George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Moses Hazen, 28 October 1780

From Colonel Moses Hazen

Camp Soldiers Fortune [N.Y.] 28th October 1780


I am Honoured with your Excellencys letter of the 21st Current Inclosing the Copy of a Petition from Sundry Canadian Prisoners at Hartford1—Some parts of the Petition is True, others are Doubtfull, Whether those Canadians ware actually in Armes, or in the Batteau Service when Taken Prisoners at Discretion by Col: Brown I can not Say; nor is it of Any Consequence, as they them Selves own that they ware in Burgoin’s Service2—they ware Sent by Col: Brown Prisoners to Boston, at which Place by Genl Gates leave and approbation Major Torrey of my Regiment Inlisted a Number of them Near fifty if I remember. the most of which we have now in the field.3 the other’s did not Chuse to engage in our Service, they ware then Sent to Albany, and from thence to Hartford; Indulged to work in the Country, In the latter part of the year 1778 they ware exchanged as prisoners of war and Sent into New york Some of them engaged in the British Service, the other’s ware Sent to long Island and ware Imployed in Cuting wood for the Enemies Garrison’s. In the Spring of the year 1779 they ware Sent to Canada on Board a vessell; Retaken in the Gulf of St: Laurence by one of the State Ships of the Massachussetts Bay; and Brought into Boston, Messrs Price and mcCarty; Two Refugee merchants from Canada Sollicited the Council of the State of Massachusetts Bay, leive for those Canadians to Return to their own Country which was Granted on Conditions that I Should Consent or approve of it4—As those Canadians had become State prisoners to the massachusetts, the expence in maintaining them was Chargeable to the State only, which for ought I know was an Inducement that led the Council to wish them off their hands—Whether or not I thought it odd that they Should be Sent me in the manner they ware—Consequently I Detained them in Close Confinement; and advised your Excellency therewith, and Circumstances attending them. Whereupon your Excely ordered me to march them Down prisoner with the Regt: which I did and Delivered them over to Genl Howe at Pines Bridge.5

These Canadians having been Made prisoners of war and once Exchanged—is a Confirmation of the propriety of Detaing them Now as prisonrs untill exchanged; more Especially as the enemy ordered those prisoners into New york in hopes of their reingaging into their Service; as ma[n]y of them did and Took up armes, and the others assisted in Supplying the Troops with Fuel.

Several of the Canadian officers of my Regiment are well acquainted with those Petitioners & their Characters who Say they ware actually in armes in Canada against montgomerys Army,6 and that on all other occasion they have appeared enimicul to American Liberty—Those officer ardently wish that those prisoners may not Return to Canada, unless exchanged as prisoners of war—In an other Case any Particular Indulgence Shewn them would be Discouraging to those good men Serving with me, who ware once in the Same predicament.7 I have the Honr to be Your Excellencys most obedt and most Devoted Humle Servt

Moses Hazen

ALS, DLC:GW. GW acknowledged this letter when he wrote Hazen on 6 Nov. (see William Heath to GW, 4 Nov., n.3; see also n.7 below).

1GW had written Hazen from headquarters near Preakness on 21 Oct.: “Inclosed is a petition which was presented to me when I was lately at Harford. Be pleased to inform me what you know of the circumstances and whether the persons had been exchanged as prisoners of War, or whether they were returning upon the same terms as those granted to the Canadians taken at Saratoga—which were—parole not to serve during the War. You will let me have the petition again” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; the enclosed petition has not been found). The ninth article of the convention between Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne and Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates, concluded at Saratoga, N.Y., on 16 Oct. 1777, reads: “All Canadians and persons belonging to the Canadian establishment consisting of sailors, batteaumen, artificers drivers, independant companies and many other followers of the army, who come under no particular description are to be permitted to return there. … bound by the same condition of not serving during the present contest in North America” (DLC:GW).

2Hazen probably refers to Col. John Brown’s raid on Ticonderoga, N.Y., on 18 Sept. 1777, when his detachment took nearly 300 prisoners (see General Orders, 28 Sept. 1777).

3When Hazen wrote Gates from Bethlehem, Pa., on 26 Oct. 1777, he observed that the captured Canadians “will make exceeding good Soldi[ers]” and sent an officer to apply “for Leave to Inlist a Company or Two, or as many as shall voluntarily enter into the Service” (Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends ; see also William Heath to GW, 9 Oct. 1777). Hazen again wrote Gates from Albany on 20 Feb. 1778 when he contemplated an expedition against Canada: “The Canadians which Major Torrey inlisted are by the Tenor of their Inlistments to serve to the Northward, in the reduction, of Canada only—and I hope we shall be able to engage some more of them on some terms or other” (Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends ; see also Everest, Moses Hazen description begins Allan S. Everest. Moses Hazen and the Canadian Refugees in the American Revolution. Syracuse, N.Y., 1976. description ends , 60).

4James Price and William McCarty had assisted the Continental army earlier in the war.

5GW had written Hazen from West Point on 17 Sept. 1779 to march his command from Coos, Vt., and bring the prisoners mentioned in Hazen’s letter to GW dated 5 Sept., which has not been found (see also GW to Hazen, 28 Aug. 1779, and Everest, Moses Hazen description begins Allan S. Everest. Moses Hazen and the Canadian Refugees in the American Revolution. Syracuse, N.Y., 1976. description ends , 75).

6Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery conducted operations in Canada until killed in an unsuccessful assault against Quebec on 31 Dec. 1775.

7GW wrote Jeremiah Wadsworth from headquarters at Passaic Falls on 7 Nov. 1780: “Since my return from Hartford I have made perticular enquiry respecting the Canadians who addressed a Petition to me while at that place; upon this investigation it appears that the Persons in question, after being exchanged by the Enemy as Prisoners of War; were retaken in the Gulph of St Lawrence by some of our Cruizers, and ought to be detained as Prisoners until duly exchanged.

“I shall give directions to Mr. Skinner Commissy Genl of Prisoners to take proper charge of them” (Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept., editorial note). The final paragraph replaced a struck-out version on the draft: “Whether they are considered as Prisoners belonging to the State of Massachusetts Bay or not, Measures might be taken by the Commissy of Prisoners to bring about their exchange, for an equal of ours in the hands of the Enemy, under similar circumstances—I shall mention the Matter to Mr Skinner accordingly.” No letter regarding these Canadians from GW to Abraham Skinner, commissary general of prisoners, has been found.

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