George Washington Papers

From George Washington to General Henry Clinton, 16 November 1780

To General Henry Clinton

Head Quarters [Passaic Falls] 16th November 1780.


I have to request a passport for the Sloop Carolina packet, Burthen Eighty Tons, John Durry sailing Master1—Sheftall Shaftall Flag Master2—One Mate and six Seamen, from the port of Philadelphia to Charlestown in South Carolina, laden with provision and Cloathing for the American Troops, prisoners of War there—and also a permit for her return to the port of Philadelphia.3

I have likewise to request, if it be agreeable to your Excellency, that Mrs Mary Mathews, with two Black servants named Simon and Kate,4 may have permission to go to Charlestown in the above Vessel. Mrs Mathews would wish to be allowed to return to Philadelphia, when she has transacted the business upon which she is desirous of going, and which, I am assured, is merely of a private nature: But as she does not think it can be accomplished, by the time that the Sloop Carolina packet will return, it will be conferring a very great obligation upon the Lady, would Your Excellency signify your consent to her taking some other opportunity for that purpose. Should you deem it inexpedient5 to grant Mrs Mathews’s request, in its full extent—you may perhaps, not think it improper to assent to the first part of it only.6 I have the honor to be Your Excellency’s Most obt and humble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, P.R.O.: 30/55, Carleton Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1John Durry had been among naval prisoners exchanged in May 1776 (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:346, and Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 10:563–64).

2Sheftall Sheftall (born c.1763) was part of a Jewish family of merchants who resided in Savannah. After the British occupied the city in 1779, family members temporarily relocated to Charleston. Sheftall was in Charleston with the Carolina in February 1781 and returned to Philadelphia that April. See David T. Morgan, “The Sheftalls of Savannah,” American Jewish Historical Quarterly 62 (June 1973): 348–61, especially 357–58.

3The Board of War had written GW from Philadelphia on 9 Nov.: “The Board have provided about five hundred Barrells of Flour & one thousand Suits of Clothes for the Prisoners of War at Charlestown. We propose sending them in the Sloop Carolina Packet Burthen Eighty Tons John Durry Sailing Master Sheftall Sheftall Flag Master, one Mate & six Seamen. We request the Favr of your Excellency to procure a Flag from the British Comr in Chief & Admiral for this Vessell & that you will be pleased to urge its speedy Accomplishment as the Cargo is ready & the Vessell will wait for Nothing but the Licence to proceed to Charles Town” (ALS, by Board of War secretary Richard Peters, DLC:GW).

GW replied to the board from headquarters on 16 Nov.: “Your favor of the 9th did not reach me till yesterday at Noon. I immediately wrote to Sir Henry Clinton for the passport for the Sloop Carolina packet and dispatched the letter to Elizabeth Town this Morning by Express—The passport shall be transmitted to you the moment after I have received it” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also Board of War to GW, 23 Nov., and n.2 to that document).

4This slave also was known as Caty.

5GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman also penned the draft and initially wrote “improper” for this word. He then struck it out and wrote “inexpedient” instead.

6Clinton refused permission for Mary Wragg Mathews to travel to South Carolina (see his letter to GW, 29 Nov.; see also GW to John Mathews, 23 Oct., found at Mathews to GW, 14 Oct., n.8).

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