George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Phillips, 13 October 1780

From Major General William Phillips

New York October 13th 1780


His Excellency General Sir Henry Clinton has been pleased to communicate to me your letter to him of the 7th Instant respecting the Exchange of Officers and Privates prisoners of War.1

His Excellency has, also, thought proper this day to signify to me that Major General De Riedesel and myself were to be immediately exchanged;2 As this event may, perhaps, Concern American Officers of Rank taken at Charles-Town3 I have Sir Henry Clinton’s authority for proposing to you, Sir, that a second meeting may be held between Major General Lincoln and me,4 or should that General Officer not be in the Vicinity of Your Excellency’s Head Quarters that you will be so good as to appoint Some other for that purpose, and as my health at present is not perfectly good I will request such meeting may be at my Quarters on Long Island—A Yatch shall be sent for Major General Lincoln and any Officers he pleases to bring with him, and I am empowered by Sir Henry Clinton to say that he will have liberty to return immediately after the conference; Should any other Officer be appointed by Your Excellency the necessary passports shall be directly transmitted.

The British Commissary General of Prisoners is at present confined to his Room with Sickness but this need not prevent the going directly into the business of an Exchange of the Prisoners of War, as Major Skinner may attend Major General Lincoln and I shall take care that Mr Loring certifies to every necessary transaction upon the matter of the Exchange.

I send this to Elizabeth-town by a Deputy Commissary of Prisoners with orders to wait there Your Excellency’s Answer.5 I am Sir With due Respect Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

W. Phillips


1See GW to Henry Clinton, 7 Oct., found at GW to Abraham Skinner, same date, n.1.

2Gen. Henry Clinton wrote GW from New York on this date: “I yesterday afternoon received Your Letter of the 7th Instant and am to inform you in Answer that it is my Intention to immediately exchange Major General Phillips and Major General De Riedesel with their respective families, and I have directed the first of these General Officers to write to you upon the Subject.

“Major General Phillips has, also, authority from me to give such orders to the British Commissary General of Prisoners as he may think proper, and I shall approve whatever that General Officer shall cause to be done upon the Subject of Exchanges, which I have been long Solicitous for, upon motives of pure humanity, as well for the American Officers and Privates Prisoners of War as for those of the King’s Army including the Troops of Convention” (LS, DLC:GW; copy [docketed “No. 6”], enclosed in GW to Samuel Huntington, 16 Oct., DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, P.R.O.: 30/55, Carleton Papers; copy, P.R.O.: 30/11/3, Cornwallis Papers; copy, P.R.O.: 30/11/98, Cornwallis Papers; see also GW to Phillips, 28 Aug., n.1).

3For the British capture of Charleston, see Duportail to GW, 17 May, n.1.

4For the first meeting between Phillips and Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, see Phillips to GW, 23 September.

5No reply from GW to Phillips has been found, but see GW to Clinton, 16 Oct.; see also Phillips to GW, this date (second letter).

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