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ET. 45.]



Lee was now reported to be in rigorous con- | letter is expressed and founded on the grossest finement in New York, and treated with harsh- misrepresentations. I shall not make any furness and indignity. The British professed to ther comment upon it, than to assure you, that consider him a deserter, he having been a your threats of retaliating upon the innocent lieutenant-colonel in their service, although he such punishment as may be decreed in the ciralleged that he had resigned his commission cumstances of Mr. Lee by the laws of his counbefore joining the American army. Two let-try, will not divert me from my duty in any ters which he addressed to General Howe, were returned to him unopened, enclosed in a cover directed to Lieutenant-Colonel Lee.

On the 13th of January, Washington addressed the following letter to Sir William Howe: "I am directed by Congress to propose an exchange of five of the Hessian fieldofficers taken at Trenton for Major-General Lee; or if this proposal should not be accepted, to demand his liberty upon parole, within certain bounds, as has ever been granted to your officers in our custody. I am informed, upon good authority, that your reason for keeping him hitherto in stricter confinement than usual is, that you do not look upon him in the light of a common prisoner of war, but as a deserter from the British service, as his resignation has never been accepted, and that you intend to try him as such by a court-martial. I will not undertake to determine how far this doctrine may be justifiable among your selves; but I must give you warning, that Major-General Lee is looked upon as an officer belonging to, and under the protection of, the United Independent States of America, and that any violence you may commit upon his life and liberty, will be severely retaliated upon the lives or liberties of the British officers, or those of their foreign allies in our hands."

respect; at the same time, you may rest satisfied that the proceedings against him will not be precipitated; and I trust that, in this, or in any other event in the course of my command, you will not have just cause to accuse me of inhumanity, prejudice, or passion."

Sir William, in truth, was greatly perplexed with respect to Lee, and had written to England to Lord George Germaine for instructions in the case. "General Lee," writes he, "being considered in the light of a deserter, is kept a close prisoner; but I do not bring him to trial, as a doubt has arisen, whether, by a public resignation of his half pay prior to his entry into the rebel army, he was amenable to the military law as a deserter."

The proposal of Sir William, that all disputed points relative to the exchange and subsistence of prisoners should be adjusted by referees, led to the appointment of two officers for the purpose; Colonel Walcott by General Howe, and Colonel Harrison, "the old secretary," by Washington. In the contemplated exchanges was that of one of the Hessian field-officers for Colonel Ethan Allen.

The haughty spirit of Lee had experienced a severe humiliation in the late catastrophe; his pungent and caustic humor is at an end. In a letter addressed shortly afterwards to WashingIn this letter he likewise adverted to the ton, and enclosing one to Congress which Lord treatment of American prisoners in New York; and General Howe had permitted him to send, several who had recently been released, having he writes, "as the contents are of the last imgiven the most shocking account of the bar-portance to me, and perhaps not less so to the barities they had experienced, "which their community, I most earnestly entreat, my dear miserable, emaciated countenances confirmed." general, that you despatch it immediately, and -"I would beg," added he, "that some certain order the Congress to be as expeditious as rule of conduct towards prisoners may be set-possible." tled; and, if you are determined to make captivity as distressing as possible, let me know it, that we may be upon equal terms, for your conduct shall regulate mine."

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The letter contained a request that two or three gentlemen might be sent immediately to New York, to whom he would communicate what he conceived to be of the greatest importance. "If my own interest were alone at stake," writes he, "I flatter myself that the Congress would not hesitate a single instant in acquiescing in my request; but this is far from the case; the interests of the public are equally concerned. * *Lord and General Howe will grant a safe conduct to the gentlemen deputed.".




From his prison he made an appeal to Washington, which at once touched his quick sense of justice. He immediately wrote to the council of Massachusetts Bay, quoting the words of the resolution of Congress. "By this you will observe," adds he, "that exactly the same treat

The letter having been read in Congress, Washington was directed to inform General Lee that they were pursuing and would continue to pursue every means in their power to provide for his personal safety, and to obtain his liberty; but that they considered it improper to send any of their body to communi-ment is to be shown to Colonel Campbell and cate with him, and could not perceive how it would tend to his advantage or the interest of the public.

Lee repeated his request, but with no better He felt this refusal deeply; as a brief, sad note to Washington indicates.


"It is a most unfortunate circumstance for myself, and I think not less so for the public, that Congress have not thought proper to comply with my request. It could not possibly have been attended with any ill consequences, and might with good ones. At least it was an indulgence which I thought my situation entitled me to. But I am unfortunate in every thing, and this stroke is the severest I have yet experienced. God send you a different fate. Adieu, my dear general.

