George Washington Papers

Enclosure: Elizabeth Burgin to James Caldwell, 19 November 1779

Elizabeth Burgin to James Caldwell

Elizt. Town [N.J.] November 19 1779

July 17th being Sent for by generr. Patterson1 Surspacted For helping the amaricans presiners to mak their acape gorge Hebbuy2 Coming from your Exelence the Weak before and Cared out Mager van Burah3 Capt. Crain4 Lt Lee5 Who Mad ther acape from the guard on Long Island Gorge Higby Braught a paper to me from your aide Derectted to Col. Md gaw on Long Island6 he the Sd gorge Higly being taking up and Confined in the provost Guard his Wife told gener. Patteson that he Carad out Two hundred amarican preseners for Me for Witch Reason Known My Self guilty Did hide My Self for two weeaks in New york understanding genr. Patterson had Offerd a bounty of two Houndred pounds for taking me he Keep a guard five days at my house Leting no body Come in or out thin throu the hal[p] of Frinds got on Long Island and ther Staid five Weeaks Then William Scudder Came to Long Island in wale boat And I Maid My Escape With him wee being Chased by two Boats half way the Sound then got to New Englan and Came to Phaladelphia Then I got a pass of The Bord of War to go to Elizt. Town to try to git My Children from New york Witch I obtained in three or four Weeks but Could not git My Close or Any thing But My Children. When application wais Made by mr John Franckling7 My Close & Furnture thay Should be Sold And the Money be giving to the Loyles.

I am now Sir very Desolate without Money without Close or friends to go to I Mean to go to philadelphia Whir god know How I shall Live a Cold winter Coming on For the Throuth of the above your Excellence Can inquir Mager John Stuart8 or Col. Thomas Thomas I Lived opsied Mr John Franklings and by their desire make this Application if your Excelence pleiasd you Can derect Mr Thomas Fankling in phaladelpia Wheir I Can be found9 If the gener. thinks proper I should be glad to Drow provisions for My Self and Childrens in Phaladelphia Wheir I Meain to Remain helping our poore preseners Brought Me to Want Whith I don’t Repent.

Elezebeth Burgin

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

1Burgin is referring to Maj. Gen. James Pattison, who commanded the British forces in New York City.

2Burgin means George Higday, who served as a spy courier (see GW to Benjamin Tallmadge, 5 July, and n.4 to that document; see also GW’s first letter to Tallmadge, 27 June).

3Burgin had assisted Maj. Leonard Van Buren’s escape from captivity in New York. Van Buren wrote Burgin from Albany on 26 Nov.: “The news of your escape reachd me shortly after you had affected it, I imediately after went down to West-point in serch of you where I was informed that you was gone to philadelphia, it Surprised me much that you did not come up to this place according to your provision, nothing will give me more pleasure than to See you at my Fathers House where you may Live, till you can with pleasure and Safety return to your place of abode, by the Bearer hereof Mr John Blair I send you five Hundred Dollars which I beg you to accept of If you should be in want of any more please to call on Sd person and he will let you have what you want or if you wish to purchese and he has it he will give you Credit till you can make returns, Inclosed I send you a Certificate of the kind treatment prisoners recd from your hands, which I thought might be of Service to you.

“If you have an oppertunity please to send [m]y kind Love to the two amiable Miss Francklings and the whole Famaly return my thanks for the favours I recd from that good Famaly” (DNA:PCC, item 148; see also n.7 below). The enclosure has not been identified.

4Burgin probably is alluding to the former Continental artillery officer Joseph Crane.

5This escaped prisoner has not been identified.

6For an effort to exchange Col. Robert Magaw, see William Phillips to GW, 29 Dec., and n.1 to that document.

7John Franklin apparently was a merchant and Patriot sympathizer in New York City. An advertisement for “Good Lisbon WINES” printed in The New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury for 4 Aug. 1777 placed Franklin’s house “near the New Slip, Ship Yards.” British authorities banished Franklin and his wife, Deborah, on 21 Nov. 1780 for “unbounded liberality” toward American prisoners (New-York Packet, 28 Sept. 1787). Franklin’s application to return prompted William Smith, royal chief justice of New York, to argue against its acceptance in his memoir entry for 27 Aug. 1782 because “it would offend General Robertson who had turned him out of Town” (Sabine, Smith’s Historical Memoirs description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs . . . of William Smith, Historian of the Province of New York. 2 vols. New York, 1956–58. description ends [1971], 547).

8Burgin likely is referring to Maj. John Steward, who had escaped from a British prison ship in December 1777.

9Thomas Franklin, Jr., who had served as the agent for American prisoners at Philadelphia, headed “a very agreeable family” and resided in “one of the most pleasant Houses in the City” (Elias Boudinot to Hannah Boudinot, 7 July 1778, in Smith, Letters of Delegates, description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends 10:232).

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