George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Beatty, 19 August 1779

To John Beatty

Head Quarters West Point Augt 19th 1779


I have considered your report of the 5 instant and the papers accompanying it relative to your transactions with Mr Loring at your last interview and I shall add a few explanatory remarks to my former instructions.1

The principle which I intended to govern your exchanges as well absolute as parole for such officers of ours as had violated their paroles was, that we should only exchange those who could not be returned; all that can be returned are to be exempted from the benefit of exchange ’till further orders—But as it may be a long time before many of them can be sent in & probably several of them never will be found and it would be injustice to the enemy to detain their officers ’till the experiment could be fully tried you will in the mean time send them in on parole, with an express and positive agreement that whenever any of the aforesaid violators of parole are returned the officers exchanged in lieu of them are either to be returned also, or other officers of equal rank whom we shall demand sent out in their place—This must be clearly determined so as to exclude all dispute or equivocation, for we wish not to make a breach of honor a privilege to the guilty person.

In order the better to enable you to carry into execution my order for calling in these breakers of parole, you will make me a report according to the best of your information of the states to which they belong and the places where they reside that application may be made for the assistance of the States to enforce their return.2

I observe there are some persons who have been indulged with their paroles by the enemy not violators of parole for wh⟨om⟩ they now demand other officers to be se⟨nt⟩ in—This you will not comply with exc⟨ept⟩ so far as it is perfectly consistent w⟨ith pro⟩priety of capture. The enemy have it at their option to recall them if they think proper.

You are not to exchange ei⟨ther⟩ Col. Housekker on our part or Mr Co⟨nolly⟩ on the part of the enemy. The former w⟨as⟩ taken in a manner which will not suffer us to consider him in the light of a common prisoner; and the latter has never been considered by us as a milita⟨ry⟩ prisoner of war.3

You are absolutely to reject every overture for exchanging those persons whom we do not consider as military prisoners of war: We do not hold General Clinton bound by any act of ours respecting this matter; but we reject their exchange solely on the principle that by the laws & practice of war, we do not think they were proper subjects of military capture—From this we shall never recede.

Mr Loring mentions his having 150 privates whom he proposes to exchange for those of some particular corps which he mentions—I have no objection to this provided the principle extends to officers—You are to insist on the exchange of these on equality of rank, as far as the number in our hands will permit—Now we have removed every supposeable impediment on our side no reason can be assigned why the exchanges of officers as well as men should not go on upon the former ground. One caution I must give you which is that too much pains cannot be taken to prevent the impositions of the enemy in sending out persons of different denominations who were not proper subjects of military capture. You will give the most pointed orders to your deputies to make the strictest inquiry into the circumstances in which every man was taken who does not belong to The Continental army.

You may include the Convention prisoners as well in your absolute as parole exchanges; but in the former only on the principle of equality of rank.

Endeavour by all means to have the officers who have recently violated their paroles immediately sent in. I am &c. &c.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The text in angle brackets is taken from the Varick transcript.

1Beatty’s report to GW of 5 Aug. has not been found. Presumably Beatty was reporting on his 20 July meeting with British commissary of prisoners Joshua Loring at Elizabeth, N.J. (see GW to John Jay, 24–27 Aug.). On 22 July a British officer in New York recorded in his journal: “An Exchange of Prisoners was agreed upon between Mr. Loring, Commissary General on the part of the King’s Troops & Colonel Beatty on that of the Rebels, & confirmed on the one party by Sir H. Clinton, the Rebels having agreed to account for the greater part of those Officers, who had broke their Paroles, which had for some time been the principal Obstacle to the Exchange. Major General Philips & Reidesel are thereby permitted to be exchanged & to come to N. York on Parole, the latter agreed to by Sir Henry Clinton” (Ritchie, “New York Diary,” description begins Carson I. A. Ritchie, ed. “A New York Diary [British army officer’s journal] of the Revolutionary War.” New-York Historical Society Quarterly 50 (1966): 221–80, 401–46. description ends 431).

2On 25 June, GW had directed a board of general officers to examine a list of officers and soldiers alleged by the British to have violated their paroles, and the board had reported back three days later with their comments on the case of each person named on the list (see GW to a Board of General Officers, 25 June, and a Board of General Officers to GW, 28 June). For the final list of those determined by the board to be breakers of parole and for GW’s orders to Beatty on the matter, see GW to Beatty, 12 July. Although no report from Beatty on the residency of these officers has been found, that information was included in a circular GW issued on 26 Aug. to those states determined to have officers in violation of their parole (see n.1 to that document).

3Nicholas Haussegger, formerly colonel of the German Regiment, claimed that he had been captured while leading his regiment in the Battle of Princeton in January 1777. However, the events and circumstances of his capture during that battle were subsequently questioned, and he was accused of deserting his regiment and inciting American prisoners of war in New York to join the British (see Haussegger to GW, 16 Jan. 1777, and n.3 to that document). Despite his letter and a personal visit to GW to defend himself, Haussegger failed to convince GW of his loyalty, and GW continued to suspect him (see GW to Horatio Gates, 12 Feb. 1777). He resigned in February 1781, but the Pennsylvania authorities later accused him of being a traitor (see Haussegger to GW, 5 Feb. 1781, PHi: Gratz Collection; a nineteenth-century transcription of his resignation and his commission are in DLC:GW).

Personally known to GW before the war, John Connolly was Virginia governor Lord Dunmore’s chief representative at Pittsburgh at the outbreak of the war, and, in the fall of 1775, Dunmore commissioned Connolly, a lieutenant colonel, to raise a Loyalist and Indian force west of the Alleghenies. In November of that year, the committee of safety of Frederick Town, Md., arrested Connolly en route to the frontier, and Congress imprisoned him at Philadelphia (see Valentine Crawford to GW, 24 June 1775, n.3). Connolly eventually was released on parole, residing at Germantown, Pennsylvania. In November 1779, Congress declared him a prisoner of war and authorized his exchange. Subsequently, in 1780, Maryland authorities arranged his exchange for one of their own officers (see Benjamin Stoddert to GW, 25 April 1780, DLC:GW). Exchanged in October 1780, Connolly proceeded to New York, where he received a commission to raise a Loyalist regiment—known as the “Loyal Foresters”—for service on the frontiers (see GW to Abraham Skinner, 7 Oct. 1780, and Elias Dayton to GW, 14 and 20 April 1781, both DLC:GW; and GW to Samuel Huntington, GW to Daniel Brodhead, and GW to George Rogers Clark, all 25 April 1781, all DLC:GW). While recruiting loyalists for his regiment in Virginia in 1781, Connolly was again captured shortly before the Battle of Yorktown. Paroled by GW to Hanover Town, Va., and its vicinity, Connolly was caught without leave in Philadelphia in December and imprisoned for breaking his parole (see McIlwaine, Letters of the Governors, description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed. Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia. 3 vols. Richmond, 1926–29. description ends 3:109–10, Benjamin Lincoln to GW, 26 Dec. 1781 and Connolly to GW, 29 Dec. 1781, both DLC:GW). Declaring “I am sorry to find my re: union with my Countrymen is impracticable” and professing a desire to “retire from the War,” Connolly appealed to GW in February 1782 for permission to go to England or Ireland (Connolly to GW, 12 Feb. 1782, DLC:GW). Connolly was finally released from prison in March 1783. After going to England in 1784, Connolly seems to have taken up residence in Canada. In the fall of 1788 Lord Dorchester, governor of Canada, sent Connolly to Kentucky as an agent to induce the Kentucky leaders to separate from the Confederation government (see Papers, Presidential Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series. 17 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1987–. description ends 1:189–90 and 2:253–56).

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