George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Abraham Skinner, 7 October 1780

To Abraham Skinner

Paramus [N.J.] October the 7th 1780


I find by Your Report of the 24th Ulto of the proceedings which took place at Elizabeth Town in your late meeting with the British Commissary, that the Enemy are willing to go substantially into the exchange of Officers mentioned in my Letter of Instructions to You of the 17th—provided the Exchange is extended to our privates, who were then prisoners of War in New York—and according to a plan their Commissary furnished You with in May & June last. This proposal with respect to the privates, is perfectly agreable to me—and so I have informed Sir Henry Clinton;1 and You will take the most effectual and immediate measures to carry it into execution as well the exchange of those privates as of the Officers, as before directed If the exchange of Lt Genl Burgoyne and Major Genl phillips & de Riedesel cannot take place at the same time we shall have only to regret it, as it will prevent relief to themselves and many Others. The proceedings which required the particular Exchanges to be made, which were mentioned in my Letter of Instructions of the 17th of September—remain unaltered, and therefore they must I presume, be still attempted. In the instance of Lt Colo. Ramsay & Colo. Webb—their exchange must be effected, as the footing on which the business stands with respect to them, can admit of no alternative. You are fully informed of it. Indeed in the case of the former the point has been explicitly agreed to by the Enemy for Lt Colo. Conolly—and in the case of the latter, if he is not exchanged the Officers of the Eagle packet cannot be released. I wish You to expedite the business as much as possible. I am Sir Your Most Obed. servt

G. Washington

P.S. Though the Enemy may not consent to exchange at present Lt Genl Burgoyne & Major Generals Phillips & Riedesel—yet possibly they may be prevailed on to exchange One of the Two last for Major Genl Lincoln. You will endeavor to effect the release of the Whole by every decent & becoming Argument, as it will relieve so many of our Officers, but at all events attempt the exchange of one of these Two for General Lincoln.

I have not yet received the determination of the State of Virginia, with respect to Lt Govr Hamilton—and therefore—there can be no stipulation for his exchange. I hope the State, to whom I have written, will give me information in time on the subject.2

Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; copy (docketed “No. 5”), enclosed in GW to Samuel Huntington, 16 Oct. 1780, DNA:PCC, item 152; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW wrote Gen. Henry Clinton on this date: “I find by the report of our Commissary of prisoners of the proceedings which lately took place between him and Mr Loring at Elizabeth Town on the 21st ulto, that he was willing, on the part of Your Excellency, to accede substantially to my propositions respecting an exchange of Officers, provided the exchange should be extended to the privates, prisoners of War, then in your hands at New York. This is perfectly agreeable to me, and I have accordingly directed our Commissary to take the most immediate measures to carry into execution, as well the exchange of those privates as of the Officers” (LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, P.R.O.: 30/55, Carleton Papers; Df, DLC:GW; copy (docketed “No. 4”), enclosed in GW to Huntington, 16 Oct. 1780, DNA:PCC, item 152; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also GW to Skinner, 17 Sept., and Skinner to GW, 24 Sept.). Clinton replied to GW on 13 Oct., found at William Phillips to GW, same date (first letter), n.2.

2See Thomas Jefferson to GW, 26 Sept., and n.3 to that document.

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