"Yours most truly and affectionately, "CHARLES LEE." How different from the humorous, satirical, self-confident tone of his former letters. Yet Lee's actual treatment was not so harsh as had been represented. He was in close confinement, it is true; but three rooms had been fitted up for his reception in the Old City Hall of New York, having nothing of the look of a prison, excepting that they were secured by bolts and bars.

Congress, in the mean time, had resorted to their threatened measure of retaliation. On the 29th of February, they had resolved that the Board of War be directed immediately to order the five Hessian field-officers and Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell into safe and close custody, "it being the unalterable resolution of Congress to retaliate on them the same punishment as may be inflicted on the person of General Lee."

The Colonel Campbell here mentioned had commanded one of General Fraser's battalions of Highlanders, and had been captured on board of a transport in Nantasket road, in the preceding summer. He was a member of Parliament, and a gentleman of fortune. Retaliation was carried to excess in regard to him, for he was thrown into the common jail at Concord in Massachusetts.

the Hessian officers, that General Howe shows to General Lee, and as he is only confined to a commodious house with genteel accommodations, we have no right or reason to be more severe on Colonel Campbell, who I would wish should upon the receipt of this be removed from his present situation, and be put into a house where he may live comfortably."

In a letter to the President of Congress on the following day, he gives his moderating counsels on the whole subject of retaliation. "Though I sincerely commiserate," writes he, "the misfortunes of General Lee, and feel much for his present unhappy situation, yet with all possible deference to the opinion of Congress, I fear that these resolutions will not have the desired effect, are founded in impolicy, and will, if adhered to, produce consequences of an extensive and melancholy nature."

* *

"The balance of prisoners is greatly against us, and a general regard to the happiness of the whole should mark our conduct. Can we imagine that our enemies will not mete the same punishments, the same indignities, the same cruelties, to those belonging to us, in their possession, that we impose on theirs in our power? Why should we suppose them to. possess more humanity than we have ourselves? Or why should an ineffectual attempt to relieve the distresses of one brave, unfortunate man, involve many more in the same calamities? * Suppose," continues he, "the treatment prescribed for the Hessians should be pursued, will it not establish what the enemy have been aiming to effect by every arti fice, and the grossest misrepresentations, I mean an opinion of our enmity towards them, and of the cruel treatment they experience when they fall into our hands, a prejudice which we on our part have heretofore thought it politic to suppress, and to root out by every act of lenity and of kindness?

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'Many more objections," added he, "might be subjoined, were they material. I shall only observe, that the present state of the army, if it deserves that name, will not authorize the language of retaliation, or the style of menace. This will be conceded by all who know that

ET. 45.]



the whole of our force is weak and trifling, and who had been in the land service, were crowdcomposed of militia (a very few regular troops ed into jails and dungeons like the vilest maleexcepted) whose service is on the eve of ex-factors; and were represented as pining in piring."

* * *


cold, in filth, in hunger, and nakedness.

"Our poor devoted soldiers," writes an eyewitness, "were scantily supplied with provisions of bad quality, wretchedly clothed, and destitute of sufficient fuel, if indeed they had any. Disease was the inevitable consequence, and their prisons soon became hospitals. A fatal maludy was generated, and the mortality, to every heart not steeled by the spirit of party, was truly deplorable."* According to popular account, the prisoners confined on shipboard, and on shore, were perishing by hundreds.

In a letter to Mr. Robert Morris also, he writes: "I wish, with all my heart, that Congress had gratified General Lee in his request. If not too late, I wish they would do it still. can see no possible evil that can result from it; some good, I think, might. The request to see a gentleman or two came from the general, not from the commissioners; there could have been no harm, therefore, in hearing what he had to say on any subject, especially as he had declared that his own personal interest was deeply concerned. The resolve to put in close con- A statement made by Captain Gamble, refinement Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell and the cently confined on board of a prison-ship, had Hessian field-officers, in order to retaliate upon especially roused the ire of Congress, and by them General Lee's punishment, is, in my opin- their directions had produced a letter from ion, injurious in every point of view, and must Washington to Lord Howe. "I am sorry," have been entered into without due attention writes he, "that I am under the disagreeable to the consequences. * * If the necessity of troubling your lordship with a letresolve of Congress respecting General Leeter, almost wholly on the subject of the cruel strikes you in the same point of view it has treatment which our officers and men in the done me, I could wish you would signify as naval department, who are unhappy enough to much to that body, as I really think it fraught | fall into your hands, receive on board the priswith every evil." on-ships in the harbor of New York." After specifying the case of Captain Gamble, and adding a few particulars, he proceeds: "From the opinion I have ever been taught to entertain of your lordship's humanity, I will not suppose that you are privy to proceedings of so cruel and unjustifiable a nature; and I hope, that upon making the proper inquiry, you will have the matter so regulated, that the unhappy persons whose lot is captivity, may not in future have the miseries of cold, disease, and famine, added to their other misfortunes. You may call us rebels, and say that we deserve no better treatment; but remember, my lord, that, supposing us rebels, we still have feelings as keen and sensible as loyalists, and will, if forced to it, most assuredly retaliate upon those upon whom we look as the unjust invaders of our rights, liberties, and properties. I should not have said thus much, but my injured countrymen have long called upon me to endeavor to obtain a redress of their grievances, and I should think myself as culpable as those who inflict such severities upon them, were I to continue silent," &c.

