George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Abraham Skinner, 8 November 1780

To Abraham Skinner

Head Quarters Prekaness 8th Novembr 1780


I have recd yours of the 7th with a report of your proceedings with the British Commissary of prisoners at your late Meeting.1 I have thought proper to accede to the proposals of the several exchanges offered in the Returns Numbered 5. 6. and 10 and shall take the speediest occasion to direct the Officer commanding at Charlotte Barracks to send down the Officers who are the objects of those propositions2—You will order the several British and German Corps mentioned in the Return No. 8 to be sent to New York for an exchange for our privates now there—They will leave a Balance of upward of 60 privates in our favor. I shall be ready to grant a passport for a Flag Vessel to proceed to Newport or providence to bring the prisoners from Rutland3—I have it not in my power to accede to the proposed Exchange of Lt Colo. de Buysson for Lt Governor Hamilton (Return No. 7)4 that Gentleman with Major Hayes has been permitted by the State of Virginia to go to New York upon parole, but they will not consent at present to his final exchange.5

In regard to the proposal of exchanging The Officers who will remain upon Long Island after the foregoing are carried into execution, for a division of the troops of Convention; I have only to say, that I will enter into a negociation for such an exchange, provided Lt Genl Burgoyne is made an object of it, but upon no other terms—And in respect to the further proposal of a general exchange of the Convention troops Officers and Men for the prisoners of War taken to the Southward as far as they will apply, you must be sensible that we are no ways prepared to enter upon that business, as we have but a very imperfect state of the prisoners in that quarter and more especially as we have good reason to believe that a considerable number of prisoners have fallen lately into our hands there. Another reason for my not wishing to interfere in the exchange of the southern prisoners at present is that the Commanding Officer in that district has powers competent to that purpose, so far as he may have prisoners of War in his Hands.6 I am Sir Yr &c.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Lt. Enos Reeves wrote to an unknown correspondent: “In an exchange of prisoners dated Nov. 10, 1780, the following prisoners were exchanged:

“Major Genl Lincoln, Brig. Genls Thompson, Waterbury and Duportail; three Colonels; nine Lieut. Colonels; eleven Majors … forty eight Captains. … One hundred and eleven Lieutenants, forty three Ensigns. One Cornet, three Quartermasters; three Adjutants; six Volunteers; one Deputy Adjutant General and one Deputy Quartermaster General, the most of whom have been prisoners since the taking of Fort Washington in 1776. All our privates at New York are exchanged, some of whom have come out, and the remainder expected daily. Total of the officers 244” (Reeves, “Letter-books,” description begins John B. Reeves, contributor. “Extracts from the Letter-Books of Lieutenant Enos Reeves, of the Pennsylvania Line.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 20 (1896): 302–14, 456–72; 21 (1897): 72–85, 235–56, 376–91, 466–76. description ends 467–68).

1Skinner’s letter to GW dated 7 Nov. has not been found, and the enclosed report has not been identified.

The meeting between Skinner and Joshua Loring, British commissary general of prisoners, apparently occurred on 25 and 26 Oct. (see a return dated 3 Nov. and headed “List of American Officers remaining on Long Island (on Parole) & Elswhere, after the Exchanges of the 25th & 26th Octr 1780 and Admitting the proposed Exchanges to be carried into effect,” in DLC:GW).

2For GW’s directions to the officer commanding at Albemarle barracks near Charlottesville, Va., see his letter to James Wood, this date.

3GW subsequently issued this passport (see his letter to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 13 Dec., and n.1 to that document).

4None of the returns mentioned in this letter have been identified.

For the most recent correspondence related to Henry Hamilton and Jehu Hay, see Thomas Jefferson to GW, 25 Oct., and GW to Jefferson, this date; see also William Phillips to GW, 8 December. Lieutenant Colonel Dubuysson had appealed repeatedly for official intervention in his interest (see his letter to GW, 2 Sept., and n.2 to that document; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 29 Oct.).

5See Nathanael Greene to GW, 3 Nov., and n.2 to that document, and GW to Greene, this date.

6Skinner subsequently wrote GW on 5 Jan. 1781 to report the progress of prisoner exchanges (DLC:GW).

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