George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Phillips, 29 December 1779

From Major General William Phillips

New York Decr 29th 1779


Major Gardiner of the 16th Regiment of British Infantry was made a prisoners of War sometime since and carried to Boston—He arrived here the day before Yesterday under Your Excellency’s permission, restricted, however, to return unless Exchanged in ten days.

The Overtures for a Negotiation which the four American Officers have carried out to Your Excellency1 have necessarily put a local stop to partial Exchanges and it will be impossible to enter immediately on the Subject of Major Gardiner’s Situation.

I have to request as a personal favour from Your Excellency to me that you will permit Major Gardiner to remain at New York upon his parole untill the return of Colonels Magaw and Mathews, at which time Major Gardiner may, it is to be hoped become part of a General Exchange, but should it be otherwise it will then depend upon the Kings Commander in Chief to Exchange him partially, and should that fail he must return immediately to his Captivity at Boston.

I will not doubt Your Excellency’s compliance with this my request, and under that description will take the liberty of begging an immediate answer to this letter as Major Gardiner is very uneasy lest he should be suspected of trifling with his parole by remaining here longer than the ten days given him by Your Excellency’s permission.2 I am, Sir, with great personal Respec⟨t⟩ Your Excellency’s most obed. and most humble Servant.

W. Phillips

LS (two versions), DLC:GW. The earlier version serves as copy text. The later version is marked “Duplicate” and came to GW as an enclosure in a letter to him from Phillips dated 8 Jan. 1780 (DLC:GW).

1Phillips probably is referring to a letter from Col. Robert Magaw, Col. John Ely, Col. George Mathews, and Lt. Col. Nathaniel Ramsay to GW, with dateline Morristown, 27 Dec.: “We wait on your Excelency by Permission of General Sir Henery Clinton Commander of the British Army in New York with Proposals for Exchange of Prisoners the Propositions took their Rise from an interview Between Major General Phillips and Colo. Mathews at Lancaster. their Present form is the Result of Sevral Conforances Between us and that officer in New York—We are Supported by our Brother officers Prisoners of War in the oppinion that they are founded on Principles of Equallity and mutual Advantage,—Should your Excelency view them in a Different Point of Light we will Cheerfully acquiesce & Beg Leave to assure your Excelency that Neither we nor they desire to be Liberated on other Terms, and that we would Rather Continue in Painfull Captivity then Desire a measure Should be adapted Injurious to the Interest of our Countery” (Papers of Rufus Lincoln, description begins James Minor Lincoln, comp. The Papers of Captain Rufus Lincoln of Wareham, Mass. 1904. Reprint. New York, 1971. description ends 78). For the specific proposals related to prisoner exchanges, see the enclosures with GW to Samuel Huntington, 4 Jan. 1780 (DNA:PCC, item 152).

2GW replied to Phillips from Morristown on 2 Jan. 1780 and agreed to extend Maj. James Valentine Gardner’s parole (DLC:GW; see also GW to Gardner, same date, DLC:GW). GW again extended Gardner’s parole later that same month (see Robert Hanson Harrison to Gardner, 20 Jan., DLC:GW; see also GW to Henry Clinton, 19 Jan., P.R.O.: 30/55, Carleton Papers, and Wilhelm von Knyphausen to GW, 23 Jan., DLC:GW). GW acknowledged the extension of Gardner’s parole until the completion of prisoner exchange negotiations when he wrote Phillips on 29 Feb. (DLC:GW; see also Gardner to GW, 10 Feb., and Tench Tilghman to Abraham Skinner, 19 Feb., both DLC:GW). The collapse of those prisoner exchange negotiations in late April 1780 presumably ended Gardner’s parole in New York and required his return to Boston.

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