George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Abraham Skinner, 24 September 1780

From Abraham Skinner

Commy prisoners Office 24th Septemr 1780.


Having received your Excellency’s orders of the 17th instant, I proceeded to Elizabeth Town for the purpose of meeting Mr Loring the British Commissary, to whom, on the 21st instant, I made the proposal of Exchange No. 1 agreeable to your wish,1 and the next day received his answer thereto.

The enemy seem resolved to pursue their determination of not exchanging an Officer without the privates, and threaten the removal of our prisoners from New York to Hallifax or the West Indies unless they are released.

I beg leave to refer your Excellency to the inclosed letter from Mr Loring (No. 2) in which is contained an explicit answer to my propositions,2 and am with the greatest Respect Yr Excellency’s most obt humble Servt

Abm Skinner Comy Genl Prisoners

1Enclosure “No. 1” was Skinner’s letter to Joshua Loring, British commissary of prisoners, written at Elizabeth, N.J., on 21 Sept.: “Agreeable to His Excellency General Washingtons instructions to me, I am to propose to you the exchange of all your Officers who are prisoner of War in our hands, and also of all the Officers of Convention on parole in New York or in Europe, for an equal number of ours of like Rank and according to the order of their captivity; and where the principle of equal Rank will not apply; I will exchange them on the footing of composition, confining the composition to Officers only and according to the value or Tariff treated of and judged reasonable by the Commissioners at the last meeting at Amboy.

“That in the exchange on the principle of Composition, our Officers next in rank to those belonging to your Army who cannot be exchanged on the principle of equality are to be included and in the order of their captivity.

“These are the general principles by which I am to be governed in the execution of the proposed business, and which are to operate only in general with respect to our Officers prisoners in this Quarter and for their benefit, whose long captivity give them a claim to the public’s first attention.

“There is however the exchange of Brigr Genl du Portail and Lieut. Colo. Laurens, who were taken at Charlestown, which I am also directed to make, and also the exchange of Colo. Webb and Lt Colo. Ramsay upon the terms heretofore proposed.

“It is wished that the exchange of all the Officers prisoners of War in our hands, and also of all the Convention Officers on parole in New York or Europe may take place, but if we cannot make it so general as to comprehend the whole, we will make it as extensive as we can” (DNA:PCC, item 167; see also GW to Skinner, 17 Sept.).

2Enclosure “No. 2” was Loring’s reply to Skinner, written at Elizabeth on 22 Sept., in which he held for the exchange of privates as well as officers and threatened sending prisoners from New York “to some other parts where they may be lodged and fed, under every description of humanity, but without being of that inconveniency and expence, as I have before observed they are to us in their present situation” (DNA:PCC, item 167; see also William Phillips to GW, 19 June, source note).

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