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General Washington to the Board of War



Head-Quarters, Brunswick, 30th November, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: I am to acknowledge the receipt of your favours of the 18th, 19th, and 23d instant, which, from the unsettled situation of our affairs, I have not been able to answer before.

That of the 18th encloses a list of stores taken in the Hancock and Adams, Continental ship, and carried into Dartmouth, New-England, with a resolve of Congress to deliver the muskets, powder, lead, and flints, to my order. As the other articles of the cargo will be full as useful to the Army as those included in the resolve, I would advise that directions be given to have the whole cargo removed from Dartmouth to some secure place in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia, and there deposited till called for. It is by no means proper that so great a quantity of military stores should be lodged with the Army, especially at present, as we know not to-day where we shall be obliged to remove to-morrow, and that will in all probability be the case while the enemy continue with a light army on this side the North River.

In answer to that part of yours of the 19th, in which you ask my advice as to the propriety of inlisting prisoners of war, I would just observe, that in my opinion it is neither consistent with the rules of war, nor politick. Korean I think that because our enemies have committed an unjustifiable action by enticing, and in some instances intimidating, our men into their service, we ought to follow their example. Before I had the honour of yours on this subject, I had determined to remonstrate to General Howe on this head. As to those few who have already inlisted, I would not have them again withdrawn and sent in, because they might be subjected to punishment, but I would have the practice discontinued in future. If you will revert to the capitulation of St˙ John' s and Chamblee, you will find an express stipulation against the inlisting the prisoners taken there.

I remarked that the inlistment of prisoners was not a politick step; my reason is this, that in time of danger I have always observed such persons most backward, for fear, I suppose, of falling into the hands of their former masters, from whom they expect no mercy; and this fear they are apt to communicate to their fellow-soldiers. They are also most ready to desert when an action is expected, hoping by carrying intelligence to secure their peace.

I met Captain Hesketh on the road, and as the situation of his family did not admit of delay, I permitted him to go immediately to New-York, not having the least doubt but General Howe will make a return of any officer of equal rank who shall be required.

I have the honour to be, with great respect, gentlemen, your most obedient servant,


Honourable Board of War.