George Washington Papers

To George Washington from General Henry Clinton, 23 January 1779

From General Henry Clinton

Head Quarters New York, January 23d 1779.


I was honoured with your Letter of the 26th of last Month, with its enclosure.

In order to prevent the irregularities, which, under the pretence of Reconnoitring, would otherwise be committed by individuals in every Army, it has been the custom in Europe (if I recollect right) that any Infantry patroling without a Non Commissioned Officer should be liable, if taken by the Enemy, to be treated as Spies or Marauders. As Brower & Lezier stood in this predicament when they killed Mr Richards, I should have been justified in any severities I had used towards them.1 I did not, however, consider them as Soldiers, but as belonging to a Banditti, who without Orders or any regular institution subsisted by plundering the peaceable Inhabitants of Bergen County: Regarding them in this light, You will feel that their Crime must have appeared heinous to me; Yet thro’ consideration of the general distraction of the Country, and from the fear that the case might have been misunderstood, I have neither brought them to trial nor have I permitted that they should suffer any particular severities. The enclosed answer from Major General Jones, Commandant of the City, to the enquiries which I directed my Secretary to make, will prove to you that you have not been rightly informed as to the treatment of those persons.2 To evince to You, Sir, the liberal footing on which I wish all my transactions should stand, as you have avowed Brower & Lezier, I have ordered them to be exchanged immediatly. I have the honor to be With due respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient Servt

H. Clinton

LS, DLC:GW; copy, P.R.O., 30/55, Carleton Papers.

1For British accusations that Bergen County, N.J., rangers Abraham Brower and John Lozier had murdered Loyalist refugee John Richards on Bergen Neck in January 1778, see GW to Henry Clinton, 26 Dec. 1778, and n.1; see also Leiby, Hackensack Valley description begins Adrian C. Leiby. The Revolutionary War in the Hackensack Valley: The Jersey Dutch and the Neutral Ground, 1775–1783. New Brunswick, N.J., 1962. description ends , 144–51.

2In the enclosed copy of the letter that Maj. Gen. Daniel Jones wrote at New York on 1 Jan. to Clinton’s secretary, Capt. John Smith, Jones says: “They are treated like the other Prisoners in the Provost and are well cloathed. No Visitors are allowed to Prisoners in the Provost bad Use having been made of that Indulgence” (DLC:GW).

Clinton also enclosed a copy of the brief letter that Lewis Pintard, the resident American commissary of prisoners in New York City, wrote at New York on 1 Jan. to Captain Smith, saying, “I am desired by General Jones to inform you that no Articles of Cloathing Provisions or Other necessaries that I have sent from time to time to the Provost for the American Prisoners of War have ever been refused Admittance but have always been received & safely delivered” (DLC:GW).

John Smith, a captain in the 37th Regiment of Foot since 25 May 1772, had served as General Clinton’s secretary for at least several months prior to Clinton’s becoming the British commander in chief in North America on 24 May 1778, when Clinton officially appointed Smith secretary to the commander in chief (see Royal Gazette [New York], 27 Dec. 1777, and Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:586, 590).

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