New Burgh June 11th 1782
In Obedience to your Excellency’s Commands of the 6th Instt I have had an interview with the British Commissary on the Subject of the situation of the American Naval Prisoners at New York, and proposed to him to Exchange those now in our hands, for an equal Number of those on board the Enemy’s prison Ships.
This proposal he will not accede to, as appears by his Letter in Answer to one I wrote him; Copies of which I inclose for your Excellency’s perusal.
The Enemy Still continue their designs to oblige our Seamen to enter into their service. I was not permitted to visit their Prison or Hospital Ships, but I am Authorized to say, that their situation is truly deplorable, and tho’ many of them are put on two of the Islands in the Harbour of New York and some pains taken for the treatment of the Sick, yet from the Nature of their disorders (being of a putrid kind and very similar to the plague) the greatest part of those unhappy Men must die in a very Short time. I have the honor to remain Your Excellencys Mo. Obt Servt
Comy Genl pris
DLC: Papers of George Washington.
New York June 9th 1782
From the present Situation of the American Naval prisoners on board your prison ships, I am induced to propose to you the exchange of as many of them as I can give you British Naval prisoners for, leaving the Ballance due to you to be paid when in our power. I cou’d wish this to be represented to His Excellency Rear Admiral Digby and that the proposal cou’d be acceeded to, as it wou’d relieve many of those distress’d men and be consistent with the humane purposes of our office. I will admit that we are unable at present to give you seaman for seaman and thereby relieve the prison ships of their dreadfull Burthen; But it ought to be remember’d that there is a large Ballance of British Soldiers due to the united States since february last; and that as we have it in our power, we may be disposed to place the British Soldiers who are now in our possession in as disagreeable a Situation as those Men on board the prison ships Are. I am Sir Your Most Obt Servt
Abm Skinner Com. Gen. Prisr
New York June 9th 1782
I have recieved your letter of this date and laid it before is Excelleny Rear Admiral Digby Commander in Chief &c. &c. &c.; who has directed me to give for answer, that the Ballance of prisoners owing to the British, having proceeded from lenity and humanity on the part of himself and those who Commanded before his arrival, is Surprized you have not been induced to offer to exchange them first; and untill this is done, cannot consent to your proposal of a partial exchange leaving the remainder as well as the British prisoners in your hands to linger in Confinement.
Conscious of the American prisoners under my direction being in every Respect taken as good Care of, as their Situation And ours will admit; you must not believe that Admiral Digby will depart from the justice of this measure, because you have it in your power to make the British Soldiers who are prisoners with you more miserable than there is Any Necessity for. I am Sir Your Most Obedt Hble Servt
David Sproat Commissary
Genl for Naval Prisoners