George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Phillips, 12 October 1779

From Major General William Phillips

Bethlehem [Pa.] 12th October 1779.


I enclose the Copies of two papers which will inform your Excellency by what means Lieutenant Smith1 of the British Artillery and Captain de Guismere of the Hesse Hanau Regiment are arrived at this place in their way to New York.2

I am apprehensive the same reasons which detain me here will also prevent those Officers from going forward,3 and as I have a number of papers here with me relating to the business of the Troops of Convention with the publick offices in Canada I will venture to request, if it be impossible for an Officer to be permitted to go, that a private man as a messenger from me may be allowed to carry my dispatches by the Lakes to Canada and he may, under your Excellency’s permission, proceed to your Head Quarters where his papers may be examined and he may obtain the necessary passports for his going forward, I would wish he might be allowed to return to me at whatever place of destination I may be.

I should not be thus solicitous of sending to Canada but that there are a number of Contracts and private accounts unsettled to the great injury of individuals. I have the honour to be, Sir, with great personal respect Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble servant

W. Phillips


1Phillips is referring to Lt. John Smith of the 4th Battalion, Royal Artillery.

2The enclosed extract of Col. Theodorick Bland’s letter to Phillips of 7 Sept. reads: “His Excellency has moreover been pleased to inform me, in answer to your letter which I transmitted to him requesting permission for two Officers to be sent from hence to Canada by land, that he cannot at this time permit any of the Officers of the Convention Army to go to Canada by land, but if there is a necessity for it, two of them may proceed in the first instance to New York and from thence to Quebec by water—for this purpose he will furnish a passport upon request, for the safe conduct of the Vessel in which they may embark provided she goes in ballast—and for their and her safe return directly to Virginia, with any quantity of Clothing or other necessaries for the Convention Troops that may be enumerated, and for her safe return afterwards to New York; should this permission, Sir, answer the end for which your requisition was made, I take the liberty to inform you that after taking their paroles for the strict observance of such limitations and restrictions as are necessary to be enjoyned, any two officers, not exceeding the rank of Captain, will be furnished with a passport” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of Phillips’s letter to Bland of 14 Sept. reads: “You was so good to inform me that His Excellency General Washington, in answer to my request of sending two Officers by land to Canada, had offered that I might have permission for two Officers not exceeding the rank of Captain going in the first place to New York and from thence by Passports, which His Excellency upon application would grant, by sea to Canada. I beg leave to accept of this proposal and request that you will have the goodness, Sir, to grant your passports for two Officers going into New York under such circumstances of parole and route as you shall think proper to direct and order, and if it should be agreeable to you, Sir, I apprehend they might be able to set out in company with the Gentlemen of Major General de Riedesel’s Suite. The British Officer as expressed in my application to General Washington was to be sent to settle a variety of publick accounts, particularly relating to the detachment of Royal Artillery and therefore, Sir, I beg to name for this duty Lieutenant Smith of that Corps. The German Officer was to be sent for the purpose of receiving and forwarding the Cloathing of the German Troops, and for this duty I beg to Name Captain de Guismar [Geismar]” (DLC:GW). GW initially had given a conditional authorization for the officers’ travel to Canada, but after subsequent instructions from Congress, he had to countermand his order (see GW to Bland, 31 Aug.).

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