George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Beatty, 4 September 1779

To John Beatty

Head Qrs [West Point] Septr 4: 1779


I inclose you a Copy of a certificate by H. Katencamp Esq., His Britannic Majesty’s Consul at Corunna,1 (the Original of which has been transmitted to me) respecting the capture and release of Sundry British Officers by Captain Newman of an American Privateer, belonging to Newberry in Massachusetts Bay; and stipulating for the release and liberation of a like number of our Officers, prisoners with the Enemy.2

The public, according to the regulations which have hitherto prevailed and which still exist, not having a right in the first instance to nominate the persons who should be received in exchange for those of the British released—The Captain & Owners of the privateer have mentioned Colo. Coates & Colo. Webb as those to be first benefitted by their release, and are willing that the release of the remainder should operate generally for the benefit & liberation of Our Officers—prisoners with the Enemy. This being the case—as soon as the release of Colo. Coates & Colo. Webb is effected—to whom the Owners have given a preference and which you will without delay endeavour to accomplish, You will inform the British Commissary of prisoners—of the Officers to be released in exchange for the ballance.3 These are to be taken in regular course, according to the order of their captivity & as their rank applies except in the case of Violators of parole—as no other discrimination can be allowed as far as the matter rests with me. These exchanges are to be final, it being obviously the import of the agreement entered into at Corunna with the Consul—and in consequence of which the British Officers mention’d in it—have been and are entirely free.

As there are no full Colonels among the prisoners released at Corunna—The exchange of Colo. Coates and Colo. Webb must be effected on a principle of composition for which purpose you will have recourse to the table of ratios given to you for the regulation of parole exchanges—preferring them in the same order as was then directed.4 In case the Enemy will not agree to the first and you are obliged to make use of the others, you will have it jointly expressed in writing with Mr Loring, that this is done on the ground of convenience in this particular case, and is not to operate as a precedent hereafter. Should the Enemy finally object to all your ratios—you will have a definitive proposal from them and report it to me for further directions. I am Sir Yr Most Obedt sert


Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

For GW’s further directions to Beatty and Abraham Skinner on the exchange of these prisoners, see GW to Beatty, 23 Sept.; GW to Beatty, 30 Oct. (DLC:GW), and GW to Skinner, 12 July, 17 Sept. and 7 Oct. 1780 (all in DLC:GW); see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 24 Aug. 1780 (DNA:PCC, item 152), and Skinner to GW, 24 Sept. 1780 (DNA:PCC, item 167).

1GW is referring to Herman Katenkamp, who had been appointed British consul at Corunna, Spain in July 1775.

2The enclosure has not been identified. For the capture of these officers by privateer captain Wingate Newman, see Joseph Webb, Jr. to GW, 18 Jan., and n.1 to that document.

Wingate Newman, of Newburyport, Mass., took command of the Massachusetts privateer brigantine Hancock in September 1776. In 1778 and early 1779, he commanded the 20-gun privateer brig Vengeance. In July 1781, Newman became commander of the 22-gun ship Lyon, and, in February 1782, he commanded the 4-gun schooner Lord Stirling.

3GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison, in a letter to Col. Samuel B. Webb dated 25 Aug., discussed the prospect of Webb’s exchange for one of the captured British officers (see Joseph Barrell to GW, 3 July, n.2). While serving as a colonel in one of the Additional Continental Regiments, Webb had been captured during an expedition to Long Island in December 1777 and then released as a prisoner on parole. He was not exchanged until December 1780. In March 1780, Beatty and Joshua Loring, British commissary of prisoners, listed Col. William Coates of the Philadelphia militia as among the “Exceptionable” American officer prisoners “Said to be not taken in Arms & Subject to future discussion” (see “A General State of American Officers Prisoners with the British,” dated 16 March 1780 and signed by Beatty and Loring, in DLC:GW).

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