parole I never knew—I was even then in Hopes that an Exchange might have been made as General Philips Wrote to General Clinton en[c]losing of it to my Brother with His Approbation & desired him to grant it—ever since then I have taken much pains to get my Brother Out—as its of much Consequence that He shoud see Mr S. Deane before He leaves America as to his private Estate which lies connected with Mr Deane2—I need not add to the above a variety of other Circumstances that absolutely suffer’s for want of his personal Attendance, neither need I point to your Excellency (who I well know wou’d cheerfully do evry thing in your power consistantly to get Him out)—His unhappy Situation, His Expences to live in Character as a Colonel under you is beyond what you can think of—His Anxiety ever since He left your Family has been great—on His first comeing Home to Connecticut, to raise his Regt (all the other regts were half raised[)]—He had to apply & by persevearing He got the State Bounty allow’d him this made it a long time after others before He got a Man—but when He did begin, He did much beyond Expectation, but was after all the above disadvantages call’d as soon as the rest into the field & before He ever had an Opportunity to wait on Yr Excellency or shew you His Regt He met with the Misfortune of falling into the Enemies Hand3—He feels His Captivity with all these Considerations most sensibly—may I hope you will think it consistant to grant His request & give the Necessary Orders. I am with the Compliments of the Season to Your Lady & self & the Gentn of Yr Family Your Excellencys Most Obt & Very H. Sert

Joseph Webb

ALS, DLC:GW. Although Tench Tilghman docketed this letter “Ansd 26th,” GW actually replied on 27 January.

1This enclosure is Joseph Barrell’s letter to GW of 10 January. Wingate Newman, captain of the twenty-gun American privateer Vengeance, wrote a letter on 4 Oct. 1778, from Corunna, Spain, possibly to Barrell, explaining how the ship on 21 Sept. “fell in with the Snow Eagle Packet, from New-York bound to Falmouth, Commanded by Edward Spence, mounting fourteen carriage guns, and sixty men, including some officers of the British army, which, after an engagement of about twenty minutes, was obliged to strike to us … Among the passengers; was four Colonels, three Majors, one Cornet of dragoons.” With the Vengeance overcrowded, Newman delivered his prisoners to the British consul at Corunna, “taking his receipt for the same, obligating him to return a like number of American prisoners of equal rank” (extract published in The Independent Ledger, and the American Advertiser [Boston], 11 Jan. 1779; see also Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 13:373–74, 376, and Marine Committee to John Beatty, 16 Aug. 1779, 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 , 13:376).

2Col. Samuel Blachley Webb’s stepfather, Silas Deane, had not settled the estate of his first wife, Webb’s mother, who had died in 1767, provoking persistent and troubling issues among family members (see James, Silas Deane description begins Coy Hilton James. Silas Deane—Patriot or Traitor? East Lansing, Mich., 1975. description ends , 2; see also Deane to GW, 8 Dec. 1778).

3Prior to his appointment as colonel of an Additional Continental Regiment in January 1777, Samuel Blachley Webb had served from June 1776 as an aide-de-camp for GW with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He had been captured on 10 Dec. 1777 during an attempted attack on Long Island.

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