George Washington Papers

To George Washington from General Henry Clinton, 31 March 1779

From General Henry Clinton

Head Quarters New York March 31st 1779.


My having been absent from New York for some Days past, has prevented me from sooner acknowledging Your Letter of the 14th Instant.1 Let me assure You, Sir, that my Wishes coincide sincerely with those which you express, for the completion of a purpose equally urged by Justice & humanity. Allow me to say that I am happy to find the direction of this Affair is now entirely reposed in Military hands; as I can from thence augur the same liberality of Negociation on the part of Your Commissioners, which I trust you will find on Ours. Colonel O’Hara having sailed for England, it requires a day or two for the person who is to supply his place, to inform himself of the points on which the business will turn.2 On Monday I shall send down Colonel Hyde and Captain André to Staten Island, that they may meet Your Commissioners either at Amboy or Elizabeth Town as you may wish.3 I have the honor to be With due respect Sir Your Excellency’s Most obedient Servt

H. Clinton

LS, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in Clinton to George Germain, 2 April 1779, MiU-C: Clinton Papers; two copies, P.R.O., 5/97; two copies, P.R.O., 30/35, Carleton Papers.

1Clinton had returned to New York City from eastern Long Island where he had gone to prepare for an attack on New London, Conn., that was abandoned because of inclement weather (see Israel Putnam to GW, 22 March [1] [2], both letters and the notes to those documents; and William Maxwell to GW, 25 March, and n.2 to that document, and 28 March).

2Col. Charles O’Hara had served as a British commissioner in a prisoner exchange negotiation that had failed in December 1778 (see the Commissioners for the Exchange of Prisoners to GW, 15 Dec. 1778, and n.1 to that document).

3British commissioners Col. West Hyde and Capt. John André met their American counterparts, Col. William Davies and Lt. Col. Robert Hanson Harrison, at Perth Amboy, N.J., on Monday, 12 April, to negotiate for the exchange of prisoners, and they remained there until 23 April. For the failure of these negotiations, see Harrison to GW, 18 April (DLC:GW), and the Report from the Commissioners for the Exchange of Prisoners, April 1779 (DNA:PCC, item 28). Clinton reflected on this initiative in a letter of 18 April to Lord George Germain, British secretary of state for the American colonies, which reads: “I was inclined to expect a happy termination to the business [because our commissioners] went on from the strong appearance of sincerity expressed in Mr Washington’s letter; instead of which their usual chicane has taken place and I have reason to believe that the Congress were induced to solicit this meeting merely to still the clamours of their officers who are prisoners with us” (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 , 17:109–10; see also Willcox, American Rebellion description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 117–18).

John André (1750–1780) purchased a lieutenant’s commission in the 7th Regiment of Foot dated 24 Sept. 1771, left England for Canada in late 1774, and was taken prisoner during the American siege of St. Jean (St. Johns) in November 1775. After his exchange in late 1776, he was made a captain in the 26th Regiment of Foot and became aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Charles Grey. Andrè kept a journal of his military services between June 1777 and November 1778 (see Andrè, Journal). Shortly after this journal ends, he was detailed an aide-de-camp to Gen. Henry Clinton. Appointed deputy adjutant general with the rank of major by Clinton in October 1779, Andrè was responsible for correspondence with secret agents. These duties led to his capture on 23 Sept. 1780 after a meeting with Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold concerning that officer’s intentions to turn over West Point to the British. Andrè was hanged as a spy on 2 Oct. 1780 at Tappan, New York.

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