George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 8 December 1780

To Samuel Huntington

Head Quarters New Windsor 8th Decr 1780.


I had the honor of receiving your favor of the 25th ulto on my way to this place from Morris Town. A Feild Officer of Artillery shall be sent to Carlisle to superintend the Elaboratory agreeable to the directions of Congress.1

Under the powers with which Congress were pleased to vest me by their Resolve of the 7th of November, I made the proposition (No. 1) to Sir Henry Clinton, to which I have received his answer No. 2.2 As I am not at liberty to accede to the exchange of one division of the Troops of the Convention, for our Officers who remain in captivity upon Long Island, previous to the adjustment of the account for the subsistence of those Troops, I must refer the matter to Congress, who will judge, from the representation which will be made to them by Brigr Genl Irvine and Colo. Matthews, of the expediency of going immediately into such partial exchanges, or a general one of the Convention troops against our southern prisoners, and leaving the liquidation of all accounts of prisoners from the commencement of the War, to future discussion—These Gentlemen have arguments to offer in support of the measure, of the weight of which Congress will judge, when they are laid fully before them.3

As a very considerable time must elapse before the accounts can be collected and arranged, I shall inform Sir Henry Clinton that I cannot, for that reason, yet appoint a time for the meeting of Commissioners.4 I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect Your Excellency’s Most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read GW’s letter on 18 Dec., along with a letter from Brig. Gen. James Irvine and Cols. George Mathews and John Ely dated 16 Dec., and referred both to a three-member committee (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 , 18:1156; see also n.3 below).

1See Huntington to GW, 25 Nov., and n.2 to that document.

2For these enclosures related to prisoner exchanges, see GW to Henry Clinton, 20 Nov., and Clinton to GW, 29 Nov., and the source notes to each document; see also Huntington to GW, 12 Nov., and n.3 to that document.

3Irvine and Mathews wrote Huntington from Philadelphia on 16 Dec.: “Appointed to the honor of waiting on Congress by our unfortunate fellow-captives still in possession of the Enemy on Long-Island, we are instructed to represent to that honorable Body the necessity of yielding them immediate relief and support. The keen sensations inseperable from pressing want induced them to solicit Sir Henry Clinton’s permission for this purpose; we will not however, lest we wound too deeply the feelings of humanity, enter into a minute detail of all the complicated ills they have experienced during nineteen tedious months in which they have received no manner of support from the Public, not even had their Board paid, in consequence of which some of them have been compelled to seek a wretched retreat from famine in the detested Provost of N. York.” Besides relief from hunger, the officers sought recognition of their “attachment to our Country” as well as indignities suffered when “Officers prisoners of a few months date” were exchanged “in preference to us who have endured a captivity of more than three torturing years.” They desired Congress to “apply an immediate relief” by exchanging “prisoners still remaining in their hands” for themselves and “the yet unfortuna⟨te⟩ Gentlemen in the hands of the Enemy on Long-Island” (DNA:PCC, item 78; Ely did not sign the letter, but his name is on the docket; see also Irvine et al. to GW, 25 Oct., and GW to Abraham Skinner, 7 Oct. and 8 Nov.). Exchanges for these officers occurred in June (Irvine) and December (Mathews and Ely) 1781.

4Huntington acknowledged this letter when he wrote GW on 16 Dec., postscript; see also GW to Clinton, 9 December.

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