George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant General Wilhelm von Knyphausen, 2 June 1780

To Lieutenant General Wilhelm von Knyphausen

Head Qrs Morris Town June 2d 1780


I beg leave to acquaint Your Excellency, that Congress have been pleased to empower me, by a late Resolution, to authorize an Agent or Commissary of prisoners to be appointed on your part, to reside in these States, with powers similar to those which may be granted to & permitted to be exercised by a like Officer appointed by us to reside within your lines.1 As this is a business very interesting to humanity and peculiarly so to the prisoners in our respective possessions, it is with great pleasure I make the communication; and it will rest with You, to place the matter on the most liberal footing. Your Excellency has only to inform me, that such an Agent will be allowed on our part to reside with You, and of the powers he will be permitted to exercise, and You will be at liberty to appoint one to reside with us, at any place except philadelphia, with the same priviledges. This restriction I would observe, cannot be attended with any inconvenience, as Lancaster and other places from their more central position, relatively to the general situation of the prisoners, are at least as well calculated for his residence.2 I know that difficulties have attended the overtures which have been made heretofore to effect this humane purpose, but I trust they will no longer exist, as the proposition is founded in equality—and must be mutually interesting to both parties.

If the proposition I make is agreed to, and on which I request Your Excellency will favor me with an early Answer, Mr Lewis Pintard will immediately return to New York as Our Agent:3 If it is not, Your Excellency will be pleased to permit Mrs Pintard and the rest of Mr Pintard’s family to come out, as he does not incline to return, unless it is in a public character.4

Should Mr Pintard be allowed to return as an Agent, it is proposed that he shall take with him several setts of Exchange, with a view of negotiating them, for the benefit of our Officers who are prisoners. I should hope that this measure will not be objected to, as it is usual in like cases; and as the indulgence has been permitted by us. I shall be obliged by Your Excellency’s answer also on this subject.5 I have the Honor to be with great respect & esteem Yr Excellency’s Most Obedt & Hbe servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, MiU-C: Clinton Papers; Df, DLC:GW; copy, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, enclosed in GW to Henry Clinton, 5 July [P.R.O., 30/55, Carleton Papers], P.R.O., 30/55, Carleton Papers; copy, enclosed in GW to Samuel Huntington, 24 Aug., DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Presumably referring to the LS, GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman ended his letter dated 3 June to Col. Elias Dayton, who was commanding in Elizabeth, N.J.: “You will forward Genl Knyphausons letter immediately” (NjMoHP: Park Collection).

1For this act of Congress of 26 May, see Samuel Huntington to GW, 29 May; see also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 17:462.

2This sentence appears only on the LS.

3GW had sent Lewis Pintard into New York City in January 1777 as an informal agent for American prisoners held in that city (see GW to William Howe, 20 Jan. 1777, and Howe to GW, 29 Jan. 1777; see also GW to Knyphausen, 27 March 1780). Complaining of poor treatment, Pintard had asked to leave the position (see GW to Pintard, 29 Feb. 1780, and Pintard to GW, 25 March 1780).

4Pintard’s family included a son and daughter by his first wife, Susanna Stockton (1742–1772), as well as his orphaned nephew John Pintard (1759–1844), who served as his assistant. He married his current wife, Marie Vallade of New Rochelle, N.Y., in April 1774.

5Knyphausen replied to GW from headquarters near Elizabeth, N.J., on 11 June: “I have received your letter of the 2d Instant, and will feel happy in having it in my power to contribute to the comfort of the Prisoners of all descriptions, by any mode which can be adopted, founded upon principles of Candour and Liberality.

“I do not however, think myself authorized to treat with Your Excellency, respecting a Public Agent, but I will immediately transmit your letter upon that Subject, to His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton.

“If Mr Pintard has fullfilled all his engagements in New York, which I suppose of course he has, previous to his present application, I know of nothing to prevent Mrs Pintard and his family, from quitting that place, whenever it may be agreable to them” (LS, PHi: Gratz Collection; copy, enclosed in GW to Samuel Huntington, 24 Aug. 1780, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, MiU-C: Clinton Papers; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169).

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