George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Abraham Skinner, 8 January 1781

To Abraham Skinner

Head Quarters New Windsor 8th Jany 1781


I have recd your favr of the 5th with a return of the Exchanges which were effected at your last meeting with the British Commissary.1

You are at liberty to send in the Firewood to our Officers who yet remain upon Long Island, but as we have no Agent at present in New York, you will endeavour to see that it is properly appropriated.

In regard to those persons holding Commissions in the Militia, and who were taken from their habitations and out of Arms, I cannot accede to exchanging them as military prisoners of War, without allowing what has been so long and so justly contested, and without setting a precedent, which will be ever plead hereafter, to the great detriment of those Citizens who may fall into the hands of the Enemy, under similar circumstances—There are besides the foregoing, if I understand you, Citizens of the different states, no⟨t⟩ in the military line, who are prisoners—You will be pleased to make a return of the name an⟨d⟩ former places of abode of such to the Governors of the States to which they respectively belong—informing them of their circumstances, and of the necessity of affording them releif, and of taking the earliest oppertunities of exchanging them, if any of the subjects of G. Britain fall into their hands.

You will make particular enquiry of the Govr of the state of Jersey, and of others who can give information upon the point, as to the capture of Lt Colo. Ward—Because, if he was an Officer at the time, and really taken in Arms, he ought to be exchanged2—You will report the substance of your enquiry to me.

I am unacquainted with Capt. Willings real Rank. supposing him a Captain in the American Navy, that can be no plea, for demanding a Colonel for him, because, altho’ the British have put their post Captains upon the footing of Colonels of Infantry, there has been no such establishment in the American service—Captain Willing, I have understood, commanded an armed Boat upon the Missisippi—If so, he could not, at any rate, be estimated at more than a British Master & Commander.3

When the Convention Officers who are exchanged have all gone in, you will make me a return of the number of servants carried in by them upon parole.4 I am &.

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

2New Jersey militia officer Matthias Ward had been the lieutenant colonel of the second regiment of Essex County before being captured in New York on 15 March 1777.

3For the capture of Continental navy gunboat captain James Willing, see Lewis J. Costigin to GW, 19 Dec. 1778.

4No reply from Skinner to GW has been found.

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