Washington was not always successful in instilling his wise moderation into public councils. Congress adhered to their vindictive policy, merely directing that no other hardships should be inflicted on the captive officers, than such confinement as was necessary to carry their resolve into effect As to their refusal to grant the request of Lee, Robert Morris surmised they were fearful of the injurious effect that might be produced in the court of France, should it be reported that members of Congress visited General Lee by permission of the British commissioners. There were other circumstances beside the treatment of General Lee, to produce this indignant sensibility on the part of Congress. Accounts were rife at this juncture, of the cruelties and indignities almost invariably experienced by American prisoners at New York; and an active correspondence on the subject was going on between Washington and the British commanders, at the same time with that regarding General Lee.

The captive Americans who had been in the naval service were said to be confined, officers and men, in prison-ships, which, for their loathsome condition, and the horrors and sufferings of all kinds experienced on board of them, had acquired the appellation of floating hells. Those

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Lord Howe, in reply (Jan. 17), expresses himself surprised at the matter and language

* Graydon's Memoirs, p. 232.




of Washington's letter, so different from the liberal vein of sentiment he had been habituated to expect on every occasion of personal intercourse or correspondence with him." He was surprised, too, that "the idle and unnatural report" of Captain Gamble, respecting the dead and dying, and the neglect of precautions against infection, should meet with any credit. Attention to preserve the lives of these men," writes he, "whom we esteem the misled subjects of the king, is a duty as binding on us where we are able from circumstances to execute it with effect, as any you can plead for the interest you profess in their welfare."

He denied that prisoners were ill treated in his particular department (the naval). They had been allowed the general liberty of the prison-ship, until a successful attempt of some to escape, had rendered it necessary to restrain the rest within such limits as left the commanding parts of the ship in possession of the guard. They had the same provisions in quality and quantity that were furnished to the seamen of his own ship. The want of cleanliness was the result of their own indolence and neglect. In regard to health, they had the constant attendance of an American surgeon, a fellow-prisoner; who was furnished with medicines from the king's stores; and the visits of the physician of the fleet.

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"As I abhor every imputation of wanton cruelty in multiplying the miseries of the wretched," observes his lordship, or of treating them with needless severity, I have taken the trouble to state these several facts."

In regard to the hint of retaliation, he leaves it to Washington to act therein as he should think fit; but adds he grandly, "the innocent at my disposal will not have any severities to apprehend from me on that account."

We have quoted this correspondence the more freely, because it is on a subject deeply worn into the American mind; and about which we have heard too many particulars, from childhood upwards, from persons of unquestionable veracity, who suffered in the cause, to permit us to doubt about the fact. The Jersey Prison-ship is proverbial in our revolutionary history; and the bones of the unfortunate patriots who perished on board, form a monument on the Long Island shore. The horrors of the Sugar House, converted into a prison, are traditional in New York; and the brutal tyranny of Cunningham, the provost marshal, over men of worth confined in the


common jail, for the sin of patriotism, has been handed down from generation to generation.

That Lord Howe and Sir Williain were ignorant of the extent of these atrocities we really believe, but it was their duty to be well informed. War is, at best, a cruel trade, that habituates those who follow it to regard the sufferings of others with indifference. There is no doubt, too, that a feeling of contumely deprived the patriot prisoners of all sympathy in the early stages of the Revolution. They were regarded as criminals rather than captives. The stigma of rebels seemed to take from them all the indulgences, scanty and miserable as they are, usually granted to prisoners of war. The British officers looked down with haughty contempt upon the American officers, who had fallen into their hands. The British soldiery treated them with insolent scurrility. It seemed as if the very ties of consanguinity rendered their hostility more intolerant, for it was observed that American prisoners were better treated by the Hessians than by the British. It was not until our countrymen had made themselves formidable by their successes that they were treated, when prisoners, with common decency and humanity.

