George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Phillips, 11 September 1780

From Major General William Phillips

New York Septr 11th 1780


I have received Your letter of the 28th of August which I should sooner have answered but that I have been very unwell.

My Idea of the Parole for Officers of the Troops of Convention being Extended to Europe was only supposing no General Exchange to take place which I, then, saw no likelihood of, nor indeed are my hopes now very flattering upon the Subject1—If Paroles in the manner I have described are not to take place as it relates to the Officers of the Troops of Convention I shall submit to Sir Henry Clinton that no more indulgencies of that kind pass on either Side, prisoners of War excepted, as the Officers Coming from Virginia into New York can only be attended with an idle Expence without any benefit to them.

There certainly was nothing definitive done at Amboy respecting Parole Exchanges; My letter to you, Sir, expressed so2—The Officers of the Troops of Convention now here on parole will undoubtedly abide by their Situation—It is not very usual for British Officers to break their paroles and it is impossible that I should countenance any such proceeding.

His Excellency General Sir Henry Clinton informs me that I am to meet Major General Lincoln at Elizabeth Town on Tuesday next the 19th Instant: I am therefore to request of you, Sir, that you will Send me a permission to carry with me such of my family as I may find necessary upon the occasion, and, also, that the Vessel in which I shall go may be considered as under the protection of its Flag of truce on its Arrival at Elizabeth-Town, during its remaining there, and on its Return.3 I have the honour to be, Sir, with great personal respect Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servant

W. Phillips


2See Phillips to GW, 23 Aug.; see also Commissioners for the Exchange of Prisoners to GW, 26 March (both letters [letter 1; letter 2]).

3GW replied to Phillips from headquarters in Bergen County on 16 Sept.: “I last night received Your Letter of the 11th and am happy to find that You are recovered from your indisposition.

“In my Letter of the 28th of August to which You refer—I did not determine whether the paroles You described could or could not take place; but only that I had no power to grant them Myself. I sincerely wish, however, as I did then, that the Officers could be exchanged and I hope it will be the case. This would remove every difficulty and give relief to Many Individuals. on both sides.

“You will be at perfect liberty to bring with You to the proposed interview, between You yrself & Major General Lincoln, Any part of your family you think proper. The Officer at Elizabeth Town will be informed of your meeting and that the Flag Vessel is to be under the sanction of a truce while coming & returning and during the interview” (Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

GW wrote Maj. William Crane from the same place on the same date: “Major Genl Lincoln is to have a conference with Major Genl Phillips at Elizabeth Town on Tuesday the 19th instant. The Vessel in which Genl Phillips comes to Elizabeth town is to remain there during the conference and to be considered as a Flag. You are to observe that there is no stipulation for a cessation of hostilities during this conference, you are therefore to keep as much upon your guard as at any other time” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

Phillips replied to GW from New York on 19 Sept.: “I have the honour of receiving your Excellency’s letter of the 16th Instant, for which I return you, Sir, my thanks.

“By the arrival of a British Officer of the Troops of Convention Lieutenant Coan I am informed of Dispatches from Brigadier General Hamilton being sent to me under Cover to Your Excellency and I shall be greatly obliged to you, Sir, to direct their being sent to me at Elizabeth-Town.

“I take for granted I shall meet some Officer from you, Sir, instructed to confer with me on the subject of a General Exchange of Prisoners of War” (LS, DLC:GW; see also Board of War to GW, 9 Sept.).

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