George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Board of War, 13 February 1781

From the Board of War

War Office [Philadelphia] Feby 13. 1781


The Situation of the British & German Prisoners of War for Want of Cloathing is very distressing, & that Misery is chiefly produced by a total Neglect of the Enemy to send them Supplies. The Prisoners in Philada Gaol are perishing with Disease & Nakedness. The putrid Fever rages among them to a great Degree & we find ourselves extremely embarrassed in our Endeavours to establish a separate Hospital for the diseased Prisoners by the Want of Cloathing & Blanketts. We have thought it best to represent the Matter to your Excellency that you may be pleased to communicate the Situation of these unhappy Men to the British Commander in Chief lest the Destruction which will necessarily fall on them may be imputed to a supposed Inhumanity on our Part & not as it ought to be to the Neglect of their Officers.1 We have the Honour to be with the greatest Respect & Estee⟨m⟩ Your very obed. Servants

Richard Peters By Order


On 24 Feb., GW wrote Abraham Skinner, commissary general of prisoners, from headquarters at New Windsor: “Inclosed is the Copy of a letter from the Board of War representing the situation of the British and German prisoners of War in Philad. for want of Cloathing and other necessaries—This you will be pleased to communicate to Mr Loring.

“Every possible attention has been paid to the sick—the infected have been removed to the House of employment, the most roomy, commodious and comfortable building near the City” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). The enclosed copy has not been found.

1GW replied to the Board of War on 19 Feb. (first letter, postscript).

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