George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joshua Mersereau, 30 March 1779

From Joshua Mersereau

Rutland [Mass.] March 30—1779

I herewith present my best respects To your Excelency—inclose you, all the News papers I can Collect, and 6 lemons—Wish it Was 600 as its all I am at present master of; hope it Will be Acceptable.

The Hon: genl Gates informd me your Excely had Wrote me, respecting the Prisoners—Which I have not had the Honor to receive,1 I have Wrote Col. Beaty, for some germain papers,2 Which, agreeable to your Excelencys (former) requests—I hope to make good Use of; as the Germains Still retain the Same good opinion of me, and put Great Confidence in me; Saying I am Their Father, and The best man in the World; I have got them to believe, that they are neglected & Dispisd by the British, Which retards thier Exchange, this raises their resentment greatly, as Well officers as men.3

Col. Ormong [Armand] proposes coming here to inlist men, I Disapprove of the mode, Unless its your Exelencys Commands, the fairer I Stand With them in publick, the more its in my power, to answer our, purposes4—I have indulgd the prisoners, to have 6 lb. Sope for 100 men per Week, to keep them Clean, and Continud their rations, at 12 Ozs. Bread & beaf per Day, hope your Excelency Will approve of it,5 Shall be happy in Obeying your Exelencys Commands, When ever in my power. I have the Honor to be your Exelencys most Obedt and Very: Hum: Servt

Joshua Mersereau

Some of the Germains drinckd Success to your Exelency—and Where highly pleasd that Land &c. Was Offerd them, if they returnd after being Exchangd Which many have agreed to Comply With—I had a man With them, in their retreat thro Jersey, Who says he Executed his orders and Causd that Desertion; Which he refers me, to A Gentleman on long Island for proof of his Conduct, I Shall make your Excelency more aquainted With my engagements When I have the Honor to See you.

J: M:

P.s. pray take off my signature6 or Commit this to the flames.


1No letter from GW to Mersereau about the Convention Army prisoners remaining near Rutland, Mass., has been found, but for GW’s intention to write such a letter, see GW to Horatio Gates, 14 Feb., and n.6 to that document.

2This letter from Mersereau to John Beatty, commissary general of prisoners, has not been identified.

3Mersereau apparently still superintended 200 prisoners (see Gates to GW, 26 Jan.; see also Mersereau to William Heath, 9 and 18 April, in MHi: Heath Papers).

4Mersereau probably is alluding to his service as a Continental army spy. For Colonel Armand’s desire to recruit among the German prisoners, see his letter to GW of 20 Jan. (see also GW to Armand, 21 Jan. and 8 Feb.).

5The expense of maintaining these prisoners prompted Beatty to write a letter of 7 May to Mersereau that reads: “From a representation of their extravagant price of provisions with you I was induced to propose to his Excellency and the Board of Warr, a removal of those prisoners of warr under your care to Lancaster in the State of Pensylvania, and am confident the expences of their removal will not be adequate to their continuance their. I have as yet received no answer, but shall again urge it from the receipt of your letter” (“Heath Papers,” description begins “The Heath Papers.” Parts 1–3. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 5th ser., 4:1–285; 7th ser., vols. 4–5. Boston, 1878–1905. description ends 2: 300–302).

6Mersereau’s signature was rendered illegible with heavy pen marks.

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