The difficulties arising out of the case of General Lee interrupted the operations with regard to the exchange of prisoners; and gallant men, on both sides, suffered prolonged detention in consequence; and among the number the brave, but ill-starred Ethan Allen. Lee, in the mean time, remained in confinement, until directions with regard to him should be received from government. Events, however, had diminished his importance in the eyes of the enemy; he was no longer considered the American palladium. "As the capture of the Hessians and the manoeuvres against the British took place after the surprise of General Lee," observes a London writer of the day, "we find that he is not the only efficient officer in the American service."*


annual embarrassments caused by short enlistTHE early part of the year brought the

ments. The brief term of service for which the continental soldiery had enlisted, a few

* Am. Archives, 5th Series, iii. 1244.


months perhaps, at most a year, were expiring; and the men, glad to be released from camp duty, were hastening to their rustic homes. Militia had to be the dependence, until the new army could be raised and organized; and Washington called on the council of safety of Pennsylvania, speedily to furnish temporary reinforcements of the kind.

All his officers that could be spared were ordered away, some to recruit, some to collect the scattered men of the different regiments, who were dispersed, he said, almost over the continent. General Knox was sent off to Massachusetts, to expedite the raising of a battalion of artillery. Different States were urged to levy and equip their quotas for the continental army. "Nothing but the united efforts of every State in America," writes he, "can save us from disgrace, and probably from ruin."

Rhode Island is reproached with raising troops for home service before furnishing its supply to the general army. "If each State," writes he, 66 were to prepare for its own defence independent of each other, they would all be conquered, one by one. Our success must depend on a firm union, and a strict adherence to the general plan.”*

He deplores the fluctuating state of the army while depending on militia;-full one day, almost disbanded the next. "I am much afraid that the enemy, one day or other, taking advantage of one of these temporary weaknesses, will make themselves masters of our magazines of stores, arms, and artillery."

The militia, too, on being dismissed, were generally suffered by their officers to carry home with them the arms with which they had been furnished, so that the armory was in a manner scattered over all the world, and forever lost to the public.

Then an earnest word is spoken by him in behalf of the yeomanry, whose welfare always lay near his heart. "You must be fully sensible," writes he, "of the hardships imposed upon individuals, and how detrimental it must be to the public to have farmers and tradesmen frequently called out of the field, as militia men, whereby a total stop is put to arts and agriculture, without which we cannot long subsist."

While thus anxiously exerting himself to strengthen his own precarious army, the security of the Northern department was urged

* Letter to Governor Cooke, Sparks, iv. 285.

upon his attention. Schuyler represented it as in need of reinforcements and supplies of all kinds. He apprehended that Carleton might make an attack upon Ticonderoga, as soon as he could cross Lake Champlain on the ice; that important fortress was under the command of a brave officer, Colonel Anthony Wayne, but its garrison had dwindled down to six or seven hundred men, chiefly New England militia. In the present destitute situation of his department as to troops, Schuyler feared that Carleton might not only succeed in an attempt on Ticonderoga, but might push his way to Albany.

He had written in vain, to the Convention of New York, and to the Eastern States, for reinforcements, and he entreated Washington to aid him with his influence. He wished to have his army composed of troops from as many different States as possible; the Southern people, having a greater spirit of discipline and subordination, might, he thought, introduce it among the Eastern people.


He wished also for the assistance of a general officer or two in his department. "I am alone," writes he, distracted with a variety of cares, and no one to take part of the burden." *

Although Washington considered a winter attack of the kind specified by Schuyler, too difficult and dangerous to be very probable, he urged reinforcements from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, whence they could be furnished most speedily. Massachusetts, in fact, had already determined to send four regiments to Schuyler's aid as soon as possible.

Washington disapproved of a mixture of troops in the present critical juncture, knowing, he said, "the difficulty of maintaining harmony among men from different States, and bringing them to lay aside all attachments and distinctions of a local and provincial nature, and consider themselves the same people, engaged in the same noble struggle, and having one general interest to defend.” †

The quota of Massachusetts, under the present arrangement of the army, was fifteen regiments and Washington ordered General Heath, who was in Massachusetts, to forward them to Ticonderoga as fast as they could be raised.

Notwithstanding all Washington's exertions * Schuyler's Letter Book, MS. + Ibid. Sparks. Washington's Writings, iv. 361, note.

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