George Washington Papers

From George Washington to a Board of General Officers, 25 June 1779

To a Board of General Officers

Head Quarters New Windsor June 25th 79


Mr Beatty Commissary of Prisoners will furnish you with the names of a number of persons, officers and others, who were in captivity and are alleged by the enemy to have deserted their paroles—He will also furnish you with the circumstances of their several escapes as stated by the enemy and by themselves—corroborated by such testimonies as are in his possession.1 You will be pleased to take the whole matter into consideration2 and favour me with your opinion on the following points.

Whom of them are really to be considered as breakers of their paroles.

And whom of these were military prisoners of war.

No person is to be considered as a military prisoner of War, who did not at the time of capture belong either to the army or to the militia in actual service.

In determining these points at the same time, that I am persuaded you will do justice to the individuals, whose escapes were not inconsistent with their engagements; I am equally persuaded you will pay the fullest attention to the delicate nature of a parole and will carefully discriminate those who are chargeable with3 a breach of it.4 I have the honor to be Very Respectfully Gentlemen Your most Obedt ser.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The Varick transcript identifies Nathanael Greene as president of this board, which accords with the general orders for this date.

A letter from GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison to Brig. Gen. Henry Knox, written on 26 June, reads: “A Board of ⟨s⟩ix General Officers is to sit this morning at the Clove Camp, to determine which Officers of ours, who were prisoners, have broken their parole. Sir Henry Clinton has put this delicate work upon us—and will not exchange a Single Officer or private actually in his hands, till the point is settled and his demand satisfied; either by an actual return of those, who have unwarrantably escaped, or by receiving satisfaction for them in preference to all Others. As this is a matter of a very important and delicate nature—His Excellency wishes that it may be considered of by a full Board—He therefore requests, if you have nothing particular or pressing to detain you here, that you will ride to that Camp and make a Member of the Court” (NN: Emmet Collection). Knox joined this board.

2On the draft manuscript, Hamilton wrote and then struck out the words “your most serious” before “consideration.”

3At this place on the draft manuscript, Hamilton first wrote “have been guilty of.” He then struck out those words and wrote “are chargeable with” above the line.

4This board of general officers reported to GW on 28 June.

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