George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 26 July 1780

To Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Head Quarters [Preakness, N.J.] July 26th 1780

Dear Sir

I transmit you the inclosed letter from Sir Henry Clinton in answer to your’s of the 5th Instant.1 I am exceedingly sorry to find that he seems to involve your Exchange with that of the Southern Army & to make it depend upon it. At this time, for the reasons I mentioned to you, & others which will readily occur, an Exchange of privates could not possibly be gone into with the least degree of policy2—and under any circumstances of an extensive exchange, the release of the Officers on Long Island, who have been so long in captivity, must be first attended to. If you think a personal interview between you and Major General Phillips may conduce in the smallest degree to your own liberation, I shall be happy to promote it, as far as it can depend on me.3 Wishing you health & happiness I am, Dear Sir Your most Obedt & Affectionate humbe servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Caleb Gibbs’s writing, MH; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The Varick transcript is undated.

1In his letter of 5 July to British general Henry Clinton, Lincoln had expressed hopes for a general exchange of prisoners. But because “digesting and fully settling” a plan for the exchange would “necessarily expend considerable time,” he requested that his own “exchange for an Officer of like rank might be agreed to” by Clinton (P.R.O.: 30/55, Carleton Papers).

A copy of the enclosed letter from Clinton to Lincoln, dated 19 July, reads: “I have had the honor to receive your Letter of the 5th July and trust there will be no difficulties attending your Exchange. As it must however involve that of Major General Phillips & Major General Riedesel, and as there are many circumstances relative to exchanges which Cannot be discused with more propriety than by two Gentlemen who must necessarily interest themselves very warmly in what concerns the Troops they have served with, and whose personal Situations have so great an Affinity, I propose that either at Amboy, Elizabeth Town or at General Phillips’s quarters on Long Island, you should meet and Confer on the means of redeeming the Troops of Convention & those of your Army.

“Should the issue of your Conference require the prolongation of your Absence on Parole, I shall with pleasure acquiesce in it for any reasonable time that exigencies may require” (DLC:GW).

2Lincoln had visited GW’s headquarters earlier in the month, and they apparently discussed these issues (see GW’s second letter to Samuel Huntington, 10 July).

3Lincoln replied to GW on 11 Aug. (first letter).

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