George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Phillips, 23 December 1780

From Major General William Phillips

New York December 23rd 1780


Upon the arrival of the Officers of the Troops of Convention several Memorials were presented to me from some of those remaining with the Troops, Containing Such reasons as have induced me to comply with their request of being exchanged: I take the liberty of inclosing their names to Your Excellency,1 hoping you will be so good as to send your orders to Frederick Town in Maryland or elsewhere that such Officers be permitted to come into New York where they shall be immediately exchanged, rank for rank, or by Composition, as the Commissaries General of Prisoners Messrs Loring and Skinner may settle.

Brigadier General Hamilton has written to me a request upon general principles for a number of Officers being exchanged without naming them:2 if you thought it proper, Sir, to give a general permission for Officers coming to Elizabeth Town, it might save much time and trouble, and I do assure you that whenever Officers arrive in that manner at Elizabeth Town or in New York, they shall be directly exchanged against an equal number of the American Officers Prisoners of War on Long Island, rank for rank, or by Composition; this proposal equally respects the German as the British Officers, and I shall take it as a favour if you will be so good as to give me an immediate answer on this last head, as it will enable me to consult Major General De Riedesel upon what number of his Officers he would wish to release from a long Captivity.

The Commissary General of Prisoners Mr Loring has written upon this subject to Mr Skinner,3 and whenever any number of Officers arrive under the description I have given, Mr Skinner will have liberty to come into New York to settle their exchanges.4 I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient most humble Servant

W. Phillips

LS, DLC:GW; copy, P.R.O.: C.O. 5/183; copy, P.R.O.: W.O. 1/11.

1Phillips enclosed an undated list that named thirty-two men still with the Convention Army seeking exchange (DLC:GW). For recent exchanges of Convention Army officers, see GW to the Board of War, 31 Oct., and n.2 to that document; see also GW to Abraham Skinner, 8 November.

Brig. Gen. James Hamilton had written Lord George Germain from Virginia on 29 Nov. to report his status as senior officer remaining with Convention Army and that 130 officers had been exchanged (see Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 16:449).

2This letter from Hamilton to Phillips has not been identified.

3This letter from Joshua Loring, British commissary general of prisoners, to Abraham Skinner, American commissary general of prisoners, has not been identified.

4GW replied to Phillips on 8 Jan. 1781 that there could be no more exchanges of Convention Army prisoners without “an adjustment of the debt incurred for their support” (P.R.O.: 30/55, Carleton Papers).

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