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General Washington to the President of Congress



[Read October 11. Referred to Board of War.]

Head-Quarters, Heights of Harlem, October 8, 1776.

SIR: Since I had the honour of writing you yesterday, I have been favoured with a letter from the honourable Council of Massachusetts-Bay
, covering one from Richard Derby , Esq˙, a copy of which is herewith transmitted, as it contains intelligence of an important and interesting nature.

As an exchange of prisoners is about to take place, I am induced from a question stated in a letter I received from Governour Trumbull, this morning, to ask the opinion of Congress in what manner the States that have had the care of them, are to be reimbursed the expenses incurred on their account. My want of information in this instance, or whether any account is to be sent in with the prisoners, would not allow me to give him an answer, as nothing that I recollect has ever been said upon the subject. He also mentions another matter, viz: whether such privates as are mechanicks and others, who may desire to remain with us, should be obliged to return. In respect to the latter, I conceive, there can be no doubt of our being under a necessity of returning the whole, a proposition having been made on our part for a general exchange, and that agreed to. Besides the balance of prisoners is greatly against us; and I am informed it was particularly stipulated by General Montgomery, that all those that were taken in Canada, should be exchanged, whenever a cartel was settled for the purpose. Under these circumstances, I should suppose the several Committees having the care of them, should be instructed to make the most exact returns of the whole, however willing a part should be to continue with us. At the same time I should think it not improper, to inform them of the reasons leading to the measure, and that they should be


invited to escape afterwards, which in all probability they may effect without much difficulty, if they are attached to us, extending their influence to many more, and bringing them away also.

The situation of our affairs, and the present establishment of the army requiring our most vigorous exertions to engage a new one, I presume it will be necessary to furnish the Paymaster-General, as early as possible, with money to pay the bounty lately resolved on to such men as will inlist. Prompt pay perhaps may have a happy effect, and induce the continuance of some who are here; but without it, I am certain that nothing can be done, nor have we time to lose in making the experiment. But then it may be asked who is to recruit, or who can consider themselves as officers for that purpose, till the Conventions of the different States have made the appointments.

Yesterday afternoon the exchange between Lord Stirling and Governour Browne was carried into execution, and his Lordship is now here. He confirms the intelligence mentioned by Captain Souther, about the transports he met, by the arrival of the Daphne man-of-war, (a twenty gun ship,) a few days ago, with twelve ships under her convoy having Light Horse on board. They sailed with about twenty in each, and lost about eighty in their passage, besides those in the vessel taken by Captain Souther . He further adds, that he had heard it acknowledged more than once, that in the action of the 16th ultimo, the enemy had a hundred men killed, about sixty Highlanders of the Forty-Second Regiment, and forty of the Light Infantry, This confession coming from themselves, we may reasonably conclude did not exaggerate the number.

In pursuance of the resolve, which you were pleased to transmit me, I called upon the members who concurred in


the acquittal of McCumber to assign their reasons. Enclosed you have their answer, by which you will perceive the direction has given them great uneasiness, and from the information I have received, it has become a matter of much more general concern than could have been expected, in so much that I will take the liberty to advise that it may rest where it is, having heard that most of the officers have become party to it, and consider that the resolve materially affects the whole.

October 9th . About eight o' clock this morning two ships of forty-four guns each, supposed to be the Roebuck and Phoenix, and a frigate of twenty guns, with three or four tenders, got under way from about Bloomingdale, where they had been laying some time, and stood with an easy southerly breeze towards our chevaux-de-frise, which we hoped would have interrupted their passage, while our batteries played upon them; but to our surprise and mortification, they ran through without the least difficulty, and without receiving any apparent damage from our forts, though they kept up a heavy fire from both sides of the river. Their destination or views cannot be known with certainty; but most probably they are sent to stop the navigation, and cut off the supplies of boards, which we should have received, and of which we are in great need. They are standing up, and I have despatched an express to the Convention of this State, that notice may be immediately communicated to General Clinton, at the Highland fortifications, to put him on his guard in case they should have a,ny designs against them, and that precautions may be taken to prevent the craft belonging to the river falling into their hands.

I have the honour to be, with great esteem, sir, your most obedient servant,